The 81-year-old 12th president of Auburn and the first chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery died Saturday after a lengthy ailment.
The visitation prior to the service will begin at 10 a.m. while the memorial service will start at 11 a.m. The service will be at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church and will be performed by the Rev. Tim Thompson and Dr. John Ed Mathison. A private burial will follow.
“As the first chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery and a staunch advocate for its growth and development, Dr. Hanly Funderburk laid the foundation for what today is a strong and diverse academic institution,” current AUM chancellor John Veres said in a statement. “It is a sad day for the Auburn Montgomery family.”
“He set the standard against which his successors are measured,” Veres added. “The thousands of AUM alumni who graduated during the 12 years he led the university and in the years since are a great testament to his leadership. Our vibrant campus, which continues to thrive and expand, was an expanse of open farmland when Dr. Funderburk accepted the AUM challenge. It will always stand as a legacy to his vision and commitment to educational opportunity.”
Eastern Kentucky University president Doug Whitlock said in a statement on the school's website that, "He dealt with budget cuts in an even-handed and measured manner instituting strict financial management and some academic and administrative restructuring. To help meet the needs of a growing university, President Funderburk also guided an aggressive development program."
Funderburk was born in Carrollton, Alabama on June 19, 1931 and attended Auburn from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in botany in 1953 and received his masters from Auburn in 1958. He was awarded a Ph.D. by LSU and then came back to Auburn as an assistant professor in 1961.
In 1968 newly founded AUM named Funderburk vice president and chief administrator. Ten years later he was the school’s first chancellor.
Two years later, Harry Philpott resigned as Auburn University’s president and following a trying search for a replacement, Funderburk was eventually named his successor. Governor Fob James and the university faculty each had their own preferred candidates, neither of which was Funderburk. After the appointed search committee failed to name a president after initial votes were cast, they were convinced by James to vote for Funderburk 10-1.
His years as president saw Auburn grapple with financial problems stemming from the early-80s recession. Funderburk was given the task of steering the university through the crisis and preferred to do this through “belt-tightening” austerity. He instituted what supporters and critics alike would later call the "largest tuition increase by a public university in modern times."
He centralized financial power at the school and oversaw stadium expansion and dorm expansion projects. The vet school saw vast improvements that helped with an accreditation crisis.
However, many deans and vice presidents at Auburn did not like the shrinking amount of control they had over budgets. Funderburk, while fighting with the state congress for Auburn to be as well funded as “other state institutions”, proposed funding based on students credit hours. The faculty was led to believe this would prorate funds to their colleges based on degrees awarded, though it did not.
In addition to this friction with the instructing and research elements of the university, less than a year into his term he decreed that all university employees should not speak to board members without going through his office.
Auburn’s financial progress was not enough to spare Funderburk from the University Senate, who criticized the president as lacking "vision” and called for a review of his performance in June of 1981. The majority of the faculty gave poor ratings for leadership effectiveness for Funderburk and two days later, the general faculty gave a vote of no-confidence in Funderburk’s leadership by a vote of 455-416 with 62 abstentions.
However, a week later 11 of 12 trustees voted to put their confidence in him as president. The Alumni Association released a statement to the faculty saying that Funderburk had successfully balanced a budget with a $2-million deficit as well as getting the tuition hike he wanted.
Also during this time, Auburn’s administration experienced a relatively high rate of turnover as several executives resigned within two years of their appointment by Funderburk, including faculty favorite executive VP Grady Cox and Taylor Littleton, the popular VP for academic affairs, who both cited an inability to work with the president as a reason for his leaving office.
University Senate-appointed committees who looked into the resignations found Funderburk’s leadership "dogmatic, intimidating, and manipulative" and "not highly principled." Funderburk simply remarked that he served at the pleasure of the board and refused to consider resigning, primarily focusing on his continued financial reforms and school expansion projects. These still could not win over the faculty however, who voted in late 1982 against confidence in Funderburk by 752 to 253 and demanded his resignation or firing.
Christmas of 1982 brought even more vigor to the politicization of the fight with statewide attention being focused on the school’s troubles. Farmers groups around the state particularly supported Funderburk.
The University Senate pushed further, censuring the president and then forming the “Auburn University Defense Committee” to help push groups like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Alabama Ethics Commission to act, and even threatened legal action.
Slowly, after the national media began focusing attention on the situation, pressure from even loyalists began surrounding Funderburk. The Coaltion of Auburn University Students for Education (CAUSE) garnered nearly 2500 signatures asking for the president’s resignation.
After Governor George Wallace took office in early 1983, he even took to reshaping the board of trustees to try to assist the under fire president. This resulted in Red Bamberg and Bobby Lowder being appointed to the board. On February 26, 1983, Funderburk decided to resign for the good of the university. It was decided that the chancellor system was invalid and that Funderburk would become the director of governmental and community relations at AUM.
In the immediate aftermath of his resigning, Funderburk released a statement saying he received little cooperation Littleton in particular.
The search afterwards left several professors resigned from their chairs or other positions and left many tempers still uneased. One former department chair, history professor Wayne Flynt, commented on the search for a replacement to the Gadsden Times that, "If they go about the search the same way they went about the search for Pat Dye, they can get a good president."
Funderburk, despite his unpopularity and communication problems with the faculty, led Auburn through trying economic times in the early 1980s and left with a financial situation better than he found it and numerous construction projects both at the Auburn and Montgomery campuses, as well as leaving Auburn with Pat Dye.
After his departure from Auburn, Funderburk served as president of Eastern Kentucky University from 1985 to 1998.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Helen Hanson Funderburk, as well as two children and three grandchildren.