Once a head football coach, William Campbell evolved into one of the most influential (and beloved) men in Silicon Valley. Campbell’s role in advising and bringing together people in the tech industry is legendary and during more than 30 years in California, he played an instrumental role for several high-profile entrepreneurs including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Nowhere was the value of Campbell’s measured counsel more epitomized than by the fact that for several years, he sat on the boards of both Google and Apple, even during the time when the two companies became mortal enemies on the mobile phone front. Also dubbed the “trillion-dollar coach” for the collective value of the companies with which he worked, Campbell was the head coach of Columbia University’s football team from 1974 to 1979. In addition, this business genius mentored dozens of other important leaders on both coasts, leaving behind a legacy of growing companies, successful people, respect, and friendship, following his death in 2016.
Few people are more synonymous with Columbia University football than William Campbell. A four-year student-athlete at Columbia, as a 165-lb. guard and linebacker, he captained the 1961 Ivy League Championship football team. In his senior year, he was named to the All-Ivy Team, graduating in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in economics. Afterward, Campbell stayed on at the school to obtain a master's degree in education in 1964.
For more than half a century, Campbell’s presence in the Columbia community was exceptional, from his undergraduate years until his passing. He became a University Trustee in 2003 and was appointed board chair in 2005. Over the next decade, Campbell helped guide Columbia through a period of growth that included the creation of the Columbia Alumni Association and the opening of the Campbell Sports Center. In 2014, Campbell became chair emeritus of the Trustees and received an honorary degree a year later. On top of that, Campbell was a magnanimous donor to his alma mater. When news of Campbell’s death reached Columbia, the flags on the playing fields were lowered to half-mast and his legendary jersey number 67 was retired.