Paul Grondahl

Director, NYS Writers Institute

It is with great sadness that I write. Most or all of you have already heard the news that Karen Hitchcock died last night after a long, valiant battle with cancer. She was 76.


She was a friend to all of us and a remarkable person who enriched our lives, the Writers Institute and the University at Albany in immeasurable ways. We mourn her passing and remember so many good times with her.


In my head, I keep hearing her husky, full-throated laugh. She was a force of goodness and she certainly left her mark on our Friends of Writing advocacy group and this fine literary organization that we all love and support.

I spoke with Karen a few times in the past few months and she was very thankful for all of our calls and emails and cards. That meant a lot to her.


Bill and Dana Kennedy and I had a beautiful few hours with her in late April on a sun-splashed afternoon sitting on her deck and sharing laughter and stories and overlooking the Mohawk River flowing past. We were grateful to have that time with her.


Below is the letter President Havidán Rodriguez sent to the University community this morning. It sums up well Karen’s accomplishments and the legacy she leaves at UAlbany. 

But we also knew another side of Karen: the doer, the supporter, the copy editor (I loved how she called me out on a few points of grammar) and our dear friend. Her laughter was infections. Let’s always remember that beautiful sound.   

We will miss our beloved Karen, our Citizen Laureate, and we will be forever grateful for all she did for so many people and organizations, especially the Writers Institute.

William Kennedy

Executive Director, NYS Writers Institute

Karen brought a personal openness and sense of humor to her presidency that seemed to transform the mood of the campus -- a large-hearted woman who didn’t seem to have to exercise executive demeanor in her leadership of the school.

With her appreciation of literature she also deepened the University’s relationship to the Writers Institute, and she did the same with the local community, where she became a familiar presence.  She was a great friend and a truly valuable human being.


Havidán Rodríguez

President, University at Albany

Dear Colleagues,
This morning I received the very sad news that former UAlbany president Karen Hitchcock has passed away after a lengthy illness. Dr. Hitchcock was a trailblazer throughout her career in higher education, and the University at Albany and the Capital Region are stronger and more vibrant thanks to her significant professional and philanthropic contributions to so many of our most cherished community organizations. The entire UAlbany community extends its deepest condolences to Karen’s family and friends.
First as provost and then as our 16th president, she presided over academic and research expansions that were instrumental to solidifying UAlbany’s position today as one of the nation’s most diverse public research universities, including the development of our Health Sciences Campus into the region’s premier health sciences cluster.


UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez with Karen Hitchcock and her brother Garrett Hitchcock during her Citizen Laureate induction ceremony at UAlbany in November, 2018. 

Dr. Hitchcock also believed our region is stronger when its institutions work together to achieve common goals. It was in that spirit that she helped found the Business-Higher Education Roundtable to create academic-industry partnerships that drive economic growth. As part of her deep community engagement, she was a stalwart supporter of UAlbany’s internationally acclaimed New York State Writers Institute. For these and many other important contributions, Dr. Hitchcock was honored as the Academic Laureate at the University at Albany Foundation's 2018 Citizen Laureate Awards.
For Karen’s commitment to our University, to our students, and to our region, we will be forever grateful, and she will be deeply missed.

Kathryn Gibson

Friends of Writing

Karen was deeply committed to the Capital Region arts scene as a member of our Friends of Writing group as well as Albany Pro Musica and WMHT.

She generously shared her prodigious organizational and editorial skills with us, quickly becoming a trusted advisor and fact checker. Karen understood the value of the humanities, the importance of literature in all walks of life and the dynamic energy from collaborations with cultural, scientific, and business enterprises that enriched Writers Institute programming and community-wide relationships.

The Friends of Writing will miss her wit, intellect, insights, and especially her rich humor.