Former Williams President Hank Payne died yesterday.

Students at Woodward Academy in College Park returned from winter break Tuesday to news that the private school’s president, Harry C. “Hank” Payne, had died on Monday.

Payne, 60, was found dead Monday afternoon in Midtown Atlanta. The cause of death was being investigated by the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office.

His death was announced on the Woodward Academy web site.

“The school has flourished over the past seven years under Dr. Payne’s leadership,” the note on the Web site reads. “We have become a community in every sense. Now our community faces the most difficult of tasks — to mourn a great man, a visionary leader and a loyal friend.”

Payne was named president of Woodward in July 2000 after serving as president of Williams College in Massachusetts from 1994 to 1999.

I met Payne only once, at the class of 1988’s 10th year reunion. Judging from Record coverage at the time, he was doing a fine job. I congratulated him on his performance as president. He graciously acknowledged the compliment while pointing out the working at Williams was “easy duty.” Indeed. While President Payne’s time at Williams ended on an awkward note, with the faculty and town in open revolt over the proposed new theatre, there can be no doubt that he loved Williams and served her well.

Condolences to all.

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