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Jack Hoy was the dean of admissions at Wesleyan University in the 1960s, and his efforts opened the college to a radically more diverse group of students. Under his leadership, the number of black freshmen jumped from two or three in the early 1960s to 13 in 1965 and 29 in 1966. Today, 11 percent of the student body is black.
"Jack set Wesleyan on a course of leadership in equal access and racial diversity in American higher education," Steven Pfeiffer, former chairman of the university's board of trustees, told a Wesleyan publication.
"Under Jack's leadership, Wesleyan was the first of the top tier colleges and universities to give African American students of talent and potential a fair shot at what private institutions of higher education like Wesleyan had to offer young Americans."
John C. Hoy, 79, formerly of Middletown, died of cancer on July 9 at his home in Duxbury, Mass.
He was born on Dec. 5, 1933, and grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., where his father, John E. Hoy was the sheriff, overseeing the local jails.
Neither of his parents had attended college, and Hoy expected to work in a canning factory. But in high school he saw some college brochures in a guidance office, and decided to apply to Wesleyan, which at that time was an all-male school.
He majored in history and got a master's degree in liberal studies after graduating from Wesleyan in 1955. He taught high school for several years, then returned to Wesleyan as assistant dean of admissions, where he stayed until 1959. He became director of admissions at Lake Forest College in Illinois, and in 1962, he became dean of admissions at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
He returned to Wesleyan in 1964 as dean of admissions and freshmen, and, eventually, assistant to the president and dean for special academic affairs.
At that time, the college enrolled about one or two black students a year, and several faculty members were pushing President Victor Butterfield to increase student diversity in both race and economic status. Butterfield assigned the task to Hoy.
In 1966, 13 black students were admitted, and the numbers of minority students kept growing.
"That was an initiative that fundamentally changed American higher education," said Bob Kirkpatrick, who succeeded Hoy as director of admissions in 1969. "Within three or four years, most of the prestigious liberal arts colleges got into that philosophy."
The task of increasing minority enrollment was more complicated than just evaluating application forms. Not that many black students applied, and almost none of the applications were from poor students. Hoy discovered that most black students, especially from urban high schools, had never heard of Wesleyan.
He set about organizing a group of alumni to visit high schools to publicize the college, and he went on many recruiting trips around the country. Hoy also successfully advocated the hiring more minorities in all university departments, from the admissions staff to the administration and the faculty.
The first few years were rocky, though. There was some tension and there were demonstrations to protest the lack of black faculty members, Kirkpatrick said. Some African American students believed they had been brought to Wesleyan "not for themselves, but to educate white students," he said.
One result was the formation of an African American Institute, and a class on African American history.
Randy Miller, a black student in Wesleyan's class of 1970, said a New York Times profile of the racial climate at Wesleyan at the time overemphasized campus problems.
"There was some tension, but it wasn't extremely tense," he said. "Some people didn't look on the change as a good thing. ... My experience at Wesleyan was very good. It wasn't without challenges, but at least we were communicating."
After graduating, Miller worked in the Wesleyan admissions office for five years and is now a student adviser at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Today, 83 students in the Wesleyan class of 2016 are black, and 39 percent of the student body is composed of minority students.
Hoy also was active in recruiting African students to American universities under the auspices of the African Scholarship Program of American Universities.
In 1969, Hoy became vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of California-Irvine. In 1987, he was appointed executive director of the New England Board of Higher Education, a position he held until 2001.
Hoy retired in Massachusetts, where his love for antiques and woodworking led him to begin selling antiques. He built a rustic cabin in Maine, which was a favored retreat. He loved writing poetry, and enjoyed entertaining others with his poetry readings. Driving by a horse auction one day, he impulsively bought some horses — and later he bought some sheep.
Hoy is survived by his wife Marie, and seven children, some of them from two previous marriages: Peter Hoy, Elizabeth Hoy, Jill Hoy, Johnny Hoy, Jen Hoy, J. Nichols and Joshua Hoy, and seven grandchildren.
Although Hoy was given a lot of credit for the admissions work he did, he deflected praise from what he had initiated at Wesleyan.
"He was humble about his role, but it was something that meant a great deal to him," said his son Peter.
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