Gov. William P. 'Bill' Clements Jr. 1917-2011

UT Southwestern mourns 'great friend, supporter'

Gov. William P. “Bill” Clements Jr., legendary supporter of UT Southwestern and a champion of Texas education, died May 29 at age 94.

“UT Southwestern has lost a great friend and stalwart supporter,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of the medical center. “He was a pioneering entrepreneur, visionary governor and dynamic leader. But we at the medical center knew him best as a philanthropist of uncommon generosity and foresight – and UT Southwestern will build on that legacy for many decades to come. Gov. Clements’ record-setting contributions to our institution are truly remarkable, and will carry on his great legacy in perpetuity.”

Gov. William P. “Bill” Clements Jr

Gov. Clements’ unrestricted $100 million gift to UT Southwestern in 2009 – the largest single gift ever given to the institution – had a transformative impact on the medical center.

Upon making the gift, which created the William P. Clements Jr. Fund, he said, “In supporting UT Southwestern, my single goal is to help encourage and advance scientific discovery and innovation, prepare the next generation of physicians for Texas and the nation, and ensure the delivery of world-class medical care, which I believe uniquely happens at this academic medical center, already recognized as one of the top institutions in this country.”

Dr. Kern Wildenthal, former president of UT Southwestern and current president of Southwestern Medical Foundation, said, “Gov. Clements left an indelible mark on Texas and the nation as an outstanding businessman, political leader and philanthropist. I was personally privileged to be able to work with him in the last two of these areas. During his second term as governor, Texas faced a severe economic recession and a funding crisis in education; Bill Clements stood firm in his commitment both to fiscal prudence and to educational excellence. Education in Texas will forever be in his debt for the tough decisions he made two decades ago. Similarly, UT Southwestern and many other institutions will be indebted to him in perpetuity for his remarkable philanthropic contributions.”

In 2006 Gov. Clements donated $10 million to complete a UT Southwestern clinical and medical research facility now named the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building, in honor of Gov. Clements and his wife, a former UT Regent. In 1998 Gov. Clements donated $1.25 million to the medical center to create the Rita C. and William P. Clements Jr. Scholar in Medical Research to recognize newly appointed and promising faculty members.

Dr. Podolsky cited the 2009 donation and Gov. Clements’ previous gifts as testament to his confidence in the collaborative research, teaching and patient care mission of
UT Southwestern.

In 2000 Gov. and Mrs. Clements were honored with the foundation’s Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award, which recognizes those who have provided significant support to the fields of health care, medical education and medical research.

“Although Bill enjoyed enormous business success, he always said his greater enjoyment was giving away the fruits of his labor for causes he believed in,” said William T. Solomon, Gov. Clements’ cousin and chairman of Southwestern Medical Foundation.
“UT Southwestern was tops on the list of causes where Bill felt he could make a difference by helping people – not only in his beloved city and state, but everywhere.”

When he was elected in 1979, Gov. Clements became the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. He served two four-year terms (1979-1983, 1987-1991), making him the longest-sitting governor in the state’s history at that time.

Gov. Clements achieved major success as an oil drilling contractor before he went into politics. He founded SEDCO in 1947, which grew to become the world’s largest oil and gas drilling contracting company, merging with Schlumberger Limited in 1984. He retired as chairman in 1985. In retirement, he raised cattle and was an avid Texas history enthusiast, with a personal library of more than 8,300 volumes, most of which focus on Texas history and the Southwest.

An adviser to U.S. presidents, Gov. Clements from 1969 through 1970 served on the Department of Defense Blue Ribbon Defense Panel. He was deputy secretary of the Department of Defense from 1973 through 1977 and is credited with helping modernize America’s armed forces and institute sound business practices and efficiencies. In 1983 he served on the President’s Commission on Central America and the President’s Commission on Strategic Forces.

A 1939 alumnus of Southern Methodist University, he served on its Board of Governors for many years and as its board chairman. He also was an honorary trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation.

Gov. Clements’ survivors include his wife and his daughter, Nancy Seay.

– Rachel Skei Donihoo

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O'Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.
Dr. Wildenthal holds the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.