Did you know that the “Father of American Intelligence” was William “Wild Bill” Donovan (Class of 1905, LAW 1908)? Donovan (1883–1959), a quarterback for the Lions — where he earned the nickname “Wild Bill” on the field — headed the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. OSS was the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Donovan was a prominent New York City attorney and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart in WWI. A close friend of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt (LAW 1907), Donovan was named Coordinator of Information (COI) for the American intelligence community in 1941; previously, organizations such as the armed services, the FBI and the Department of State ran their own intelligence operations. As COI, Donovan laid the groundwork for a centralized intelligence program by coordinating information across agencies and, in 1942, OSS was founded to do just that.
Donovan led OSS during WWII but after President Harry S. Truman disbanded it in October 1945, Donovan returned to civilian life. However, the need for a centralized peacetime intelligence agency quickly became clear and the CIA was formed in 1947 from various OSS departments that survived its dissolution.
Published three times a year by Columbia College for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends.
Columbia Alumni Center
622 W. 113th St., MC 4530, 4th Fl.
New York, NY 10025