Former MSU President, Veteran Of Three Military Branches To Be Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Jun 10, 2019

In February 2018, former Michigan State University president Cecil Mackey died at age 89.  Mackey led MSU from 1979 to 1985, after having served as president of Texas Tech University and the University of South Florida.  Mackey was also a military veteran who served in the U.S. Army, the Navy and the Air Force.  On Monday, Mr. Mackey will be buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

 


Carol Mackey Shaffer:

He was military all the way.  His duty was all stateside and more in the intellectual capacity in establishing the economics department at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He never saw combat but he was a trained pilot, he was a Navy cadet, and he was a commander of several units as he went through this service.

Kevin Lavery:

Who was the man; who was the father that nobody at MSU knew, but you knew?

Carol Mackey Shaffer:

My father was a dichotomy to me, because I always looked up to him as the smartest man in the world. But he was also a very, very loving family man for whom nothing about family was a sacrifice or a burden. It was always his choice. He had a wicked sense of humor that many people didn't get to see fully.  We saw this almost childlike side of him that made the family experience full and really exciting.

Kevin Lavery:

He was also in public service in the federal government in the 1960’s under two presidents (Kennedy and Johnson).  In 1967, he was pretty instrumental in establishing a cabinet level department. Tell me about that.

Carol Mackey Shaffer:

My father was an attorney, and he was really adept at writing policy and drafting bills and laws.  He had a bent towards transportation having been a pilot and having worked for what became the Federal Aviation Administration. He and some other folks drafted the bill to create the Department of Transportation in the late 60’s, and Dad was named the first Assistant Secretary for Policy Development of the federal department.

Kevin Lavery:

I understand you have two diplomas that bear your father's name.

Carol Mackey Shaffer:

Yes, that's correct. I have my bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University in economics, and that has my father's signature on it. Just a side note, our graduation was in our living room with just my mother and my father. Mom was the photographer and Dad handed me my diploma, which he had signed, and that was fun.  My master's degree is from Michigan State University in communications, and my father handed me that diploma too when I walked at the ceremony in 1985.

Kevin Lavery:

He stayed at MSU for many, many years after his presidency.  What was it about the Spartan community that compelled him to stay for a little over 30 years?

Carol Mackey Shaffer:

He loved everything about Michigan State. He loved teaching, he loved the students; he loved the community.  My parents loved East Lansing and that just really drove him to be the best professor he could be and change lives through his teaching.  When he died, he was preparing for the next term to teach. He never quit.