Amherst College notes the passing of William McCall Vickery '57 on Feb. 4, 2019. On Feb. 6, President Biddy Martin sent the following email to faculty and staff, describing Vickery's many roles within and contributions to the College community:
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I write with the sad news that a dear friend of the College, William “Bill” Vickery ’57, has died. Over the course of more than six decades, Bill was a devoted alumnus, volunteer, employee, and supporter of Amherst. There was no aspect of Amherst’s mission that did not interest him, no project too big or too small for his input, no area of the College that did not benefit from his energetic, wry, and deeply insightful engagement. Bill was brilliant, urbane, opinionated, observant, and one of a kind. We will miss him a great deal.
Born in Savannah, Ga., Bill attended Ridgewood High School in New Jersey. At Amherst he majored in economics and graduated cum laude. After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, he launched a 27-year career in advertising with Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in New York City. In 1987 Vickery retired as vice chair of the company’s board and chair of DFS International.
Throughout his career in advertising in New York, Bill served in a dazzling number of volunteer roles for the College: he was class agent, class president, president of the New York alumni association, member and chair of the executive committee of the Alumni Council, President of the Society of the Alumni, and chair of the Alumni Fund. It is no surprise that the College awarded him the Medal for Eminent Service in 1979 and the Distinguished Service Award in 1983.
When asked how he came to return to his alma mater for the second chapter of his career, Bill, with characteristically understated humor, used to enjoy sharing a story involving then-president Peter Pouncey. Peter had remarked at one point: “You know, if you ever get tired of working in advertising, there will always be a place for you at the College.” One day Bill decided to take him up on this offer. He joined the staff at Amherst in 1988, first as a gifts officer in Advancement, then as assistant treasurer. Thereafter, until his retirement in 2008, he divided his time between the treasurer’s office and Alumni and Parent Programs, where he directed 25th and 50th reunion programming. During the Campaign for Amherst in the late 1990s, he chaired the Campus Community initiative, which resulted in contributions from 75 percent of the faculty and more than 50 percent of the staff. In recognition of this, he received a second Distinguished Service Award in 2001. Bill served on the board of governors of the Emily Dickinson Museum and was, until his death, an active member of the board of the holding company for the Inn on Boltwood.
Bill was also a generous and broad-minded donor to the College, and here, too, there was seemingly no aspect of Amherst that did not benefit from his interest. From academics to athletics to the arts—the Russian Culture Fund, the Robert Frost Statue Fund, the renovation of the squash courts, the Orchestra Fund, the women’s basketball program, the Choral Society—all told, Bill contributed generously to more than 26 individual funds at the College. In 2007, in honor of his 50th reunion, he endowed The William McCall Vickery 1957 Professorship, honoring a senior faculty member who is distinguished by and dedicated to teaching and research of art history or musicology. Art historian Nicola Courtright has held this professorship since 2015. The previous recipient, appointed in 2008, was Carol Clark, now a professor emerita in art history and American studies.
Bill was an incredibly present person. When he saw something that needed doing, whether it was restoring the lobby of Converse Hall to its former glory, thinking creatively about how Alumni and Parent Programs could improve their programming, or doing a deep dive on the ways that Valentine could best serve students, Bill acted decisively and put all of himself into what he believed was best. Listing Bill’s remarkable range of positions and engagements at the College, unparalleled though it is, does not do justice to the force that Bill was at the College or as a person. Bill was a man who cultivated rich relationships, who never missed a chance to connect in meaningful ways with those around him. He also kept up to date and welcomed change, even while honoring tradition. He appreciated that the core of what had been special about Amherst to him as a student is still at the heart of a different Amherst today.
I am grateful that Amherst was a home to Bill; he added so much to the College and to so many of our lives. I extend my deepest condolences to all the members of our community whose lives were touched by Bill, to his nephew and nieces, and to his many dear friends. Bill requested that no memorial services be held for him. We are working on a fitting permanent tribute and will announce plans as they take shape.
Please read Vickery's obituary for more information.
We invite members of the Amherst College community to leave notes and remembrances by logging in and clicking “Add comment” below.