10 October 2019

EFC deeply saddened by the loss of our great friend and supporter Bill White, former Mott Foundation Chief Executive Officer

On 9 October the EFC and the wider philanthropic world lost one of its longest-serving and most loyal friends as Bill White passed away at the age of 82. It is difficult to express adequately how critically Bill influenced the EFC, particularly in its formative years and broadening its horizons to all areas of continental Europe.

 A chance encounter, a lasting partnership

A well-loved tale has it that one early morning in August 1990, Bill was on a tour bus in Krakow, Poland, while attending the Johns Hopkins Second Annual International Fellows in Philanthropy Conference. The trip was delayed, and he was stretched out on a pile of luggage in the back of the bus, trying to get some sleep. According to Bill, John Richardson, the first EFC Chief Executive, was regaling the bus about a new organisation he was leading that would become the European Foundation Centre (EFC). As John extolled the values of this new entity, which he promised would bring together all of Europe, Bill was persuaded by the vision – and in need of a little peace and quiet — agreed to support the idea.

Such was a chance encounter on a bus to become the beginning of a 30-year relationship between the Mott Foundation and the EFC. Under Bill’s leadership, the Mott Foundation has always been a consistent and generous supporter to the EFC, in terms of both financial contributions and also the less tangible but no less valuable gifts of time and ideas. The EFC, like many other institutions, simply wouldn’t be the organisation it is today without this thoughtful leadership.

Bill White on supporting the EFC:

Receiving the EFC Compass Prize

In 2009, Bill received the first-ever EFC Compass Prize for his unending commitment to building the philanthropic infrastructure in Europe, particularly through the Mott Foundation’s work in Central and Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Indeed, in his acceptance speech he reflected on the walls — real and imagined — that can separate people, and the important role philanthropy can play in bridging those divides and creating a more civil society.

Bill White on receiving the Compass Prize:

Our friend Bill

Though as current and former EFC staff members are digesting the news, the common sentiment felt is that we’ve lost a friend. In an age of knee-jerk communications, impersonal emails and endless texts, Bill was still a man of letters and phone calls. He’d often post letters to staff supporting them in difficult times, and congratulating them on their good work done in the better times. He was known to phone – most often in the early evening when others had left the office and he’d have your undivided attention – just to check-in. Long after others had gone to bed, Bill was also known to spend AGA nights chatting in the bar with EFC staff – Diet Coke in hand, catching up on the day’s news.

As he noted when receiving the Compass Prize: “Isn’t it terrific to get an award for having a lot of fun, being productive and meeting a lot of friends.” It has been terrific, Bill. We’ll miss you.

Read the full obituary on the Mott Foundation website