William Homer Ferguson, 83, died February 6, 2012 at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA from complications resulting from an infection. Bill and his wife, Carol Finkelhor Ferguson, had moved from Pittsburgh in 2004 to be live-in grandparents.
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Bill grew up in Vandergrift, PA, the second of five children. His mother, Genevieve Artman Ferguson, worked three jobs to support the family after the early death of Bill's father, Homer Verle Ferguson, a steelworker. Bill's high school achievements earned him a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1951.
Shortly after graduation, he was drafted into the US Army, and served in Korea. His first job after discharge in 1953 was Assistant to the President of Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel, where he recruited for and supervised the engineer and drafting training programs, as well as directed the secretarial, maintenance, and support staffs.
In 1963, Bill took up the leadership of Duff's Business Institute, where he instituted new academic programs and absorbed four other business and technical schools into the Duff's family. He also founded three Caribbean branches of Duff's in Bridgetown, Barbados and Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica, West Indies. Graduates speak warmly of Duff's and "Mr. Ferguson" to this day.
Bill had the unique ability to see beyond what was visible to what was possible. Nowhere was this more evident than in his thoughtful restoration of the 1836 Burke Building, the oldest extant office building in downtown Pittsburgh (it survived the 1845 fire that destroyed over a thousand structures). Designed by the prominent architect John Chislett, the building was home to many businesses over the years. In the 1970s, Bill restored the Greek Revival façade, installing replicas of the original multi-paned windows. During the restoration he uncovered their original interior shutters, which had been hidden by layers of plaster. Other improvements included revealing six original fireplaces. Through Bill's efforts, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The quality and charm of the building attracted restaurant tenant Arthur's, which was renowned for its cuisine as well as the largest selection of Scotch whisky in the US.
Bill was a gracious man who cared deeply for and about the people in his life. He enjoyed reading mystery novels and seeing movies and musical theatre, hobbies he loved sharing with his daughter, Shani. An avid card player, he enjoyed games with friends and family, and, after moving to Philadelphia, he appreciated the proximity of Atlantic City, NJ.
Bill was preceded in death by son Lorne (1970-1990, gratefully remembered), and is survived by his devoted wife of almost 49 years, adoring daughter, and grandsons Alexander and Julian (who love their Grampsy dearly). He is remembered warmly by his nieces Tami Hayden, Sandy Hart, and Lisa Masterson and their families; many dear friends; and grateful students.
Published on NYTimes.com from May 22 to May 23, 2012