Almanac Online - Lasting Memories - Bill Hoff Busse's memorial

Bill Hoff Busse
Dec. 15, 1927-April 19, 2021
Palo Alto, California

Retired architect Bill Hoff Busse, known just as much for designing significant buildings at Stanford University as for lending his skills to volunteer projects throughout Palo Alto, died of natural causes at his Palo Alto home on April 19. He was 93.

Busse's name is attributed to numerous noted buildings in the area, including the downtown Palo Alto City Library, the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and Stanford University's Tresidder Memorial Union.

Busse, pronounced "BUS-ee", joined Spencer Associates Architecture firm in Palo Alto after graduating from Stanford with a master's degree in architecture in 1953 and briefly working at the university's planning department. Through Spencer Associates, which was responsible for designing and renovating several million square feet of the university's campus, Busse oversaw numerous campus building projects, including the earth sciences building, solar observatory and other science buildings.

His favorite project, he told the Palo Alto Weekly during a 2016 interview, was as lead designer of the Tresidder Memorial Union building, which for decades has served as a main campus hub for students.

Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions at Stanford, said the building has remained a model for other new buildings on campus since its completion in 1962.

"(Tresidder Memorial) has served its purpose long and well," said Jan Stypula, a former principal of Spencer Associates, where Busse also served as principal before retiring in 1988.

During his storied career, Busse oversaw many projects beyond Stanford, including the Palo Alto library, which featured eight concrete columns designed to make the interior more flexible. He also incorporated wrought-iron entry gates into the design to pay tribute to early Palo Alto's Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings championed by local architect Birge Clarke in the 1920s. (The gates have since been removed from the library.)

"He did a lot of wonderful projects for the city of Palo Alto," Stypula said.

After retiring, Busse continued to lend his architectural skills for small projects throughout the city, including the design and installation of sun shades at Greer Park — which he built in his basement with a crew of 30 volunteers — and the metal signpost honoring Palo Alto's eight sister cities at King Plaza at City Hall.

He also served as vice president of environmental affairs for the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, president of the Palo Alto Family YMCA board of directors and president of the Palo Alto Rotary Club. In 2016, he received the Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement Award for his public service.

In his Professorville neighborhood, Busse was known for hosting an annual ice-cream social, where he served homemade ice cream made from peaches grown in his backyard. The event grew to include most of the block and beyond.

Busse was born in Prescott, Arizona, on Dec. 15, 1927, to Frederick and Alpha Alvilda Hoff Busse. After graduating from high school in 1945, he joined the U.S. Navy and trained as a pilot for two years. He later earned the rank of officer and served in the Korean War.

He ended up settling in Palo Alto in the 1950s after stopping in the city to visit his wife's family while headed back to the University of Southern California to finish college.

Busse said he "didn't know Stanford from anywhere," but decided to enroll at the university so his wife could be closer to family.

Busse is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Palo Alto; his children Curt Busse of Orlando, Florida, Jan Murphy of Menlo Park, and Matt Busse of Davis; and four grandchildren.

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