The entire NYU Tandon community mourns the passing of alum, benefactor, and former board member Bill Friend, who passed away on January 27, 2021, due to complications arising from Covid-19.
The son of a New York City cab driver who toiled six days a week and a German-born governess who had come to America to work for a wealthy family, Bill was born in 1935 in the New York City borough of Queens and graduated from the top-ranked Stuyvesant High School. He next entered what was then known as Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering in 1956 and forging lifelong bonds with the school.
After earning an M.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 1958, Bill went on to a long and distinguished career that included an executive vice presidency and directorship at the Bechtel Corporation, one of the most respected engineering, procurement, and construction companies in the world.
He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest honors accorded to members of the profession, as well as a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Additionally, he served as chairman of the University of California’s President’s Council on the National Laboratories; a member of the Governing Board of the National Research Council; a director of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C.; chairman of the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, California; and chairman of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME). Much of his time was spent working on a variety of initiatives to enable young people to advance their lives and careers in the engineering field.
For decades he was a valued member of our school’s Board, and in 2005 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Engineering, Honoris Causa. Bill and his family established two endowed scholarships here: the Sidney and Katherine Friend NACME Scholarship Fund (named in memory of his parents) and the W. L. Friend Family Scholarship Fund.
He will always be remembered with respect and fondness at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and our sincere condolences go to his wife, Mary Kathryn; his sons and daughters-in-law; his 14 grandchildren; and his great-grandson.