Williams gifts of $1 million to SMSU after gift to vet’s home
After announcing a $3 million gift from Clarkield native Steve Williams to help establish a Vietnam War veteran’s home in Montevido, his brother Jim has announced the 1974 Southwest Minnesota State University alumnus who passed away in March 2018, has left the SMSU Foundation a gift of nearly $1 million.
Earlier it was announced he’d donated $2.8 million to help build the proposed 72-bed Montevideo Veterans Home — one of three new veterans homes planned in Minnesota.
Williams graduated in 1974 with a Marketing degree, and went on to a 30-year career with Hormel.
“SMSU was an important place for us both,” said his brother, Jim, a 1978 SMSU alumnus and the executor of his brother’s trust. “Steve was a ‘B’ and ‘C’ student, but he was such a likeable guy and he had the gift of gab. He was very appreciative of how Southwest recruited those businesses that recruited him.”
Both Steve and Jim graduated from Clarkfield High School before attending SMSU.
Jim described Steve as frugal individual and a wise investor. “We talked about his trust, and that wherever he was to spend his dollars they would have to be well spent,” said Jim. “That’s the way he was. He watched every penny he had. His grandmother was a DeVos, and his grandfather an Engels. We got that Belgian heritage.”
Steve served in the Army in Vietnam prior to enrolling at SMSU. He worked part-time for the Post Office and as a bartender while attending SMSU. After graduation he went to work as a salesman for Hormel. The job took him all across the country, including stops in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seattle. At the end of his career he was a district manager, said Jim. “His last stop was Seattle before he retired. He had Washington, Oregon and Hawaii, that region.”
He retired in 2004 and moved to Henderson, Nev. “One reason is because he didn’t like the Minnesota winters, and the other was for tax purposes — there’s no sales tax and no state income tax. There again, he was frugal with his money.”
Jim recalled that Business Professor Jim Babcock was a big influence on his brother, along with Math Professor Joe Van Wie and Registrar Con Eckstrom. “When I was a freshman and Steve was a senior, we took a math class together from Joe Van Wie,” he recalled. “I was helping (a future) millionaire with his math,” he said with a chuckle.
Steve Williams died unexpectedly on March 14, 2018, in Henderson.
Steve was married for a brief time, and had no children. His estate trust is valued at $14.5 million.
Jim is currently on leave as a teacher in the Yellow Medicine East School District and will retire at the end of June, 2019. His wife, Pam (Anderson), received her undergraduate degree from SMSU in 2003 and her master’s in 2008. She is a special education teacher at the Clarkfield Charter School.
“Steve is someone who really had a passion and an affection for SMSU,” said Bill Mulso, Executive Director of the SMSU Foundation and the university’s Vice President for Advancement. “He made sure we knew that whatever success he had professionally was due to the experiences he enjoyed at SMSU. We’re grateful for his generous gift, which will go toward student scholarships.”
Through his trust, Williams left several generous gifts to organizations in southwest Minnesota. His gift to SMSU is $991,000.