Former NU provost dies at 67

Alexandra Finkel

Former Northwestern Provost Lawrence B. Dumas died Monday morning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s hospice. Dumas, who had fought a brain tumor since his retirement in 2007, was 67.

Dumas worked at NU for nearly 40 years before retiring last year for health reasons. Colleagues remembered him as a man devoted to the university as a mentor and administrator.

Prof. Richard Morimoto worked closely with Dumas in the biological sciences department. Dumas served as Morimoto’s mentor since 1983, when the two taught a cell biology class, Morimoto said.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with him and serving him for my entire academic career at Northwestern,” he said. “He was always deeply interested in everything we could do to enhance NU at every level, but he was also very interested in each of us as people.”

Dumas joined the Northwestern faculty in 1970 and was one of the founding members of the department of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology.

He served as the department’s chairman from 1985 until 1988, when he was appointed the Dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He then accepted a position as NU Provost and served for 11 years before retiring in 2007.

As provost, Dumas worked with faculty members and the administration to create “The Highest Order of Excellence,” a statement outlining ideas and strategies to improve NU’s future.

“I think it was his vision that Northwestern could be the very best institution not only in the United States, but the very best institution in the whole world,” Morimoto said.

Dumas encouraged the faculty to become more involved and make a difference, he said.

“He always said, with a twinkle in his eye and a warm smile, that we should challenge ourselves to do more for the university,” Morimoto said.

“He was the most magnificent mentor and friend.”

Al Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said Dumas was “too young.”

“Larry was a remarkable leader, a great asset to the university,” he said. “He truly will be missed.”

Other colleagues agreed.

“Larry was an extraordinary man in many ways, and no more so than in his distinguished service to Northwestern,” President Henry Bienen said in a press release. “He provided unparalleled leadership and thoughtful guidance to the entire university. He looms large in the history of Northwestern.”

Eugene Sunshine, NU’s vice president for business and finance, said he remembers going on road trips with Dumas to NU football games.

“We either suffered together or rejoiced together, depending upon the game’s outcome,” Sunshine said in an e-mail.

Even though Dumas is gone, his legacy will remain at NU for years to come, Morimoto said.

“A lot of the excellence that we’ve experienced in the past decade had everything to do with Provost Dumas’ vision and attention to NU,” Morimoto said. “He has been an inspiration to the entire institution.”

A memorial service will be held Friday at 2 p.m. in Alice Millar Chapel.

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