Frank L. Hereford Jr., 81, a nuclear physicist who served as president of the University of Virginia from 1974 to 1985, a period marked by large fundraising gains and some newsmaking controversies, died Sept. 21 at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, a continuing care retirement community in Charlottesville. He had Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Hereford spent much of his life at the university, first as a graduate and then as a faculty member starting in 1949. He later was Physics Department chairman -- he was praised for attracting research grants -- and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

From 1966 to 1971, he was provost, the university's chief academic officer, and oversaw the plan to create a coeducational institution.

He was the university's fifth president, a position he was voted into unanimously by the school's Board of Visitors.

As president, he was credited with launching one of the school's largest and most successful capital campaigns. The campaign raised about $150 million at a time when federal funding was waning and inflation was rising.

Dr. Hereford, cautiously outspoken, said in 1981 that the national and state governments "have moved higher education to a lower order of priority."

The money was aimed at financing endowed professorships, enlarging scholarship and fellowship programs, constructing buildings and renovating older structures.

His tenure was marked by several episodes of vocal dissension. He spent several months defending his membership in a socially prominent, racially segregated country club before quitting after a faculty group censured him, a department chairman threatened to resign from the school and others expressed worry about the school's ability to recruit black students.

In the late 1970s, he enforced a Board of Visitors decision restricting the independence of the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper that had taken an increasingly liberal editorial line. After the paper declined to buckle, the administration forced it off campus. Protests ensued, resulting in an effigy of the president being hanged from a tree.

A compromise was reached and, not long after, the university backed the creation of a new newspaper, the University Journal.

Dr. Hereford said in a statement: "I am very pleased that the issue has been settled. I have always thought that the idea of an independent newspaper had merit."

He returned to the classroom in 1985 and retired in 1992, when he became professor emeritus of physics.

Frank Loucks Hereford Jr., whose father supplied equipment to the oil industry, was a native of Lake Charles, La. He was a 1943 graduate of the University of Virginia, where he also received a doctorate in physics in 1947. He studied under physicist Jesse W. Beams, who was actively involved with the Manhattan Project, the government's wartime project to build an atomic bomb.

Beams later lauded Dr. Hereford for "several very important contributions to physics." He was a co-discoverer of the presence of heavy particles striking Earth from outer space and did extensive work on matters involving low temperature physics.

In 1966, he received the Thomas Jefferson Award, one of the school's top awards for service.

He published more than 60 scholarly articles. Hereford College, an undergraduate residence, was named in his honor.

His wife, Ann Lane Hereford, whom he married in 1948, died in 1997. A daughter, Marguerite Hereford, died in a car accident in 1980.

Survivors include three children, Frank L. Hereford of Charlottesville, Sarah H. Rick of Atlanta and Robert M. Hereford of Virginia Beach; and nine grandchildren.