Servant And Leader: William B. Stallcup Jr.

William B. Stallcup Jr. (’41), who served as president ad interim of SMU during one of the most difficult periods in its history, died June 7 at his home in Ranchos de Taos, N.M., after a long illness. He was 87.

A biology professor who never intended to be an administrator, Stallcup served in various positions for half of his four decades at SMU. The most critical of these was as president ad interim in 1986 after the sudden retirement of President L. Donald Shields and SMU’s sanctions for NCAA football rules violations. Stallcup presided over sweeping reforms in SMU’s athletics program and governance structure, helping to restore public confidence in the University.


As president ad interim, Bill Stallcup met with students and the media after SMU’s athletics program received sanctions for NCAA football rules violations in 1986. A longtime biology professor at SMU, Stallcup and his leadership helped to restore public confidence in the University.

“Bill Stallcup repeatedly answered the call to serve in times of special need,” says President R. Gerald Turner. “SMU’s transition to brighter days would not have been possible without his leadership, integrity and dedication. He also was instrumental in helping to develop SMU-in-Taos as a unique educational resource. In the history of the University, he stands out as an exemplary steward of positive change.”

Born in Dallas, Stallcup attended SMU on scholarships. He originally planned a career in medicine, but a weekend job testing lake water in East Texas kindled his interest in applying biology to ecological problems. After graduating with a B.S. in biology in 1941, he became an aquatic biologist and chemist for the City of Dallas. He married fellow biology student Marcile (Pat) Patterson in 1942.

During World War II, Stallcup served in the U.S. armed forces as a waist gunner and radar counter-measure specialist, flying in B-24 bombers and P-38 Lightnings over western Europe. He then taught biology at SMU until the start of the Korean War in 1950, when he was recalled to active duty. Instead of a combat assignment, however, the Air Force decided his services were needed teaching pre-med students at the University of Kansas, where he earned his Ph.D. in zoology. He returned to SMU as an assistant professor of biology in 1954 and was promoted to full professor in 1962.

In the years that followed, Stallcup served as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, associate dean of faculty in Dedman College, associate provost twice, special assistant to the president, acting provost twice and interim president from November 1986 to August 1987.

Bill Stallcup repeatedly answered the call to serve in times of special need,” says President R. Gerald Turner. “SMU’s transition to brighter days would not have been possible without his leadership, integrity and dedication.

He also taught at SMU-in-Taos for more than 20 years. When he sought to retire in 1989, SMU asked him to serve in one more capacity: as resident director of SMU-in-Taos from 1990-92.

“Bill Stallcup’s passing is monumental in terms of his contribution to SMU,” says Marshall Terry, professor emeritus of English and author of SMU’s history. “His interim presidency during the trials of the football scandal made all the difference because the faculty, staff and students believed in him as a person and leader.”

Stallcup received numerous research grants, professional honors and awards for service. The SMU Board of Trustees named a scholarship in his honor, and in 2002 he received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2008, the SMU Board gave him the Trustee Distinguished Service Award.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Dr. William B. Stallcup Jr. Scholarship Endowment for Undergraduate Biology Students at SMU. Mail to: SMU Attention: Gift Administration – Scholarship; P.O. Box 750402; Dallas, TX 75275-0402. For more information, contact Kate Moreland at 214-768-4745 or by e-mail at

1 Comment

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    John Rees February 22, 2009

    It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Dr. William B Stallcup Jr. I am preparing a history of No.192 (Bomber Support) Squadron, Royal Air Force, during World War II. Bill Stallcup was detached to this squadron from the 36th Bomb Squadron USAF as a Special Wireless Operator flying in Lockheed P38 Droop Snoot Lightning aircraft modified for the electronic intelligence role principally against the German A2 (V2) ballistic missiles. At the time he was stationed at RAF Foulsham in Norfolk.The American unit operated four aircraft during 1944-45. I hope to be in contact with his family so that they may assist my research into Dr. Stallcup.
    Yours faithfully,
    John Rees

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