A Silver Spring man who formerly headed two Maryland universities was found bludgeoned to death along with his wife at the couple's vacation home in a small North Carolina town, and authorities were looking yesterday for a relative suspected in the killings.
The bodies of Dr. Harold Delaney, 74, and his wife Geraldine, 71, were found Thursday evening in their house in Pilot Mountain, N.C., a town of 1,183 people that hasn't had a homicide in about 25 years.
Police believe the motive for the killing was robbery. Charged with murder was Mrs. Delaney's nephew, Keith Bradley East, 33, who lives in the town, said Pilot Mountain Police Chief Doug Lawson.
The chief said the apparent motive was the theft of either money or the couple's 1991 Buick Park Avenue, which was missing. Witnesses reported seeing the nephew driving the car in nearby Winston-Salem, N.C., after the killings, police said.
In his career as an educator in Maryland and other states, Dr. Delaney served as interim president at Bowie State and Frostburg State universities. He also had headed two universities in Illinois and New York and was a chemistry professor for 21 years at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Police found the bodies about 6 p.m. Thursday, after receiving an anonymous tip to check the house. Pilot Mountain, north of Winston-Salem, is where Mrs. Delaney grew up. The Delaneys vacationed there frequently, police said.
Mrs. Delaney's mother is in a local nursing home, and the chief said the couple regularly visited her and relatives in the area.
Yesterday, those who knew the couple were shocked to hear of the killings.
"I am naturally, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt devastated," said Bob Golden, Bowie State's vice president for business, who has known the couple since 1957. "I just heard the news this morning and I am still in a daze."
"The passing of Dr. Delaney is a big loss to higher education. . . . He was everybody's mentor," said Dr. Chernoh M. Sesay, provost at Chicago State University in Chicago, where Dr. Delaney was interim president in 1989 and 1990.
In addition to Dr. Delaney's one-year terms as interim president at Bowie State and Frostburg State, his half-century in higher education included a short stint heading Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y.
Aided UM chancellor
He was a former executive vice president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and a special assistant to the chancellor of the University of Maryland system.
The couple's two adult sons, Doyle and Milton Delaney, were in tears yesterday evening as they briefly talked to the media in front of their parents' Silver Spring home.
"They were the greatest parents a kid could have. I just hope that our children, 20 years from now, can say the same thing," Doyle Delaney said. Throughout higher education circles yesterday, Dr. Delaney was remembered as a generous man who never sought personal recognition in his efforts to improve university education.
"He was a very selfless person. He always tried to do the most useful thing he could do without thinking of himself," said Dr. John Toll, the former chancellor of the University of Maryland system for whom Dr. Delaney worked as a special assistant.
"Look at his position on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He was the executive vice president, quietly building up programs on the national level," Dr. Toll said. "He let the president get the credit and he did all of the hard work."
Dr. Toll said that attribute led to Dr. Delaney's appointments as interim president at three universities. "He was purposely coming in for a temporary period to pull things together, but he was not competing and not threatening to anybody."
Dr. James B. Appleberry, the current president of the association, called Dr. Delaney "the conscience of public higher education" in a statement yesterday. "A gentleman in every sense of the word, Dr. Delaney nurtured and mentored not only students and faculty, but his fellow presidents and administrators at every level."
At Bowie State, where Dr. Delaney completed his most recent position as interim president during the 1992-1993 school year before retiring, his former assistant for administrative services recalled the warmth and friendliness of both husband and wife.
"I think everyone, no matter who they were, were important people to them, whether it was a student in need or the president of something," Joyce Larrick said. "We learned a very valuable lesson from Dr. Delaney in that you can be secure in yourself and serve a broad group of people such as our students here at the university and still be a very warm, approachable person."
Ms. Larrick said she had just received a letter from the couple. It included pictures of Mrs. Delaney's recent birthday celebration, taken by Dr. Delaney -- an enthusiastic photographer who took snapshots wherever they went.
When asked her age during the birthday dinner, recalled Ms. Larrick, Mrs. Delaney responded, "I am 29. Again."
Gifts from trips
In the Delaneys' Silver Spring neighborhood, meanwhile, people who have known the couple since they moved in more than 14 years ago were surprised to learn the extent of Dr. Delaney's work at universities. He had simply told them that he was a "college administrator."
"I never knew. I'm just beginning to find out what an accomplished man he was," said Bill Dorsey, who lives two houses away. "It's amazing how modest he was."
The couple would always bring neighbors little gifts from their trips, most recently fresh tomatoes from North Carolina and a wind chime from Arizona.
Dr. Delaney, a native of Philadelphia, and Mrs. Delaney, who was born in North Carolina near the site where their bodies were found, are survived by their two sons and five grandchildren.