James M. Shuart, former longtime president of Hofstra University, who stabilized the Hempstead institution and set it on a path for national and international recognition, died early Friday morning. He was 85.
His death was confirmed by his family, who said he had a long battle with cardiovascular disease. Shuart, of Garden City, was most recently a patient at the Fulton Commons Care Center in East Meadow.
Shuart was Hofstra’s seventh president, serving from 1976 to 2001. He is credited with taking the reins during a pivotal time at the school, which had suffered declining enrollment in the mid-1970s.
Under Shuart’s 25-year tenure, the university balanced its budget, grew national and international enrollment, formed the School of Communication and the University College for Continuing Education, expanded its athletic programs, built up its faculty and nearly doubled the size of its campus.
“He never did anything that wasn’t 100 percent,” said his son, William Shuart, 49, of Bellmore, who is currently assistant director for public safety at Hofstra. “He had an unshakable loyalty and compassion for other people.”
James Shuart was also a Hofstra alum, holding a bachelor’s degree from the university in history and master’s in social science. He later earned a doctorate in higher education from New York University.
As the son of a Dutch blacksmith-turned-auto mechanic from College Point, Queens, Shuart graduated from Flushing High School in 1949 and went on to attend Hofstra on a football scholarship. As a student, he worked odd jobs including driving a garbage truck. After his 1953 undergraduate commencement, he married his college sweetheart, Marjorie Strunk, and was immediately drafted into the Army, where he served as a counterintelligence officer in postwar Korea. After his discharge, he worked as an insurance agent before landing a job in the Hofstra admissions office in 1959.
In 1971, Shuart was appointed deputy Nassau County executive under then-County Executive Ralph G. Caso. He returned to Hofstra again in 1975 as a vice president before being named president a year later.
“He loved the kids and walked the campus every day. He was not an ivory tower president who just stays in his office,” said Nassau Republican Party chairman Joseph Mondello, a friend and fellow Hofstra alum. “He absolutely brought the school back to life — it was a real turning point in Hofstra’s history.”
“There are few people who shared a more profound bond with Hofstra University than President James Shuart. He loved Hofstra deeply — as a student and student-athlete, an alumnus, an admissions officer, a faculty member, a dean, a vice president and, finally, as president for 25 years,” said Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz, who succeeded Shuart. “His grace and generosity of spirit serves as an example of the true meaning of Hofstra Pride.”
Flags on campus will be flown at half-staff and a moment of silence will be observed at this weekend’s commencements in Shuart’s memory, university officials said.
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include his son, James of West Hempstead; and five grandchildren.
Services are private but a public memorial is being planned, Shuart’s family said.
With Sid Cassese