Beloved university President William L. Henrich remembered for contributions to his family, university and the world

William L. Henrich, MD, MACP
‘His light continues to shine every day throughout the world’

It was a day of laughter and tears. A day to pay tribute to beloved UT Health San Antonio President William Lloyd Henrich, MD, MACP, who passed away Thursday, March 14, from complications of his second stem cell transplantation.

Speaking to hundreds of mourners gathered for a memorial service at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in San Antonio Monday, March 25, President Henrich’s son-in-law, Air Force Lt. Col. Keith R. Meister, reflected on how his father-in-law was one of the most selfless men he’d ever known. His worldwide reach was evidenced by messages of support spanning the globe, from Israel to Japan, Meister said.

“While Bill left us, his light continues to shine every day throughout the world,” Meister said.

A visionary leader at UT Health San Antonio, Henrich transformed the institution into a top-ranked academic health center, with world-class programs in cancer, obesity and diabetes, dementia and aging. While his accomplishments were unprecedented and monumental, he may be most remembered for his extraordinary character, said President Henrich’s family members. His humanity. His humor. His kindness. His modesty. His giving spirit. His friendship. His compassion. His selflessness.

Henrich’s son, John Henrich, shared memories of his father. Laughter abounded as he recounted how his father could always make others laugh.

“He would do something banal, like parallel parking in a tight space and he would throw his hands up and say, ‘Never had a lesson,’” his son said.

He also spoke of the deep love his father had for his family and his wife, Mary. The couple had grown up on the same block together and began dating in high school.

“The way my dad tells the story was that in high school, in the class that was literally called elementary functions, he asked my mom out,” John Henrich said. “My mother tells a different story. My mother says he needed tutoring in elementary functions and he did. But she thought he was cute and she asked him out. She asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.”

The couple would thrive, have a beautiful family and share 54 years of marriage together.

“By far, his favorite thing to do was sit outside … with my mom and talk about their day,” John Henrich said, adding that his father loved life, was in awe of his friends and despite being a prolific author, was humble.

“He loved family vacations,” John Henrich said. “He loved movies, swimming in an outdoor pool, he loved any sporting event … he liked to run in the rain, in the heat, in the morning, noon and night. When I was born, my mom called him and told him she was in labor and then he came home and then he went for a run.”

John Henrich also relayed how proud his father was of the talent, passion and commitment of all the people who have propelled UT Health San Antonio’s missions forward every single day.

“He talked about how [the UT Health San Antonio] team could do anything,” John Henrich said. “He said he loved them … and that they’re all superstars. He couldn’t wait to open the new hospital.”

Presiding over the university’s unprecedented growth

President Henrich began his role as president of the university in 2009. The following 15 years, he presided over the greatest period of expansion in UT Health San Antonio’s 65-year history, accentuated by $1 billion in ongoing transformational construction projects that will change the city’s health care and biomedical research landscape. These include the UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital, the Center for Brain Health and UT Health at Kyle Seale Parkway. These projects are expected to come online this year and next.

He personally saw the results of biomedical research and the impact it had on him, his family and all those who loved and cared for him.

Before serving as the university’s president, he served as dean of the university’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine from 2006 until 2009, when The University of Texas System Board of Regents appointed him president.

In his last message to the campus, he urged everyone forward, saying, “So many people are depending on us, counting on us to be successful in our missions. Our noble work helps these families, educates these young professionals and delivers research advances that benefit everyone, everywhere in the world. I have confidence in you to make the lofty goals established for our institution a reality.”

Read the full obituary.

A tearful goodbye

John Henrich said he will never forget his last night with his father. They shared a glass of bourbon with opera playing in the background. “[Dad] interrupted every conversation to guess the aria and composer and mom pretended to be impressed,” he said. “He took a call from somebody who needed a doctor and … the kids floated in and out of the room. We talked about the future.”

The father and son also spoke about putting UT Health San Antonio on the world map. It was a perfect night, John Henrich said.

As the father and son said goodbye, they hugged. This time, instead of John Henrich holding onto his father for an uncomfortable period of time, it was the other way around.

“I wish I hadn’t let you go,” John Henrich said tearfully. “So thank you. Thank you for being a lovely husband, son and uncle. A brother, friend. Thank you for being our dad. And thank you for being our Bill.”

President Henrich is survived by his wife, Mary, their two children and their five grandchildren.

Honoring President Henrich’s memory

The U.S. flag and the State of Texas flag, located on the university’s campus, were lowered to half-staff from Thursday, March 21, to sunset on Monday, March 25 to honor President Henrich’s dedication to public service.

The university is planning a special tribute and memorial to honor President Henrich’s memory at noon on Friday, April 5, in the Hurd Auditorium, located in the School of Nursing on the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Campus.

To honor the lifelong and dedicated public service of President Henrich, university leadership received permission to lower both the U.S. flag and the State of Texas flag located on the university’s campus to half-staff from Thursday, March 21, to sunset on Monday, March 25.

UT Health San Antonio invites its faculty, staff, students and community friends to contribute their memories of President Henrich on a special university Tribute site and reflect on his impact both personally and professionally.

The William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, Memorial Endowed Scholarship of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio was established to honor his memory:

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