John Brademas, a longtime Indiana congressman and former president of New York University, died Monday at age 89, according to the university.
Brademas' wife, Mary Ellen Brademas, told the university her husband died in New York City, where the couple lived, NYU spokesman John Beckman said. The cause of death was not yet available.
Brademas was a Democrat and served 11 terms in Congress. He rose to majority whip, the No. 3 position in the U.S. House, before losing his seat in the 1980 Republican landslide when Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term as president.
Less than two months after leaving office, Brademas became NYU's 13th president. He held the position from 1981 to 1992, leading NYU from a regional school to a research university with a global reputation.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who once represented Brademas' former congressional district, called him a friend.
"He burned with a deep love for our country and with a desire to make the world a better place," Donnelly said in an emailed statement.
Current NYU President Andrew Hamilton said it's rare for an institution "to owe so much of its prestige" to one person.
"At a time when both NYU and the city for which it is named were both still struggling with the challenges of the 1970s," Brademas helped start the "upward trajectory" that made NYU what it now is, Hamilton said.
In Congress, Brademas was a leading advocate of expanding the federal government's role in education and increasing government funding for the arts.
He pushed efforts in the 1960s and '70s to create programs such as Head Start to help disadvantaged children and to spend more money for tuition grants and loans to college students.
He later used his prominence as NYU's leader to fight proposals by President Reagan in the 1980s to curtail federal education spending. He labeled cuts proposed by the White House in student aid "a declaration of war on middle-income America."
Brademas also was a sponsor of legislation creating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1965.
He tangled with conservatives such as North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and Patrick Buchanan, who later sought cuts in the NEA's funding over what they saw as its support of sexually explicit art works and performances.
Brademas was born in Mishawaka and grew up in the neighboring city of South Bend. His father was a Greek immigrant restaurant owner, while his mother was a teacher and an Indiana native.
After time in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps during the last year of World War II, Brademas transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated in 1949. He became a Rhodes Scholar and received a doctorate in social studies from Oxford University.
In addition to his wife, Brademas is survived by his sister, Eleanor Brazeau, of Indiana; and stepchildren Katherine Goldberg, Jane Murray and John Briggs.