The distinguishing feature of adult stem cells is their extraordinary capacity to divide prior to the onset of senescence. While stratified epithelia such as skin, prostate, and breast are highly regenerative and account disproportionately for human cancers, genes essential for the proliferative capacity of their stem cells remain unknown. Here we analyze p63, a gene whose deletion in mice results in the catastrophic loss of all stratified epithelia. We demonstrate that p63 is strongly expressed in epithelial cells with high clonogenic and proliferative capacity and that stem cells lacking p63 undergo a premature proliferative rundown. Additionally, we show that p63 is dispensable for both the commitment and differentiation of these stem cells during tissue morphogenesis. Together, these data identify p63 as a key, lineage-specific determinant of the proliferative capacity in stem cells of stratified epithelia.