F. William McElroy, professor emeritus in the economics department, died Oct. 13 at age 71 following a battle with lung cancer that fatally weakened his immune system.
“He was a wonderful man with a thorough understanding of both mathematics and economics,” said professor emeritus of economics George Viksnins, McElroy’s longtime friend and tennis opponent. “His courses were really quite technical.”
McElroy earned his B.A. and M.A. in mathematics at University College, Dublin before he studied at Georgetown and earned his Ph.D. in 1967. In the 1970s, he became a full professor and department chair.
He was a founder of the Main Campus Retired Faculty Association, and was an active member of the University Faculty Senate.
McElroy’s legacy is one of intellectual strength but also of personality and empathy for those less fortunate.
“He had a very nice sly sense of humor [that] was not always adequately appreciated by his students because he was also too demanding at the same time,” Viksnins said.
According to Viksnins, McElroy was deeply concerned with social justice.
“He was very into social responsibility,” Viksnins said, citing his late friend’s involvement in the nongovernmental organization Oxfam. “He also went many, many weekends to Martha’s Table, where he helped serve lunch for the homeless. So he not only talked about equality, he planned to do something about it.”
Viksnins also attested to the importance of faith to McElroy and said he frequently attended Mass. “He and I often drank beer together, and he was very serious about Lent, and so he decided to forgo his favorite Irish Guinness stout [that] he and I would share after our tennis matches.”
McElroy is survived by his wife, son and daughter in addition to two siblings and three grandchildren.