University of California, San Diego

William David McElroy, the fourth chancellor of the University of
California, San Diego, and a research biologist who made groundbreaking
discoveries in bioluminescence, died February 17th of respiratory failure at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego, Ca. He was 82.
The UC San Diego campus was only 12 years old when "Bill" McElroy assumed
leadership on Feb. 1, 1972, coming from the National Science Foundation in
Washington, D.C., which he had directed for nearly three years. He served as
UC San Diego chancellor until he resigned in 1980 to return to research,
writing and teaching biology.
University of California President Richard C. Atkinson, who followed McElroy
in 1980 as chancellor said "Bill McElroy was a good friend, a brilliant
scientist, and a major reason for UC San Diego's evolution into the great
university it is today. His vigorous leadership during UC San Diego's
formative years-particularly his success in forging links between the campus
and the community-has earned him a prominent and permanent place in the
University's history. I owe him a special debt for his counsel, support, and
friendship during my tenure as chancellor.

"Bill's intellectual achievements exemplify the creative fire that has made
UC faculty renowned throughout the world. Among his enduring legacies is the
pioneering work he conducted on bioluminescence 40 years ago, which
continues to bear fruit in research performed today on AIDS and other
diseases. He was an extraordinarily gifted man who will be greatly missed."
UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes noted, "Bill McElroy was a gifted man of
extraordinary distinction. His research led to new medical diagnostics; he
directed the nation's two most prestigious scientific bodies; he led the
fledgling UCSD campus during a critical time of its growth, and was beloved
as a caring, humane person. He leaves an enviable and well-deserved legacy."

Although his research and training were scientifically-based, McElroy
encouraged expansion of the arts, humanities and social sciences at UC San
Diego, already known for its scientific strengths.  He established the Board
of Overseers, a group of San Diego leaders who advise the chancellor, and
greatly increased the university's outreach to the San Diego community.

The UC San Diego research budget went from $40 million when McElroy took
over as chancellor to more than $120 million when he resigned.  Among other
projects, construction of the Geisel Library - an enduring architectural
landmark for the campus, the Gildred Cancer Center, and Mandeville
Auditorium was completed, and planning for the Birch Aquarium was underway.

As a researcher, he was best known for isolating and crystallizing the
compounds that enable a firefly to light up, and for his subsequent research
into bacterial bioluminescence that resulted in nearly 200 original
scientific articles.

McElroy traced his interest in the luminescent bugs to his graduate student
days when the insects, attracted by the light of his cigar, began whacking
into his face. He wanted to know why fireflies wasted so much energy to
produce light-something that seemed unusual in nature.

After years of research, he concluded that it gave them an advantage in
mating. He was the first to isolate the firefly enzyme and along with his
late wife, biochemist Marlene DeLuca, the two became pioneers in the field
of bioluminescence.

In 1989, thirty years after this research at Johns Hopkins, McElroy led a
team which created four different colors of glowing bacteria by
transplanting into them genes from a Jamaican click beetle, a relative of
the firefly.  McElroy's lab, the Analytical Luminescence Lab, sent more than
350 copies of the gene to researchers and biotechnology companies throughout
the country.

McElroy was born in Rogers, Tex., in 1917. He received a bachelor's degree
from Stanford University in 1939, where he played right end on the football
team in 1938 and 1939. He obtained a master's degree from Reed College in
Oregon in 1941, and a doctorate from Princeton University in 1943. All 
degrees were in biology and biochemistry.  He was the recipient of twelve 
honorary degrees including those from the University of Notre Dame, Johns 
Hopkins University, the University of San Diego and the University of 
Bologna in Italy.

McElroy served two years with the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and
Development following graduation from Princeton. He then joined the faculty
of Johns Hopkins University in 1946 and was director of the McCollum-Pratt
Institute for twenty years and chairman of the university's Department of
Biology and from 1956 until 1969, when he was nominated by President Nixon
to head the National Science Foundation.

From 1975-1976 McElroy served as president of the 116,000-member American
Association for the Advancement of Science, succeeding anthropologist
Margaret Mead.

In addition to publishing numerous scientific articles, McElroy served as
editor of two scientific journals, authored "Cell Physiology and
Biochemistry," and co-authored nine scientific books including  "Modern Cell

McElroy served as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission and on
numerous national boards, including the President's Science Advisory
Committee (1962-1966), the President's Committee on the National Medal of
Science Award (1972), and The Conference Board and the Nutrition Foundation
both headquartered in New York. He was a member of the National Academy of
Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American
Philosophical Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and several other national scientific

Private graveside services will be held by the family. A memorial service
will be held at UCSD at a date to be announced.

He is survived by his wife, Olga Robles McElroy, of San Diego and his
sister, Lola Rector of Pismo Beach, Ca.  He and his late wife, Marlene
DeLuca, who died in 1987, had one son, Eric McElroy, of San Marcos, Ca.  He
also is survived by the children of his first marriage to the deceased Nella
Winch:  Mary McElroy of Boston, Ann McElroy of Hickory, N.C., Thomas McElroy
of Glen Arm, Md., and William McElroy of Woods Hole, Mass.  

Photo of Dr. McElroy is available at

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