William “Bill” Sperry Beinecke
William “Bill” Sperry Beinecke died at home in New York City on April 8, 2018, at age 103. Born on May 22, 1914 in New York City, Bill was the son of Frederick W. Beinecke and Carrie (Sperry) Beinecke. His paternal grandfather, Bernhard Beinecke, was a German immigrant who, among his entrepreneurial ventures, created New York City’s Plaza Hotel and Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel. His maternal grandfather, William Miller Sperry, was coproprietor of the Sperry and Hutchinson Company. S&H, as the company was widely known, became prominent after World War II as the S&H Green Stamp Company, one of the first consumer loyalty programs in the country.
Bill grew up in New Jersey and attended public schools in Cranford as well as the Pingry School, Madison Academy, the Westminster School, and Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College in 1936 and Columbia Law School in 1940. The following year he married Elizabeth “Betty” Gillespie, a union that would endure almost seventy years, until her death in 2009.
During World War II he served on two destroyers, the USS Buck on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, and the USS Murray in the Pacific. He left the Navy as a lieutenant commander with eleven battle stars, earning a Bronze Star with a Combat V.
In 1951, Bill joined S&H as general counsel, and rose to become its president, CEO and chairman of the board. Bill took the company public and by the time he retired in 1980 had transformed it into a diversified corporation. Bill guided S&H to become a socially responsible corporate leader. He also served as a director to numerous companies including Manufacturers Hanover Corporation and Consolidated Edison Corporation.
Bill was a committed philanthropist, best evidenced through the creation of The Prospect Hill Foundation with his wife Betty in 1959. Bill and Betty were generous supporters of many initiatives and institutions on Cape Cod over the past sixty years. He was an engaged and devoted alumnus of Yale University, where he served as a trustee on the Yale Corporation and was a leading force in the establishment of the Yale School of Management. In addition, he served as a trustee of Andover, Kent Place School, and the Pingry School and was instrumental in its move to its present campus in Martinsville, New Jersey.
In 1979, after thirty years in Summit, New Jersey, Bill and Betty moved to New York City where he served as the first chairman of the Central Park Conservancy, from 1980 to 1986, and was a prime mover for the restoration of Manhattan’s most treasured open space. He also served as a trustee of Roosevelt Hospital and the Committee for Economic Development, as a board member of the New York Botanical Garden and the American Museum of Natural History, and as founding chairman of the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research.
Bill was an enthusiastic and dedicated golfer who played more than 430 different courses during his life. He was a member of the Eastward Ho! golf club in Chatham, Baltusrol and Morris County Golf Clubs in New Jersey, and Gulfstream and the Little Club in Delray, Florida. He was an avid bridge player, playing weekly at the Yale Club in New York City, and on Cape Cod, where he was a longtime member of the Circulating Library.
Bill was proud of his family and his country, loyal to his friends, and generous to the institutions and causes that were close to his heart. But above all he believed in people. He was endlessly curious, a wise and farsighted observer of history and current events, and a warm and caring friend and mentor. He will be deeply missed by his wide circle of friends and family, across many generations.
Bill was the author of a memoir, Through Mem’ry’s Haze, and of a biography of his late wife, Betty Gillespie Beinecke. His brother Richard predeceased him. He is survived by his four children, Frederick “Rick” (Candace Krugman), John (Gaily Wurtzel), Sarah (Craig Richardson), and Frances (Paul Elston), as well as seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren who knew and loved him as Opa.
Contributions in honor of Bill Beinecke may be made to the Central Park Conservancy (http://www.centralparknyc.org). A memorial celebration is being planned for May 22nd in New York City.