William E. Tucker, more commonly known by family, friends and the community as Bill Tucker, died on Friday, Oct. 14, at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth at the age of 90.
Bill Tucker served as Texas Christian University’s chancellor from 1979 to 1998, a period that current TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini described as a “pivotal time of growth” for the university.
“His legacy extends well beyond TCU,” Boschini said in a statement, nodding to Tucker’s service as a respected leader in the Disciples of Christ Church. “He always had a kind word for everyone he met – and he knew everyone on campus. As chancellor, he could often be seen walking around campus and greeting students. Generations of Horned Frogs are fortunate to have had Chancellor Tucker as a leader who exemplified integrity, intelligence and grace.”
Tucker is survived by his daughter, Jan Tucker Scully, a current TCU trustee who graduated from the university in 1979 and served as the president of the TCU Alumni Association from 2010 to 2012. He is also survived by his two sons, William E. Tucker Jr. and Gordan Vance Tucker, and his wife, Jean.
“He called me right after I was officially appointed as chancellor to welcome me to the TCU community and introduce himself,” Boschini said. “He became a great friend and mentor to me and my family as we were welcomed into the TCU family.”
His continued involvement in the Fort Worth community was admired by many, especially when he was called to pray at city events, former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr remembers.
“Because of his background in ministry, he was called to pray at many civic events,” Barr said. “I was always impressed with his unique ability to deliver a message when he spoke. His thoughtful choice of words and his tone were always inspirational. His tenure at TCU was remarkable for the university and for Fort Worth.”
Tucker had a unique and recognizable sense of humor, but he was always there for the people who needed him, Boschini said.
“He had a razor-sharp sense of humor, and he could also use sarcasm to be really funny when needed. He had an incredible way of ‘breaking the tension’ with his humor – it could really disarm his opponents – I always admired him for that,” Boschini said. “I will miss him more than people will ever know. He was the one person on earth that, whenever I called him, he could immediately relate to what I was saying.”
Tucker was born June 22, 1932, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He arrived at TCU in the 1950s and studied at Brite Divinity School, then called Brite College. Tucker earned his divinity degree in 1956, and went on to Yale University for his master’s and doctoral degrees.
An ordained church minister, he returned to TCU in 1966 to teach church history and was the Brite Divinity School dean from 1971 to 1976. Tucker then went on to serve as the president of Bethany College in West Virginia before returning to TCU as chancellor, according to the Records of William Tucker, 1979-1998.
As a university leader, Mr. Tucker was praised for his fundraising acuity. After accepting the job of chancellor at TCU in 1979, he increased the endowment fund from $52 million to over $558 million, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives.
A few TCU milestones under Bill Tucker
1979: James M. Moudy retired as chancellor, succeeded on Sept. 5 by William E. Tucker
1982: The 40,000th graduate received a degree at summer commencement
1983: Endowment passes $100 million for the first time
1987: Groundbreaking began for Tandy Hall expansion for M. J. Neeley School of Business and Moncrief Hall, a new residence hall.
1991: Master plan for physical campus completed and approved and central dining hall renovated for $2.2 million
1992: First freshman admitted to new engineering program; Winthrop Rockefeller Building for Ranch Management completed
1994: The Walsh Complex, a $2.5 million expansion of the athletics weight training and rehabilitation center, is built
1996: First class of engineering students awarded degrees; ground broken for $11.5 million F. Howard and Mary D. Walsh Center for the Performing Arts
1998: The TCU London Centre, the University’s first permanent overseas facility, opens its doors to the first class of students in the fall; Chancellor William E. Tucker retires after 19 years of service, paving the way for the University’s ninth chancellor, Michael R. Ferrari
Source: Texas Christian University
At the time of his retirement in 1998, Mr. Tucker had outlasted every chief at a private college in Texas except one, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives.
Tucker was not only an extraordinary university leader, but also a remarkable friend and mentor, said Bob Ginsburg, a longtime friend and attorney in Fort Worth.
“I had the privilege of working with him as a young lawyer, and he became my friend. I owe him a lot, he gave me a lot of insight as a leader,” Ginsburg said. “I saw him in good and challenging situations – he always made decisions with grace and patience and he always did the right thing.”
Tucker worked closely with Ginsburg’s father, Marcus Ginsburg, who served as a lawyer and counsel for TCU during Tucker’s leadership, Ginsburg added. After his own father’s passing, Ginsburg said, Tucker never missed an opportunity to remember his parents and his family.
“I hold him in the highest esteem,” Ginsburg said. “There are many notable and remarkable things about Chancellor Tucker, but if I had to reduce it to one, it would be his humanity, but that would not be fair. He was an extraordinary man in all arenas.”
Tucker held many positions in the Fort Worth community, including as a clergyman, church historian, businessman, writer and a civic leader, on top of a university administrator.
“But, his most important role was a devoted partner to Jean, his wife, and as a proud father and grandfather,” Ginsburg said. “Second only to his family was TCU.”
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27 in University Christian Church, located just off TCU’s campus at 2720 South University Drive. The family has not yet set a visitation.
“He left an indelible mark on TCU, this community and all who had the pleasure to know him,” Ginsburg said. “When I received a message about his passing, I was not sure the sun was going to come up in the morning. That’s how much I thought of him.”
Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.