In Memory of Dr. William McGee

Dr. william McGee - MemorialOn Monday, March 14, the founder and first director of the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS), William McGee, Ph.D., passed away.

The University of Central Florida chemistry professor created the undergraduate program for forensic science within the chemistry department in 1971, along with the NCFS in March of 1997. “…I have sat in my office for 20 years, talking to former students about the need, thinking about doing this…”, Dr. McGee said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel in 1997.

Dr. McGee contacted U.S. Representative Bill McCollum about the concept of a NCFS and the idea fit in with the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) focus on improving forensic science. The NCFS was established in 1997, as a joint project between NIJ and UCF.

As the founder of the Forensic Science major, UCF faculty and staff remembered Dr. McGee for his determination to build a rigorous, science-based curriculum. He built the six-month internship requirement for every student into the curriculum. He believed that it was important that the students have hands-on experience before they graduated.

Research Proposal Manager at the College of Sciences, Joan Jarvis, remembers Dr. McGee having “…a wicked way of weeding out which students likely wouldn’t make it through the major.”

“Every student had to take an introductory course that he taught. Fairly early on in the course, he’d run a slide show of actual cases, including all the blood, gore, and mayhem that such cases often have. If a student couldn’t sit through that slide show, he pretty much knew they weren’t great candidates for the program.”

He was incredibly devoted to his students and often encouraged them to write papers and present at the Southern Association of Forensic Science meetings.

He was also very generous with the causes he supported—particularly to the Boy Scouts and the Florida Trail Association. “He was much more concerned with substance than appearance, and that was true for him in many ways,” said Jarvis.

Dr. McGee will be remembered as a man with vision and the tenacity to make his visions a reality.

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