BVU Remembers Philanthropist William W. Siebens for Leadership, Innovation
It is with great sadness that BVU mourns the passing of William “Bill” W. Siebens, namesake of the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series. Bill was a tireless benefactor and great friend of the University.
William W. Siebens, 86, namesake for the American Heritage Lecture Series at Buena Vista University, died on June 29 at his home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“Bill” Siebens, son of Dr. Harold Walter and Velma Wolf Siebens, served as host for dozens of national and international leaders who visited campus to address current topics related to freedom. The William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series, a landmark forum for the University transformed by the Siebens family, addressed freedom as a single, great, living idea comprised of many working parts.
“Buena Vista University lost a great friend, a tireless benefactor, and a personification of the ideals the University represents in the passing of William Siebens,” says BVU Interim President Dr. Brian Lenzmeier. “As a University dedicated to helping shape the lives of future leaders and entrepreneurs, we were blessed to have a confident, earnest presence in Bill as our ambassador to welcome world leaders as they spoke with our students, staff, alumni, and friends about a concept we—and the Siebens family—cherish above any other: freedom.”
“Bill was so creative, focused, and among the smartest entrepreneurs, often recognized as one of the world’s top businesspersons in the oil industry. With his charisma, Bill could deal expertly with anyone. World leaders came to our campus and could immediately identify with him.”
Dr. Keith G. Briscoe, BVU President 1974-95
“Of the many people I’ve known, Bill Siebens was among the strongest,” says Dr. Keith G. Briscoe, who served as BVU President from 1974-1995. “He was so creative, focused, and among the smartest entrepreneurs, often recognized as one of the world’s top businesspersons in the oil industry. With his charisma, Bill could deal expertly with anyone. World leaders came to our campus and could immediately identify with him.”
Longtime BVU Board of Trustees member Marc Brinkmeyer ’68 met Bill Siebens at the American Heritage Lecture featuring Walter Cronkite in 1997. It marked the beginning of a lasting friendship.
“It was a privilege to be his friend and be part of all the adventures and experiences Vicki and I shared with Bill and Sharon over the past 23 years,” Brinkmeyer says. “He was family focused, a quiet, confident thinker, a private, gentle force who cast a large shadow.”
Bill Siebens, it was said, succeeded in large part because of free enterprise, one of the foundations of our American heritage. Born in St. Louis, Mo., amid the Great Depression, Siebens attended Principia High School where he played football and basketball and competed on a state championship swim team.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in petroleum engineering, he was called up by the U.S. Air Force for a three-year tour of duty as a fighter pilot, serving in Libya.
In 1958, he went to Calgary to manage a leasehold company established by his father. They sold the company in 1966, and Bill Siebens founded Siebens Oil and Gas with his father’s backing, taking it public in 1970 as an oil and gas exploration company. As president, he transformed the company into a significant independent oil company on the Canadian and international levels, selling it in 1979 to Dome Petroleum.
Since 1979, he had served as president of Candor Investments, Ltd., a private investment corporation. He also served as director of several other companies, including Petro-Canada and the Fraser Institute, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.
Philanthropy was always an important part of Bill’s life, and his gifts extended beyond his enormous impact at BVU, which lives on through state-of-the-art brick-and-mortar efforts as well as through generations of students and alumni whose educational journeys were impacted by thousands of scholarships funded in part via gifts from the Siebens Foundations.
Bill and Sharon’s longtime support of the United Way of Calgary, which graced thousands of lives, earned the couple the first Canadian seat at the United Way Roundtable, representing a group of international philanthropists who are leading United Way benefactors.
Bill is lovingly remembered by his wife, Sharon, his son Carter (Ellie) and their children Renner, Dane, and Taryn; his daughter Rhondda (Troy) and their children Kjell, Leif, and Maja; and his daughter Evann (Keith) and their children Nelson and Gwynneth. Bill will be deeply missed by his sisters Nancy Siebens Binz and MaryJane Siebens and by his brother Stewart Siebens (Dianne) and brother-in law Rick Gutrath (Charlotte).
He leaves behind many nieces and nephews, as well as his former wife Clarice Evans, the mother of his children.
A private family service will be held according to Bill’s wishes. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the United Way of Calgary.