William Ferguson ’52: “Friend, Leader, Mentor”

Every morning, President Mauri Ditzler walks through the doors of the William C. Ferguson Student, Technology and Administrative Services Building and passes the portrait of the building’s namesake, William Ferguson, a longtime board member and past interim president of the college.

“I seem to hear him say as I walk to my office, ‘Don’t be messing up my college,’” Ditzler said with a chuckle.

This is only one testament to the effects Ferguson had on Albion College. Described as a “gentle giant,” those who knew him well agree that there were few people who were more intelligent and generous than Ferguson was.

A graduate of the class of 1952, he studied mathematics and economics, while obtaining a secondary education certificate. He was a member of the fraternity of Alpha Tau Omega and played on the baseball team. After he graduated, Ferguson’s career path started by teaching mathematics with the Army and working with Michigan Bell It ended with him being the CEO of NYNEX, which is now known now as Verizon.

Despite his successes in the industry and business world, Ferguson was never far away from Albion. He served on the Board of Trustees for 33 years and even served as interim president for 6 months when the college was in need of someone to fill the role. Ferguson didn’t just simply fill the role, however, but he also led the college into a new era, solving problems with the confidence and intellect he was renowned for.

Jeanne Bachus, who has been the assistant to the Board and the President’s office for 16 years, recalled her years working for him fondly, “He was very easy to talk to.  He could extrapolate things from data that was presented and understand the whole big picture.”

His ability to understand and tackle problems benefited the college in a myriad of ways and instilled a deep loyalty from those who worked with him. Yet it wasn’t always just about the numbers for Ferguson. He was never above bantering with a fellow baseball teammate about missed plays and old memories, and he never missed a beat when joking with other board members.

“My memories of Bill include his jousting with his good friend Skip Ungrodt. They were tennis mates at Albion and played each other for many years during our Board meeting off time.  They never really disclosed who won or the lifetime record but the joy of their friendship and tennis battles still makes me smile,” said Paul Tobias, a trustee of the college, in an email. “Inside or outside of a Board meeting he projected warmth and affection. He loved the college and it always showed in his actions and in his words, “

“He’s the type of person you would follow anywhere,” Bachus said.

His intelligence earned their respect; his charisma and his passion for Albion earned their love. However, even with the influential roles he played, his humility was always greater.

Marie Ames worked with Ferguson closely throughout her 17 years of working for the college in Institutional Advancement. “He gave his time, talent and treasure so humbly. It easily could’ve been all about him, but it wasn’t,” Ames said.

Ferguson’s deep dedication wasn’t just centered on the college he loved. His dedication to his family and especially to his wife, Joyce, was just as well known as his commitment to Albion.  

“You knew they were kind and generous people, and they were both a joy to be around,” Tobias said.

His wife’s dedication is still clearly evident. She sends each current president a purple tie as well as being an active participant in each generous gift to the college.

“[Ferguson] was always talking to his wife. They were two partners joining the cause,” said Ames.

He served the college faithfully as student, faculty and supporter. His legacy will live on much longer than the years he served.

When asked to describe Ferguson in one word, Tobias simply responded, “Not one word but threeFriend, Leader, Mentor.”

A memorial service for Ferguson will take place on Nov. 16, in Jupiter, Florida.


About Clare Kolenda 35 Articles
Clare Kolenda is a Grand Rapids, Mich., senior, a lover of words and all things coffee. She's passionate about writing stories that feature the everyday heroes of the community.

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