‘The shoulders of giants’: Former Chancellor Bill Tucker dead at 90

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Former chancellor William Edward “Bill” Tucker in the 90s’. (Photo courtesy of TCU special collections)

By Haeven Gibbons, Executive Editor, TCU 360

A serious student of TCU history, former chancellor William Edward “Bill” Tucker loved to recount stories of how the university weathered storms of adversity during World Wars I, II and the depression. 

“In particular, he loved to talk about the faculty and administrators who had made a difference in the life of the university,” communication studies professor Dr. Paul King wrote in a tribute to Mr. Tucker. “He frequently reminded us that ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants.’”

Mr. Tucker died on Friday at the age of  90. He left a legacy beyond TCU and led the university at a pivotal time of growth from 1979-1998, said Chancellor Victor Boschini in a statement. 

“His legacy extends well beyond TCU,” Boschini said. “Chancellor Tucker was one of the most respected and faithful leaders in the Disciples of Christ Church,” and the last of the disciples of Christ chancellors. 

Mr. Tucker was succeeded by Chancellor Michael “Mick” Ferrari who led TCU from July 1998 through May 2003. Mr. Ferrari died in 2015  at the age of 75 after a five-year battle with cancer. 

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  • William Edward “Bill” Tucker and his wife Jean Tucker in the 90s’. (Photo courtesy of TCU special collections)

  • Tex & Deborah Moncrief with William Edward “Bill” Tucker in 1998 at the dedication ceremony of W. A. Moncrief and W. A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Hall. (Photo courtesy of TCU special collections)

  • William Edward “Bill” Tucker and Brite faculty in 1973. (Photo courtesy of TCU special collections)

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Mr. Tucker led by example. He was an admired scholar, teacher and a confident speaker, “and one of the most caring and thoughtful humans that I have ever met,” said King who arrived at TCU as a masters student in 1979, the same year Mr. Tucker became chancellor.  

He knew most students and often walked through campus to talk with them. 

“While TCU was a much smaller community in those days, it was, nonetheless, astounding to meet the Chancellor as a student walking down the sidewalk,” King said. “It was even more amazing that he would remember your name the next time that you met.”

Amanda Stallings, associate vice chancellor of TCU in alumni relations, met Mr. Tucker before she ever became a Horned Frog. 

“My father served as manager of the bookstore from 1971 to 1997,” Stallings said. “During that time, I spent a lot of time on the campus. I often would see Chancellor Tucker on my many visits and he always had a kind word to share and more importantly, reminded me why TCU should be where I attend college,” Stallings said. 

When Stallings graduated in 1997, Mr. Tucker handed her the diploma. 

King returned to TCU to teach after receiving his doctorate. In the early 1990s, King said he got to know Mr. Tucker well while serving on the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and as Chair of the Senate.

King said he remembered one distinct conversation the two had during lunch at the faculty center in Reed Hall: 

“Would simply practicing public speaking, by itself, lead to improvement?” Mr. Tucker asked in his sonorous voice. 

 “Yes,” King responded. 

Mr. Tucker arched his brows. 

“If the student has a good exemplar (model) for guidance,” King said he quickly added. 

Mr. Tucker relaxed and smiled.

Instrumental in TCU’s growth 

Mr. Tucker was a leader who “exemplified integrity, intelligence and grace,” Boschini said. Adding, he “was instrumental in taking TCU from a regional university to the highly regarded national university we are today.”

By significantly raising the salary of TCU faculty to a benchmark tied to average faculty salaries among doctoral granting universities, Mr. Tucker helped raise TCU’s prestige.

“His belief was that investment in human capital would, in the long run, advance TCU through our reputation in scholarship, in attracting the best faculty, and in bringing the best students to study with us,” King said.

During his time as chancellor, Mr. Tucker also developed the TCU endowment, helping TCU to enter the “top 40” universities in the nation in terms of the size of the endowment. 

Mr. Tucker, and his wife Jean Tucker, have given to the university in many other ways, including the most prestigious award at TCU — the Chancellor’s Award— and funding a large amount of groundskeeping work to make the campus beautiful.

“Still at TCU we stand on the shoulders of giants,” King said, remembering Mr. Tucker’s words. “And none were taller than William E. Tucker.”

Mr. Tucker is survived by his wife Jean Tucker,  their daughter, TCU Trustee Jan Tucker Scully, sons William Edward Tucker and Gordan Vance Tucker and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.