MADISON — “The University of Wisconsin System family is deeply saddened by the sudden death of UW Centers Chancellor Lee E. Grugel early this morning, and shares in his loss with his wife, Frances, and children, Ann and Chris,” UW System President Katharine C. Lyall said Thursday.

Chancellor Grugel, 56, died in his Madison home early Thursday of an apparent heart attack.

“As chancellor of the 13 freshman-sophomore campus centers located across Wisconsin, Lee was a leader and innovator in higher education who always kept the needs of students uppermost in his priorities.

“Indeed, Lee presented several forward-looking proposals for the Study of the UW System in the 21st Century conducted by the Board of Regents, and was in the process of working with campus deans to implement pilot projects,” Lyall continued. “I expect that part of his legacy within the UW System will be the budding partnerships between local high schools and individual center campuses, and improved service to students through better coordination between two-year centers and four-year universities.”

“Lee will be remembered for his unswerving concern for students, his scholarship as an historian, strong allegiance and caring for UW Centers faculty and staff, and as a talented colleague by his fellow chancellors and UW System Administration officers,” Lyall said.

Dr. Grugel was appointed as chancellor the UW System’s two-year centers on Nov. 1, 1991. The 13 campuses have a combined enrollment of 9,300 students, and have central offices in Madison.

At the time of his appointment, he noted that UW-Centers “is the Wisconsin ideal — education that is available to everyone in the state.”

Prior to his appointment, Chancellor Grugel was dean of the school of arts and sciences at UW-Eau Claire for 10 years. In that capacity, he led a school consisting of 22 academic departments and 350 faculty members.

From 1969-81, he was a faculty member at Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minn. While there, he was director of the University Honors Program and the Master of Liberal Arts Program. He was also a visiting professor at Concordia College in Moorhead from 1977 to 1979.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Hilliard, Ohio, Chancellor Grugel held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science/economics and history, respectively, from Ohio State University. He earned a Ph.D. degree in history at the University of Chicago.

Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, is serving the family. Telephone (608) 238-3434.