Campus News

William Pelletier, professor emeritus of chemistry, dies

S. William Pelletier, 79, professor emeritus of chemistry who held the position of university provost in the 1970s, died Feb. 21.

Pelletier, an authority on naturally occurring chemical compounds that have potential medicinal uses, joined UGA in 1962 as head of the chemistry department. In 1969, then-university President Fred C. Davison appointed him to the new position of provost.

The provost position was established as chief academic deputy to Davison. Among Pelletier’s chief assignments were developing higher standards for faculty appointments and promotion, and strengthening guidelines for teaching excellence. He also helped establish the Office of Institutional Research.

He stepped down as provost in 1976 and became director of the Institute of Natural Products Research, a position he held until retiring in 2000.

Pelletier, who was also Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is credited with helping discover important ­information about chemical properties of plants that could be used in medicine.

He was editor of a widely used book on the chemistry of alkaloids, the poisonous chemical substances in buttercups and related plants, and was author of more than 125 other publications. He lectured at universities and institutes throughout America and in Europe, Asia and Australia.

In 1991 he received the top research award from the American Society of Pharmacognosy for his work on alkaloids. He also won the American Chemical Society’s 1971 Herty Medal and the society’s 1972 Southern Chemist Award.

He served as president of the ­American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the Chemical Society in England.

A native of Kankakee, Ill., Pelletier served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater in World War II. He received a doctorate in chemistry from Cornell University and taught at the Rockefeller Institute before coming to UGA.