William Gray Starling, dean of admissions and financial aid at Wake Forest University, died unexpectedly June 18. He was 65.
A Smithfield native, Starling marked 43 years of service to Wake Forest this month. He was among the longest serving directors of admissions in the country.
Starling joined the admissions office in 1958 as assistant director and became the university’s director of admissions in 1961. In 1968, he also became the director of financial aid. He was named dean of admissions and financial aid this spring.
“Bill Starling’s long, loyal service in admissions and financial aid holds an important place in the modern history of Wake Forest University,” said Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. “For several decades, he played a key role in deciding which young men and women should study at this university.”
“Bill’s commitment to Wake Forest and its students remained intense and enthusiastic,” Hearn said. “He was determined to see the university and its students prosper.”
More than 30,000 freshmen enrolled at Wake Forest during Starling’s tenure. Many of those had met with him while visiting campus.
Starling graduated magna cum laude from Wake Forest in 1957. He was a member of the first class to graduate in Winston-Salem. His first three years of study were spent on the old Wake Forest campus in the town of Wake Forest.
In a 1998 story that appeared in Wake Forest’s alumni magazine, Professor of Communication Jill McMillan described him as “just as comfortable talking to a recruit from our most prestigious prep school as he is a student from rural Appalachia. He respects them both for their uniqueness and limitless possibilities.” McMillan worked with Starling on the admissions committee.
In the same article, Starling said of his career, “I’m as interested in the job as I was the first day I came here. This is an infectious place. I got infected early, and I’ve never found a cure.” Starling was an ideal representative of Wake Forest, said Director of Admissions Martha Allman.
“Bill was the epitome of what Wake Forest is: understated, intelligent, of great moral character,” said Allman, who had worked with Starling for the past 19 years. “He was considered by his colleagues across the country to be one of the admissions giants.”
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