Engineering News - George R. Brown School of Engineering

Bill Wilson remembered

Bill Wilson, who served for 28 years as a resident associate of Wiess College, died at his Vermont home Jan. 20 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 65.

A professor emeritus in electrical and computer engineering (ECE), Wilson retired in 2006 after 34 years at Rice. In the lab, he specialized in the study of semiconductors, electro-optic devices and lasers, but he was best-known for his tireless dedication to students, both as a resident associate and teacher.


“Dr. Bill was an institution at Rice,” said Sallie Keller-McNulty, dean of engineering. “He helped make Rice Rice! We have been privileged to have him as part of our community.”

Wilson took pride in getting to know students, and shortly before his retirement, he told Rice News that being close to students had made him a better teacher: “Sometimes I felt like I should just hang a sign on my door that read, ‘The Doctor Is In,’” Wilson said. “I see students as people, and I think that's why I've been a good teacher.”

Wilson won numerous teaching awards including the university’s oldest, the Nicholas Salgo Distinguished Teaching Award, in 2006. Salgo winners are chosen by the students, and his selection during his final year on campus was a reflection of the years of devotion Wilson had shown students.

He took countless photos of student life at Rice and Wiess, many of which are still on display in the Wiess Commons. He also took mug shots of all incoming Wiess freshmen during summer orientation so upperclassmen could learn their names. Wilson spent hundreds of hours working as a theater technician and sound engineer. He helped produce more than 50 Tabletop shows at Wiess, taped shows at other colleges and recorded performances by the Rice Philharmonics and other student groups.

billwilson02Former Wiess resident associate Doward Hudlow said Wilson was particularly fond of student music and kept a sound studio set up in his room at Wiess to help campus bands record demo tapes. When the Rice Philharmonics wanted to build a sound studio, Hudlow said Wilson donated his time and knowledge to help them complete the project.

“For several years, he taught a required course in electrical engineering at 8 a.m.,” recalled ECE colleague Bart Sinclair, associate dean of engineering. “He would often make a pot of coffee for the students to encourage them to come to class and to help them wake up. I have never seen a faculty member more dedicated to his students, or more liked.”

In honor of his service to Rice, Wilson was recognized by the Association of Rice Alumni in 2006. Over the years, Wilson also won several of Rice’s top teaching prizes, including the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching and the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Jade Boyd, Rice News