Friends, family and colleagues gathered on Dec. 12 to celebrate the life and accomplishments of former Wayne State President David Adamany, who died on Nov. 10 at 80 years old. He was the longest serving president in WSU history, serving for 15 years from 1982-1997.
Wayne State Governor Emeritus Michael Einheuser said choosing a president of a BOG unanimously decided to offer Adamany the job of being the university’s eighth president.
“The president runs the show, and David ran quite the show,” Einheuser said.
He said Adamany was a gifted academic and one of the smartest people he knew. Einheuser said his admiration for Adamany did not come from his brain, but from his heart and personality.
“[Adamany] had an amazing capacity not only to focus on incredible detail, but to zoom back and look at the big picture,” said John Corvino, the chair of the Wayne State Department of Philosophy.
Corvino said Adamany was a person who reached out to everyone he met. He said he was once walking with Adamany around campus when he stopped to greet a landscaper and ask how he and his wife were doing.
“When I asked him how he remembered the landscaper and his wife, Adamany replied, ‘Well they work for me and I like to know them,’” Corvino said.
One of Adamany’s closest friends, Gilbert Frimet, emphasized the former president’s relationships with the students.
He said Adamany prioritized being where the student registration took place. Frimet said he liked to meet and talk to students and he always made it a point to eat in the cafeteria once a week.
“[Adamany] didn’t believe in walls, he believed in bridges,” Frimet said. “He built them so students’ opinions could be heard and valued.”
Einheuser said Adamany believed in WSU’s urban promise and the institution’s ideals to help first-year college students in Metro Detroit find collegiate success.
Former WSU President Allan Gilmour said Adamany believed in high standards, and it showed in WSU’s growth.
“Adamany once said, ‘Can someone please explain to me why a kid from a middle or working class background cannot get the same education as a kid from an Ivy League institution?’” Gilmour said.
Board member Diane Dunaskiss said Adamany believed in quality education at an affordable price for anyone pursuing higher education. She said Adamany was “insistent on making Wayne State an attractive university for students.”
Dunaskiss said WSU became a Carnegie I Research Institution during Adamany’s tenure, saying it was one of his top goals he set for the university. WSU has not lost that status since.
President M. Roy Wilson said 69,200 degrees were awarded to students during Adamany’s 15-year tenure as president. When Adamany stepped down in 1997, the amount of degrees accounted for 30 percent of all degrees awarded in the history of WSU, Wilson said.
Adamany's sister, Doreen, said his commitment to students can still be seen today with the Undergraduate Library.
“David wanted the library to be open 24/7 not just because he was a night owl, but because he wanted students that worked around the clock to have access to it at all times,” Doreen said.
The Undergraduate Library was a project conceived by the former president early in his term and constructed in his final year. It was named the David Adamany Undergraduate Library in his honor.