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William S. Beinecke '31, a member of the Board of Trustees from 1955-1976 and an Honorary Trustee since 1976, passed away on April 8, 2018, at age 103 in New York, NY. He was associated with Pingry for nearly 95 years and is one of the most influential and visionary figures in the School's history. His foresight and generosity were largely responsible for transforming Pingry into the school it is today. He not only urged Pingry to move west from Hillside to Bernards Township to position the School for New Jersey's population growth and attract the best students, but he also purchased the land for the current campus, sold the land to Pingry, eventually forgave the mortgage note—thereby gifting the property to the School—and established a trust to pay for the future construction of the headmaster's residence on the new campus.
The story of the campus move has been well-documented in Pingry publications. The process began in December 1969 when Mr. Beinecke "realized that Pingry was in the wrong place for the long-term" and nervously suggested to then-Board Chair Robert W. Parsons P '51, '55 that Pingry needed to move again. Mr. Beinecke's trepidation about the Board Chair's potential response was understandable: it had been only 16 years since Pingry had relocated from Parker Road in Elizabeth to North Avenue in Hillside, and not even 20 years since Mr. Parsons had dealt with those difficulties. Nevertheless, Mr. Beinecke cited two major reasons for his recommendation: because many European cities prospered near the intersections of major highways, Pingry should move to an area near the future intersection of Interstates 78 and 287; and the population from which Pingry could draw students was expanding and moving west. It turned out that Mr. Parsons agreed. To make the move a reality, the School raised money for the construction and design of a new building, conquered numerous obstacles with many government agencies, and sold the Hillside property to Kean College (now Kean University).
Along with his prompting of and financial support for the campus move, Mr. Beinecke was a charter member of Pingry's C.B. Newton Society; established the L. Dean Speir Scholarship Endowment Fund (named for a lifetime friend) and the William Miller Sperry Scholarship Endowment Fund for financial aid (named for his grandfather); served as Honorary Co-Chair of The Campaign for Pingry (the School's first major capital campaign from 1996-2000) with his wife Elizabeth; served as an Honorary Member of the 150th Anniversary Committee (2011-2012); and returned to Pingry in May 2011 to deliver the first speech for the 150th Anniversary Lecture and Performance Series, when he recounted his history with the School and students presented him with a birthday cake in honor of his 97th birthday. On the same day that Mr. Beinecke delivered his remarks, he helped Pingry break ground for the headmaster's new residence, Beinecke House, which was dedicated in October 2012 and later featured in Design NJ.
Although he entered Pingry as a fifth-grade student in 1923 and remained for only three years until his family moved from Cranford to Madison in 1926, Pingry bestowed its most significant honors upon him over the decades: the Letter-in-Life Award (1969), stating that Mr. Beinecke's "high sense of civic responsibility is exemplified in his continuing interest in independent and public education and willing service to his country"; dedication of the School's swimming pool in his name (1984); an official Pingry diploma (2000), his only high school diploma; and the Cyril and Beatrice Baldwin Pingry Family Citizen of the Year Award (2014), on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
Furthermore, on December 12, 1985, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution expressing great respect and warm regard for Mr. Beinecke, writing, "Much of Pingry's strength today can be traced to the imaginative leadership and steadfast support of Bill Beinecke...Throughout the difficult years leading up to the actual move, Bill's active encouragement and thoughtful counsel served as a source of strength for us. When it appeared that we were in troubled waters, his guidance and reassurance kept us on an even keel. His generosity served as a beacon to motivate others to provide funding for the project. Almost safe in port, we can honestly say that we would not have attempted the voyage without Bill Beinecke. His qualities, combined with his personal warmth and good cheer, are a lasting inspiration for the entire Pingry family."
After attending Pingry, he went to Madison Academy, Westminster School in Simsbury, CT, and Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (Class of 1932). He received a B.A. from Yale University (1936), an LL.B. from Columbia University Law School (1940), and honorary LL.D. degrees from Yale (1986), Southwestern University (1967), and The Catholic University of America (1972). Mr. Beinecke also received Columbia University's Alumni Medal (1971), Westminster School's Alumni Award (1982), and the Yale Medal (2000). In addition, he served as a trustee at Yale, which rededicated its Golf House in his honor and is the site of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Columbia Law School also benefited from his generosity.
Principal at Antaeus Enterprises, Inc., a private investment company, at the time of his death, Mr. Beinecke was the retired Chairman and CEO of Sperry and Hutchinson Company, the nation's oldest trading stamp company (S&H Green Stamps, one of the first consumer loyalty programs). Founded in 1896 by Thomas A. Sperry and Shelly B. Hutchinson, the company was purchased in 1923 by Mr. Beinecke's father (Frederick William Beinecke) and uncles (Walter and Edwin Beinecke). The company was wholly owned by the Beinecke family until 1966, when a succession of public stock offerings gradually reduced the family's holdings. Prior to joining Sperry and Hutchinson Company, Mr. Beinecke was an attorney with Casey, Beinecke and Chase (partner and co-founder) and Chadbourne, Wallace, Parke and Whiteside. He served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving on destroyers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres, and earned the Bronze Star with Combat V. He was retired as a Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve. Mr. Beinecke is the author of Through Mem'ry's Haze: A Personal Memoir.
Among his other affiliations, Mr. Beinecke was Chair of the Board of Directors of The Prospect Hill Foundation (which he established with his wife Elizabeth in 1959); first Board Chair and then a Life Trustee of the Central Park Conservancy; Honorary Member of the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research; Director of The Sperry Fund; Honorary Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History; and Trustee Emeritus of The New York Botanical Garden.
Mr. Beinecke's wife Elizabeth (Betty) predeceased him in 2009 after nearly 70 years of marriage. Survivors include his children Rick '61, John '64, Frances, and Sarah; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. He is a first cousin (once removed) of William Miller Sperry II, Pingry Class of 1912, and a second cousin of Mather "Kim" Whitehead, Pingry Class of 1931. Several other Sperry cousins are also Pingry alumni.
"He was an amazing man who had a great love for Pingry," says Headmaster Nat Conard P '09, '11. "His impact on this school will be felt for generations to come."
Click to read obituaries from The New York Times and Yale University.
Pictured: Mr. Beinecke returned to Pingry in May 2011 to deliver the first speech for the 150th Anniversary Lecture and Performance Series, when he recounted his history with the School and students presented him with a birthday cake in honor of his 97th birthday.
Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org