Home > News & Media>

In Tribute – Honoring the life and legacy of influential leader Dr. William C. Richardson

The foundation mourns the passing of Dr. William C. Richardson, retired president and chief executive officer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), former co-trustee of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust, and who also served on the board of the Kellogg Company. Dr. Richardson was a Kellogg Fellow in the 1960s, while in graduate school at the University of Chicago.

(Standing left to right CEOs Sterling K. Speirn, La June Montgomery Tabron, Dr. Russell G. Mawby and Dr. William C. Richardson)

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation honors the life and distinguished leadership of Dr. William (Bill) C. Richardson, who served as president and chief executive officer (CEO) from 1995 to 2005. Dr. Richardson passed away on May 18, 2021 and memorial information is pending.

Highly respected for his commitment to helping others throughout his career, Dr. Richardson’s connection to WKKF goes back to the 1960s, when he was studying for his master’s degree in business administration at the University of Chicago. His interest in community and disadvantaged populations grew into a lifelong passion when he received a small grant as a Kellogg Fellow to explore health care for low-income people.

“I was honored to have worked for Bill Richardson,” says La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “During his decade leading the foundation, he remained focused on two things central to W.K. Kellogg’s vision for the foundation: people and the institutions within the communities where they live.” 

During Dr. Richardson’s tenure at WKKF, he built upon the foundation’s pursuit of diversity and racial equity. In the foundation’s 1996 annual report entitled, Capitalizing on Diversity, he wrote: Today, the very diversity that may produce conflict also forms a great reservoir of human potential. Our test is not only to heal division, but to reap benefit. Diversity is the nations strength; failure to capitalize on it would be the nation’s loss.”

Dr. Richardson also brought a more policy-focused lens to WKKF. In a 2001 interview in preparation for the foundation’s 75th anniversary in 2005, over which he presided, Dr. Richardson said he saw policy as one of many strategies for sustainability and magnifying the foundation’s impact. He identified the foundation’s history of policy work – such as Mr. Kellogg’s effort to create consolidated school districts to provide more equitable education to children in rural areas. And through his leadership, the foundation engaged in private and public policy initiatives that improved access to education, services, healthy food in urban centers and more. He also continued the foundation’s influential work in expanding public health practices, rural development and agriculture, engaging as often as possible with the people doing the work on the ground.

Before joining WKKF, Dr. Richardson was president of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was also professor of health policy and management and had been appointed professor and president emeritus. Prior to that, he was executive vice president and provost of The Pennsylvania State University and dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for research of the University of Washington in Seattle.

With a decades-long career in public health, Dr. Richardson was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and served as chair of the co mmittee on Quality of Health Care in America. He led the publishing of two significant reports: “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” – a 1999 groundbreaking report released on medical errors, and “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century” — a 2001 report on the quality of health care in America. He was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Public Health Association.

Dr. Richardson served on the board of the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF), and upon his retirement from the foundation, CMF created the William C. Richardson Fellowship for Public Policy and Philanthropy to advance new leaders’ careers in philanthropy. He was also a trustee and chair of the board for the Council on Foundations. In addition, Dr. Richardson served on the boards of directors of the CSX Corporation, Exelon Corporation and the Bank of New York, both during and after his tenure at WKKF. 

In addition to his master’s degree, Dr. Richardson earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, a master’s degree in Business Administration and a doctorate from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business.

“Bill deeply understood working at the community level and helping people help themselves – while recognizing that Mr. Kellogg would never want the foundation to stand still, but always seek innovative approaches to our work,” said Tabron. “Today at the foundation, we’re building on his legacy.”

Read an interview with Dr. Richardson from December 2001, conducted in preparation for the Kellogg Foundations 75th anniversary celebration in 2005.

Related Topics

What to Read Next

Scroll to Top