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‘A scholar and a gentleman’

Members of the Farmville community and at Longwood University are reflecting on the life of Dr. William “Bill” F. Dorrill, who served as the 23rd president of Longwood University.

Dorrill, 85, died Tuesday, according to a press release from the university.

He was in declining health, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV told staff in an email Tuesday morning.

Dorrill served as president of Longwood from 1988-1996, and is being remembered for bringing an international perspective to the university and expanding its global partnership.

Dr. William F. “Bill” Dorrill

After Dorrill’s retirement, he and his wife, Marty, remained active in the community, supporting the Longwood Music Department. According to the release, Dorrill continued to teach courses after retirement.

Reveley said the university was notified of Dorrill’s passing from his wife, adding he believed Dorrill died early Tuesday.

“Bill did such great good in enhancing the academic excellence of Longwood,” Reveley said in a statement.

Dorrill, during his presidency, instituted a program on Japanese language and culture and established student exchange programs with universities in China, according to the release. He also conducted several lecture circuits in China as a Fulbright Scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow, and had an extensive expertise on contemporary China, East Asia and higher education, the release noted.

Dorrill’s work to allow students to study abroad and invite students from foreign universities to Longwood gave students and faculty alike the opportunity to know of other cultures, said Dr. William “Bill” Harbour, a longtime associate professor of political science at Longwood and friend to Dorrill.

“He believed very much in fostering international understanding through those person-to-person contacts,” Harbour said.

Dorrill is remembered as a compelling lecturer who expanded and humanized students’ knowledge of the wider world, according to the release.

Harbour remembers Dorrill as an impressive lecturer who often spoke in his classes about pressing history at the time, including about politics of the Soviet Union.

Harbour said Bill and Marty worked to foster those connections with faculty and students. Harbour said remembers attending the Dorrills’ annual Christmas party and that even after retirement, Bill and Marty would attend parties for senior students and ask about their future plans, taking time to learn about them.

“They were interested in the student as a human being, not just the student as a learner,” Harbour said.

Harbour said he’s received numerous emails and social media messages from former students mourning Dorrill’s passing. He remembers one student’s impression of Dorrill that seemed to describe him perfectly, as “a scholar and a gentleman.’”

John Miller, an associate professor of early American literature at the university, said he had known Dorrill from the Farmville Rotary Club, where Dorrill had served as past president. 

Miller, the current Rotary president, said Dorrill had set an example of generosity in the community that he and members of the Rotary Club hope to follow.

“He epitomized the Rotary motto of ‘Service above self,’” Miller said, “and his memory will be an inspiration for us to continue the good work he did here.”

During Dorrill’s presidency, Longwood University’s campus expanded, with three buildings, Greenwood Library; Hull Hall, home of the College of Education and Human Services; and ARC Residence Hall, the release cited. The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts also moved into the 25,000-square foot location on Farmville’s Main Street during his presidency.

Harbour noted that despite Dorrill’s somewhat reserved demeanor, he had a quick wit and good sense of humor.

When Dorrill spoke at Longwood in 2004 after the dining hall had been named after him, he said he was pleased that the building would be used by more students than any other. The joke, Harbour remembered, sent the audience laughing.   

Reveley said the university has felt the impact of Dorrill’s passing.

“We all are going to miss President Dorrill immensely,” Reveley said.

A visitation is scheduled for Friday at Puckett Funeral Home from 6-8 p.m. and a funeral service will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the College Church at Hampden-Sydney College.