Remembering Rice alumnus and trustee emeritus Bill Sick

William Sick

The life of Rice University trustee emeritus William “Bill” Sick ’57 was celebrated this past weekend at a ceremony in Illinois. An accomplished engineer, leader and dedicated father and husband, Sick passed away peacefully at his home in Winnetka, Illinois, on Dec. 8, 2023. He was 88 years old.

bill sick

Sick earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering at Rice and served on the Board of Trustees from 1996-2005. After graduating, Sick began his 29-year career at Texas Instruments in Dallas, where he served as executive vice president and a director of the company, president of the semiconductor business and president of both the Europe and Asia divisions. At T.I, he also made critical contributions to modern technology, including the first transistor TV, the electronic calculator and the single-chip microcomputer.

He later became the CEO of American National Can Company in Chicago and served as co-founder, chairman, director or advisor of thirteen early-stage companies in the semiconductor, software and biotechnology fields.

“Bill Sick was a visionary whose impact on Rice University and beyond will be felt for generations,” said Rice President Reginald DesRoches. “His leadership in the field of engineering and his unwavering support for education have left an indelible mark on our university. We are grateful for his dedication, his generosity, and his enduring spirit, which will continue to inspire us all.”

As a Rice student in the 1950s, Sick was chosen as the Outstanding Engineering Student twice, received the Sigma Tau and Francis awards, served as editor of “The Rice Engineer,” and was a three-time letterman and co-captain of the varsity swimming team.

In the decades to follow, he remained one of the university’s most enthusiastic supporters. His family’s philanthropy supported the O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science and endowed the dean of engineering chair, and he served as a strategic advisor and board member of OpenStax. He and his wife Stephanie also donated Jaume Plensa’s “Mirror” on the Central Quad. Sick even helped jumpstart the Chicago alumni group and often hosted alumni, students and parents at his home. His invaluable leadership and contributions to the university were recognized with the 2003 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus Award and the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award.

“As the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering, I was privileged to witness Bill Sick's profound influence firsthand," said Luay Nakhleh. "His legacy at Rice stands as a testament to the power of innovation and generosity. The impact of his contributions will shape the fabric of our school for years to come."

In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees and the Association of Rice Alumni Board, he was influential in advancing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. At T.I., he initiated a joint T.I.-Rice program in digital signal processing that grew into a major relationship. Sick also helped launch the Rice Business School Competition, the largest graduate startup competition in the world, and was a key advisor and mentor to the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Today, these programs are the cornerstones of Rice’s highly-ranked business program and provide new avenues for students to make an impact beyond the hedges and enrich Houston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.