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William Chancellor

Dr. William "Bill" Chancellor, 85, of Davis, passed away peacefully on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at Sutter Davis Hospital after a long illness. His life and accomplishments affected hundreds of colleagues and students worldwide, leaving a legacy of agricultural advancements and goodwill.

Bill was the husband of Nongkarn Chancellor, with whom he shared 56 years of marriage. He was a highly respected professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis for almost 37 years and remained active in the Department after retirement until his passing.

After receiving a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Masters and Doctorate degrees from Cornell University, Bill joined the Department at UC Davis in 1957. During his long and successful career, he became a global authority on smallholder farm mechanization. His work and teaching covered a wide array of topics, including soil mechanics, vehicle stability and traction, forage harvesting and handling, rice production and processing, economic optimization of farm equipment use, agricultural technology for developing nations, and energy relations in agricultural production.

His early interest in information theory led him to become one of the first to recognize the interconnection and substitutability of information and energy in developing more advanced, efficient, and sustainable food production systems.

With an encyclopedic knowledge of virtually all topics in the agricultural engineering field and many other fields, he was the author of a pioneering searchable database of articles and information that earned him a Presidential Citation from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE, now ASABE) in 1996. The wide recognition and significance of Bill's work resulted in his receiving numerous other awards and led to his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. In honor of his exceptional service to the University, he was recently informed that he would be presented with the UC Davis Medal.

Besides these notable accomplishments, Bill held a deep concern for the needs and welfare of his students, who have continued his work and influence around the world. He was passionate about learning and made a point to share his vast knowledge, experience, and wisdom with his students and colleagues. His selflessness assisted and inspired many in the Department and throughout the profession.

Outside of his academic life, Bill enjoyed local and world travels, listening to classical music and "A Prairie Home Companion" broadcasts, and spending time with family. Not only did he share kindness with students, he was a devoted family man who supported family members through his incredible generosity.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Marisa Chancellor of Los Altos, CA; son-in-law, Michael Hacker of Los Altos; and two granddaughters, Courtney Hacker of Washington, D.C. and Allison Hacker of Haverford, PA. He is also survived by his brother, Ed Chancellor of Blue Mounds, WI.

Information will be forthcoming about a memorial service that will be held at a yet-to-be identified date, time, and location. In addition, plans are to have former students, colleagues, and friends from around the world come to UC Davis in the summer to celebrate his life and accomplishments.

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Chancellor, please visit our flower store.


I was checking on some of my UC Davis professors and just saw Bill Chancellor's obituary. I am so sorry to hear of his passing. I have to echo the comments of his other students. Bill was simply the most outstanding professor I have ever known, both in my undergraduate and graduate studies. More than that, he was truly a wonderful human being who was always there to help his students, either in academic or with personal issues. I have the utmost respect for him and send my condolences to his family. Tom Angle

Tom Angle Jun 22 2021 12:00 AM

Reminding those whom you support that your thoughts are with them.

Tribute Store Mar 18 2017 12:00 AM

Swee Lin Choa (Lin) It is with deep sadness that I received news of the passing of Bill Chancellor. I now regret that I did not make a special effort to come to UCD last year for its 100Yr Centenary which Bill extended an invitation to me. Instead I allowed my business commitments to take precedence. The last time I saw him was in 2007 when my family spent a few days as his and Nong's guests in his home in Davis. Bill was my major professor supervising my graduate studies in Davis. I have studied under many professors in at least 2 universities in the US. He was simply the best of the best. He was ever so helpful in his own unique manner in guiding the students to discover the information and knowledge themselves. Bill continued to take an interest in the work his graduates even after they leave the University. Bill spent several years teaching ag. engineering to undergraduate students at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960's where I first met him. All students who have been taught by him have only praise, admiration, and respect for him. Bill will be sadly missed by all of us.

Swee Lin Choa Mar 18 2017 12:00 AM

Bill Chancellor was a well respected member of our 1949 class at Mt Horeb High School in Mt Horeb, Wisconsin. Of our original class of 64 graduates, though he was one of the members who lived the farthest away, he was a very active participant at the class reunions. He loved to take photos and later share them with other class members. He always looked forward to the next reunion. Once we reached our 60th reunion, we decided to have them every year. Bill will be missed, but always remembered. Rick Schaller

Richard L Schaller Mar 13 2017 12:00 AM

Dr. Chancellor was by far the most inspired teacher I ever had. Period. As an agricultural education student I had the tremendous fortune to take a number of classes from him. I will never forget the first lessons he gave us in his course on agricultural mechanics for developing countries. He taught us about the water cycle, he taught us about soils, he taught us how the seasons came about. Most people would think this had nothing to do with agricultural engineering. I realized that if you did not understand these things you would forever be at a loss when dealing with the exigencies of farming. In later years he and Mrs. Chancellor would walk by my plot in Village homes and always stop and talk and enquire about what I was growing. Every time I use my roto-tiller I think of him. - Eric Zilbert, former Director, Agricultural Education, UCD.

Eric Zilbert Mar 8 2017 12:00 AM

Bill was our Fearless Leader on a big bio-energy project in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Lessons learned then were still useful 20 and 25 years later; and Bill still answered questions about what had changed (if anything). He was a great resource, including for the International Agricultural Development masters students. He is, and will be, missed. Dan Cohen Maccabee Seed Company Davis, CA

Daniel B. Cohen Feb 25 2017 12:00 AM

Dear Nong, I'm so sorry to see that dear Bill has passed away. Although I did not know him well, my memories are they he was a true gentleman with a compassionate and good-natured spirit. Please accept my condolences. Warren Roberts, fellow D.A.M. swimmer

Warren G. Roberts Feb 23 2017 12:00 AM

We are so sorry to hear of Bill's passing and we will miss having him as our neighbor. We send our deepest condolences to Nong and the rest of Bill's family. Roberta Millstein and Gilbert Coville

Roberta Millstein Feb 22 2017 12:00 AM

My most favorite memory of Uncle Bill was his desire to capture the moment on camera. He was always taking photos and sharing them with family members. Thank you, Uncle Bill, for helping us to remember the wonderful times we shared together as a family. Love, Mary Chancellor daughter of brother Ed

Mary Chancellor Feb 21 2017 12:00 AM

It is with great sadness hearing of Bill's passing.. Albert and I and the Konditorei Family are thinking of you at this time . I will always remember Bill when I make his calzone for lunch. I will also remember his kindness when he gave Albert the floor carpet after his back surgery. His soft human goodness will be missed.

Gloria Kutternig Nov 30 -0001 12:00 AM