Profile of a Donor

Charitable gifts from alumni and friends play a major role in the continued excellence of the College of Commerce. For the most part these gifts support faculty, students, and programs through direct gifts and endowments. There are many ways to contribute to the college. William Carey Grant, class of 1942, chose to make a deferred gift through a charitable trust. He has designated that income from the endowment fund he established be used for scholarships for undergraduate students in the College of Commerce.

William Carey Grant earned a BS in marketing in 1942. A native of Streator, Illinois, he and his brother Robert (BS Accountancy 1942) attended the university together and were both members of Sigma alpha Epsilon, Ma-Wan_DA, Band X, Marketing Club, and the Athletic Council. Both participated in Honors Day. He put his education to good use for the twenty-seven years he was engaged in a business career, but the most valuable things he learned at school, he said, were how to think and reason - abilities that enhance every aspect of living throughout one's life.

When Bill Grant placed his assets in a residual trust, his regard for his alma mater prompted him to designate $300,000 for the college. He said it has always been a wish of his to be able to do something for the university. Now that circumstances permitted, he followed through on that wish and established a deferred endowment.

After graduating in 1942, Bill Grant joined the Navy Air corps. When he mustered out in 1946 he took a job with IBM in Chicago. As luck would have it, soon after starting there was a strike at IBM and last one hired was the first one fired. He found another job, with UARCO, and got married. (Bill and his wife Helen celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary this August.) But fate had other plans. He father-in-law, a farmer in Streator, broke his shoulder and couldn't run the farm. Bill Grant, who had never farmed before, bought the place, he and his wife moved into the empty farm house on the property, and he took up his new profession. The farm was small, so for several years Grant divided his time between the farm in the summer and working for a Coca Cola franchise owned by a friend in the winter. One day his friend came to him with an idea; he wanted to get into the coffee vending machine business. The approached several backers but Grant recalled that on one was interested. They said no one would want to drink coffee out of a paper cup. Well, they started out with one coffee machine; business went well, so they added more equipment. When his partner decided to leave the business, Grant bought it, rented out the farm and became a full time entrepreneur. Eventually the company, called J-G Vending Service, placed over 450 industrial vending machines in businesses in and around Streator. A friend from Chicago offered to buy the business when Grant was in his 50s. Although Grant was not ready to retire, the offer was too good to refuse. A new opportunity soon presented itself. He and four other investors started a company that supplied micro-wavable foods. The main product was Act II popcorn. Once they were able to increase the rate of pop and make the product so it could be stored at room temperature the business literally exploded. The company went public, and they sold three million shares the first day. The stock grew and split several times. Finally, Conagra offered to buy the company; shares increased widely and Bill Grant and his partners had achieved success beyond expectation. There are many lessons to be learned from the bill Grant success story. Perhaps the most important is that it is essential to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

After retiring, Bill Grant remained in Streator for many years to care for his mother (who lived to 92) and mother-in-law (who lived to be more than 100). Eight years ago, he and his wife moved to Arizona. Being retired is apparently a full time job. Mr. Grant spends his time playing golf, taking part in community and church activities, and traveling. He hasn't visited his alma mater in several years but hopes to work in a trip this year. In September he returned to the Midwest to attend his grandson's wedding in Bloomington.

He and his wife Helen have three children, a son in Arizona, a daughter in upstate New York, and another daughter in Streator who runs the family farm with her husband.


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