Serving as dean for 20 years, William S. Middleton was a brilliant teacher, administrator, and writer, and an unequalled bedside physician. He influenced scores of medical students in his 63 years on the UW–Madison faculty, beginning in 1912, when he joined the staff of the Student Health Service, and continuing beyond his deanship (1935–55). A member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps in two world wars, Middleton became chief consultant in medicine for the European Theater of Operations from 1942 to 1945 and a special advisor to the surgeon general of the Army during the Korean War. He served for eight years as chief medical director of the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC, and the U.S. Senate renamed the Madison veterans hospital after him a year after his death.
Known for his intense, positive approach to medical, academic, and administrative situations, Middleton displayed a lighthearted creativity that endeared him to his students, and he established the Brown Derby tradition. He is remembered for his dedication to his patients and his astute ability in and knowledge of diagnosis.