Published March 30, 2016
Dear University Community:
It is with deep sadness that I write to share the loss of our great and distinguished former president, Dr. Steven B. Sample. Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences are with the Sample family.
Few individuals have had a greater or more lasting impact on our university, or indeed on the higher education community nationally. President Sample was a true innovator in the deepest and broadest sense of that term—a visionary leader whose ready embrace of new modes of thinking, competing ideas, and fresh points of view forged new pathways throughout a remarkable academic career, from his pioneering contributions as an electrical engineer and inventor, to his leadership as an accomplished and inspiring university administrator. His gift for thinking in broad and bold strokes has played a major role in advancing each university that he has been part of, as well as enriching higher education writ large.
As the University at Buffalo’s 12th president from 1982-1991, he led UB to great national and international prominence. Under his leadership, UB joined the ranks of the prestigious Association of American Universities, a body he later chaired. Instrumental in expanding the scope of UB’s research enterprise, he also helped to secure NCAA Division I membership for UB.
These efforts contributed in no small measure to the University at Buffalo’s current stature and potential, and they have had an enduring impact on our university. In the decades following his UB presidency, our university has continued to be enriched and inspired by his leadership, from his distinguished tenure as president of the University of Southern California, to his many prominent leadership roles in the national higher education community. In addition to serving as a past chairman of the Association of American Universities, he also was a co-founder of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities and a founding member of the California Business-Higher Education Forum. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in tribute to his leadership in higher education.
In all that he undertook, Dr. Sample was an unconventional and staunchly independent thinker who deeply valued and nurtured differing perspectives and fresh ideas from across every corner of the university community and beyond. He was a source of great inspiration to me and, I know, to my immediate predecessors as president, and to so many in our university community. His legacy is permanently embedded in our university’s history and will surely continue to shape our future as one of the nation’s great research universities.