William T. (Bill) Guy, Jr. Excellence Endowment in Mathematics

Mar 7, 2011 | Excellence Funds & Program Support

The William T. (Bill) Guy, Jr., Excellence Endowment in Mathematics was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on March 07, 2011, to benefit The University of Texas College of Natural Sciences. Gift funds were provided by Mr. and Mrs. Robert T. Halpin.

In a move to honor one of the most well-known math professors at The University of Texas at Austin, the College of Natural Sciences has created the William (Bill) T. Guy, Jr., Endowment in Mathematics. During his 64 years of teaching at the University, Dr. Guy has garnered the respect and admiration of his colleagues and students, as is noted in the many distinguished faculty and teaching awards he has received.

Dr. Bill Guy

The son of Dr. William T. and Viola Guy, he was born in Abilene, Texas, on Dec. 11, 1919. Dr. Bill Guy was one of the most well-known and beloved mathematics professors at The University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for 60 years. After graduating from Brady High School in 1936 at the age of 16, he attended Texas A&M University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1940. Bill was a scholarly student who also took full advantage of the opportunities at A&M. He was president of the honor society, vice president of the senior class, a Ross Volunteer, head of the school’s freshman program, and as a major in the Engineers he was the 2nd battalion commander. He was also a two-year captain of the rifle team, a team that won the Southern Division Championships and went to the Nationals at Camp Perry, Ohio.

In 1941 he married Valaree Commander, his high school sweetheart. After working as an engineer for Westinghouse in Pennsylvania and serving in the Army Corps of Engineers for more than four years at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., during World War II, Bill moved his bride to Austin, where they had three sons, Paul, Gary, and Greg. In 1948 he earned his MA in mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin.

After he earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from California Institute of Technology in 1951, the family returned to UT where Bill began his long and distinguished career as a professor. Soon he was wearing his trademark outfit: suit pants, bow tie, and white shirt with pens in the pocket. In 1961 his old coach and mentor, Earl Rudder, then president of Texas A&M University, offered Bill a position as a senior vice president. Dr. Guy politely declined because most of all he loved the classroom, loved students, and loved mathematics.

Among his many honors, Dr. Guy received the Student Association Teaching Excellence Award, Cactus Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Natural Sciences Council Outstanding Teaching Award. He was recognized as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, a Texas Academy of Science Fellow, and in Who’s Who in America. Leaders in American Science have chronicled his enduring career. Dr. Guy taught classes at every university level, ranging from college algebra to theory of functions. While at the University, he supervised 19 mathematics Ph.D. students, and 81 master’s degree students.

Perhaps less well-known is the vast number of engineers he taught, as engineering majors were required to take many of his courses. This exponentially increased the number of students who have been influenced by his teaching. A legendary and emblematic figure on the UT campus, Dr. Guy taught thousands of engineering and science students. Through his last semester on UT’s faculty, he walked from home to campus and back again, giving an encouraging remark to the students who stopped him for a bit of advice. He has contributed an immense amount to the University as was recognized in 1995 when he was the first choice to be a member of the then newly established Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

The creation of the William T. (Bill) Guy, Jr., Excellence Endowment in Mathematics recognizes the legacy of one of UT’s most outstanding and memorable faculty members. Dr. Guy was known throughout UT, all over Texas, across the U.S. and beyond America’s borders for his grace, for his teaching voice, and for the fact that his students learned much more than they had planned.

His sons have met ex-students all over the country and heard such comments as “He was the best teacher I ever had,” “Dr. Guy made math come alive,” and “I still remember what he taught.” Dr. Guy died peacefully at home in Austin at the age of 91 on May 22, 2011.

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