Dr. William F. “Bill” Dorrill, who brought an international perspective to Longwood University and expanded global partnerships during his eight-year tenure as president from 1988-1996, died Tuesday, April 18. He was 85.

An accomplished political scientist, Dorrill earned his doctorate at Harvard University and came to Longwood from the University of Louisville, where he had served as provost. A Fulbright Scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow, over his career he made several lecture circuits in China, where he developed his already extensive expertise on contemporary China, East Asia and higher education.

His leadership was infused with scholarship and grace. It has meant an enormous amount to me to have been able to draw on his wisdom and rich and ranging experience.

Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV

“Bill did such great good in enhancing the academic excellence of Longwood,” said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “And he and Marty have been powerful patrons of the arts on campus and throughout Farmville in remarkable ways, both during his presidency and in the decades since. His leadership was infused with scholarship and grace. It has meant an enormous amount to me to have been able to draw on his wisdom and rich and ranging experience.”

“Bill came to Longwood as an accomplished academic and well-connected expert in international relations,” said Dr. Bill Harbour, professor of political science at Longwood and longtime friend of Dorrill’s. “Often he would speak to my classes and was always a popular and thought-provoking lecturer. After his retirement, the bonds with our department became even deeper as he and his wife took time to get to know graduating seniors and offer sage advice on career plans. He was a generous and thoughtful man, and a great friend to all of us at Longwood.”

He was a generous and thoughtful man, and a great friend to all of us at Longwood.

Dr. Bill Harbour, professor of political science

“Spending time with Dr. Dorrill and getting to know him well was a gift and a highlight of my time as a Longwood student, and I have come to admire him even more in the years since,” said Marianne Radcliff ’92, a former Longwood rector who was a student leader during Dorrill’s presidency. “His lectures, dinners at Longwood House and our many conversations helped me and many other students see the world as a much larger place. Through his scholarship and international contacts he encouraged us always to be knowledgeable and active participants in our governments. He broadened the worldview for Longwood students and the institution.”

While working in the social science department at the RAND Corporation in the 1960s, Dorrill served as an expert policy adviser on Chinese relations, and in 1964 prepared a critique of proposed intensified U.S. military operations in Vietnam. 

Dorrill brought his international perspective to bear almost immediately upon arriving in Farmville, instituting a program on Japanese language and culture and establishing student exchange programs with universities in China, part of an overall vision to raise Longwood’s profile around the nation and world.

Spending time with Dr. Dorrill and getting to know him well was a gift and a highlight of my time as a Longwood student, and I have come to admire him even more in the years since.

Marianne Radcliff ’92, former Longwood rector

“Longwood is destined to become the best medium-sized comprehensive college in the Virginia state system of higher education and one of the best in the nation,” he said in his 1989 inaugural address. Work in support of that ambition led to an increase in overall admissions as well as a rise in the test scores of incoming freshmen. The fledgling graduate program experienced a 97-percent increase in enrollment in Dorrill’s tenure.

The physical campus also experienced an expansion under President Dorrill. Three new buildings were opened: Greenwood Library; Hull Hall, home of the College of Education and Human Services; and ARC Residence Hall. Both Grainger and Lancaster Halls, part of the historic northern core of campus, were also renovated.

Dorrill also led the work of finding a permanent home for the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. With a world-class collection administered from offices in Lancaster Hall—then serving as the Longwood library—the LCVA moved to its 25,000-square foot Main Street home in 1993, where it has since become a vibrant center of activity in downtown Farmville.

After retiring in 1996, Dorrill and his wife remained in Farmville, where they were an active part of the community, longtime supporters of the Longwood Music Department and familiar faces at Longwood events for more than two decades. During his presidency, he taught courses in history and international relations, and continued to teach in retirement. In 2004, Longwood renamed its dining hall Dorrill Dining Hall in honor of its 23rd president.

The Dorrill family has provided generous philanthropic support to the university. The William F. & Martha J. Dorrill Scholarship – established by Dr. Dorrill’s cabinet, staff and other members of the Longwood community upon his inauguration – supports students majoring in Special Education.

Dorrill was born July 25, 1931 in Waco, Texas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Baylor University and went on to study foreign affairs at the University of Virginia before earning a Ph.D in political science from Harvard. He later held academic appointments at Ohio University and the University of Pittsburgh.

He is survived by his wife, Marty, four children and numerous grandchildren.

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