William V. “Bill” Campbell ’62, TC’74, a former University Trustees chair, Lions head football coach and influential background player in Silicon Valley, died on April 18, 2016, in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 75.
Campbell was born on August 31, 1940, and grew up in Homestead, Pa., near Pittsburgh. He excelled in football in high school. A four-year student-athlete at the College, as a 165-lb. guard and linebacker he captained the 1961 Ivy League Championship football team and as a senior earned All-Ivy League accolades. Campbell earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in economics, and after six years as an assistant coach at Boston College returned to Columbia and coached the Lions from 1974 to 1979, ending his coaching career with an overall record of 12–41–1.
Campbell then went to work for J. Walter Thompson before joining Kodak. He was an Eastman Kodak executive in Europe when he was recruited to Silicon Valley in 1983 by Apple’s chief executive at the time, John Sculley, who named him VP of marketing. Campbell was deeply involved in Silicon Valley’s start-up culture. In 1987 he led a group of Apple executives in setting up a software subsidiary, Claris, of which he was founder, president and CEO, with the ultimate goal of spinning off the company. When Apple decided not to let Claris become a separate public company, many of the executives, including Campbell, left. He later became chief executive of Go Corp., a pioneering tablet computer company, and from 1994 until 1998 was chief executive of Intuit; he retired in January as chairman. Campbell was an Apple director from 1997 until 2014, the longest-serving board member in its history; his photo was prominent on Apple’s home page on the day of his death. Campbell played a significant role in Apple’s turnaround when Steve Jobs, who had been fired by Sculley, returned in 1997. Campbell also worked early on with Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; with Ben Horowitz ’88 and Marc Andreessen before they founded one of the country’s top venture capital firms, Andreessen Horowitz; and with Larry Page of Google.
These advisory roles, as well as work with Facebook, Twitter and other tech firms, earned Campbell the nickname “Coach of Silicon Valley.” The New York Times pointed out, “Campbell’s advisory role was often unpaid, at his insistence; he said he wanted to pay back what he felt was a debt to the nation’s technology region.”
Campbell’s generosity of time — and funds — extended to Columbia. He was a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 2003 until 2014 and chair from 2005 until 2014. In 2013, the Campbell Sports Center, a state-of-the-art 50,000 sq. ft. facility at the Baker Athletics Complex made possible by a $10 million donation from Campbell, was dedicated. In fall 2014, Athletics retired Campbell’s number, 67, and at the 2015 Varsity C Celebration introduced a new award, the William V. Campbell Performer of the Year, to be presented annually to the top male and female student-athletes of the academic year.
Campbell endowed the Roberta and William Campbell Professorship in Contemporary Civilization and the Campbell Family Professorship in Anthropology, he gave $1 million to The Austin E. Quigley Endowment for Student Success and he recently had committed $10 million to the Core to Commencement campaign. Campbell was presented the Varsity C Alumni Athletics Award in 1988, a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement in 1991 and the 2000 Alexander Hamilton Medal. In 2011 he was presented the Community Impact Award and in 2015 was presented an Alumni Medal as well as an honorary doctor of laws degree at Commencement. The NFL presented him its 2004 Gold Medal, and in 2009 the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced that its annual award given to the top scholar-athlete would be renamed for Campbell.
Campbell also donated millions in support of education in the Pennsylvania steel country where he grew up.
“We are devastated by the loss of Bill Campbell,” said Dean James J. Valentini. “Bill was a remarkable entrepreneur, a dedicated and generous Columbia College alumnus; and a committed friend, adviser and mentor to me. He enriched the lives of many at Columbia and throughout the world and he will be missed by all who knew him.”
Campbell’s survivors include his wife, Eileen Bocci Campbell; daughter, Margaret “Maggie” ’13; son, Jim ’04, SIPA’08; and stepchildren, Kevin Bocci, Matthew Bocci ’13 and Kate Bocci. Campbell’s first marriage, to former Columbia assistant dean of residence halls Roberta Spagnola TC’69, ended in divorce.
— Lisa Palladino
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.