Melvin A. Eggers


Honorary Degree (1986)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan


The distinguished career of Melvin A. Eggers, chancellor and president of Syracuse University, demonstrates excellence in academic leadership that transcends the single institution. His influence at the state and national levels in addressing the complex issues that affect higher education has benefited both private and public institutions.

Melvin Eggers was born at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and received the B.A. in economics from Indiana University in 1940 and the M.A. in 1941. He began graduate work at the University of Chicago, but interrupted his studies for service in the war. He served as Japanese language officer in the U.S. Navy, and after the war as economic analyst for the War Department in Tokyo. Upon his return he continued his studies at Yale University and received the Ph.D. in economics in 1950. He then joined the faculty of Syracuse University, attaining the rank of professor in 1963. Between 1960 and 1970, he served as chairman of the Department of Economics, and from 1970 to 1971 as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Dr. Eggers became chancellor and president of Syracuse University in 1971. At that time, constraints in funding and enrollment affected the University's growth. Employing innovative financial planning, Dr. Eggers launched a capital building program that has strengthened the institution's resources, endowments, and research funding. Under his administration the prestige and vitality of the University have been significantly enhanced. Dr. Eggers' thoughtful style appeals to a broad constituency of scholars, public officials, politicians, and corporate leaders. He has been able to build increased support for higher education from these diverse groups, and his outstanding negotiating skills have promoted cooperation and community of interest among public and private institutions in New York State.

Dr. Eggers' prominent role in state and local affairs has benefited his own institution as well as the wider community. His commitment to the advancement of higher education in his state has been put into effective action in numerous positions: as a member of the New York State Commissioner's Advisory Council on Post Secondary Education, the Board of Trustees of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York, and of the Commission's Research Committee Caucus, and also as co-chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Financial Policy of the Association of Colleges and Universities of the State of New York. His distinguished record of service has also enhanced relations between the University and its local community. This service includes consultancy to several financial institutions, appointment to the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, service on the boards of several local businesses and industries, and chairmanship of the board of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. In 1979 he was designated by the Chamber as Businessman of the Year.

At the national level, Melvin Eggers is an influential figure in the development of public policy for higher education. A member of the Association of American Universities, he has served on its Executive Committee and as chairman of the Committee on Research Libraries. He is also a member of the American Council on Education, former chairman of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and vice chairman of the Coalition for the Advancement of Industrial Technology. In these and other roles he has been effective in bringing about national cooperation among private and public institutions, and in building support for higher education in general. Dr. Eggers is co-author of two important textbooks, Economic Processes: The Level of Economic Activity, and Economic Processes: The Composition of Economic Activity, and author of many articles, including a widely reprinted study of the savings banks of New York State. He continues to take the time to teach graduate courses in economics and has maintained a ready accessibility to faculty and students and a supportive role in the academic process that reflects his concern, effectiveness, and administrative leadership.

He has received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Nazareth College and the Simon LeMoyne Medal from LeMoyne College. In 1985 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the State University of New York for his contributions to the development of public policy for higher education and for leadership in the higher education community of the State of New York. This was the first such award made by SUNY to the president of a private university.

Melvin A. Eggers is recognized for his astute leadership and sensitivity to complex issues by other university administrators, government officials at the federal and state levels, and the academic and business communities. An administrator of high integrity, he represents the best aspects of the academic scholar who has accepted administrative responsibility at a critical time for higher education and made lasting contributions to its progress.