EducationWillard attended William Jewell College, and later graduated from Tennessee Temple College in 1956 with a B.A. in Psychology, and from Baylor University in 1956 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion. He went to graduate school at Baylor University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a Ph. D. in Philosophy with a minor in the History of Science in 1964.
Academic careerWillard taught at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1960-1965. Since then he has taught at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he served as Director of the School of Philosophy from 1982-1985. He has also held visiting appointments at UCLA (1969) and the University of Colorado (1984).
His publications in philosophy are concerned primarily with epistemology, the philosophy of mind and of logic, and with the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. He has translated many of Husserl's early writings from German into English.