William “Bill” Beinecke ’36 — who helped establish the Yale School of Management — died on Sunday morning, 44 days short of his 104th birthday.
Beinecke was the son of Frederick Beinecke, the founder of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. He was a donor to the library and the principal benefactor of the Yale Golf Course for more than half a century. Beinecke was a graduate of Columbia Law School, founder of the Central Park Conservancy and chairman of Sperry & Hutchinson Green Stamps. He served on the Yale Corporation from 1971 to 1982.
Beinecke was also instrumental in the establishment of the Yale School of Management in 1976. He had championed the initiative to establish a business school at the University for over two decades and directed a bequest from his father, as well as some of his own funds, towards founding the SOM.
“If anyone can be described as the founder of [the SOM], it is Mr. Beinecke,” Acting SOM Dean Anjani Jain wrote in an email to the school community on Sunday. “His steadfast vision for [the SOM], his knowledge of the rapidly evolving private and public institutions in the country, his unstinting service to Yale, and his deep respect for Yale’s scholarly tradition earned him the powers of persuasion that eventually resolved the debate and endowed [the SOM] with the mission that remains invariant to this day.”
In the email, Jain referred to Beinecke’s account of the birth of the SOM — which he gave in a 1983 address during the first five-year reunion of the charter class of 1978 — as “illuminating” and “inspiring.” Beinecke remained “astonishingly lucid, sharp and joyful till the end of his life,” Jain added.
Sharon Oster, a former dean of the SOM and a current professor of management and entrepreneurship at the school, said Beinecke’s vision continues to inform the school’s mission of integrating the University’s values into a rigorous business program.
“Mr. Beinecke was from the beginning Yale SOM’s greatest friend,” she said. “He advocated for the establishment of a management school when he was on the Yale Corporation, arguing that it was indeed possible to have a management school that embraced Yale values of social value and intellectual rigor. We have tried to live up to his vision for us ever since.”
In an email to the News, Oster reminisced about “wielding shovels” with Beinecke at the groundbreaking of SOM’s Evans Hall and playing bridge with him and a few students at the school. She said that Beinecke was always sure to let those at the SOM know if they were not living up to their potential.
Joel Getz, senior associate dean for development and alumni relations, described Beinecke as “extraordinary” and said he cherished the sharpness of his memory. According to Getz, Beinecke last visited the SOM on April 24, 2017, to have lunch with the Beinecke professors at the school and Dean Edward Snyder.
Across the University, Beinecke’s work and spirit earned him the respect of his colleagues. Charles Ellis ’59, who served as a member of the Corporation with Beinecke, described Beinecke as a visionary.
“More than anyone, from before the beginning all the way to today, Bill Beinecke envisioned and led others to understand how important Yale SOM could and would be to the University,” Ellis said. “Bill was clear on the vision, a generous leader in financing and a genial genius at uniting many into a singular commitment.”
Former University President Richard Levin praised Beinecke’s “passion” and “mental agility” recalling how, at the age of 96, he gave a 10-minute speech about the business school without notes. He added that Beinecke was one of his most trusted advisers during his presidency, despite the fact that Beinecke was no longer serving on the Yale Corporation.
“He understood deeply the values and traditions of the place, and he had complete clarity about the moral principles that he … believed a president’s actions should exemplify,” Levin said. “He was one of Yale’s greatest stewards; knowing him was one of the great privileges of my presidency.”
Beyond his work on the Corporation and as a champion of the SOM, Beinecke continued his family’s work with the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library.
“He was truly connected with this place,” said Edwin Schroeder, the current director of the Beinecke. “Bill took great pride in what his father and uncles did and how the Beinecke Library succeeded so well in meeting their aspirations, as a center of scholarship, research, teaching and public exhibitions. As a friend and as a Yale trustee, he made sure the library both maintained a secure fiscal foundation and kept growing in its reach.”
His legacy also continues to impact the University’s golf course. Peter Pulaski, the director of golf operations at The Course at Yale, said he will remember Beinecke fondly, in particular their times chatting on the course about Beinecke’s time playing golf. According to Pulaski, Beinecke’s support and contributions to The Course at Yale are “responsible for its continuing preservation and restoration for students and the entire Yale community.”
Former Secretary of the University Linda Lorimer described Beinecke as an inspiration to her and to hundreds, if not thousands, of others — as a Yale trustee, a Yale alumnus, a major donor, a father, a husband and a centenarian. She added that his dedication to Yale was unparalleled.
“No one loved Yale more than he did — and I mean no one,” she said, pointing out that Beinecke borrowed lyrics from “Bright College Years,” for the title of his autobiography, “Through Mem’ry’s Haze.” “He epitomized generosity. … Just being around Mr. Beinecke made me, and everyone else, feel joyful. The phrase ‘joie de vivre’ captures him precisely.”
Beinecke is survived by four children: Frances Beinecke ’71 FES ’74 — an environmentalist and former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council — Frederick Beinecke ’66, John Beinecke ’69 and Sarah Beinecke Richardson. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
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