Terry, William Holt : 2000-2015

William Holt Terry By the Decades

1950-19591960-1969, 1970-19791980-19891990-19992000-2015

Terry Scholar reunions with 8 scholars and Will Terry

One of the Terry Scholar reunions

Having settled firmly into retirement, Rev. Will Terry continued to devote his time and energy to the things he loved best. According to general consensus, the majority of that energy went into the Terry Scholarship and Fellowship Program.

Dr. Leland Park, ‘63, states that his ability to connect with students despite the age difference was possible “because he was so intellectually alive.” [1] The Terry Scholarship and Fellow Program continued to host its customary dinners and roundtables at Will Terry’s house. [2] He hosted biennial reunions for his scholars in Davidson, and he involved them when interviewing scholarship applicants. [3] That ongoing connection with the student body remained important to him; as his living memorial, it embodied much of what he hoped his life had accomplished. [2, 4] His accomplishments were additionally acknowledged by the Alumni Service Award, which he received in 2009. [5]

David Waddill, ‘81, who oversaw the application and admission process with Will, comments on the roundtable tradition:

“I think without question the students that had this opportunity to chat and meet so many folks over the years were deeply appreciative. Sort of had their eyes opened and their horizon raised. Realized how much in the world there is going on outside of Davidson. It’s an intense place, right? Work very hard, it’s very competitive. It’s nurturing, of course, but the kind of students at Davidson, it’s all very easy to get caught up in just trying to make it from day to day there. It’s easy to forget that, wow, this is a big world.” [2]

Terry Scholar Reunion with 40+ people including families in 2014.

Terry Scholar Reunion 2014

Will and his co-facilitators ensured that the program embodied Davidson’s increasingly diverse student body, thereby honoring changes to the campus that had been implemented over the past decades. David Waddill notes of the scholars that “the diversity and the talent is about as broad as it is with the Davidson student body.” [2]

By this time, the story of Will Terry’s life was part of college lore and was widely celebrated. However, as his friend Leland Park cautions, “Everybody’s got their own story to tell. And I don’t think that you could generalize ‘the Will Terry story,’ except the fact that he was a part of everyone’s life.” [1]

Will Terry's 80th Birthday Party with cake and candles

Will Terry's 80th Birthday Party

In October of 2012, Will Terry celebrated his 80th birthday party. Reportedly, the hundreds of attendees overwhelmed the Lilly Gallery and poured into a large tent on the lawn. Will was flattered by the turn-out, but not surprised. Richard Terry, ‘81, a friend and colleague, explains, “Will had humility, but he also knew he had given everything he had.” [4]

With health problems mounting, Will began making fewer public appearances. Hearing loss, as Leland Park notes, was one of Will’s earlier health troubles. Dr. T. Hartley Hall, ‘51, recalls that after the fall of 2014, “he was on that damn oxygen thing and was doing a lot of lying down.” [6]

Will officiated his last wedding ceremony in September, 2014, according to his friend and the executor of his estate, William Rikard, ‘67–who himself was married by Will Terry. [7] According to Dr. Park, as mobility became an issue for Will, his neighbors leant a helping hand: “The neighbors were so fond [of Will]. It’s a neat little town. They put up, not a website, but a link where you could sign up to bring him food every two days. They were wonderful!” [1]

As David Waddill notes, “Will lived a very powerful, interesting life.” [2] No more apparent was his influence and popularity than at his annual Christmas party, for which invitations were eagerly sought. In Dr. Park’s words:

“It was his practice to send out handwritten invitations to goodness knows how many people–at that time, not just an overwhelming number of people–for a Christmas party. If you got on his list, you felt you were very fortunate and you also felt like you better show up if you possibly could or you’d get off his list . . . Sometimes he would be forgiving, but you couldn’t be sure, and the list got larger and larger and larger.” [1]

In his later years, the tradition came to celebrate the earlier generation of Davidson, incorporating both its mannerly ways and some of its greatest names:

“They’d have punch and lots of good things to eat that he mostly prepared himself and then all these people would come pouring in and of all ages and stages. I mean, the Spencers would come on their walkers and then a recent graduate would come in from Charlotte and then somebody from Lincolnton–that church over in Lincolnton where he’d served . . . But it really was a Davidson tradition . . . so, it was treasured, special.” [1]

In the winter of 2014, Will hoped to hold his last eggnog party. As Park states, however, due to health troubles, he

“realized he couldn’t do it and that was when Carol [Quillen] stepped in and took it and made it a New Year’s party and had it at her house. I guess that was really his last time out in public and he held court in glorious fashion in the wing chair at the end of the living room of the president’s house. He just sat there and everybody would come by and talk.” [1]

This fete reflected the gentility and hospitality with which he hosted countless Terry Scholars and visiting alumni. In the house Will Terry owned in Davidson, multiple bedrooms were furnished with twin beds, for Will entertained many Davidson alumni, passing through town for reunions and other college events, and furnished his own home to accommodate them.

Will Terry and Sue Ross

Will Terry and Sue Ross

Among the people he gave his goodbyes to in the last year of his life were friends, colleagues, fellow alumni, Terry scholars, Terry fellows, and his remaining family. William Rikard explains that, in Will’s final months, “the number of people who came to see him was just extraordinary and all of that came from these wonderful, wonderful relationships.” [7]

He died peacefully Friday, March 27, 2015, in his apartment at the Pines in Davidson. [8] Just “four months shy of his 83rd birthday,” he passed away with a thick stack of applications for the Terry Scholarship by his bedside. [8, 2]

According to the executor of his estate, William Rikard, he left “95% plus of his estate to the college for the scholarship program.” [7] The plans he had made in 1979 had come to pass: he had devoted the rest of his life to Davidson and the vast majority of his capital, too. When asked about the significance of Dean Terry asking for any memorials made in his honor to be donated to the Terry scholarship, David Waddill states, [9]

“I’m sure Will didn’t even hesitate a second when he created that directive. He’s very proud of this program as he should be. He worked very hard to create it. It was a very vibrant program for 21 years and I think it will remain that way . . . This was probably in Will’s mind his greatest legacy. He was so pleased and proud of all of his Terrys. I think it was quite natural that he wanted all the support to go to the program. As you probably know, it’s still not an endowed program. He left a very nice gift but we do need to continue to raise  money and have to be careful with what we spend and how we spend it to make sure this can continue in the future.” [2]

A memorial service celebrated Terry’s life and contributions to Davidson at on May 2nd, 2015, at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception in the Lilly Family Gallery. [3, 9, 10] As Leland Park notes, it was ““a lovely service, and he would have loved it.” [1]

In Dr. John Kuykendall’s, ‘59, words, “he had stewardship of Davidson, which was his responsibility til the last breath that he drew. And he fulfilled it in different ways. In the last decade, obviously, he fulfilled it primarily through the Terry Scholars.” [11] As such, the Terry Scholars had a central role in the procession, streaming in two-by-two. [3, 10] Of this procession, Leland Park observes that, “each one of those people had an individual relationship with Will, which is really something. And to be retired and still have that influence, that’s amazing.” [1] Loyce Davis and Joyce Hight said of the reception held afterward in the Lilly Gallery, “Will wanted all of his friends to have a good party.” [12]

Richard Terry reflects on the relationship between his peers’ student days and the memorial service:

“I think that the infatuation that so many of us had probably ebbed a little bit over the four years, but not much. Evidence is his funeral where you saw people come back, he was for so many folks the single most important person in their Davidson experience.” [4]

It can be said no better than in the words of Sue Ross in his obituary:

“Predeceased by his parents and several uncles, aunts, and cousins on whom he doted, Will Terry leaves behind current and former students, former parishioners, respectful colleagues, devoted Holt and Terry cousins, loving caregivers, and literally hundreds of close friends, all grateful for his love and life. We will miss his Egg Nog parties, conversations around the dinner table, tales regaled on the porch, couples counseling before weddings, baptisms of children, Davidson reunion gatherings on the deck, Thelemite Christmas parties around the fire, tomatoes and corn from his gardens, discussions in his study after Davidson Trustee meetings, loud cheers at Wildcat games, a little gin or bourbon after a particularly challenging day at the office, Thanksgiving dinners, the Sunday School lessons and inspiring sermons, his visits to our homes, his masterful and comforting prayers at funerals, his incisive wit, sharp mind, the tears and the laughter. Simply, we will miss Will.” [8]


  1. Leland Park’s interview.
  2. David Waddill’s interview.
  3. Davidson College. “College Mourns Passing of William Holt Terry ’54, 1931-2015.” News Detail. 27 Mar. 2015. 7 July 2015. Web.
  4. Richard Terry’s interview.
  5. Davidson College. “Alumni Service Award.” Alumni, Awards & Honors. 2 Oct. 2015. Web.
  6. T. Hartley Hall’s interview.
  7. William Rikard’s interview.
  8. Ross, Sue. “Will Terry – Obituary.” The Charlotte Observer. Legacy.com. 28 Mar. 2015. 27 May 2015. Web.
  9. Davidson College Presbyterian Church. “A Service of Witness to the Resurrection.” 2 May, 2015.
  10. Minor, Doug. “College Mourns Passing of William Holt Terry ’54, 1932-2015.” 27 Mar. 2015. In Memoriam. Davidson College. 14 July 2015.
  11. John Kuykendall’s interview.
  12. Loyce Davis and Joyce Hight.

Author: Eleanor Yarboro

Date: 6 October 2015

Cite as: Yarboro Eleanor. “William Holt Terry, 2000-2015,” Davidson Encyclopedia, 6 October 2014 <https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/college-archives-davidson-encyclopedia/page/terry-william-holt-2000-2015>

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