William R. Butler, University’s first vice-president for student affairs, dies

Whether it was helping to lead the construction of an on-campus wellness center or launching an initiative providing volunteer opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, Butler was known for his dedication to students. students. He served the University for over three decades.



Bill Butler thought it was just a phone call to exchange jokes. But when he picked up the handset that spring day of 1965 to speak with University of Miami President Henry King Stanford, he realized it was a call that could change his life forever.

Stanford wanted Butler, then a promising young administrator at Ohio University, to be its vice president for student affairs – and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

So he sent Butler and his wife, Virginia, two plane tickets. The couple flew to Miami, spending six days viewing the Coral Gables campus, chatting with students, and touring the city’s ethnic neighborhoods.

After Butler returned to Ohio, two weeks passed before he decided to accept Stanford’s offer. “Virginia and I came down for good, and we’ve never been sorry,” Butler admitted.

William R. “Bill” Butler, who was the senior vice president of student affairs at the University of Miami for more than three decades, playing a pivotal role in changing institutional policy so that students have a better great power in making decisions that directly affect them, died on December 30. He was 95 years old.

“Bill Butler was a force for good, who left his mark on the University of Miami and all who knew him,” said President Julio Frenk. “His legacy of service, his heart for students and his deep love for our community remain palpable on campus and will live on through the countless people whose experiences have been enriched by his enduring wisdom. Dr Butler will be sadly missed and we offer our deepest condolences to all of his loved ones, especially his four children, Michael, Barbara, Jennifer and Rebecca.

Patricia A. Whitely, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, said Butler “has been a tremendous mentor to me and hundreds of others, and he will be missed. He always kept the interests of the students first and involved them in all decision-making. The changes and programs he incorporated during his tenure helped shape the student experience at the University of Miami for three decades. He was a visionary with an inclusive heart.

Butler’s accomplishments during his 32-year tenure at the university have spanned the gamut from starting the student-run radio station, WVUM, to helping establish Hecht and Stanford Residential Colleges. .

For 17 years, he was in charge of admissions and financial aid, playing a key role in diversifying the University by increasing the number of black and international students.

He created a special planning group, the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee, to ensure that the funds raised through tuition fees were properly distributed among the student organizations at the institution.

In 1989, Butler founded a center that gave students the opportunity to volunteer for service-oriented organizations throughout Miami-Dade County. Today, this initiative bears his name: the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.

He helped lead the construction of the Herbert Wellness Center, which opened a year before his retirement. And he was an education professor, teaching a course at the University’s School of Education and Human Development. He was also a member of the University’s Iron Arrow Honor Society.

During his retirement, Butler published three books that raised funds for the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership.

But it was his dedication to students that made Butler famous. Above all, he wanted the students to have a voice, and he made sure they did.

“The whole campus environment has changed so that [the students] has become an integral part of the university community with faculty and administration, ”explained Butler. “They were making decisions about their governance and how their fees would be allocated.”

He considered his “greatest privilege” to serve the more than 100,000 students enrolled at the University during his tenure. Many of these students remained friends with Butler long after they graduated.

Born in 1926 in Robinson, Illinois, Butler grew up in a small rural community of about 4,000 people. Her father drove a truck for a fruit and vegetable company and her mother worked for an electrical company.

When he was still a boy, Butler’s father moved the family to Newark, Ohio, to take over the family bakery. And after Butler graduated from high school in 1943, he worked in this bakery, delivering bread, pastries, and other baked goods to around 150 customers.

But Butler wanted to do more. World War II was still raging then, and Butler could no longer quell the powerful urge to serve his country.

He desperately wanted to enlist in the Navy, but at only 17, he needed his parents’ consent. “With quite a bit of cajoling, I finally convinced them,” Butler recalls.

So, at an age when many of his friends were still in high school, Butler, after eight weeks of basic training at a naval base just outside of Chicago, boarded a ship with 5,000 other soldiers. and set sail for the Pacific. Their destination: New Guinea, where he will be stationed for four months.

Then he traveled to Brisbane, Australia, where he served in a radio unit that provided technical communications equipment for General Douglas MacArthur’s beach landings.

By this time, Butler was 18 years old and had reached the rank of Second Class Store Technician. His last stop in the war would be the Philippines. “We were closer to the site of the battle and expected to invade Japan,” said Butler. “We didn’t expect two atomic bombs to be dropped.”

After the war, Butler returned to Newark, attended Ohio University on the GI Bill, and received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from that institution.

His career in higher education spanned nearly half a century, beginning in 1951 at the University of Kansas (KU), where he was a professor and received his doctorate in counseling psychology.

He served as Associate Dean for Men and International Student Adviser at KU from 1953 to 1957. It was in Kansas that he assigned legendary basketball star Wilt Chamberlain to a room in one of New York’s new dorms. university, taking on the added challenge of finding a bed. which could accommodate Chamberlain’s 7 foot 1 frame.

Butler then held a position at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as Dean of Men and Assistant Professor. He returned to Ohio University in 1959 to become Dean of Students.

It was in 1965 that he received that memorable phone call from Stanford, who had heard glowing reports about Butler’s administrative skills and his approach to students and wanted him to serve as vice president of student affairs, a newly created post at the university. Butler held this position until his retirement in 1997.

He loved fishing and cycling, and he was the author of “Embracing the World: The University of Miami from Cardboard College to International and Global Acclaim”.

Butler is survived by four children – Michael Butler and his wife XiaPing, Barbara Pierce and her husband Michael, Jennifer Wade and Rebecca Butler – and four grandchildren, Patrick John Butler, Courtney Wade, Sarah Pierce and Emily Birdsong.

Donations in her name can be made to the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.





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