Dr. William Wright

11/22/1940 - 02/19/2017
Service Date: 02/25/2017
Service Time: 10:00 AM
Service Location: LDS Chapel, 3580 E Houston Ave., Gilbert, Arizona

On February 19, 2017, Dr. William F. Wright of Gilbert, Arizona, passed away at his home swiftly and sweetly in the arms of his wife, Martha C. Wright.  William and Martha’s story-book marriage spanned 56 years and includes three surviving children, Julie, Michael, and Matthew.  Their posterity includes 23 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

William Frank Wright was born on November 22, 1940, to John and Gladys in Tolleson, Arizona, while his parents were undertaking seasonal harvest work there.  World War II divided the family shortly after his birth, and Bill lived in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona eventually landing in Page, Arizona where he finished high school career as a three sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball.  There he met the beautiful cheerleader and classmate, Martha, who would become his wife just 3 years later on October 29, 1960.  Bill played on Phoenix College’s National Championship football team, and thereafter earned his BS in education at ASU.  As an educator his career was centered in Apache Junction where Coach Wright was the head football coach until 1974, then principal and later that year was named superintendent of schools.

Dr. Wright earned his doctorate degree in 1982, and retired as superintendent in 1995.  During his tenure he became a lead author for national educational publications, and earned high honors including Superintendent of the Year for Arizona, and was a National Superintendent of the Year nominee.  As a professor and department chair in the College of Education at NAU (1995-2017) he has mentored hundreds of students through their doctoral programs.  For over a half a century, Dr. Wright has led and served Arizona’s educational community.    

Dr. Wright was a devoted disciple of Christ, serving the Lord faithfully as a bishop, high councilor, teacher, and church-service missionary with his with wife, Martha, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Viewing Friday, Feb. 24 from 6-8 pm at Bunkers at 3529 E. University Drive, Mesa, 85213.  Services held Saturday, February 25 at 10am at The LDS Church at 3580 East Houston Ave Gilbert AZ 85234.

Condolences

  • I’m very sorry to hear the news of Bill’s passing. I was hired in 1976 by Dr Wright and very much enjoyed and learned from his leadership as our District’s Superintendent. Knowing the three children and “Beanie”, I want to sincerely send my condolences to every one of the family members. May you find peace in knowing he was very well liked and respected.

  • Bill hired me when I was 22 years old, a brand new ASU grad, to teach English at Apache Junction Juinor High. I joined a wonderful staff of dedicated faculty also hired by Bill, there launching my 40 year career in education.

  • Bill hired me when I was 22 years old, a brand new ASU grad, to teach English at Apache Junction Junior High, there launching a 40 year career in education. I joined an amazing staff of young dedicated professionals also hired by Bill, no better way to learn the profession. The Wright children became my students and his wife a fellow junior high teacher in Chandler. To know the Wright family is to love them all. Nothing brought a bigger smile to my face than running into Bill over the course of our careers and listening to him launch into hilarious stories of my hiring and early years in teaching which at times required some superintendent “oversight.” My memories of Bill will always make me smile. He leaves a wonderful long-lasting legacy and will be missed.

  • What a beautiful legacy with your 3 kids, 23 grandchildren, and 48 great grandchildren! A million great family stories and times. Through your guidance and leadership of the students and staff you put Apache Junction Schools on the map. So many great memories, my hip still hurts from the time you tackled me from pure elation and excitement on the sideline of a football game in Parker as the Prospectors won on the last play of the game. Thanks for everything, RIP #1 Prospector.

  • Carleton(Buck) Lee Wright Jr.

    Perfect example of a role model, and a great man.
    We cherish the moments and trips we took with Bill and Beanie.
    Carleton (Buck) Lee Wright Jr. and Donna Wright
    817-513-3715

