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In memoriam: William P. Sexton, retired vice president for University Relations

William P. Sexton, retired vice president for University Relations and professor emeritus of management at the University of Notre Dame, died today (Oct. 17). He was 85.
William P. Sexton

William P. Sexton, retired vice president for University Relations and professor emeritus of management at the University of Notre Dame, died today (Oct. 17). He was 85.

“Bill was the consummate gentleman — considerate, gracious and genuinely interested in the person to whom he was talking, regardless of the individual’s title or station,” Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “He was always kind and encouraging to me in my early years in the University’s administration. Many have contributed to our current success, but very few more than Bill Sexton, who gave his life to the University of Notre Dame. We are grateful, and we will miss him.”

President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., added: “Bill Sexton was a great Notre Dame person — faith-filled, family-oriented, full of energy and enthusiasm, a consummate manager, and a hugely successful fundraiser. He was also a great friend and terrific traveling companion. I will miss him deeply.”

As vice president for University Relations from 1983 to 2002, Sexton directed the University’s offices of development, international advancement, special events and communications, as well as the Notre Dame Alumni Association.

Under his direction, the University conducted what at the time were the two most successful capital campaigns in Catholic higher education history. The “Generations” campaign, which ended in 2000, raised $1.1 billion, far surpassing its goal of $767 million. Previously, the “Strategic Moment” campaign, ending in 1990, raised $463 million.

Also under Sexton’s leadership, the Notre Dame Alumni Association grew to more than 200 clubs around the world, and its pioneering programs in community service and other areas became models for other colleges and universities.

Lou Nanni succeeded Sexton as vice president for University Relations in 2002.

“I came to know Bill when I worked at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend and he served as a board member,” Nanni recalled. “Bill was incredibly generous with his time and relationships, and made so much happen for the betterment of the center.

“He was an extraordinary leader as vice president for University Relations, and we continue to reap the benefits of seeds he sowed over many years.

“Bill loved people and was the ultimate optimist. He treated everyone with respect and compassion, whether you were a benefactor or someone living on the streets. He will be missed dearly, but his spirit and example will live on for many years to come.”

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Sexton earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration, his master’s degree in industrial management and his doctorate in administrative management and behavioral sciences at Ohio State University. His academic specialty was human behavior in organizations, and his research interests centered on organization, individual needs, conflict and the management of change. A four-time recipient of the Best Teacher Award in the Mendoza College of Business, he taught for more than 40 years.

Sexton in 2002 was the first recipient of a new Notre Dame award established in his name to recognize outstanding service to the University by a non-graduate. He received an honorary Notre Dame degree during Commencement exercises that same year. In 2004, the University established a $1 million endowed scholarship in honor of Sexton and his wife, Ann.

Sexton served on the boards of the Center for the Homeless, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Logan Foundation. He conducted numerous management seminars for U.S. government agencies, hospitals and religious communities and served as an adviser to several not-for-profit health care systems.

He is survived by Ann; six children — four of whom are Notre Dame graduates — Amy, Tom, Dan, Tim, Jim and Mike; 19 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A livestream of the Mass will be available here.


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