STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) -- Donald Zacharias, who served as president of Mississippi State University for more than a decade, has died at the age of 77.
The university confirmed Zacharias' death through its official Twitter account shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday.
A university official said Zacharias died of complications from multiple sclerosis at a nursing facility in Starkville.
"He really helped bring MSU into the modern era, and he did so by developing a broad vision for the leadership that Mississippi needed from a land grant university," MSU President Mark Keenum said in a release. "At our last visit during the Christmas holidays, Dr. Zacharias was still providing valuable, thoughtful counsel to me and still had the welfare of MSU students at the top of his mind. I counted him as a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration."
Zacharias was given the title of president emeritus after stepping down from the helm of the university, which he ran from 1985-1997.
His notable contributions during that time included the expansion and renovation of the Mitchell Memorial Library and construction of the Joe Frank Sanderson Center, a fitness and wellness facility, on the campus.
Upon his resignation from MSU in 1997, Zacharias said: "I saw things in Mississippi State University that others might not have seen. I felt that I had made the right decision to be at this university because I liked both what it stood for and its overall character. I liked its mission, and I liked the students and alumni. I saw the potential.”
Zacharias began his career in higher education in 1963 as a faculty member in communication at Indiana University.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, three children and three grandchildren, all of Boulder, Colo.
He is also survived by a sister in Yucaipa, Calif.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. In a news release, university officials said the Zacharias family will offer details at a later date.
A public memorial service is tentatively planned for Thursday on the MSU campus.