By Philip Walzer

David R. Hager, a longtime Old Dominion University administrator who served as acting provost five times during his nearly 40-year career at the University, has died. He was 79.

"David was a great role model and friend to so many of us," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "His contributions to this campus can easily be seen by the number of important roles he played in the growth and evolution of ODU. He was a leader of the highest level and had a sense of humor that none of us will ever forget. My deepest sympathies to his family and many, many friends."

Hager hired Judy Bowman, now assistant vice president for undergraduate studies, 38 years ago.

"Dave was a wonderful person and a very caring and compassionate mentor to many," Bowman said. "He always had time to help anyone - from a high school student applying for college admission to a university president seeking wise counsel. He made the University a better place."

ODU lowered its flags on campus to half-staff in honor of Hager.

Hager served under all of Old Dominion's eight presidents, starting with Lewis Webb Jr. Former President James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics Emeritus, said Hager "defined the meaning of loyalty and service to Old Dominion. He was always ready to take on new challenges and always willing to do what was best for the University. Dave was institutional glue at critical times in the University's history."

Hager joined Old Dominion in 1969 as an instructor of political science while he was finishing a doctorate from the University of Virginia. Only a couple of years later, Hager began his career in administration.

Among the positions he held at Old Dominion were chair of the political science and geography department, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters, dean of graduate studies, associate vice president for academic affairs and acting provost.

He also played a leading role at least four times in ODU's successful reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

"He was a very good man," said Mona J.E. Danner, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. "Dave was a careful and considerate listener. He was thoughtful in everything he did and always acted with kindness, compassion and a positive spirit. He believed in joyful service to both the present and future generations and was generous with his time and talents."

In 2005, Hager returned to teaching in the fields of political science and educational leadership. At the time, Provost Thomas L. Isenhour said: "Virtually every individual has benefited from Dave's activities. He will be missed, but we must honor his desire to continue his career in the direction he chooses."

He was a tenured professor in higher education administration and international studies. Hager taught courses on such subjects as international law, comparative political systems and higher education curriculum. His research specialties included quality improvement in higher education and the use and effect of media in politics.

In a 1999 interview, Hager noted that when he arrived at Old Dominion, "things like the importance of research and scholarship were not yet part of the culture here. But even when those things happened to Old Dominion, one of the things that's always attracted me: It's never lost sight of where its roots were."

After retiring in 2008, Hager served as consultant for such organizations as the NCAA, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the United Arab Emirates' Commission for Academic Accreditation.

Before Hager came to ODU, he was an Air Force pilot for five years, attaining the rank of captain. He served as a combat intelligence officer, photo/radar/imagery interpreter and combat crew evaluator.

Hager had been married for 27 years to Jane Hager, a faculty member and administrator at ODU who died in 2018. Jane Hager, who taught reading and later served as associate dean and acting dean of the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, worked at Old Dominion for 33 years.

Donna Meeks, university policy manager and executive secretary to ODU's Board of Visitors, is married to Jane Hager's first husband, Frank Meeks.

"I'm very sad to hear of Dave's passing," she said. "We've known each other for over 40 years and became close friends and extended family in our role as co-stepparents to our son Mike. Frank and I are comforted in knowing that Dave is now reunited with Jane and Mike. Our thoughts and prayers are with Michele, Dave Jr. and his treasured grandsons."

Meeks called Hager "one of the pillars at ODU. I have fond memories of being one of the students in his United Nations course as a young employee at the University."

David and Jane Hager also created the David R. Hager Endowed Graduate Scholarship in International Studies and the Jane M. Hager Literacy Scholarship at Old Dominion. They were strong supporters of ODU athletics, particularly women's basketball.

Hager is survived by his son, David Jr., and his wife, Michelle; his daughter, Michele Hager Clark, and her husband, Jae, and four grandchildren, Tyler and Ryan Hager and Aiden and Ean Clark.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Donations may be made to the David R. Hager Endowed Graduate Scholarship in International Studies at ODU. Go to or mail contributions to Barbara M. Henley, Executive Director of Gift Planning, 4417 Monarch Way, Suite 4113, Norfolk, Virginia 23529.

Checks should be made payable to the ODU Educational Foundation - or "ODU Ed. Fnd." - and "Hager Sch. Intl. Studies" should be written in the memo section. For more information, call Henley at 757-683-6563.

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