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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

University marks loss of former Vice Chancellor and Provost John James Prucha

Renowned geologist also led College of Arts and Sciences, earth sciences department

Oct. 23, 2012, by Kathleen Haley

Former SU Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs John James Prucha died Monday, Oct. 22, at the age of 88 in Syracuse. Prucha also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and twice as chair of earth sciences.

In honor of Prucha’s longtime service to the University, the flag at Hendricks Chapel will be flown at half-staff.

Prucha, a former senior geologist of New York State, was a prominent earth scientist who came to SU from the hydrocarbon industry. He published prolifically; he wrote many scientific articles and a book on Wisconsin in the early to mid-20th century.

A specialist in structural geology, Prucha joined the SU faculty in 1963 as a professor of geology, and he was named department chair later that year. He held that post until 1970, when he became dean of The College of Arts and Sciences. He was named vice chancellor in 1972.

As vice chancellor for academic affairs, Prucha was the chief academic officer of the University, with responsibilities pertaining to all of SU’s curricular and scholarly pursuits. Prucha led the university toward its first bold steps in intensifying its research contributions and heightening its national and international reputations. He was centrally involved in decisions that reshaped the university, including the construction of the Heroy Building and professorship gift, and the construction of the Carrier Dome. He stepped down as vice chancellor in 1985 to return to full-time teaching and research.

“The Syracuse University family has lost one of its most distinguished members with the passing of John Prucha,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “Coming to SU with both public and private sector experience, he embodied how deeply connected the work of the University is to the work of the world, drawing upon that connection as an outstanding scholar, teacher and mentor, as well as an academic leader from department chair to dean to vice chancellor for academic affairs. His impact on SU still reverberates today and will continue to be felt by generations of alumni and colleagues.”

Prucha is survived by his wife, Mary, and 10 children, 27 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Nine of the 10 children, and some of their spouses, are SU alumni.

“Professor Prucha will be remembered for the manner in which he nurtured our campus—academically, culturally and intellectually—and for the friendships he and his family forged all over the world,” says George Langford, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

His legacy also lives on in the John James Prucha Field Research Fund, which provides financial support for field research for undergraduate and/or graduate students in the Department of Earth Sciences each year. More recently, one of Prucha’s geology students, Carlos Dengo ’76, a retired vice president at Exxon Mobil, endowed a fund in Prucha’s name. The fund is used to support junior faculty research at the discretion of the Earth Sciences chair.

Dean Emerita of the College of Arts and Sciences Cathryn Newton remembers Prucha as someone armed with a quick intelligence and wit. “John pressed Syracuse students, faculty colleagues and administrators to be much better. He combined fierce toughness and deep compassion. And his integrity is something we will not forget.”

Calling hours are at Fairchild & Meech, 3690 Erie Boulevard E., DeWitt, Thursday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. The funeral will be held at All Saints Church, 1340 Lancaster Ave., on Friday at 10:30 a.m.