David J. Prior, former dean at Northern Arizona University, died Thursday in Wise, Va. He was 68.

Dr. Prior was chancellor of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, a position he had held since 2005. He arrived at NAU in 1987 to serve as chair of Biological Sciences, and then was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1992, where he remained until 1995.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of David Prior’s unexpected and untimely death,” said NAU President Emeritus Eugene Hughes. “David had a distinguished career at NAU and beyond. He assisted in bringing research to new heights at each of the institutions he served and was a true leader. It was my honor to be a speaker at his inauguration as chancellor of the University of Virginia at Wise and to count him as a special colleague and friend.”

Students at UVa-Wise held a candlelight vigil Thursday night. A memorial service is planned for next week at the university’s convocation center.

Dr. Prior is survived by his wife, Merry Lu, and two children, Andrea and Christopher.

Read the Virginia university’s full story online.