Willard Gatewood, Former Chancellor, Distinguished Professor of History, Dies

Willard B. Gatewood Jr.
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Willard B. Gatewood Jr.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Willard B. Gatewood Jr., a former chancellor of the University of Arkansas and an emeritus Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, died Sunday, Oct. 23. He was 80.

Gatewood’s academic career spanned more than 40 years, most of them on the University of Arkansas campus. He taught history of the United States and the South with an emphasis on African American history, and he received the university’s Distinguished Research Award and Teacher of the Year Award.

Gatewood served as chancellor in 1984 and 1985, and he initiated two of the university’s key accomplishments in the 1980s: the first steps toward restoration of Old Main and the establishment of the Sturgis Fellowships, now among the university’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. He and professor Miller Williams are also credited with founding the widely respected University of Arkansas Press. Gatewood also led development of higher academic standards for admission to the University of Arkansas, one of many contributions he made to increase the academic credentials of the university.

Gatewood received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Duke University. He began teaching in 1957 at East Tennessee State University, and then at East Carolina University, North Carolina Wesleyan College and the University of Georgia before coming to the University of Arkansas in 1970. He received numerous awards, including Humanist of the Year from the Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities. In 1994, he was awarded the inaugural Chancellor’s Medal from then-Chancellor Dan Ferritor in recognition of “his achieved excellence in teaching, scholarship and service to the university.”

Ferritor, who followed Gatewood as chancellor, said: “Willard Gatewood embodied everything universities are supposed to be. He was a strong, productive scholar; an excellent teacher who loved working with young people; as chancellor he had excellent instincts and the decisions he made were good ones. He did it all, and he did it with style and grace and good humor. We're very fortunate to have had him here. It's a tremendous loss.”

Chancellor G. David Gearhart said, “Jane and I were very saddened to learn of Dr. Gatewood’s passing. He was the consummate gentleman scholar and was a trusted adviser to many chancellors. Furthermore, he was highly respected by faculty, students, alumni and Arkansans across the state. He made a lasting impact on this university and will be greatly missed.”

“Clearly, his presence and impact on this campus were significant and substantial,” said former Chancellor John A. White. “When professor Gatewood was named chancellor, his calming, professional and skilled hands were needed on the reins of the university. He set aside his personal and professional preferences and took on the responsibility of leading the campus during turbulent times. Those who are the beneficiaries of his sacrifices and his wise counsel are indebted to him.”

In addition to his leadership as chancellor, Gatewood’s academic career was rich in historical research. He wrote or co-wrote 12 books, including The Governors of Arkansas, the first book published by the University of Arkansas Press. He wrote more than 50 articles for historical journals, and he also served on the editorial boards of the Georgia Review and the Journal of Negro History. Gatewood also supervised 23 doctoral students and 30 master’s candidates during his tenure. In 1986, he was elected president of the Southern Historical Association.

He took emeritus status in 1998.

Gatewood was born to Willard B. and Bessie Gatewood at Pelham, N.C., on Feb. 23, 1931. He is survived by his wife, Mary Lu Brown Gatewood, and two children, Willard “Bill” B. Gatewood III and Elizabeth Ellis Stroud.

Memorials may be made to the Willard B. Gatewood Graduate Fellowship through the office of development at the University of Arkansas.

Contacts

Charlie Alison, executive editor
University Relations
479-575-6731, calison@uark.edu

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