William J. Pepicello, PhD, president, University of Phoenix

Bill Pepicello

Bill Pepicello is a man of many words — quite literally. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate in linguistics from Brown University. For those who might not be totally familiar with what linguistics involves, we’ll save you the Google™ search by explaining that linguistics is the study of how language works and how human brains process it.

Bill’s undergraduate studies were in the classics at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Bill has spent his professional life in higher education. He began his career as an assistant professor at University of Delaware and served as department chair for the classics at Temple University, as well as a regional dean for National University. He also served as president of the University of Sarasota and assisted in transforming the institution into what is today known as Argosy University.

His career at University of Phoenix has been distinguished by his establishment of the College of General and Professional Studies — which has grown into four individual colleges: Criminal Justice and Security, Humanities and Sciences, Health Sciences and Nursing and Social Sciences — as well as creating and serving as the first dean of the School of Advanced Studies, the University’s doctoral programs. These colleges greatly expanded the University’s offerings, making it a comprehensive institution.

In addition to these pivotal positions, he also served as vice provost, provost and, in September 2006, after a national search, was named president by the University of Phoenix board of directors.

But if you have the impression that Bill is a one-dimensional academic, you don’t know him. He is a “Star Trek” fan, sports enthusiast, community volunteer, philanthropist and a well-renowned expert on humor. His writings on humor, particularly focusing on children’s wit and riddles, have been widely cited and recognized as serious research into the psychometrics of humor.

And he is a frequent guest on the Doug & Wolf Arizona Sports 620 radio show in Phoenix, with “Pep Talk” segments.

Bill has always followed his passions, and he has even been able to combine two of them: sports and community building. As he says, “I want to use my position to improve conditions in the place I plan to spend the rest of my life.”

When Bill met Diamondbacks’ President and CEO Derrick Hall, he realized they shared the same values and vision of how they could make a difference. Their friendship and the resulting partnership between the D-backs and University of Phoenix have worked to champion education.

In 2012, Bill and his wife Kris were co-chairs of “Evening on the Diamond,” a fundraiser that benefits Arizona charities and nonprofit organizations. That night, they raised the most money ever at one of these events — a whopping $1.7 million.

Bill’s passions also include health care and encouraging youth success. He was named Boys & Girls Clubs Champion in 2009. This award goes to “an individual who positively impacts the quality of life in our community.”

Bill serves on the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education under the Office of the Governor for the State of Arizona, sits on the advisory board of the Greater Phoenix Boys and Girls Clubs and is the chair of the Banner Health Foundation Board. He is the past chair of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council Board of Directors and serves on the board of directors of Valley of the Sun United Way. Bill serves as a peer reviewer and team leader for the Peer Review Corps of the Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education. Bill was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) under the U.S. Department of Education. The committee is tasked with advising the Secretary of Education on matters related to accreditation and to the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education.

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Press photo and bio

Download high-resolution photos of Dr. Pepicello and a PDF of his biography.

Bill’s published works

  • Game Changers, Education and IT, Educause, Chapter 10
  • The UOP Adult Learner Model: Form Follows Functions, Proceedings from Toward the Global University:  Strategies for the Third Millennium, with Sandra Pepicello
  • Reshaping Teaching and Learning: The Role of Liberal Arts in Online Education, The Online Teaching Guide, with Elizabeth Tice
  • Faculty Scholarship in a Non-Traditional University, U.S. Department of Education grant publication, with Craig Swenson and Katherine Garner
  • Wit in Riddling: A Linguistic Perspective
  • Sight and Spelling Riddles, Journal of American Folklore
  • The Rhetoric of Humor, Contemporary Humor, ASU Press
  • Diagnosing Composition Errors: A Linguistic Approach, Teaching Writing

Community involvement

  • Greater Phoenix Economic Council board of directors and past chair
  • United Way board of directors
  • Banner Health Foundation chairman
  • Commission for Postsecondary Education
  • Accreditation Review Council of The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools — consultant/evaluator
  • National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)

Bill’s cabinet members

Byron Jones, chief financial officer

Jerrad Tausz, chief operating officer

Cheryl Naumann, senior vice president, human resources

Ruth Veloria, senior vice president, university strategy

Meredith Curley, interim provost

Lee Finkel, senior vice president, academic administration

Nina Munson, senior vice president, chief of staff