The University of Tulsa has learned that former TU President Steadman Upham died Sunday, July 30, from complications following a recent surgery. He is survived by his wife, Peggy; their son, Nathan; their daughter and son-in-law, Erin and Alejandro Lopez; and two grandchildren, Orion and Aadrock.
“We are devastated by the news of Stead’s death,” TU President Gerard Clancy said. “Stead was a great friend to the university and all of Tulsa. He and Peggy poured their lives into making TU better in every way. The university community is thankful that we had the chance to be led by them for so long.”
Upham joined TU in 2004 and served as president until 2012, and then returned later that year to resume the role at the request of the Board of Trustees. He retired in 2016 and planned to return to TU as a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology.
Upham oversaw broad, sustained development of TU’s academic programs and research enterprise. These advances included new doctoral programs in chemistry, computer engineering, physics and anthropology, a growing roster of interdisciplinary research institutes and increased internationalization of the curriculum.
He also presided over the Embrace the Future Campaign (2004-11), which raised $698 million for campus growth, endowed scholarships, endowed faculty positions and other priorities.
Community engagement and service learning are cornerstones of Upham’s legacy. He led the university in establishing the True Blue Neighbors initiative – a far-reaching service program that partnered TU closely with the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood and with service organizations throughout Tulsa. True Blue Neighbors saw annual increases in volunteer participation from the TU family, and it continues as the primary vehicle for TU’s community engagement.
In 2008, Upham led the university in forging the Gilcrease Museum management partnership with the City of Tulsa – an arrangement that has benefitted both institutions. The Helmerich Center for American Research also was established during his tenure, and he represented the center during the acquisition of The Bob Dylan Archive.
In 2014, the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice honored Upham at its annual awards dinner. In 2015, TulsaPeople named him Tulsan of the Year; he also was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame that year.
Earlier in his career, Upham served as president and chief executive officer of Claremont Graduate University. From 1990 to 1998, he worked at the University of Oregon as vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School and professor of anthropology. He had received his doctorate in anthropology in 1980 from Arizona State University. He continued scholarly work alongside his administrative work.
Upham’s extensive professional service and roles included commissioner of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; chairman of the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools; president, National Physical Science Consortium; director of The American Mutual Funds; director of the Saint Francis Health System; director of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce; director of the American Council on Education; director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association; director of the College Football Playoffs; and director and chair of the Tulsa Community Foundation.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 19 in the Donald W. Reynolds Center on the TU campus. In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts be made to The Steadman and Peggy Upham Endowment for Community Service and Outreach online or through The University of Tulsa Office of Development, 800 S. Tucker Drive, Tulsa, OK 74104.