John “Jack” C. Hoy ’55, the dean of admissions at Wesleyan in the 1960s who oversaw a radically new commitment to expanding racial, religious and economic diversity on campus, died July 9 at his home in Duxbury, Mass. He was 79 years old.
Hoy, who also held an MALS degree from Wesleyan in 1961 and was the parent of two alumni from the classes of 2003 and 2005, was deeply involved with Wesleyan for nearly his entire adult life. As an undergraduate, he majored in history, competed on the swim team, and was a member of the Eclectic Society fraternity. He returned to his alma mater a year after graduating, as assistant director of admissions, a post he held until 1959. In 1960, he was appointed director of admissions at Lake Forest College in Illinois, and in 1962, he became dean of admissions at Swarthmore College.
Hoy returned again to Wesleyan in 1964, serving as dean of admissions and freshmen, assistant to the president, and dean for special academic affairs. In the latter position, he was responsible for implementing new approaches to teacher education, international education, urban education, Upward Bound, and the development of new doctoral programs. In 1966, he traveled to several countries in Africa under the auspices of the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU) to interview promising students, who would be given scholarships and placed in American schools.
Above all, Hoy was committed to enhancing diversity on campus, and his efforts reverberated throughout the Northeast and nationally as other colleges followed Wesleyan’s lead. Writing in The Wesleyan University Alumnus in May 1965, he noted that though Wesleyan’s student body had included black students for generations, the number of minority and economically disadvantaged students applying to the school each year remained in the single digits. “We discovered that we had falsely expected these students to seek entrance to Wesleyan, although they probably had never had occasion to hear of the college and if they did would most certainly conclude they could never afford to come,” he wrote.
The decision to recruit more minority and low-income students “meant we would have to visit schools never before solicited by Wesleyan representatives. It meant increased alumni awareness and participation in cities like New York, Detroit, and Chicago.”
“One of the greatest strengths of this college has always been and remains the extraordinary breadth of backgrounds represented on the campus: religious, racial, geographic, social, economic, and just plain diversity of opinion,” Hoy wrote. “Wesleyan is a stronger college for having maintained this tradition of excellence and diversity.”
“Jack Hoy had a historic role in the story of modern Wesleyan,” said Steven Pfeiffer ’69, a student when Hoy oversaw admission and later chair of the Board at Wesleyan. “Jack set Wesleyan on a course of leadership in equal access and racial diversity in American higher education, from which it has not departed over the past almost half century. Under Jack’s leadership, Wesleyan was the first of the top tier colleges and universities to give African American students of talent and potential a fair shot at what private institutions of higher education like Wesleyan had to offer young Americans.”
In 1969, Hoy left Wesleyan to serve as vice-chancellor of student affairs, and later as vice-chancellor of university and student affairs, at the University of California-Irvine. In 1987, he was appointed executive director of the New England Board of Higher Education, a position he held until 2001.
Hoy remained involved with Wesleyan, serving as a member of the Boston President’s Council from 1998-99, and as an Alumni Elected Trustee from 1998 to 2001.
He authored several books, including Choosing a College (1967); The Effective President (1976); and New England’s Vital Resource: The Labor Force (1982, co-authored with Melvin Bernstein).
In 1985, Wesleyan honored Hoy with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. He also was awarded honorary degrees from North Adams State College, Franklin Pierce College, Notre Dame College and Bryant College.
Hoy was born in Yonkers, N.Y., on Dec. 5, 1933. He is survived by his wife, Marie, as well as seven children, including Elizabeth Hoy ’03 and Peter Hoy ’05, and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Sunday, July 21 at the First Parish Church in Duxbury. The service is open to family and friends.