16:21 PM

CSUSM Mourns Passing of Founding President

Dr. Bill W. Stacy, the founding president of Cal State San Marcos, died on Jan. 4 in Cape Girardeau, Mo., after a lengthy illness. He was 85.

At the time of its founding, CSUSM was the first U.S. public state university to be established in more than 20 years. In fall 1989, Stacy was given one year to hire founding faculty and lay the groundwork for CSUSM’s campus, academic mission and programs.

When CSUSM opened in August 1990, it did so with a dozen faculty members, nine majors and fewer than 450 students. By the time Stacy left in 1997, the university had grown to nearly 4,500 students, 19 bachelor’s degrees, 15 teacher credentials and eight master’s degrees. 

Today, CSUSM serves more than 16,000 students.

“Dr. Stacy’s inspiring leadership as the first president of CSUSM paved the way for the university we are today – a model of student success, academic excellence and exemplary community engagement,” CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt said. “I’m grateful for his vital contributions to our university and extend my deepest condolences to the Stacy family on behalf of everyone at CSUSM.”

Neufeldt knew and worked with Stacy during his tenure as the chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which he led after leaving CSUSM in 1997. In fact, one of her first phone calls when she was named CSUSM’s fourth president in 2019 was to Stacy.

“We talked about how CSUSM is a special place, and he shared with me his vivid memory from 1989, when he visited the site of where this campus would one day be, knowing that it would soon become a home to academic inquiry and impact, student access and achievement,” Neufeldt said.

Stacy served as chancellor of UT Chattanooga from 1997 to 2004. During his tenure, he completed the development of doctoral programs in physical therapy and computational engineering, including the SimCenter, the university’s first internationally recognized research facility.

From 2004 until 2009, he served as headmaster of the Baylor School in Chattanooga. In that role, he led a transformative development campaign that upgraded campus infrastructure, student facilities and the athletics complex.

Stacy was born July 26, 1938, in Bristol, Tenn. After his father, Frank, died in 1941, the family moved to Missouri, where Bill excelled in sports. Upon graduation from Jefferson City High School, he accepted a football scholarship to attend Southeast Missouri State College.

In 1967, Stacy returned to the college to teach speech communication and theater as he was completing a doctorate at Southern Illinois University. He lobbied with others to change Southeast Missouri State’s designation from a college to a university, and in 1975 he was named the first dean of the graduate school. He then served as president of the university from 1979-89 before leaving to help found CSUSM.

Stacy is survived by his wife of 34 years, Dr. Sue Stacy, as well as three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.