William B. Finneran, 79, philanthropist who gave $22.6M to Villanova pavilion upgrade
Mr. Finneran, a longtime supporter of Villanova athletics, recognized the need for a world-class athletic pavilion on the university campus. His gift of $22.6 million was the largest ever given for 'Nova athletics.
William B. Finneran, 79, of Palm Beach, Fla., a business executive and philanthropist who in 2016 provided the lead $22.6 million gift toward the upgrade of Villanova University’s basketball pavilion, which now bears his name, died Tuesday, Nov. 12, the university announced. No details of his death were released.
Mr. Finneran graduated in 1963 with an economics degree from Villanova and never lost touch with the school, serving on the board of trustees for a decade ending in 2008 and as co-chair of a capital fundraising campaign launched in 2013.
“We lost a great Villanovan this week,” said the university’s president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. “Bill was a very passionate alumnus and generous supporter of Villanova. His impact on the university, particularly Villanova basketball, will continue to be felt by Villanovans for generations.”
“All of us in the ‘Nova Nation have heavy hearts today with word of Bill’s passing,” said the school’s director of athletics, Mark Jackson. “Bill was one of Villanova’s most generous and passionate alums, a great friend to many. I will personally miss his counsel and companionship.”
Three years before the Wildcats beat the North Carolina Tar Heels to become the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball champions, Mr. Finneran was already preparing for the pavilion renovation project.
“It’s been about three years in the making,” Mr. Finneran told the Palm Beach Daily News in 2016. “All the lawyers and everything, these things take a lot of time.”
In announcing the $22.6 million gift in 2016, he said: “Given Villanova’s visibility nationally and the world-class stature of men’s basketball, this renovation is incredibly important for our student-athletes and coaches, as well as all Wildcat fans.”
Mr. Finneran’s intent was to make the pavilion a world-class facility. An earlier renovation project undertaken by Newtown Square resident John E. du Pont had foundered, and in 1997 the school removed du Pont’s name from the building after he was convicted of murdering wrestler David Schultz.
Mr. Finneran, who maintained homes in Palm Beach and Larchmont and Southampton, N.Y., had a long business career dating to the 1970s.
He was chairman and managing director of EXOP Capital LLC, a hedge fund based in New York that he cofounded in 2005, the university said. Since 1991, he had been chairman of Edison Control Corp. and Con Forms Industries, which designs, manufactures and distributes concrete pumping systems and accessories.
He was an operating partner of Global Leisure Partners, a provider of investment services to the leisure industry. Starting in 1999, Mr. Finneran was a managing director at Wachovia Securities. Before joining Wachovia, he was a managing director at CIBC Oppenheimer Corp., an investment-banking firm. He was hired in 1972.
Mr. Finneran’s gift was the largest ever given to Villanova athletics. It helped pay for the $60 million upgrade to the two-story, 6,500-seat pavilion. The improvements included a relocated main entrance, a concourse with better lighting, and increased seating and other amenities.
On Nov. 14, 2018, Mr. Finneran cut the ribbon dedicating the Finneran Pavilion, alongside Donohue, Jackson, head basketball coach Jay Wright, and Wright’s wife, Patty.
A passionate, longtime supporter of the athletic program, Mr. Finneran endowed the men’s basketball head coaching position at Villanova starting in the 1990s. To mark his contributions, Mr. Finneran was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in 1994.
“Bill was a legendary Villanova man,” Wright said in a statement issued by the school. “He was also a great friend and mentor to me and Patty from the day we arrived at Villanova. Our family will miss a great friend. Villanova and the world will miss a genuinely good guy.”
Mr. Finneran was a member of Villanova’s Carr and Heritage Societies, which recognize the contributions of alumni, parents, and friends of the university.
He was on the board of the Ireland-U.S. Council and a trustee of Partnership Schools, a management organization for a network of six inner-city Catholic elementary schools in New York.
In addition, he was a member of the board of governors of Operation Smile, which raises funds and manages medical missions for the treatment of children worldwide.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and a daughter, Karen F. Hamilton.
Funeral arrangements were pending.