  • James Steinepreis

    Yesterday I lost my hero, my grandpa Bill. To me, he was somewhere between God and John Wayne. As I look back on all my time with him, a flood of lessons and memories fill my mind: “don’t walk with your hands in your pocket”, “look a man in the eyes when you shake his hand”, “we don’t start fights, we finish them” and “a true measure of a man is what he does when he gets knocked down. You get knocked down 7 times, you stand up 8”. But what stands out in my mind most is how he was a man that came from a broken home and absolutely nothing and with my grandmother by his side built an empire of wealth, knowledge, love and devotion. His riches and great success in life weren’t measured by money, in his eyes. His greatest riches and success were his family. He was a devoted husband to my grandmother for over 57 years. He was an amazing father to my mother and uncles. He was the best grandpa to all 20 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren (who he knew not only by name, but personally). He was the smartest, hardest working man I have ever met. But the love for his family is what I will always remember him for. I am thankful that he and my grandma started our family down the path of eternity all those years ago by joining the church and living exemplary lives of unconditional love and service. They are the best examples of parents and sweethearts. My grandpa doted over grandma, called her his girlfriend and treated her like they were newlyweds every day. I will miss his bear hugs, his voice, his smile, his laugh, his wisdom and guidance, his dapper sense of style and his quick wit. I hope I live my life 1/10 of the way he lived his. Love you grandpa

  • Dr. Wright was a Northern Arizona University colleague of mine for 22 years. As a colleague, he was the touch stone for a university, a college and an academic department. His wisdom was priceless to students, staff members, faculty, and administrators.
    He lived the self-evident truth that the days that make us happy make us wise. In his long-serving educational career, Bill sought to be gentle with those in need and strong when life offered bumps and curves. His optimism and faith rendered us colleagues with possibilities and hope.
    As in universities with academic freedom, there are disparate views and conflicting perspectives. All was healed after any academic disagreements — Bill smiled, gave you a hug or shook your hand.
    My condolences to Bill’s wife and family. You are blessed with this humble and good man in your family.
    Gaye
    gaye.luna@nau.edu

  • Stephanie Morris

    the greatest man I ever knew suddenly past from this life to the next. The role he played in my life is unmatched, he came to every basketball game, every concert, held me when I cried, saw my talents and taught me how to use them to better my life and others. He even stepped in on my wedding day when I wouldn’t have a Father Daughter dance and danced wiith me to the Judds “Grandpa”. My heart is broken and my soul feels empty without him. But there is a spiecal peace I feel knowing he is with my sister, and I know he is so happy to see her after a long two years. Thanks for being my Grandpa, Dr. William Wright

  • William Frank Wright was my brother for 72 years. I am the “last of us” as he called us. I am his sister Rita, born of the same parents.
    I knew him as Billy Frank. He was my only hero.
    My oldest memories are from the age of three. He was eight.
    He carried me on his back when we walked over stones on a railroad track. I had no shoes.
    He held me when I burned me knee on a wood burning stove. I cried on his shoulder.
    He rescued me from a flooded street where we waded, waist deep for me. I had cut my big toe on glass, I had no shoes. He knew.
    He carried me to dry ground and wrapped my toe, then he hugged me.
    He was eight, and I was three.
    Then there was the time we were in a wooden house with wood walls and wood floors. I sat on a wooden chair beside a big metal tub, snapping peas till my fingers hurt. He came in the room and finished my pan. Then he carried me outside to play. He was eight and I was 3.
    Billy Frank was a Man-Child with the heart of a Father, the innocence of a child. His life exemplified Christ then, and through out his life.
    He remained my only hero; my shelter from the storm.
    What would he say today? “I only did what Christ told me to do.”
    Many know his story of adulthood. I shared only a glimpse of a boy who became the Man that God called him to be. The finest example of husband to his dear wife Martha, an exemplary Father and Grandfather and Great-Grandfather, and friend to many. I loved him. He knew.
    My Eternal Brother my hero, my friend; William Frank Wright.

  • Tribute to Dr. William F. Wright-Clay Stidham Jr-2-23-17
    I met Dr. Wright in 1996, having just completed my undergraduate degree at NAU. I will never forget the impact he made on me in my very first Leadership class with him. I had attended NAU on a football scholarship, and had played for Paul Moro, who set the record for most coaching victories in Arizona High School football this past season. Coach Moro had been the most influential man in my life, and had taught me transformative principles of leadership and success. His lofty, cerebral platitudes and conveyance of remarkable yet understandable, life-altering truths was unparalleled….until I met Dr. Bill Wright. This was a man who immediately conveyed presence. This was a man that exuded leadership. This was a man who I found it essential to transcribe his every word to retain the exceeding abundance of wisdom within each statement. I had never met someone who was so impactful. Literally every utterance was essential. I remember feeling so privileged to be able to sit and listen to his every word. This is not a sentimental embellishment by any stretch. His urgent repetition of the public school leader to ensure the “safety, health, and welfare” of every student is burned into my brain 20+ years after I first heard him speak these words. The imperative to ensure that a school leader must strive to place every student in the best place to succeed intellectually, emotionally, academically, and socially is permanently ingrained in my DNA. This was a man that walked in the rarified air of exceptionalism, yet was completely devoid of egotistic pomposity. I was able to connect with Dr. Wright, sharing the common interest of our experiences in football. We clearly understood the connection to leadership from life lessons learned in those pursuits. But I cannot overstate the truly transformative nature of that semester for me as a person. I knew that I was blessed to walk in the rarified air of Bill’s presence. There was truly an osmotic transfer of indelible wisdom that few on Earth, for time and memoriam have had an opportunity to partake. Our paths intertwined, rather fortuitously over the next 20 years. He was there when I needed him to assist me in certifying my first job in leadership, from a distance, in Wyoming. I cannot convey the depth of joyous sentiment and astonished ecstasy that coursed through my person when I learned that my new boss was the son of the most influential man in my academic life. I also cannot fully convey the depth of sorrow, loss, and literally soul ripping despair that I feel at the passing of this amazing person. Dr. Bill Wright was one of the finest men I will ever have the privilege of knowing. There is no way to undersell that reality. I will likely never meet his equal in wisdom, passion and compassion, and power to inspire. Bill made me want to be better than I could ever be. I had framed him as a ‘human fortune cookie’. Every statement he ever uttered bore the capacity to transform lives. I have never seen his equal, and it is safe to assume, I never will. As I learned his life story of overcoming adversity, and serving as a champion for the underdog, the less fortunate, the forgotten and overlooked; I learned a great deal about greatness. In reflection, I have realized that Bill Wright truly lived it out. He taught me so very clearly, in reflection of his understanding and belief in the Lord, that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” This is leadership….this is greatness….this is Bill Wright. Thank you SO MUCH Dr. Wright for a life lived as well as a life may be lived. I love you….I miss you….I was shaped and defined by you….I hope to see you again someday so that I can say ‘Thank You’.

  • I am a cousin to Bill on his mother’s side, Our mother Iva McGee (Mullings) “Aunt Ivey” as many called her, had a very special bond. She loved and adored him and what few times our family saw him & Beanie was truly wonderful times. He loved all of his relatives as if he had known us forever. He could make you feel as though time and distance had made no difference, he instantly made everyone truly know that he loved us and we could definitely feel the love when he hugged us. The stories they both would tell were hilarious and so fun to be around the both of them. they shared cute and funny stories about different people whether it was about family or friends but always with love and respect. He truly did leave the world a better place. My heart goes out to Beanie & family, Rita & family and all who are hurting from the loss of a wonderful man. Love you Bill

  • Grandpa Bill was my hero. Plain and simple. He always made me feel so loved and so special. Even if I didn’t believe in myself, he always did. He made me feel like I could do more than I knew I was capable of, but be because he believed in me I felt like I could try.

    He was larger than life to me. My earliest memories are of looking WAY up at him while he shaved and got ready for work in the mornings. He would sing to me. I remember looking forward to him coming back home from work. I remember loving to snuggle up with him and eat apples and read books. I always felt safe and secure in his arms.

    He always had the best advice. I always knew if I had a problem I could go to Grandpa and he would help me. A couple summer’s ago when we lost our baby boy halfway through the pregnancy, Larry and I went up to the Cabin and spent the weekend with Grandpa and Grandma. That weekend was so healing for me. Grandma and Grandpa have always been my safe place, my safe haven, my refuge from the storm.

    As I have gotten older it has been amazing to me to realize that Grandpa filled so many different roles and filled them so well. He was kind, sweet, tender, and yet when a certain grandson, who shall remain nameless, needed someone to be firm and direct, Grandpa could do that too. He always knew what to say to each one of us to make us feel like we were worth a million dollars and motivate us to keep pressing forward. I realize now that his ability to be what each family member or friend needed him to be came from his desire to strive to be christ-like and show christ-like love to those he encountered. God blessed him to be an instrument in His hands in so many ways throughout his life, because my Grandpa was a willing participant. I know Grandpa wasn’t perfect, but I think he was the perfect example of striving to be like our Savior and getting back up and trying again and again when we inevitably fall short.

    Dr. William Frank Wright was so many things to so many people, but to me he was simply the best Grandpa anyone could ever hope to have. ‘May the Lord God Bless and Keep You’ Grandpa until we meet again.

  • Bill Wright was an outstanding family man, educator and gentleman. I enjoyed sharing stories with him regarding our mutual relationship with legendary high school basketball coach Ralph Tasker who Bill played for.

    I am grateful that my son had the opportunity to be mentored by him as he went through his leadership program at NAU. I very much appreciated the interest Bill showed him.

    May God bless Bill’s family and give them peace and strength.

  • Klissa Rueschhoff

    Educator, example, friend, brother – so much more comes to mind as I reminisce over my past 17 years of delightful friendship and work association with Bill Wright. In the eternities I know he will have the opportunity to meet the thousands of people he has so positively influenced. Thank you Bill, to be continued!

  • Rob and Linda Messali

    We had the great fortune to meet Bill and Martha when they became our neighbors over 20 years ago. From the moment we met them we knew we were luckier than we deserved, àñd we tried to learn from them how to be half as great as they always were. We have been so saddened since we found out about Bill’s passing. It has been such àn immeasurable privilege ànd blessing to have known Bill. Rest in peace, our dear friend.

  • THE Mullings family from Ephrata Washington

    We are very sadden for your lose we as a family were looking forward to meeting all of you,wish we had the time back to know bill and you all, our prayers are with you and your family at this time of sadness our heart are heavy with grief,the short time that we heard from him was not enough we all were looking forward to meeting this amazing man and his family may god be with you all in this time of of need may god wrap his loving arms around you all with comfort and love Amen THE MULLINGS

  • My condolences to the entire Wright family. Your loss is also a loss to many people across the country. Many that I never knew and some, I suspect Coach Wright didn’t know either, but we all know who coach Wright is. Unit 4 weeks ago, I hadn’t seen Coach Wright since 1975 which was my Junior year in Apache Junction. After more than 40 years, I was able to reconnect with the Coach 4 every Thursday, 4 weeks before we lost him. I always remembered how good I always felt when I talked to Coach Wright as a young High School student/athlete. After 40 years, I was a little more than surprised to learn that he still made me feel the same way. I only got 72 holes with Coach Wright…for that, I am eternally grateful. I will greatly miss the Coaches smile and his ability to naturally make any situation positive. If you have seen me golf, you understand. I wanted to extend my sincere thanks to the Wright family for sharing the memories with us today. I have always carried a very high opinion of Coach Wright. Based on the memories you shared with us today, Coach Wright was a much better person that I could have ever known. I knew Julie from school, but I never got the opportunity to meet her brothers or her mother. I wish I had. I am a better person for having known Coach Wright and I would have been better still if I had gotten to know the entire family just a little better. Thank-you for sharing your husband/father with us for so many years and thank-you for sharing some of those precious memories with us today.

  • I had the honor of meeting Dr. Wright as I began my doctoral candidacy at NAU just a few years ago. Dr. Wright was assigned as my advisor and assisted me in planning out my program of study. What struck me most was his genuine desire to foster leadership in a way that met the person and not the program. He was not concerned with the hoops of academia as much as he was the authenticity of the experience. As I worked with him along the way this message continued to ring true in his guidance, advice and expertise. Dr. Wight was working with me this semester on completing the final component of my program-the superintendency. I will miss his wit, insight and support and hope that my future success will serve as one small piece of the legacy he leaves behind. I was honored to work with him and to sit alongside his son Mike in the doctoral program. I know that he has impacted many lives including mine and our world and profession are both better because of his service.

  • Our condolences to the entire Wright family. I knew Coach Wright when we first moved to AJ in August 1976. During the next four years he was always there for students and friends, with his hand out to help with any problem that you might have had. He will ne missed by all who called him coach and friend.

  • Mike, Mat, and family, I am so sorry for your loss. Dr. Wright was a good man who always took the time to help out or answer questions. My prayers go with you.

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