The University of Evansville is saddened today by the news that Dr. William L. Ridgway, a lifetime trustee and devoted friend to the University, has passed away.
Dr. Ridgway passed away this morning at age 92. He is survived by longtime friend Melvin Peterson. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“Dr. Ridgway’s tremendous support has been invaluable in leading the way toward a stronger, more enriching educational experience for University of Evansville students,” said UE President Thomas A. Kazee. “Thanks to his generosity and leadership, students at the University of Evansville – the future leaders of our community – will reap the benefits of Dr. Ridgway’s work for generations to come. He was a truly remarkable person and will be deeply missed.”
Dr. Ridgway was born September 24, 1920 in Evansville. A Central High School graduate, he enjoyed a distinguished, 40-year career as an ophthalmologist in San Francisco, including active duty service with the U.S. Navy, before retiring and returning to his native Evansville in 1989. Despite earning his degrees from Indiana University, Dr. Ridgway adopted the University of Evansville as his alma mater, making it his mission to ensure that all UE students receive the outstanding education that prepares them for success after graduation.
In 2009, that vision led to the creation of the William L. Ridgway Award – a financial award that ensured Vanderburgh County students have access to the quality private education offered by UE. Thanks to the Ridgway Award, any student who graduates from a high school in Vanderburgh County, as well as any student whose parents maintain a permanent address in Vanderburgh County, is able to attend the University of Evansville at a cost comparable to that of Indiana’s leading public institutions.
In creating this award, Dr. Ridgway also ensured that these students would take the time to give back to the community that had given so much to them. As such, each recipient of the Ridgway Award must perform at least 10 hours of community service per semester.
Over the years, Dr. Ridgway consistently illustrated his belief in higher education as the pathway to a greater tomorrow. And, through his boundless generosity and his tireless work as a life member of the UE Board of Trustees, he inspired others to that vision. His direct involvement in UE’s Facing the Future and Widening the Circle campaigns were integral in those projects’ success. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of UE’s Harlaxton Society, received the University’s Medal of Honor, and was named an Honorary Alumnus.
Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is the central role Dr. Ridgway played in kick-starting the success of UE’s U?Envision 2010 capital campaign. When University officials began working to raise the $80 million goal, Dr. Ridgway immediately stepped up, offering the contribution that allowed work to begin on UE’s $23.6 million University Center – a building that now bears his name.
With Dr. Ridgway leading the way, the U?Envision 2010 campaign was a resounding success. The Ridgway University Center opened in November 2008, offering UE students a “campus living room” where they can gather, eat, study, and enjoy the student life component of their University experience.
In 1986, Dr. Ridgway also saw the opportunity to enhance UE’s then-fledgling study abroad program. He purchased Harlaxton College in Grantham, England (which was being leased by the University), and gave it to the University of Evansville. Thanks to Dr. Ridgway’s leadership, the University of Evansville now has one of the nation’s top study abroad programs. Every year, hundreds of students visit UE’s British campus at Harlaxton, and more than half of graduates study abroad during their time at UE.
“Today, Harlaxton College is one of the finest study-abroad destinations in the world, and we owe much of that success to the generosity of Dr. William Ridgway,” said Gordon Kingsley, principal of Harlaxton College. “His vision for international education led to the opportunity for students to live and study in a grand English manor house – a life-changing experience that is a core part of the University of Evansville’s identity.”
Through his contributions to study abroad, Dr. Ridgway also helped create a greater diversity on campus, as the University of Evansville created a larger international focus. Today, 46 countries are represented in UE’s student body.