Two days before his 100th birthday, William “Bill” F. Quillian, Jr. and his family members gathered on the Randolph College campus for a dinner honoring him and also raising money for one of his favorite organizations, the Virginia Legal Aid Society. Before the dinner, his daughter Ann suggested they take a family picture in the new Student Center. Randolph President John E. Klein said he knew the perfect spot and led the family to a third-floor conference room.
As Bill walked into the room, he was surprised by applause from dozens of Randolph faculty, staff, alumnae, and alumni. He smiled and waved while his wife, Margaret, entered behind him with a bewildered expression.
“He’s always been unafraid to do what he feels is right. This has engendered a great deal of respect for him”
– Bill Quillian III
When the cheers faded, John announced that the Board of Trustees had chosen to name the room the William F. Quillian, Jr. Conference Room. “You will always be the longest- serving president. Under you, so many great things occurred. We thought it is only right and fitting that we should name something permanent after you,” John said.
The surprise conference room appellation was one of several ways that the College and its graduates celebrated the centennial birthday of the College’s beloved former president. Alumnae and alumni voted to name Bill as the first male honorary alumnus. Local alumnae, alumni, and friends celebrated his birthday with a party at Westminster Canterbury, where he lives, and many others sent cards and gave more than $17,000 in gifts to the College in Bill’s honor. (Gifts honoring his birthday are still being accepted.)
Bill and Margaret came to Lynchburg in 1952 when he began his tenure as the sixth president of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. He served in that role for 26 years, during which time he oversaw construction on campus, racial integration of the student body, the end of sororities, and the launching of the College’s flagship study abroad program, The World in Britain. After retiring, Bill served in various business and civic leadership roles in the Lynchburg area. He has remained a long-time supporter of the College, speaking at Commencement in 2010 and penning Voices from R-MWC, a collection of essays about the College and his leadership.
His son, Bill Quillian III, said his father went about his work in a confident but humble manner, firmly giving his own views but listening to others as well. “He’s always been unafraid to do what he
feels is right. This has engendered a great deal of respect for him,” he said.
“Reaching 100 was a culmination of a long-lived good life,” Bill III continued. “It made us feel very good and proud because his birthday gave an opportunity for people to let us know how much they cared for and loved him.”
Bill Jr. said it never occurred to him that he was nearing his 100th birthday. Even after he turned 99, he did not consider the uniqueness of his next birthday until a few months before it arrived. Then he began receiving birthday cards from R-MWC alumnae,
as well as notifications of contributions to the College that they had made in his honor.
“They just keep piling up. I’m being flooded,” he said the day before his birthday. “Today’s mail will have another batch of them.”
Bill was also honored to have the conference room named for him and to be given the status of honorary alumnus. “I love it, because I love the College so much, and I sort of missed a connection with it,” he said. “Now I have a connection. I’m a part of it. Having that connection means a lot to me.”