Former Trustee and Legends Society member William S. “Bill” Wesson, 88, a resident of Palencia, Fla., died Wednesday, Aug. 16. He loved his family, animals (especially cats Anderson and Cinnamon), classical music, good food and good wine.
Bill was born in Seattle, Wash., in 1929. When he was young, the family moved to Massachusetts to be closer to his father’s family. Bill graduated from Westfield High School in 1947; he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1954, both from Cornell University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953 and was a first lieutenant, 11th Airborne Division, at the time of his discharge. In 1954, he married Barbara Werner; they had three children.
Bill spent his 33-year career with Scott Paper Company and retired in 1987 as president of Scott Paper International. He served on the boards of several Scott Paper affiliates.
When Bill was sent to London to manage Bowater Scott, he met his wife, Jan, through mutual friends. It was love at first sight; they married a year later and enjoyed 36 years together. For many of those years, Bill and Jan divided their time between homes in Springfield, N.H., and Barbados. In 2014, they built their home in Palencia.
For decades, Colby-Sawyer has been the beneficiary of Jan’s and Bill’s generous support. They are members of the Legends Society, which honors those whose extraordinary philanthropy at the college equals $1 million or more, as well as the Heritage Society, which recognizes those who provide for Colby-Sawyer’s future through a bequest or deferred gift.
“I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Bill and Jan this spring at their lovely home in Florida,” said President Susan D. Stuebner. “Bill asked many questions about the college and clearly remained very interested in our success. Our time together illustrated his generous spirit, curious mind and commitment to Colby-Sawyer. He and Jan have already had a tremendous impact on our college that will continue to affect students in the honors program for years to come. We will miss Bill and are so very grateful for Jan’s and his support.”
In 1995, Bill was elected to the college’s Board of Trustees. He began his first of three three-year terms as a member of the Finance and Enrollment Management (chair 1997–1999) committees. He also served on the Advancement, Board Organization (chair 1999–2004) and Executive committees as well as the Audit and Investment subcommittees.
Together, Bill and Jan established the Wesson Honors Program, which offers intensive academic, cultural and social opportunities for the most motivated and capable students who combine a solid work ethic and natural ability with intellectual curiosity.
“I have had the extraordinary privilege of working with students, faculty and staff in the Wesson Honors Program to help realize Bill and Jan Wesson’s dream of supporting academic excellence at the college,” said Ann Page Stecker, program coordinator and professor of Humanities. “At a Board of Trustees luncheon this spring, I mentioned I wouldn’t be there to describe our work without the constant support, challenges and imagination Bill and Jan provided. Then three students spoke about experiences the program had provided them: a variety of interdisciplinary courses, IDEA Fund grants to pursue research projects, travel abroad, and committed faculty. I’ll cherish the memory of Bill’s and Jan’s engagement and participation in the life of the college always.”
Bill is survived by his wife, Jan; children Edward, Anne and Lee; grandchildren Christopher, Jessica, Kyle and Kevin; and sister Margo Gorham of Cheshire, Conn. He was predeceased by his sister Carol. A funeral service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Parish on St. George Street in St. Augustine, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 11 a.m.