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Former Auburn University president William F. Walker dies of cancer at age 69

AUBURN (AP) — Former Auburn University president William F. Walker died of complications from cancer Tuesday, university officials said. He was 69. Spokeswoman Deedie Dowdle said the school received word of Walker's death Tuesday morning.

"We mourn the loss of an important member of the Auburn family," Auburn University President Jay Gogue said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Walker's family and friends."

Walker was chosen as interim president in 2001 to replace William Muse and was named to the position permanently in June 2002. He resigned 19 months later after growing criticism for his clandestine search for a new football coach.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools also placed Auburn on 12-month probation, saying the university had not prevented a minority of trus-tees from micromanaging the school. The probation followed calls for resignation.

The Sherman, Texas, native was a professor of mechanical engineering and department chairman at Rice University in Houston from 1965 to 1988, when he became dean of Auburn's College of Engineering in 1988.

In 1998, he was named co-chair of a special committee created by the Board of Trus-tees to examine university governance and priorities. He served as provost and vice president for academic affairs before being named interim president.

"Bill understood what made a great university just that, and had a vision to meet the criteria necessary to greatness. His goal was to recruit faculty who were outstanding both in teaching and research, and to give them the resources they needed to succeed," said Dean Larry Ben-efield of the College of Engineering.

Dowdle said Walker and his wife began the William F. and Myrna Walker Family Endowment for Scholarships to help freshmen and sophomores attending the university.

"He will certainly leave a positive legacy for future generations," she said.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at the First Presbyterian Church in Auburn.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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