John R. Hubbard, a historian and former U.S. ambassador to India who was president of the University of Southern California in the 1970s, died Aug 21 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the university announced.
The broad-shouldered and outspoken Texas native, widely known as “Jack,” was 92. No cause of death was reported.
During his decade-long presidency, Dr. Hubbard was credited with helping to boost USC’s finances and academic reputation. His term was also marked with controversies over donations from the shah of Iran and from corporations doing business in Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Hubbard, who was an expert on British diplomatic history and U.S.-India ties, continued to teach part time at USC until he was 91, even if it meant sometimes leaning on a walker.
John Randolph Hubbard was born Dec. 3, 1918, in Belton, Tex. His father, Louis, had been president of Texas Woman’s University.
The younger Hubbard earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in history from the University of Texas. He enlisted in the Navy and served as an aviator during World War II over the Atlantic and the Pacific. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He taught at Tulane University in New Orleans and spent 12 years as dean of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the women’s division that subsequently merged with the rest of Tulane. He then worked for four years as chief education adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development in India. He would return to India two decades later as U.S. ambassador from 1988 to 1989.
In 1969, Dr. Hubbard was named provost and vice president of academic affairs at USC, and the next year he became USC’s eighth president. During his tenure, applications to the school nearly tripled, 10 major buildings were begun or completed, and new programs were established in communications, urban planning, gerontology and hydrocarbon science, officials said.
His 1978 plan to establish a Middle East studies center led to a revolt among some faculty and students. The center was to have been supported largely with donations from corporations doing business in Saudi Arabia, especially Fluor, a corporation headed by J. Robert Fluor, chairman of the USC trustees at the time. The plan was soon dropped after critics said its fundraising arm would have too much influence.
In 1979, as he prepared to announce his intention to retire the following year, Dr. Hubbard faced another furor involving overseas donations.
The Los Angeles Times published an article revealing that he had traveled to Iran four years earlier to confer honorary degrees on Iran’s shah and an oil executive. The shah had endowed a $1 million chair in petroleum engineering at USC, and critics suggested the connection was unseemly. Dr. Hubbard defended his actions, insisting his retirement had nothing to do with the Iranian debate.
Dr. Hubbard’s loyalty to Trojan football was well known and led to what he conceded was a passionate goof. During a 1978 game against the University of Hawaii, Dr. Hubbard became aggravated about what he saw as lopsided calls against the visiting USC team.
Rushing from the sidelines, he confronted the referee and denounced him, Dr. Hubbard later recalled, as “a disgrace to his profession.” As a result, the referee called a non-contact penalty against USC. The Trojans won 21-5 that day, but Dr. Hubbard afterward had an assistant coach assigned to him at games to prevent outbursts.
In a 1980 interview with the Times, he described the importance of USC football success to overall fundraising: “In my ceaseless quest for funds, I’ve found I get a far better reception after we’ve beaten Notre Dame or won a game that’s put us in the Rose Bowl.”