Former Mason President Vergil Dykstra Dies

Posted: January 7, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: January 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

By Daniel Walsch

Vergil Dykstra. Portrait by Bachrach

Vergil H. Dykstra, president of George Mason University from 1973 to 1977, passed away on Dec. 31, 2010, at the Halquist Memorial Inpatient Center in Arlington, Va., following a stroke. He was 85.

Dykstra came to Mason after serving as a faculty member and vice president of administration at the State University of New York Binghamton (now Binghamton University) from 1962 to 1973.

Dykstra arrived at Mason one year after the university was granted independent status. During his tenure at Mason, he helped bring archived materials of the Federal Theatre Project to campus and saw the groundbreaking of the university’s first student housing complex, the dedication of Robinson Hall, the opening of Student Union Building I, the creation of the office of extended studies and the initiation of more than 20 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in academic areas ranging from geography and international studies to nursing and public administration.

Dykstra was a strong proponent of openness and diversity. In an interview conducted just months before his passing, the native of Harrison, S.D., said that when he came to Mason one of his primary goals was to establish “a different kind of communication and trust that others were able to build on.”

“I was a strong believer in academic freedom,” he said. “A university is unique in encouraging people to think and speak for themselves.”

Upon stepping down as Mason’s president, Dykstra was succeeded by Robert Krug.

The eighth of nine children, Dykstra was raised in Iowa. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946. He earned an undergraduate degree at Hope College in Michigan and master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin.

Dykstra’s college teaching career also included positions at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota. He taught courses in philosophy, ethics, logical epistemology and education.

Following his years as Mason’s chief executive, Dykstra served as administrative vice president at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., from 1978 to 1989.

Survivors include four children, five grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and many nephews and nieces.

Dykstra requested that no public funeral be held. A reception in his honor will be held on Saturday, Jan. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Mount Vernon Lounge at The Virginian, 9229 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax, Va. Persons wishing to attend this reception are asked to reply to 703-385-7778 or katy@docreative.com. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in Dykstra’s honor be made to the Epilepsy Foundation.

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