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In Memoriam: USC President Emeritus John Randolph "Jack" Hubbard, 92

Under John Hubbard’s leadership, applications for admission to USC rose from 4,100 in 1970 to more than 11,000 in 1979. Photo by Curtis Studios.
Under John Hubbard’s leadership, applications for admission to USC rose from 4,100 in 1970 to more than 11,000 in 1979. Photo by Curtis Studios.

John Randolph “Jack” Hubbard, U.S. ambassador to India from 1988 to 1989 and the eighth president of USC, died Aug. 21 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., following an extended illness. He was 92.

“All of us at USC are deeply indebted to those whose impressive legacy of leadership has laid a firm foundation for this university’s current success,” said USC president C. L. Max Nikias. “Jack Hubbard will always stand proudly among those who inspired us with his dedication as an administrator and as a teacher. I fondly recall the many conversations I had with Jack over the years, and I 
greatly admired his keen mind, his quick wit, his passion for history, his service to our country and his love of this university.”

Hubbard came to USC as vice president and provost in 1969. He served in that capacity for a year before his unanimous election to succeed Norman H. Topping as university president in 1970.

As president, Hubbard set his priority as building on the university’s burgeoning academic strength, and he was successful in laying a solid foundation for USC’s dramatic gains as a research institution. During his first year in office, USC became a member of the Association of American Universities, and over the course of his decade of leadership, USC rose from 33rd to 19th in National Science Foundation rankings for federally sponsored research.

USC also recruited many transformative faculty members during the Hubbard years, including George Olah, who joined the university in 1977 and went on to win the 1994 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Additionally under Hubbard’s leadership, applications for admission to USC rose from 4,100 in 1970 to more than 11,000 in 1979.

In 1975, to build financial support for the university’s academic enterprise, Hubbard launched the Toward Century II campaign, a $265 million fundraising effort designed to prepare the university for its second century. The campaign - USC’s most ambitious at the time - was remarkable for its success in light of the economic challenges of the period. At its conclusion, the campaign had generated more than $306 million for university programs and endowment.

It also was during Hubbard’s administration that USC established its Emeriti Center (1978), becoming one of the first universities in the country to emphasize the lifelong connection with retired faculty and staff. Hubbard continued to support the center as a senior adviser long after his retirement.

Hubbard was a dedicated teacher who served a dual role as administrator and educator throughout his tenure as president, leading a weekly graduate seminar on British diplomatic history. After resigning the presidency in 1980, for a decade he held the John R. Hubbard Chair in History at USC, which friends and colleagues had endowed in honor of his academic leadership. (Judith Bennett and Cynthia Herrup are the current holders of the Hubbard Chair.) Hubbard continued to teach as a member of the history faculty at USC Dornsife until failing health at age 91 forced him to stop.

As passionate as Hubbard was about education, his love of USC athletics also ran deep. Upon his retirement from the university presidency, then-coach John Robinson admitted that, while he would miss Hubbard’s familiar figure on the sidelines during Trojan football games, he thought “the team might be able to fare reasonably well even without Hubbard to send in plays.”

A native of Belton, Texas, Hubbard earned his A.B., A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Texas in 1938, 1939 and 1950.

After serving as a private secretary to the commissioner of the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D.C., from 1938 to 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and took flight training with Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (the older brother of John F. Kennedy), who later was killed during the war. During a five-year tour of duty as a naval aviator in World War II, Hubbard attained the rank of lieutenant commander and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

Hubbard’s first academic job was as a visiting assistant professor of British history at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1948. He served as an assistant professor of European history at Tulane University in New Orleans from 1949 to 1952, then took a position as a visiting assistant professor of European history at Yale University.

In 1953, he returned to New Orleans to accept the deanship of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, a historic women’s college that is part of Tulane University. He held the deanship until 1965.

That year, Hubbard left for India, together with his family, to serve as chief education adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Over the next four years, he developed deep ties to the country, emerging as an authority on the history of British India and Indo-U.S. relations.

Two decades later, Hubbard returned to the Republic of India, this time as U.S. ambassador. For his service in this capacity from 1988 to 1989, he was awarded the Alben W. Barkley Medal for Distinguished Service.

Among other academic honors, Hubbard received honorary doctor of laws degrees from USC (1980) and the College of the Ozarks (1973), and honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Westminster College (1977) and Hebrew Union College (1971). Tulane University recognized him with its Distinguished Services to Higher Education Award in 1976, and in 1978, the University of Texas honored him with its highest alumni accolade, the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

At USC, commemorating the achievements of the Hubbard decade and his continued contributions to the university and higher education, as well as Hubbard’s service to his country in both war and peace, the Student Administrative Services Building on Childs Way was rededicated as John R. Hubbard Hall in September 2003.

Hubbard’s contributions have been memorialized as well in the USC Mexican American Alumni Association’s highest honor, the John R. Hubbard Award. The award, which is presented to an outstanding Latino student at the association’s annual fundraising dinner each spring, was established in 1977 as a tribute to the then-president’s support of the association at the time of its founding in 1973.

Hubbard also served as trustee emeritus on the USC Board of Trustees.

Hubbard is survived by his three daughters, Lisa, Melisse and Kristie; six grandchildren; his former wife, Lucy Hubbard Haugh, of San Diego; and his longtime partner, Marcia Adams, of Rancho Mirage.

Memorial services will be private, but USC and the Hubbard family will host a celebration of his life in early October.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the John R. Hubbard Endowed Fellowship in History at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. For more information, contact Richard Vargas at 444 S. Flower St., 41st Floor, Los Angeles 90071-8205, or at (213) 740-4990.