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Paige Mulhollan, 77, left his mark on ASU


August 13, 2012

Paige Mulhollan, former executive vice president and chief operating officer at ASU, under President J. Russell Nelson, has passed away at the age of 77, after a brief illness.

Mulhollan lived in Fayetteville, Ark., after serving as president of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, from 1985 to 1994.

In an interview with ASU historian Dean Smith, Nelson talked about why he decided to bring Mulhollan into his administration. “Paige seemed to me to have thought a great deal about the university. He had been influential in the preparation of the mission statement, and I liked what was in it,” Nelson told Smith.

Smith commented, “My impression of Paige was a guy who was charged up all the time and was a guy to make quick decisions.”

Nelson replied, “Yes."

He added, “I’m more deliberate than he is and I think it was probably good for me to have somebody who was a hard charger, always challenging and trying to move forward. And it was probably good for him to have a more contemplative boss."

Chuck Corbin, professor emeritus of kinesiology, said, “Paige was a forward thinker. His goal was to develop high-quality programs of excellence in the university. He was tough but fair. He had the unique ability to work with both the faculty and legislators. His interest in programs of excellence lured me to ASU and inspired me to work hard to help him achieve his goals. I will always be grateful for challenging me with his high, but fair, standards.”

Gary Krahenbuhl, former dean and senior vice president, who is retired from ASU, said, “Paige was a pragmatist. He was open to new ideas, learned quickly, and acted decisively. He helped ASU become ‘lighter on its feet’ in adapting to the demands and opportunities presented by the dramatic growth of metropolitan Phoenix and Arizona.

“Although he worked very quickly and seemed to thrive in his administrative roles, he was laid back in manner and a very nice person to interact with.”

Krahenbuhl remembers that Mulhollan “was attentive to his personal physical fitness and took time each day for jogging, which helped him stay trim.

“His interest in jogging developed from his relationship with Chuck Corbin which started when both were at Kansas State University and Paige was struggling with health issues tied to being overweight. Paige was instrumental in the development of exercise science laboratory facilities in the early 1980s.

“Paige also was a central figure in creating the College of Public Programs on the Tempe campus and in the early development of ASU West.”

Mulhollan was born in Fort Smith, Ark., on Dec. 10, 1934. He earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Arkansas, a doctorate in history from the University of Texas and an honorary doctor of letters from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

His academic career also included administrative positions at Kansas State University (associate dean of the arts and sciences and associate professor of history) and the University of Oklahoma (dean of the arts and sciences and professor of history).

Early in his career, Mulhollan was a senior research associate at the University of Texas Oral History Project, where he was responsible for interviewing leading members of the foreign policy community associated with President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration for the oral history collection of the LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. He also served on numerous national boards and commissions.

His passions included sailing and birding. He sailed the five Great Lakes and sailed in the Caribbean, and participated in numerous Audubon field counts. He achieved a birder’s life list containing more than 670 species of birds identified during his travels across five continents.

If Dean Smith thought Mulhollan was “charged up” while he worked at ASU, he was absolutely fired up with volunteer activities as a retiree, first in Hilton Head, S.C., and then Fayetteville.

In Hilton Head, Mulhollan was president of the Hilton Head Audubon Society, president of the Carolina Butterfly Association, co-president (along with his wife) of the Hilton Head Land Trust, a volunteer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a board member and volunteer for the Coastal Discovery Museum.

In Fayetteville, he served as the executive director of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks for two years, a board member of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks (2005-2012), a board member of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society, a board member of the University of Arkansas Retirement Association and a member of the Rotary Club of Fayetteville (2005-2012).

Mulhollan is survived by his wife, Mary Bess; son, Paige E. Mulhollan Jr. and wife Marilyn of Chandler, Ariz.; son, Kelly Vernon Mulhollan and wife Donna of Fayetteville; and three granddaughters, a great-granddaughter and brother.