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William Orr, former administrator, dies

by Sherry Fisher - February 2, 2009


William Orr, professor emeritus of chemistry and former administrator, died Jan. 16. He was 88.

Orr, who lived in Bloomfield, served for 13 years as associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs during his 30-year career at the University. He retired in 1978.

Orr earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1942 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1948. His postgraduate work was temporarily interrupted by his enlistment in the Navy, where as a lieutenant, he served as a radar officer on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

Winthrop Smith, professor of physics, says Orr made substantial contributions to the University.

“He worked tirelessly to support competitive faculty salaries so we’d be more competitive in hiring,” Smith says. “A lot of his work was done quietly behind the scenes.”

Smith adds, “He was a good citizen and an active member of the community.”

John Tanaka, emeritus professor of chemistry, says Orr was well liked: “He was one of the nicest guys you could meet, and always very helpful.”

Norman Stevens, former director of University Libraries, says as an administrator Orr was a strong supporter of the University Libraries.

“After he retired, he continued to be a strong personal supporter and an active member of the Friends of the University Libraries that had been formed as the first formal effort to increase private support for the libraries,” Stevens says.

“He was always a true friend of the library who was deserving of the University Service Award, which recognizes ‘exceptional contributions that strengthen and support the school’s values and mission.’” Orr received the award in 1978.

Orr was dedicated to serving his community. His volunteer commitments included serving as treasurer of Northeastern Connecticut’s Opera New England, as a member of the Mansfield Board of Education, as a board member of the Seabury Foundation, as president of the Friends of the University of Connecticut Libraries, and as president of the University’s chapter of Sigma Xi, a scientific research society.

He is survived by his wife Nancy and her children. His first wife, Jean predeceased him in 1993, but he is survived by their daughter Alison and her husband; daughter Katherine and her husband; and son Christopher and his wife, and their two children.

Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Seabury Charitable Foundation, 200 Seabury Drive, Bloomfield, CT 06002-2650.

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