William J. Ruane

Obituary
1 entry
  • "Although he never knew me, I met Bill Ruane in 1984 at a..."
    - Jim Levitas
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RUANE-William J. The family of William J. Ruane mourns his passing on October 4, 2005 of complications from lung cancer. He was 79. A devoted husband, loving father, and doting grandfather, he is survived by his wife, Joy; his children, William Ruane, Elizabeth Ruane, Paige Ruane, and Thomas Ruane; his sister, Patricia Lowry; and four granddaughters, Julie, Lucy, Kelsey, and Sophie. Although he was better known as a highly successful money manager, his greatest accomplishments came in the last years of his life when he was able to devote himself full-time to his entrepreneurial philanthropic efforts, bringing the same unflagging optimism and analytical rigor to philanthropy that made him so successful as an investor. He was especially passionate, right up to the end, about the Accelerated Reader program, which helps children learn to read and cultivates a love for books. So far, the program has helped foster a love of reading in over 20,000 at-risk children in Washington Heights and Harlem in New York City;, the Monroe City School District of Louisiana; Denver, Colorado; and various rural schools in conjunction with Save the Children. His interest in the reading program sprang from his work on ``The Carmel Hill Project,'' a neighborhood restoration initiative that he founded in 1992. The project focused on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue in New York. In addition to renovating buildings and bringing in community service programs, the project also provides scholarships for 90 children from the neighborhood to attend St. Paul's Catholic elementary school. Bill also founded TeenScreen, an organization that tests teenagers for symptoms of depression and other suicide risk factors. This program operates through 434 sites in 43 states and has tested nearly 100,000 teenagers since its inception. In addition, Bill gave generously to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, Save the Children, Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NARSAD, and the New School. Virtually all of his contributions were anonymous. He always found it easy to help other people, the softest touch when the luck was hard. Born in Chicago in 1925 and raised in suburban Oak Park, Bill was selected for a U.S. Navy V-12 program while still in high school. The program was designed to provide college-trained officers for future invasion fleets. Bill studied electrical engineering and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1945. He was sent to Japan soon after graduation, but the war ended while his ship was en route. After his military service, he briefly worked for General Electric, where he realized he didn't want to be an engineer. He made his way to the Harvard Business School, where he graduated in 1949. Bill became a disciple of Ben Graham, author of the landmark book on value investing, ``Security Analysis,'' after he took a class with Graham at Columbia University in 1950. Bill worked for nearly 20 years at Kidder Peabody before launching his own investment firm with former Kidder colleague Richard T. Cunniff in 1969. The partners raised $20 million from clients, but struggled in their early years. The firm's flagship, the Sequoia Fund, badly underperformed the market averages in its first four years. But over time, Sequoia compiled one of the best track records of any mutual fund in America. At the time of his death, Bill was co-manager of the Sequoia Fund and chairman of Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb. Bill also served on the Boards of the Washington Post Company and the GEICO Corporation, Data Documents Inc. and Munsingwear. In addition he was on the boards of the New York Theatre Workshop, the YWCA of the City of New York, The Girls Club of New York, and the Business Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bill was a man always at ease in his own skin. As gracious, generous, cheerful, funny, and fun in private as he was in public, he would have been a hero to his valet if he had one. And he carried the holiday in his eye. We already miss that sparkle, his sunny disposition, his way of telling a funny story, and the magical way he had of making you feel better just by being in the same room with him. We loved him as we know he loved us. And no man was more loved and adored than he. ``Earth receive an honored guest./Bill Ruane is laid to rest.'' A memorial service will be held some time in the future. Contributions in Bill Ruane's memory may be made to: St. Paul's School, 114 E. 118th St., NY, NY 10035 (212-534-0619) or TeenScreen, 1775 Broadway, Suite 715, NY, NY 10019 (646-328-4415).
Published in The New York Times from Oct. 7 to Oct. 8, 2005