Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a University of Utah graduate, passed away Sunday in the hospital from issues related to age. He was 85.
Although born and raised in New York, Hales pursued his undergraduate studies in communication and business at the U. He played baseball during his time at the school and in a 1951 issue of the Daily Utah Chronicle, Hales was named one of two freshmen who were “outstanding professional prospects.” It was noted that he had been “approached by the Philadelphia chain,” referring to the Philadelphia Phillies, but turned them down for two reasons — the first being that he wanted to play in college before going professional, and the second listed as “religious reasons.” He played until he sustained an injury that made it difficult for him to continue.
While visiting his home in New York two years before he graduated, Hales met his future wife, Mary Crandall. They both returned to Utah, she to Brigham Young University and he to the U, and were married the summer prior to Hales’ senior year. He later called her his “greatest asset.”
After graduating from the U, Hales joined the Air Force and served in active duty for four years as a jet fighter pilot.
Once he completed his service, Hales earned a master’s of business administration from Harvard. It was during this time that he was first asked to fill a leadership position in the church over his local congregation.
Earning an advanced degree in business from Harvard helped Hales to start a successful career serving as the senior executive of many large companies. Despite his large responsibilities, he accepted opportunities to serve in the LDS church, and eventually was asked to serve in worldwide leadership capacities, doing so for over 40 years.
His religious teachings were frequently characterized by a call to “return with honor,” which was his unit’s motto in the Air Force. He believed that all people could apply this motto in their lives as a “determination to return to our home base [heaven] with honor only after having expended all of our efforts to successfully complete every aspect of our mission.”
In his later years, Hales’ health suffered. He had been hospitalized for several days before his death due to pulmonary and other conditions.
The U extend condolences to the Hales family via Twitter and released a statement written by U President David Pershing.
“The University of Utah has always been proud to claim Elder Hales as one of its own,” Pershing wrote. “He was a wonderful advocate for the university and the value of higher education as a way to strengthen society.”
Pershing also noted that Hales had served on the university’s National Advisory Council and the Utah State Board of Regents, which governs all public higher education in the state, and called him “rightly beloved.”