University News

Former Interim and Acting Chancellor Bill McCoy passes away

Our community mourns the passing of Bill McCoy who served as Carolina’s acting and interim chancellor in 1999 and 2000. We are grateful for his leadership and offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Two men shaking hands.
William McCoy (right) shakes hands with James Moeser at South Building as Moeser takes over as chancellor in 2000. (Photo by Dan Sears/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

I am deeply saddened to share news of the passing of William Octavius McCoy ’55, who served as Carolina’s acting and interim chancellor in 1999 and 2000. McCoy was a savvy and inspiring leader who postponed his retirement plans to take the helm at a difficult time for the University. Our community was then mourning the untimely loss of Chancellor Michael Hooker, and McCoy led our campus through a critical transition period with a steady hand and a compassionate heart. He also served as acting chancellor while Chancellor Hooker underwent medical treatment.

Bill McCoy’s business acumen benefited the University in a time of great need. He faced a significant budget deficit that he quickly resolved and then implemented a revamped budget process to stabilize the University’s financial operations. His priorities also included addressing issues such as faculty compensation, planning for a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign and continuing work on a campus master plan. Under his leadership, we also celebrated successes, including the launch of the Robertson Scholars program and the inaugural year of the Carolina Center for Public Service, two signature initiatives that continue to this day.

McCoy began his career with Southern Bell, where he moved up the ranks to president of BellSouth Enterprises, Inc. in 1986. He retired from BellSouth as vice chair of the board in 1995. For the next three years, he worked at the UNC System as vice president for finance before retiring a second time.

A native of Snow Hill, Bill graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Carolina with a degree in business administration and then served in the United States Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a Sloan Fellow.

For decades, McCoy continued to give to the University. He and his late wife, Sara, were generous donors to several areas, including Kenan-Flagler Business School, the College of Arts and Sciences, Carolina Performing Arts, and PlayMakers Repertory Company. He served on the University’s Board of Visitors, the Bicentennial and Carolina First campaign steering committees and as chair of the Board of Visitors at Kenan-Flagler Business School. He has also served as chair of the National Development Council, as a UNC Health Care System board member and as an emeritus member of the Kenan-Flagler Board of Advisors.

In recognition of his loyalty, McCoy was awarded the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Board of Trustees’ highest honor, the William Richardson Davie Award. In 2000, he was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece and received an honorary degree in 2004.

Please join me in remembering Bill McCoy’s tremendous life and legacy at Carolina. We are grateful for his outstanding leadership, devoted service, and friendship. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends. His family shares that services are planned Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz