Former Provost Gary Whitehouse, who helped lead UCF during a key growth period, died March 31. He was 78.

Whitehouse came to the university in 1978, when it was known as Florida Technological University, as a professor and chair of the industrial engineering department. At the time, the school’s enrollment was about 11,000 students.

Ten years later, he was named dean of the College of Engineering. He drew praise for elevating the reputation of the engineering school.

“He [Whitehouse] was the dean who hired me at UCF in 1993. We had one of the most interesting and inspiring conversations that ultimately helped me make up my mind that I wanted to work at UCF,” said Manoj Chopra, professor of engineering who’s been at UCF since and has served on the university’s Board of Trustees. “We talked everything from sports to computer programming to research. He was a very warm person and I enjoyed the wonderful conversations we had together.”

In 1992, Whitehouse chaired the presidential search committee that ultimately selected UCF’s current and longest-serving president, John C. Hitt. The following year, after a national search, Hitt tapped Whitehouse to serve as provost.

In that role, Whitehouse held the second-highest rank at UCF and was the university’s top academic officer. He spent 10 years as provost, and was the architect behind much of UCF’s academic growth during that time. Under Hitt and Whitehouse the faculty grew by more than 300, dozens of new degree programs were added and enrollment increased by more than two-thirds.

Hitt said Whitehouse was “both a skilled administrator and a true academic leader. He soon became a trusted friend.”

During his years as provost, Whitehouse missed the classroom. He stepped down as provost in 2003 so he could return to teaching and research in the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s industrial engineering and management systems department. He retired in 2005.

“He really enjoyed working with students of all levels. He returned to teaching many times throughout his career,” said Gail DePuy, his daughter. “It was clear how much he enjoyed his career choice in higher education.”

His son, Glenn, added: “My parents both viewed the university as not just a place to work, but as a community. As a family, we were always going to theater plays, sporting events, musical productions and other events. We used the university as a cultural resource in our family life. We have a lot of great memories at UCF.”

In retirement, Whitehouse traveled with his wife of 53 years, Marian, who preceded him in death, and spent time with their grandchildren. He also was a hospital volunteer near their home in Bonita Springs, Fla.

He is survived by his daughter, Gail, and her husband Wynand; son, Glenn, and his wife Marianne; and three grandchildren: Daniel Whitehouse, Meredith DePuy and Drew DePuy.