Bill Wilder ’40 (1922–2019)
Old Boy of Distinction (2019)
There’s good reason UCC’s arena and Prep library are named for William P. Wilder ’40, this year’s Old Boy of Distinction Award recipient. The list of Wilder’s accomplishments is long and varied and only hints at the true extent of his legacy. “I can think of no Old Boy alive today who has the combination of breadth, depth and tenure of service to society and UCC as Bill,” says former UCC Vice-Principal, Advancement Innes van Nostrand ’82 in his nomination. “The presence of the Wilder name on so many institutions, especially in Toronto, is testimony to an impact that is among the greatest by anyone in the last few decades.”
Wilder left McGill in his second year to join the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve and served as on officer on a Royal Navy destroyer in the English Channel in 1942. After the war, he completed his degree, earned his master’s at Harvard Business School, and became a leader in the business community, eventually as president of Wood Gundy. Over the years, Wilder became increasingly active in public policy, serving as an adviser to numerous companies, government and not-for-profit institutions.
Meanwhile, his philanthropic streak is legend. Wilder ran the E.W. Bickle Foundation (named for his father-in-law) for decades and is a significant donor to many arts, church, military, industry and education causes, as well as an adviser, fundraiser and board member for many esteemed organizations. Wilder is a recipient of the 2017 Order of Canada and this year was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest honour for military merit.
“When one looks at the purpose of any great national school, it must be focused on the development of people who will lead society and the nation,” van Nostrand says. “At the core, it requires a combination of competency—the skills and abilities to be highly successful—as well as the development of the kind of character infused by a sense of civic duty, selflessness and generosity. Without question, UCC would not be the place it is today without the role Bill Wilder has played as an Old Boy champion over the last 70 years.”