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J. William Diederich, JOUR '51

Diederich,As a boy, J. William Diederich delivered newspapers in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and was passionate about photography.

After graduating from Marquette, Bill spent two years in the Marines, then got his M.B.A. and started looking for a job. His search landed him at Norfolk Newspapers Inc. in Virginia, later known as Landmark Communications Inc. 

Landmark is highly regarded as an innovator of cable television and registering Internet domain addresses, and creator of The Weather Channel. And Bill, known for looking for the “next big thing” that would change the way people get information, was an instrumental part of it all.

Bill served in several leadership positions at Landmark before retiring in 1990. In 1995, he founded Wide World Web International as a vehicle for exploring what he considered the next big thing — Internet opportunities. 

Bill’s personal formula for success is to work at tasks that are enjoyable, very interesting and intellectually stimulating. “Then,” he says, “it’s not really work and I want to devote a lot of time and energy to it.”

Bill and his wife, Mary, Arts ’52, have 13 children. They met at a dance Bill’s sophomore year at Marquette. They married his senior year. 

The Diederichs feel that most of what they have accomplished has been through the grace and goodness of God. “Marquette gave us a strong sense of morality and ethics,” says Bill. “We wanted to give something back to Marquette for what it helped us accomplish in life.” 

In 2005, the Diederichs made a $28 million gift to Marquette, the largest gift ever made by an individual to the university, establishing the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication. Bill made the gift because he wants Marquette to be an incubator for the next generation of ideas in the fields of communication, educating students to be leaders in the converging world of print, broadcast and electronic communication. 

“We cannot think of any other organization that has a mission that we want to support, that we owe and for which we could make a difference,” says Bill. “I would describe our gift as an act of thanksgiving. Mary and I have been extremely blessed in every way imaginable and this is our thanks to God.”

Bill Diederich passed away on Monday, March 27, in Charlottesville, Va. He was 76. The Marquette community mourns his death. “Bill Diederich accomplished great things in life—in business, with his family and through his philanthropy,” said President Robert Wild, S.J. “His legacy will live here forever at Marquette University.” Bill had learned of his alumni honor before his death.      

 

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