WMU News

Faith Gabelnick

June 21, 2004

Dr. Faith Gabelnick, first dean of the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University and president emerita of Pacific University died June 13. She was 60.

In 1995, Gabelnick became the first woman to lead the 155-year-old Pacific University, a private, four-year liberal arts university in Oregon. After eight years of service, she retired in July 2003. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

"Faith Gabelnick was deeply in love with Pacific University and with everything the university stood for and did," said Bill Stoller, who chaired Pacific's board of trustees for four years during Gabelnick's presidency. "She had great relationships with members of the board, alumni, faculty and staff, students, donors and friends of the university, and she took every opportunity to tell the Pacific story. Faith's passion for Pacific University, and the wonderful work she did at this institution will have reverberations for generations to come."

Gabelnick was associate director of the general honors program at the University of Maryland in College Park when she was appointed director of the WMU Honors College in 1987. She succeeded the late Dr. Samuel I. Clark, who founded the college in 1962. Gabelnick's title was changed to dean in 1988, and she served in that capacity until 1992, when she left WMU to become provost and dean of the faculty at Mills College in Oakland, Calif.

Among the highlights of Gabelnick's tenure at WMU was completion of the Lee Honors College building in 1990. Previously, the honors college had been housed in Hillside West, a World War II-era faculty apartment building. Construction was made possible through the generosity of Carl and Winifred Lee of Kalamazoo and other donors, and Gabelnick played a significant role in helping secure the needed private support. The Lee Honors College building was the first at WMU constructed entirely with private funds.

Enrollment in the honors college increased from fewer than 750 students to more than 900 during Gabelnick's five years as head of the program.

Faith Gabelnick was born in Queens, N.Y., June 30, 1943. She received her undergraduate degree in English from Rutgers University, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She received a master's degree in literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a doctorate in literary studies from American University. She was a member of the faculty at American University from 1969 to 1978, when she joined the honors program at Maryland.

She is survived by her husband, John Howarth, and by several children and grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Faith Gabelnick Endowed Fund for Community Service at Pacific University, c/o University Relations, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove, OR 97116-1756. Contributions to the Lee Honors College also may be given in memory of Dr. Gabelnick and should be made through the WMU Foundation, Kalamazoo MI 49008-5403.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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