Former TU President Steadman Upham dies

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 05:07:49-04

TULSA -- Former University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham has died, according to the university.

Following the news, the University released the following statement:

"The University of Tulsa has learned that former TU President Steadman Upham died Sunday, July 30, from complications following a recent surgery. He is survived by his wife, Peggy; their children, Nathan and Erin; and their grandchildren, Orion and Aadrock.

“We are devastated by the news of Stead’s death,” TU President Gerard Clancy said. “Stead was a great friend to the university and all of Tulsa. He and Peggy poured their lives into making TU better in every way. The university community is thankful that we had the chance to be led by them for so long.”

Upham joined TU in 2004 and served as president until 2012, and then returned later that year to resume the role at the request of the Board of Trustees. He retired in 2016 and planned to return to TU as a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology.

Upham oversaw broad, sustained development of TU’s academic programs and research enterprise. These advances included new doctoral programs in chemistry, physics and anthropology, a growing roster of interdisciplinary research institutes and increased internationalization of the curriculum.

He also presided over the Embrace the Future Campaign (2004-11), which raised $698 million for campus growth, endowed scholarships, endowed faculty positions and other priorities.

Community engagement and service learning are cornerstones of Upham’s legacy. He led the university in establishing the True Blue Neighbors initiative – a far-reaching service program that partnered TU closely with the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood and with service organizations throughout Tulsa. True Blue Neighbors saw annual increases in volunteer participation from the TU family, and it continues as the primary vehicle for TU’s community engagement.

In 2008, Upham led the university in forging the Gilcrease Museum management partnership with the City of Tulsa – an arrangement that has benefitted both institutions. The Helmerich Center for American Research also was established during his tenure, and he represented the center during the acquisition of The Bob Dylan Archive.

In 2014, the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice honored Upham at its annual awards dinner. In 2015, TulsaPeople named him Tulsan of the Year; he also was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame that year.

Earlier in his career, Upham served as president and chief executive officer of Claremont Graduate University. From 1990 to 1998, he worked at the University of Oregon as vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School and professor of anthropology. He had received his doctorate in anthropology in 1980 from Arizona State University. He continued scholarly work alongside his administrative work.

Upham’s extensive professional service and roles included commissioner of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; chairman of the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools; president, National Physical Science Consortium; director of The American Mutual Funds; director of the Saint Francis Health System; director of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce; director of the American Council on Education; director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association; director of the College Football Playoffs; and director and chair of the Tulsa Community Foundation.

Details about services are pending."

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued the following statement on Upham's death:

“Between being elected and being sworn in as mayor, I sought the guidance of some of the executives I most admire - and Stead Upham was at the top of that list. He provided lots of good advice, but one point stood out above all others: As a leader, you have day-to-day responsibilities - but you also have, for lack of a better word, pastoral responsibilities. You have a responsibility to take care of, and be there for, the people you lead. It's one of the best pieces of wisdom I've ever received. His passing came far too soon, and is a terrible loss for our city.”

University of Oklahoma President David Boren also released a statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Steadman Upham. He was a valued friend and partner in education whose advice was always helpful. He had a very distinguished career including his outstanding leadership of The University of Tulsa. He was an important voice for excellence in higher education and will be greatly missed.” 

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