Obituary: William Tao, emeritus trustee, 102


William Kwang-Yeh Tao, an emeritus trustee of Washington University in St. Louis, died Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Franklin, Tenn. He was 102.

Bill, as he was known to most, came to St. Louis from China in 1947 to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University. From that time, he made significant contributions to what’s now known as the McKelvey School of Engineering, including establishing the university’s first annual named scholarship program in 1974 for the engineering school.

After earning his degree, he became an instructor in engineering and continued as an affiliate professor after starting his own engineering consulting business, William Tao & Associates Inc., in 1956. He also was an affiliate professor at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

He served on the university’s Board of Trustees from 1975 until 1990, when he became an emeritus trustee. During his tenure, he served on committees dealing with real estate, education policy, buildings and development as well as on the board’s executive committee. In addition, he served for several years on the Engineering National Council. He also was a critical member of the university’s International Advisory Council for Asia.

He received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1971, an Engineering Alumni Achievement Award in 1982, the William Greenleaf Eliot Society’s annual Search Award in 1990 and the Engineering Dean’s Award in 1994. In addition, he received an honorary doctor of science degree from the university in 1997.

Tao is survived by his wife, Anne; three sons, David, Richard and Peter; nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, in Graham Chapel on the Washington University campus. A reception will follow at the Whittemore House.

Read the full obituary on the engineering website. 

This video tribute to Tao was produced in celebration of his 100th birthday. 

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