02 Apr 2019
Remembering William WilderTopics:
William P. Wilder (MBA 1950), a steadfast HBS supporter and the namesake of Wilder House, passed away in Toronto on March 23 at the age of 96. A prominent business leader and philanthropist, Bill Wilder was a former chief executive of Wood Gundy, one of Canada’s most prestigious securities firms (now CIBC Wood Gundy), and of Consumers Gas, at the time the country’s largest natural gas distributor. In addition, he served on the boards of Royal Bank of Canada, Canada Life Assurance, Noranda Mines, and Maclean-Hunter, among others. As a philanthropist, he was among the biggest individual donors to his alma mater, the Upper Canada College in Toronto.
Originally built in 1927 as the Student Club, the Georgian Revival–style Wilder House was rededicated in 1997 in honor of Wilder’s many contributions to Harvard Business School. Later, in 2015, he donated funds for extensive renovations to update the building and make it ADA accessible. Home to a succession of departments over the years, Wilder House today is occupied by the HBS Career & Professional Development Office.
Following service in the Royal Navy during World War II, Wilder completed his studies at McGill University and went to work for Wood Gundy as a bond salesman. In 1948 he decided to pursue his MBA at Harvard Business School, often describing his two years at the School as a life-changing experience that was invaluable in equipping him for his future career. After HBS he returned to Wood Gundy, becoming executive vice president/EVP in 1961 at the age of 38, and six years later president and chief executive. Under his leadership, the firm played a dominant role in financing Canada’s big energy companies and their projects. In 1972 Wilder left Wood Gundy to head the Canadian Arctic Gas consortium, later moving on to become chairman and chief executive of Consumers Gas. In 1994, Wilder received the Alumni Achievement Award from HBS. In 2017, he was awarded the Order of Canada and was also inducted into Canada’s Investment Industry Hall of Fame; the following year, he received the Legion of Honour from France in recognition of his war service.
At the dedication of Wilder House, he said, “Without HBS, I certainly would not have achieved so much in my career. The Business School was the making of me.” In return, Wilder created a path to the School for future generations of Canadians by endowing the William P. Wilder (MBA 1950) Fellowship and by helping to spearhead the HBS Canadian Initiative, which provides financial assistance to admitted Canadian students.
Wilder is survived by his wife of 65 years, Billie; four children—Martha; Bill Jr.; Tom and his wife, Sylvie; and Andy and his wife, Lori—and five grandchildren.