Professor John W. Hennessey Jr, age 92, of Shelburne, Vt., and formerly of Hanover, N.H., died of natural causes on January 11, 2018 at the Wake Robin Continuing Care Retirement Community.
A much beloved and respected professor and administrator, John Hennessey was a scholar, a feminist, a democrat, and an ethicist, with an exceptional academic career.
Despite his myriad commitments, he always made time for his family. He and his wife Jean took each of their three grandchildren on cross-country trips to all 50 states; the couple spent 10 weeks with their grandchildren in the Cotswolds of England. His family called him “Super,” short for “Super Pal,” an apt description of his special friendships with all children. More recently, he became the proud great-grandfather of five great-granddaughters, a new joy in his life.
Born on March 25, 1925, in Danville, Pa., to Martha Scott Braun and John W. Hennessey, he attended public schools in York, Pa., before entering Princeton University’s Class of 1945, at the age of 16. His college education was interrupted in 1943, by World War II, when he enrolled in Officer Training School at 18.
By the age of 21, Hennessey achieved the rank of First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and managed more than 200 men in the Philippines Ordinance Department. He returned to Princeton in 1946, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1948 with a degree in economics and social institutions after writing a senior thesis on universal health care.
Soon after, John married Jean Marie Lande of Seattle, at Vassar College. They moved to Cambridge, Mass. where John entered Harvard Business School, receiving his M.B.A. in 1950. They moved to Seattle where he earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the College of Business Administration at the University of Washington. In Seattle, the couple had two children, John William Hennessey III (1952) and Martha Scott Hennessey (1954). Jean was admired as a leading environmental and Democratic activist. She died in 2004.
In 1957, Hennessey accepted a full professorship, teaching organizational behavior at Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business Administration; he took short-term academic positions in Switzerland, Turkey, the USSR, and the People’s Republic of China.
Returning to the U.S., he became Associate Dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School and in 1968, its sixth dean. Hennessey accepted the post with the conditions that he continue to teach and that the trustees admit women to the business school. The first women were admitted to Tuck in September 1968. Three years later, Dartmouth began admitting undergraduate women. Also as dean, he launched the Tuck Executive Program, the Tuck Education Loan Program and the alumni magazine, Tuck Today.
Retiring in 1976, Hennessey was awarded Dartmouth’s Third Century Professorship; he co-founded the Dartmouth Ethics Institute and continued to teach business ethics classes. He had a passion for teaching and was a mentor and advisor to many who frequently describe how he “changed their lives.”
In 1986, Hennessey was named provost at the University of Vermont, and in 1989 served as UVM’s interim president for a year.
Hennessey served on more than 30 non-profit and corporate boards including UVM and Vermont Law School. He twice chaired the board of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital / DHMC, oversaw the hospital’s expansion and was instrumental in its move from Hanover to Lebanon, N.H.
He chaired the Educational Testing Service, Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance, Encyclopedia Britannica Educational, among many others. More recently, he served on the board of Americans for Campaign Reform and Patient Choices at End of Life.
In 1981, Hennessey received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of New Hampshire. On March 25, 2005, Hennessey’s 80th birthday, N.H. Gov. John Lynch proclaimed it “John W. Hennessey Jr. Day” in the state.
Hennessey moved to Vermont in 2006 when he married former Vermont Gov. Madeleine May Kunin. At Vermont Law School’s 2008 commencement, Kunin was speaker and both he and Madeleine were awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees. He received another honorary LL.D. degree at UVM’s 2012 commencement.
John Hennessey is survived by his wife, Gov. Madeleine May Kunin; his son, John W. Hennessey, III, of Weston, Mass.; his daughter Martha S. Hennessey and her husband, Stephen D. Severson, of Hanover, N.H.; his three grandchildren, Kristina Hennessey Hill (Greg Hill), Tucker Severson (Sarah Persing), Elizabeth Scott Hennessey (Tamara Iwanski); five great granddaughters; four stepchildren, Julia Kunin, Peter Kunin (Elizabeth), Adam Kunin (Jane), and Daniel Kunin, (Chantal Gauvin); and six step-grandchildren.
A public Circle of Remembrance will be held Saturday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m., at Wake Robin. A service will also take place in Hanover at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Patient Choices Vermont, P.O. Box 671, Shelburne, VT 05482 or Common Cause, 805 15th Street NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20005.
Arrangements are by Boucher and Pritchard Funeral Directors.