IN MEMORIUM: Peter Fitzgerald/Former EVP for administration

By Rachel Skei Donihoo / Week of Jan. 15-21, 2011

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, who played a pivotal role at UT Southwestern that spanned three decades, died at his Houston home on Dec. 9. Well-respected and fiercely devoted to higher education, Dr. Fitzgerald served as the executive vice president for administration at the medical center from 1988 to 2002.

“Peter Fitzgerald was an exceptionally talented strategic and financial planner,” said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of Southwestern Medical Foundation and former president of UT Southwestern. “He played a crucially important role in the growth of UT Southwestern from the late 1980s into the 21st century, and even after his retirement from the administration he continued to provide greatly valued consultation to our institution and to the entire UT System.”

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald

Dr. Wildenthal said Dr. Fitzgerald’s role transcended the enormous range of responsibilities handled by a typical chief business officer. Because of Dr. Fitzgerald’s keen intelligence, insight and trustworthiness, he also played an indispensable role as an institutional leader in clinical and research policies and practices.

“Beyond that, he was a wonderful friend and valued counselor to hundreds of members of the UT Southwestern family – especially myself,” Dr. Wildenthal said. “We will miss Peter's personal warmth and wisdom, but the positive impact he had on UT Southwestern will live on for generations to come.”

The son of an Irish bricklayer, Dr. Fitzgerald was born in 1939 in Yonkers, N.Y., and raised in the Bronx. A voracious reader, he majored in history at Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y., graduating in 1961 before earning a Master of Arts in English from the University of Maine in 1965 and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Stanford University in 1972.

During his long career he worked at several universities, including the University of Maine, the University of Kentucky and the University of Houston.

“Dr. Fitzgerald was particularly adept at mentoring women in administration at UT Southwestern,” said Cyndi Bassel, vice president for external relations. “He had sterling qualities of character, and his wise counsel was accepted and appreciated by hundreds of employees who looked upon him as a scholar and a gentleman.”

Dr. Fitzgerald is survived by his childhood sweetheart and wife of 49 years, Anne, and their four children and eight grandchildren.

“Peter was a remarkably effective communicator and a trusted adviser to so many here at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Willis Maddrey, assistant to the president, who delivered the eulogy at Dr. Fitzgerald’s funeral. “He was held in such high regard by everyone who knew him, and was beloved for his kindness and good humor. The contributions he made to the medical school – including his vital role in the land acquisition for expansion of the campus – are beyond measure. Following his retirement, Peter continued to consult on many major projects that helped shape the future of UT Southwestern. He was a wonderful man who will be greatly missed.”

John Roan, executive vice president for business affairs, said, “Even though Peter retired more than eight years ago, we continue to follow many of the organizational practices he put in place during the 14 years he served as chief business officer. Many careers at UT Southwestern were enhanced by his leadership. I’m sure many would agree, he did everything with style.”

In his honor, donations may be made to the Peter Fitzgerald Fund at UT Southwestern.

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Dr. Maddrey holds the Adelyn and Edmund M. Hoffman Distinguished Chair in Medical Science and the Arnold N. and Carol S. Ablon Professorship in Biomedical Science.

Dr. Wildenthal holds the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.