In memoriam: William S. Beinecke ’36, supported life and learning at Yale

William S. Beinecke
William S. Beinecke ’36, ’71 M.A.H., ’86 LL.D.H., one of Yale’s most passionate and loyal benefactors.

William S. Beinecke ’36, ’71 M.A.H., ’86 LL.D.H., one of Yale’s most passionate and loyal benefactors, passed away peacefully on April 8. He was 103 years old.

Today we mourn the loss of Bill Beinecke, a phenomenal individual and a Yalie of magnificent vision and insight,” said President Peter Salovey. “An exemplar of the Yale tradition of learning, integrity, and service, Bill was a joy to know. With unflagging curiosity and keen wit, he believed in the power of knowledge and understanding to improve the world — and to make life meaningful, fun, and worth living. That was the basis of his deep and abiding commitment to this university. While we celebrate Bill’s wonderful life, we know Yale has a lost an incomparable friend.”

Beinecke’s outstanding generosity touched nearly every aspect of life and learning at Yale. Following a bequest from the estate of his father, Frederick W. Beinecke, Sheffield Class of 1909, William Beinecke helped spearhead efforts to establish a business school at Yale. Thanks to his vision and efforts, the School of Organization and Management (now the School of Management) welcomed its first class in 1976. The William and Elizabeth Beinecke Terrace Room in the new Evans Hall reflects the family’s continuing support of SOM. Inspired by an interest in the civil rights movement, Beinecke created scholarships at the Yale Law School to support diverse students in the 1960s. With nine endowed professorships, the Beinecke family supports eminent faculty and their research and teaching across several disciplines. An avid golfer from childhood, Beinecke was the principal benefactor of Yale’s golf course.

As a leader and volunteer, Beinecke served the university for many decades. He served as a successor trustee of the Yale Corporation, Yale’s board of trustees, from 1971 to 1982. He also served as founding chairman of the Sterling Fellows, as a member of the School of Management Advisory Board, and as a member of the Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors. In 2000, he was awarded the Yale Medal for his exemplary service to the university.

One of many Yale alumni in his family, Beinecke continued a legacy of giving back to the university. His father and two uncles — all Yale graduates — created the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, which opened to the public in 1963 and remains the most visible manifestation of the family’s extraordinary philanthropy.

After receiving his law degree from Columbia University, Beinecke enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, earning a Bronze Star with Combat V. He left the service with the rank of lieutenant commander. From 1952 to 1960, he served as general counsel, vice-president, and president of the Sperry & Hutchinson Company, and as chairman and chief executive officer from 1962 until his retirement in 1980. The company, founded by his great-uncle, was best known for its famed S&H Green Stamps, one of the first consumer loyalty programs.

In addition to Yale, Beinecke supported numerous educational, environmental, and other philanthropic causes during his lifetime. After his retirement in 1980, he helped found the Central Park Conservancy and served as its inaugural chairman. He also served on the boards of the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, the New York Botanical Gardens, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Beinecke’s wife Elizabeth (Betty) passed away in 2009 after nearly 70 years of marriage. He is survived by his children, Rick Beinecke ’66, John Beinecke ’69, Frances Beinecke ’71, ’74 FES, and Sarah Beinecke Richardson (a graduate of Brown University), as well as grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, many of whom are Yale graduates.

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