William Lilley III '55: 1938-2021

William Lilley III '55: 1938-2021

Bill Lilley '55 was a champion of student drive, curiosity, and the endeavors that stem from those qualities. Bill entered Episcopal Academy as a Lower School student, and his tenure highlights included membership in Vestry, Tabula, JUNTO, Forestry Club, and the football team. His senior yearbook described him as a student with an acute mind and a jovial temperament, which were hallmarks he carried throughout his life. His closest friends included David Ransom Haslam and Walter Buckley, and he was well respected by all his peers.

"Episcopal always has been such a formative part of my life that it is hard to separate out any one particular value that the school imparted - after all, I went there 14 years and virtually lived next door," Bill wrote in his 50th reunion Tabula reflection. "However three values come readily to mind - I can hear Dr. Haslam repeating them in his pre-lunch talks: always work hard; always improve your intellect; always be loyal to your friends. Whenever I am slouching noticeably on any of these fronts, I feel guilty, even after 50 years."

After Episcopal, Bill found the University of Pennsylvania to be his ideal match for college, going on to graduate with high grades and winning a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to the Yale Ph.D. program for American Studies. He was recruited to the Yale history faculty and went on to teach there for eight years.

The Yale Scholar of the House Program would serve as the inspiration for his cornerstone legacy Lilley Fellowship, the signature research project that select EA students undertake today. He remarked, "Teaching in Yale's Scholar of the House program was a highlight which now I can see again...in Newtown Square."

Bill, a career renaissance man, followed his inquisitive nature to work in a variety of fields and industries–from founder of the National Journal, to federal government employee, to manager of CBS in NYC, and even founder of his own software company, iMapData.

David Kennedy, a colleague from Bill's time at Yale, established the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford in 2005 and subsequently reached out to Bill with a request. David asked Bill to publish to the Lane Center website a rework of Bill's dissertation, The Early Career of Francis G. Newlands, 1848-1898. The resulting publication, "The Systems of the River: Francis Newland and the Improbable Quest to Irrigate the West," (available here), is a testament to the curiosity and scholarship that Bill embodied during his entire life.

Ever the committed, generous, and creative thinker, Bill remarked after completing the publication for Stanford's Bill Lane Center: "I have developed this thing for outsiders as agents of change in our culture." Bill's legacy of vision, character, and curiosity lives on through each EA Lilley Fellow who embarks upon their own journey of lifelong learning and scholarship.