Bill Fry came to Cornell first as a graduate student in 1966 and then returned to the faculty in 1971. He has been an assistant, associate and full professor in the Department of Plant Pathology (now Plant Pathology and Microbe-Biology). His scholarly specialization has been the late blight disease of potatoes and tomatoes caused by the oomycete pathogen, Phytophthora infestans. His lab confirmed major worldwide migrations of this pathogen during the latter quarter of the 20th century and predicted implications to potato production world wide. His teaching has included introductory plant pathology and epidemiology and management of plant diseases.
His administrative duties have included diverse responsibilities. He was chair of his department from 1981 through 1995. He was president of his national professional society from 1995 to 1996. From 1998 to 2002, he was a Faculty Trustee on the Cornell University Board of Trustees. From 2001 into 2007 he was Senior Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In spring 2008 he was elected Dean of the University Faculty.
He views the faculty as central to the strength of the university. It is their scholarship that establishes the reputation of the university, their teaching that motivates and encourages students, their outreach that helps citizens, and their governance that provides a concerned, sometimes passionate, voice on a wide diversity of issues facing the university.