Renowned educator dies at 93

May 24, 2007

Cornelius R. Hager, Ph.D., a retired Asbury College and University of Kentucky interim president, and former superintendent of Jessamine County Schools, died last Friday at the age of 93.

Hager died at Wesley Village where he has resided for the past several years.

Given Hager's many accomplishments, his friend and colleague, A.D. Albright said his friend will be remembered mostly for his love of people.

"He always thought of other people before he did himself, and in that was reflected in everything he did," Albright said. "His behavior always exemplified Christian values."


The Jessamine County native had a distinguished career in education, having serving 59 years in public and private education, including 10 years as superintendent of Jessamine County Schools from 1947-57. He is the only person ever to have served three terms as president of Asbury College. He was also assistant dean of Extended Programs and Adult Education at the University of Kentucky for 27 years. He helped found the university's community college program and was also instrumental in establishing the Donovan Scholar's Program, and served as its director. He was secretary/treasurer of the Central Kentucky Education Association for 17 years and was on the Board of Trustees at Asbury College for 24 years.

Albright smiled as he recalled a day long ago when they were both UK administrators.

"He came into the office one day, and I said, 'C.R. you don't look so well,' and he said, 'I'm all right.' And I said, 'No, you're not. What's wrong?'"

After some prodding, Albright got Hager to admit that he had hurt his leg over the weekend, while sledding with some children. He remembered that he had to force Hager to get the leg looked at.

"The day's work was more important to him," he said.

His son, David Hager, said one of his father's greatest strengths was his compassion and love for all people, which was reflected in the way he treated everyone.

"He saw all people as equals, he made no class distinctions," he said. "No matter who you were, he considered you worthy of his attention and of God's attention."

David Hager said his dad truly enjoyed doing things for other people. And one thing, especially, which many people at his visitation at Hughes Auditorium remarked upon, as well as his son, was the caring he showed for everyone he met.

"One of the first things he would ask you is how you were doing," Hager said. "He always wanted to know how you were, especially kids. He would ask them how they were doing in school and encourage them to stay in school. He has been the encouragement for many, many people who have gotten their degrees."

C.R. Hager was chosen Citizen of the Year, and received the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award, as well as being honored by the UK Phi Delta Kappa for meritorious service. He was active in many community affairs, having co-founded the Little League and Babes Ruth Leagues in Jessamine County. He was active in the Beef Cattle Association, and was a Boy Scout leader, a charter member of the Withers Library board, the 4-H Council and the Jessamine County Fair Board. Last year he was honored by the fair board as the oldest member of the fair board, when three of its members presented him with an engraved wicker basket.

"Well, I don't go to too many meetings anymore, but I guess I'm still on the board. I guess I'll have to start saving up my $8 to get in the fair," he quipped.

Albright said he remembered his friend's love of gardening.

"He loved to watch things grow, a child or a garden."

Up until last year, Hager had always planted and tended a vegetable garden at Wesley Village with the help of his daughter, Neela Marshall.

Tim Layton with Wesley Village is one of many people who will miss C.R. Hager.

"Dr. Hager was one of those special people you only meet once in a lifetime," Layton said. "We were blessed to have known him."

C.R. Hager was the widower of Ruth Hager, and in addition to his daughter, Neela, and son David, he is also survived by another son, Dan Langer, 12 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a brother and sister.

Hager graduated from Nicholasville High School and received his bachelor's of arts degree from Asbury College. He also received his bachelor's in divinity from Asbury Seminary, a masters degree from the University of Kentucky and a doctor of laws degree from Asbury College. He completed further graduate studies at Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

Hager was an Army veteran, serving in World War II and served eight years in the National Guard, achieving the rank of captain.

A member of Nicholasville United Methodist, he was very active in the church. He was executive director of United Methodist Foundation, and was a delegate to the General Conference of the UMC on eight occasions, was a Kentucky Conference lay leader, and was a founding member of the board of directors of Wesley Village and also served on the board of the Methodist Home of Kentucky.

Services were held Tuesday at Hughes Auditorium at Asbury College. |2/2/07|***

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