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Ayer, former trustee, dies

William Emerson Ayer, a Los Altos Hills business consultant, loyal Stanford alumnus and former member of Stanford's Board of Trustees, died Feb. 10 at the Stanford Hospital of cancer. He was 76.

A memorial service will be held for Ayer at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in Memorial Church. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorial contributions to the William E. Ayer Fund, 301 Encina Hall, mail code 6076.

A member of the Class of 1943, Ayer received four electrical engineering degrees from Stanford ­ a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, an engineer degree and a doctorate. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a member of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi.

While attending graduate school at Stanford following service in the Navy in World War II, he worked as a design engineer at Mackey Radio and Telegraph Co. From 1951 to 1957, he worked as an engineer and section head in Stanford's Applied Electronics Program. In 1959, after serving two years as vice president of Granger Associates, he founded Applied Technology Inc. of Palo Alto, where he served as president until 1969.

Ayer was a lifelong supporter of Stanford. "As a true university citizen, he was involved both as a volunteer and as a donor," said Dave Glen, associate vice president and director of development.

In the late 1960s, he and two other Stanford alumni were responsible for the funding of Skilling Auditorium in honor of their former professor, Hugh Hildreth Skilling, who was head of the electrical engineering department for 23 years.

Ayer was a member of Stanford's Board of Trustees from 1974 to 1978 and from 1980 to 1990. Upon his retirement from the board, one of his colleagues said losing a trustee like Ayer was like "losing your glasses ­ you keep looking around for them because you just don't see as clearly without them. Bill not only provided the lucid overview, but he explained the fine print to us as well."

His dedication to Stanford included years of active volunteer work on the Northern California Major Gifts Committee. He was a Stanford Associate, a member of the board of the Stanford University Hospital and a member of the School of Engineering Advisory Council.

In the late 1980s, Ayer and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, endowed a professorship in the electrical engineering department. And both were active participants in the fund drive for the restoration of Memorial Church following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Ayer served on more than two dozen boards of directors during his lifetime. He particularly enjoyed working with young entrepreneurs in the process of creating a new business. At the time of his death, he served on the boards of two start-up companies.

He was an avid golfer and, for many years, was a private pilot. He was a member of the Menlo Country Club, the Eldorado Country Club and the Palo Alto Club.

Ayer is survived by his wife of 53 years; his three sons, Richard W. Ayer of San Diego, Donald B. Ayer of McLean, Va. and William S. Ayer of Bellevue, Wash.; and three grandchildren.


By Marisa Cigarroa

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