Bill Wilkins was a faculty member and administrator at Oregon State University from 1961 until his retirement in 1994. He was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department in 1961 and served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1982 to 1994.

A native of Texas, Wilkins earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas A & I University and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas. His college education was interrupted by four years of active duty in the Air Force, including a combat tour in Korea. He remained in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement in 1982 as a colonel.

Wilkins was active in politics and served as chair of the Benton County Democratic Party and co-chair of the 1968 Robert Kennedy presidential campaign in Benton County.

During several leaves from OSU, he worked as a staff economist for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and as an associate administrator for policy and international aviation affairs with the Federal Aviation Administration. He served as president of Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences.