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Cal State San Marcos founding president Dr. Bill Stacy, pictured in an undated photo, died on Jan. 4. Courtesy photo/CSUSM
Cal State San Marcos founding president Dr. Bill Stacy, pictured in an undated photo, died on Jan. 4. Courtesy photo/CSUSM
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CSUSM mourns death of founding president

SAN MARCOS — Nearly 34 years after the opening of Cal State San Marcos, university leaders are mourning the loss of the school’s founding president, who passed away earlier this month.

Dr. Bill Stacy, who served as CSUSM president from 1989 to 1997, died on Jan. 4 in Cape Girardeau, Mo., following a lengthy illness, according to the university. He was 85.

In his first year as president, Stacy was tasked with hiring the university’s founding staff and laying the groundwork for the school’s programs and campus. Now enrolling over 16,000 students, the university opened in 1990 with around a dozen faculty members, nine majors, and under 450 students.

At the time, CSUSM was the country’s first state university in over two decades.

Ellen Neufeldt, CSUSM’s current and fourth president, shared her admiration for Stacy and sympathy for his family. When Neufeldt was named president in 2019, she said Stacy was one of her first phone calls.

“Dr. Stacy’s inspiring leadership as the first president of CSUSM paved the way for the university we are today — a model of student success, academic excellence and exemplary community engagement,” Neufeldt said. “I’m grateful for his vital contributions to our university and extend my deepest condolences to the Stacy family on behalf of everyone at CSUSM.”

Originally from Bristol, Tenn., Stacy earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Southeast Missouri State, which he attended on a football scholarship. After graduating, he returned to teach at his alma mater and led its change in designation from a college to a university. He was then named the first dean of its graduate school.

Simultaneously, Stacy earned his master’s and then his doctorate from Southern Illinois University. He also served as president of Southeast Missouri State from 1979 to 1989 before joining and founding CSUSM.

After departing in 1999, Stacy was chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga until 2004 and headmaster of the Baylor School in Chattanooga until 2009.

Stacy is survived by his wife of 34 years, Dr. Sue Stacy, who has taught at several institutions, including MiraCosta College, as well as his three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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