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Memorial Service for former WKU President Donald Zacharias Thursday in Miss.

dr zacharias 2

Dr. Donald W. Zacharias

A public memorial service celebrating the life of former WKU President Donald W. Zacharias will be held Thursday at Mississippi State University where he was president for 12 years.

Dr. Zacharias, WKU president from 1979 to 1985, died Sunday at age 77. Click here for Dr. Zacharias’ official obituary. (More: WKU tribute page.)

The service will be at 11 a.m. in the MSU Colvard Student Union’s Foster Ballroom. A visitation reception will be held immediately following the service. A private family service will be held Friday.

Locally, a memorial will be on display in the lobby of WKU’s Wetherby Administration Building. There will be a second memorial at Zacharias Hall, a residence hall named in his honor in 1997.

WKU President Gary Ransdell called Dr. Zacharias his mentor.

“He influenced my career in profound ways,” Dr. Ransdell said. “Every professional move I have made since 1981, including my return to WKU in 1997, was done so with counsel and inspiration from President Zacharias. He led two great Universities with thoughtful and graceful skill. I know I speak in behalf of a generation of WKU faculty, staff and alumni in extending our thoughts and prayers to Tommie (his wife) and the Zacharias family.”

Dr. Zacharias became WKU’s sixth president on Aug. 1, 1979. He left WKU in 1985 to become president of Mississippi State, a position he held until 1997.

Dr. Zacharias received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown College in Kentucky in 1957 and a master’s degree from Indiana University in 1959, where he also completed a doctorate in communication in 1963. He held an honorary Doctorate of Law from Georgetown for distinguished contributions to the college.

He began his higher education career in 1963 as a faculty member in communication at Indiana University, and served until 1969 when he joined the University of Texas communication department, attaining full professor rank before entering administration.

Zacharias memorial

A memorial to Dr. Zacharias is on display in the lobby of the Wetherby Administration Building.

In administrative roles with the University of Texas System, he held positions as executive assistant to the chancellor of the 14-campus statewide system and as assistant to the president of the Austin campus. He then spent six years as WKU, creating the first comprehensive development program and significantly raising academic standards before taking the helm at Mississippi State.

Born in Salem, Ind., in 1935, Dr. Zacharias is survived by his wife of 53 years, Tommie Kline Zacharias, and their three adult children, Eric, Leslie and Alan, and three grandchildren, all of Boulder, Colo. He is also survived by a sister, Mary Catherine Zacharias Collier, of Yucaipa, Calif.

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