CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — St. Lawrence University is mourning the loss of former President Walter Lawrence Gulick.
Gulick, who served as the university’s 15th president from 1981 to 1987, died on January 28 at the age of 95.
Gulick wanted the university to embrace under-served and under-represented populations, according to university officials. They say he “supported the call for St. Lawrence to fill its mission as a coeducational, liberal arts university that also welcomed people of color.”
Gulick authored one of the earliest St. Lawrence documents identifying diversity as one of the university’s valued strengths.
In the fall of 1984, he issued a 22-page paper he referred to as his “clarion call” for new directions on campus. His proposals included intensifying requirements for seniors and incorporating cultural and educational activities into campus life.
Students praised Gulick’s vision and the Board of Trustees supported it. In a rare move for university presidents of the time, he taught an introductory course on psychology. He characterized getting into the classroom and working directly with students as “extracurricular fun.”
“This University and our community are indebted to Lawry for his vision, scholarship, and his passion for learning and teaching,” St. Lawrence President Kathryn Morris said. “It is a distinctly Laurentian honor to remember him, his leadership, and his legacy of service to us all.”
St. Lawrence University officials detailed Gulick’s life and work in a press release.
Gulick is remembered by students as a superb teacher and mentor. He was pleased that many of his students became colleagues and/or devoted friends. Work in his laboratories in academic departments of psychology explored visual and auditory perception, and he authored or co-authored three acclaimed textbooks in these fields of study.
Born in Summit, New Jersey on July 4, 1927, Gulick grew up in nearby East Orange and Upper Montclair and graduated from Montclair High School in 1944. He studied at Sheepshead Maritime Academy, earning certifications that permitted service as an engineer on merchant ships carrying troops and supplies to Europe across the North Atlantic. He enlisted in the Army in 1945, went to Jump School, was promoted to sergeant, and served as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific at the end of WWII and during the post-war occupation of Japan.
After completing his service, Gulick attended Hamilton College where he majored in psychology and music. Upon graduation in 1952, he worked at E. I. DuPont as an industrial psychologist before beginning graduate work in experimental psychology at the University of Delaware (A.M.) and Princeton University (Ph.D.). Through his academic excellence, he earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. In 1989, St. Lawrence awarded Lawry an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Gulick spent nearly five decades working in higher education as professor and researcher at the University of Delaware and Dartmouth College. He served as Dean of Hamilton College and was named president at St. Lawrence University after President Emeritus Frank Piskor retired in 1981.
Sailing was a passion and Gulick had a lifelong interest in music. He wrote music, sang, and played piano and accordion throughout his life. He encouraged others to embrace their creativity and sparked a campus renaissance of the arts that included bringing to St. Lawrence the esteemed Alexander String Quartet for annual residencies. His love for the performing arts led University administrators to name Gulick Theater, in the University’s Griffiths Arts Center, after the former president.
Gulick loved poetry, had particular affection for the works of English romantic poets, and wrote and published poetry himself. He is also the author of two works of fiction.
Gulick was pre-deceased by his wife of 70 years, Winifred (Frazee) Gulick, who died in November 2022. He is survived by his three children: Hans, a retired U.S. Naval officer; Tod, a retired physician-scientist; and Kristina, a retired college Dean; five grandchildren – including Class of 2013 alumnus Ryan Schaefer – and one great-granddaughter.
-St. Lawrence University
Gulick and his wife established an endowed fund which has provided financial aid to St. Lawrence students since 2012.