William D. Sawyer, M.D., medical school’s second dean, dies at 82

Vital Signs » Summer 2012
William Sawyer MD

Dr. Sawyer led the school to greater diversity and community service

William D. Sawyer, M.D., the second dean of Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, died on March 20 at the age of 82, following a lengthy illness. He was a resident of Temple, Texas.

Sawyer served as medical school dean at Wright State from 1980 to 1987. During that time, the Frederick A. White Health Center and the Health Sciences Building were opened, the Anatomical Gift Program held its first interment ceremony, the Prematriculation Program was initiated, and the Institute for Rehabilitation Research and Medicine was established. Under his leadership, the young medical school built a reputation for the diversity of its student body and its dedication to community service.

Following his tenure at Wright State, Sawyer became president of the China Medical Board, a New York-based philanthropic foundation supporting education and research efforts in medicine, nursing, and public health in universities of East and Southeast Asia. In 1992, the foundation awarded a $1.2 million grant to China Medical University to help establish China’s first emergency medicine residency program. Glenn Hamilton, M.D., then chair of Wright State’s Department of Emergency Medicine, led a People-to-People tour of American emergency medicine specialists to China to collaborate on the grant.

Sawyer earned his medical degree at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. In addition to his time at Wright State, Sawyer’s medical career included nine years in the U.S. Army, and several years of research and teaching at Johns Hopkins University and Indiana University School of Medicine.

Sawyer was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from three Thai universities and numerous honorary professorships. Both the Chinese government and the Shanghai Municipality gave him their highest awards to foreigners for contributions to the health of their people. He also received the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement from Airlangga University in Indonesia and the Medal for Contributions to the Advancement of Public Health from the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Jane Ann, and two children, Dale Sawyer, Ph.D., professor of geophysics at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and Carole Bolin, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor and chief of the Section of Bacteriology and Mycology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and six grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contribution to Texas Home Health and Hospice, 7503 Bosque Blvd., Waco, TX 76712, or the William Sawyer Scholarship, Wright State University Foundation, 3640 Colonel Glen Hwy., Dayton, OH 45435.

Last edited on 04/18/2016.