William “Bill” R. Lissau

William “Bill” R. Lissau’s life is built around faith, family and the future; and he has spent decades building relationships and supporting programs that strengthen those all-important pillars.

Lissau (BS ’65) planned to volunteer for military service after graduating from Bishop Kelley High School, but Christian Brother Bernardine Kuzminski convinced Lissau to give college a try. Needing to work 30 hours a week to pay for tuition during his college years, he had to enroll in night classes and all summer sessions at TU to fulfill the required coursework.

As he prepared for graduation, Lissau set his eyes on IBM. Prior to graduating, he applied for a job in sales and was hired by IBM. Lissau requested permission from TU Business Dean M.M. Hargrove to take 12 hours in summer school in order to complete his degree in time for his September 1 start date with IBM. Hargrove made an exception to TU policy of only nine hours maximum during summer session and allowed Lissau to take the full 12 hours. Lissau not only successfully completed the strenuous summer program but also earned a 3.0 grade point average. Upon completion, Lissau asked Hargrove if he could be listed on the Dean’s Honor Roll to impress his future new boss. Initially, Hargrove rejected the idea saying there was no honor roll for summer sessions; but before Lissau reached the exit, Hargrove acquiesced and wrote a letter stating that Lissau had been added to the “Special Dean’s Honor Roll” for the summer of 1965.

It was that kind of personal attention that endeared the university to Lissau and, in turn, fostered a sense of caring in the young businessman. He worked at IBM for several years, but he left the company when a promotion into management would have required him to relocate his family to New York.

In 1973, Lissau decided to leave IBM and start his own company, Magnetic Media Inc., in Tulsa. He saw a great opportunity with a key niche in the computer industry. Through hard work and grit, his company took off, doubling sales every year for five years straight.

In 1981, Lissau sold his business and joined The William K. Warren Foundation. He worked for W. K. Warren, Sr., and like W. K. Warren, would further entrench his dedication and belief in the future of Tulsa. He has served as president and vice chairman of the philanthropic organization since 1983. In his position, Lissau has overseen the distribution of more than $400 million in grants to healthcare and educational programs, including The University of Tulsa and many others.

Reflecting on his work with The William K. Warren Foundation, Lissau said, “It’s so important to take care of those less fortunate than ourselves. You see firsthand how W. K. Warren’s generosity continues to impact people’s lives, and it makes you feel blessed to be a part of it.” These efforts of Lissau and the great work of The William K. Warren Foundation have shaped the city of Tulsa and have had a positive effect on the lives of millions of people in Tulsa and beyond.

Lissau has also dedicated himself to many other organizations and has maintained his commitment to helping others. He served on the TU Board of Trustees from 1987 to 2000, currently serves in key board positions for the Saint Francis Health System, Bishop Kelley High School Endowment Trust, Oklahoma Tobacco Endowment Trust, and has served on several other philanthropic and charitable organizations through the years.

One can gain a sense of Lissau’s work and life when hearing from others: “Bill is a one of the truly great Bishop Kelley alums. He cares deeply about the school, has worked hard to help us be sustainable, and his efforts continue to bear fruit in an endowment that he has spearheaded from the start,” said Reverend Brian O’Brien, president of Bishop Kelley High School.

Lissau’s wife, Ann, shares his love of all things TU. Their four children – Lori, Bill, Mike (JD ’98), and Diane – and 13 grandchildren have grown up attending football and basketball games nearly every weekend. Lissau noted the progress TU has made in the past decade and credited leaders such as President Steadman Upham and his wife, Peggy; former Board of Trustees Chairman Fulton Collins and his wife, Susie; and current Board of Trustees Chairman Dave Lawson and his wife, Leslie, for their accomplishments and extraordinary vision for the future of TU. Lissau also sees the value and importance of supporting TU, both academically and through athletics. He supports various athletics programs, the Golden Hurricane Club, and the Annual Fund.

“I believe that part of one’s obligation in life is to support organizations like TU that endeavor to make life better for future generations,” Lissau said. “TU is one of the finest universities in the country. It has made a profound impact on the Tulsa economy, culture, and lives of Tulsans. This community needs The University of Tulsa to succeed.

“I feel blessed that I have had a meaningful career and wonderful family; and at TU, I made lifelong friendships that I still enjoy today. I just don’t know why anyone would choose to attend college anywhere else. Outstanding academics, beautiful campus, big time sports, and a fun student lifestyle — TU has it all.”

Lissau’s dedication and devotion to God and family have served as the pillar of his life and as he says, “If you put God and family first, all other things will fall into place.”