William J. Lillyman 1937-2020

William J. Lillyman, professor emeritus of German, died on November 28. The campus will remember him for his extraordinary leadership as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Executive Vice Chancellor under Founding Chancellor Dan Aldrich and Chancellor Jack Peltason 1981-1988 and again when he was recalled to the position by incoming Chancellor Ralph Cicerone 1998-2000. In an era of rapid enrollment growth but initial fiscal constraints, his vision and his skillful direction of resources enabled the campus to hire faculty and create academic programs of distinction, to expand campus facilities, and to appoint people to academic and administrative leadership who would distinguish the campus for years to come.

In the School of Humanities we also have reason to remember Bill Lillyman’s contributions in ways more specific to our departments and programs. Newly recruited to the campus in 1972-73 as Chair of the German Department, in his first year he led a review of the fledgling Humanities Core Course which enabled the 2-year-old program to become foundational within the School’s curriculum. Appointed Dean the next year, he continued to commit resources not only to Core but to the interdisciplinary expansion of Critical Theory. UCI was not yet 10 years old, and the looming challenge to its ambition was creating graduate programs of stature. Bill Lillyman admired and promoted excellence, as all academic leadership aspires to do, but he also discovered he had a real talent for fiscal analysis and innovation. He allocated resources for Visiting and partial-year Distinguished Appointments to enrich UCI’s graduate offerings and to enhance the visibility of the School beyond the campus and beyond national borders. Wolfgang Iser, Jacques Derrida and Jean François Lyotard are among many prominent international scholars who visited and joined the faculty over time. As major graduate programs flourished with aggressive recruitments, Bill Lillyman remained inventive and resourceful. When he discovered how UC funding models supported research institutes in the sciences, he proposed a Humanities variant: a systemwide Humanities Research Institute. Then, in competition with our sister campuses and to the annoyance of some, he won the Institute for location on the Irvine campus. By this time Bill Lillyman had become Executive Vice Chancellor and he was putting his decisive, strategic energy to work for the campus at large.

As a Humanities scholar with a commitment to institutional excellence Bill Lillyman created and directed two major international conferences, the first on the narrative prose of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the second on the intersection of postmodernism and contemporary architecture. Both closely mirrored his own research interests and simultaneously showcased the School and the campus. It would be remiss to overlook his strong teaching. He was an exciting lecturer and in his enormously popular course on the Fairy Tale he modeled how to attract students from a diversity of disciplines and introduce them to the rigors of critical analysis in the Humanities. Decisive, smart, canny, and committed to civility Bill Lillyman not only left a legacy of accomplishment to the campus at large, but one visible in the foundations of the programs and departments of the School of Humanities.

Meredith Lee
Professor Emerita of German
Former Dean, Division of Undergraduate Education

Photo credit: Allan Helmick, Graphics/Designer Analyst UCI Libraries