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University IT Bids Farewell to Bill Clebsch

The associate vice president for IT Services will retire on August 18
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

After more than 30 years of service to Stanford, Bill Clebsch, University IT associate vice president, will retire on Aug. 18.

Bill Clebsch, University IT associate vice president for IT Services.

For the past 11 years, Bill has led the IT Services organization in University IT (UIT), which includes approximately 340 people in more than 20 work groups. Collectively, IT Services is responsible for Stanford’s data center planning and operations, research computing, network and communication services, infrastructure applications, desktop and mobility support, call center services, and service desk support.

For those who know him best, it is Bill’s warmth, wit, and genuine care for people that will be remembered. He understands the importance of striking the right balance between change and continuity as he pushes the organization to achieve bold goals. His drive and determination for continuous improvement are guided by his core themes of compassion and collaboration, and balanced by his focus on relationships and the belief that talented staff are at the heart of the organization’s ability to deliver.

“Bill cares deeply about Stanford, and has been a wonderful collaborator to me and the Business Affairs leadership team since I started working with him in 2005,” Randy Livingston, vice president for Business Affairs and chief financial officer, reflected. “I will miss his friendship and support, and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Background and key accomplishments

After earning his bachelor’s degree at Stanford, Bill returned to the university in 1986 to work on a project to implement the campus-wide voice and data network. He served in several roles of increasing responsibility within IT before being named as executive director for IT Services in 2006. He was promoted to associate vice president for IT Services in 2009.

Throughout his years at Stanford, Bill has been tireless in his commitment to the university and IT Services. His focus on continuous improvement has been closely measured by customer and employee satisfaction.

“Bill regularly solicits employee and client feedback and uses the results to improve services delivered to campus,” Livingston said.

Among Bill’s major accomplishments, a particular point of pride is partnering with Vice Provost and Dean of Research Ann Arvin and Stanford research faculty to establish the university’s Research Computing program. Bill’s leadership was essential in this effort, especially in anchoring the program with the construction of the Stanford Research Computing Facility (SRCF) in 2013. The SRCF has had a tremendous impact on faculty’s ability to conduct leading-edge computational research.

Ruth Marinshaw, chief technology officer for Research Computing, cited Bill as being instrumental in getting the program off the ground.

“We certainly would not have had the successes we have without Bill as our champion,” she said. “He has remained a steadfast advocate for the program and its ongoing needs to provide new capabilities that open doors for additional research opportunities for our faculty.”

Bill’s other key achievements at Stanford include:

  • talent development (a leadership development program that served as a model for other university programs),
  • developing new approaches to deliver value to the hospitals,
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and converged communication initiatives,
  • and most recently, a focus on cloud computing.

Committed to staff development

Of utmost importance to Bill is nurturing the potential within each staff member. A passionate leader and innovator in talent management, Bill helped establish several development programs for IT leaders and individual contributors across Stanford and higher education. During his long tenure, he also implemented 360-degree reviews, gave special focus to succession planning programs, and always had a strong personal willingness to mentor and champion staff.

“Whether in startups or at Stanford, it has always been clear to me that great accomplishments come from great people,” Bill said. “This is why developing talent has always been my number one priority.”

Most notably, Bill introduced a leadership academy for IT professionals that includes two distinct programs:

  • Stanford Technical Leadership Program (STLP), an onsite program that annually enrolls approximately 30 staff, and
  • IT Leadership Program (ITLP), an offsite program that enrolls between eight and 16 IT leaders annually and joins them with IT leaders from peer institutions.

Since inception, about 250 Stanford staff have completed these programs.

“Staff development is a consistent priority for IT Services leadership,” said Jon Pilat, director for Information Technology in the School of Humanities & Sciences. “Bill created programs like ITLP and staff mentorship to help people in his organization realize their potential as leaders. His mentorship and investment in me had an enormous impact on my life and career.”

Beyond the Farm

Bill’s sphere of influence doesn’t stop at the end of Palm Drive. He also has an extensive national and international network, and is highly regarded for his experience and expertise. He was a senior member of many steering committees and consortiums that influence technology investments and directions for all of higher education and beyond.

Bill was also a founding member and served as board chair of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives (CENIC), a nonprofit corporation that provides high-performance, high-bandwidth networking services to California universities and research institutions.

“Under Bill’s leadership as chair, CENIC broadened its scope to engage many new communities including public libraries and arts, cultural, and scientific institutions,” said Louis Fox, the CENIC president and chief executive officer. “Bill’s infectious enthusiasm and his commitment to support innovation in research and education is an inspiration.”

Bill has spoken at numerous conferences worldwide and written many articles on subjects ranging from Talent Development to Future Trends in Technology. His article, “Management by Fact: Benchmarking University IT Services,” received the 2004 Educause Award for Outstanding Contribution.

What’s next for Bill?

In his retirement, Bill looks forward to spending lots of time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

He also sees it as a time to refocus his priorities from technology to the arts.

“I feel I have come full circle now. The earlier part of my life was all about the arts — literature, music, drama. I discovered technology much later in life. The arts, especially literature, remain my primary passion. I look forward to a more contemplative life of reading and writing, conjoined with being out in the beautiful forests and beaches of northern California.”

As he moves on to his next, more contemplative life stage, Bill reflects back on his time at Stanford with fondness:

“Stanford is a very special place and I’ve always felt it a great privilege to work here. It has been a pleasure to work with so many talented, committed, and dedicated people over the years. Being able to support research that is changing the world for the better is such an incredible opportunity in life, and such a gratifying daily outcome.”

He added, “I love Stanford, and shall miss all of my friends and colleagues. That said, I know all that we have worked on is in such good hands that it will continue to grow and become ever more amazing.”

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