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
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
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
“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.”