Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Biography of William Seachrist

  • William E. Seachrist '52

The late William E. Seachrist '52 knew what it took to become a successful entrepreneur. He was one. He also knew what it took to guide a successful community organization. He did it.

What he hoped was that the next generation of entrepreneurs and community leaders would learn to combine their talents for the good of society. By endowing the Seachrist Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies in 2000, the former chair of the Board of Trustees and his wife, Marjorie, hoped to make that wish a reality.

"As a society, I believe we have an opportunity to increase social responsibility in entrepreneurship," said Seachrist in 2000. "In the past, entrepreneurs have been seen as controlling, top-down managers. But that's changing. Entrepreneurs today need to be consensus builders and visionaries who value the contribution of every employee and encourage employees to realize the full potential of their talents."

Seachrist, who was the former president and board chair of AdvenTek Corp., as well a board member of numerous civic groups, including the Hourglass Foundation and the Lancaster Symphony, believed the change was driven by the shifting world economy.

Information technology and the rise of the internet, in particular, were fertile ground for this new breed of entrepreneur -- people who were fueled more by ideas in search of capital than capital in search of ideas. At the same time, he believed there was a trend in the U.S. toward government funding fewer and a smaller part of social services, leaving a vacuum to be filled by community organizations.

The confluence of these trends produced a growing emphasis on public entrepreneurship, which takes the qualities required of the new entrepreneurs and applies them to organizations that deliver public services.

"Public entrepreneurs see the potential that lies in organizations crossing their traditional territorial boundaries and working together," he said. "When entrepreneurs and community organizations work together, they can deliver more services at less cost and do it more effectively."

Seachrist believed that a liberal arts college was the perfect environment for exploring these new dynamics of entrepreneurship.

"Pursuing a liberal arts degree teaches you to think for yourself," he said, "and to think in terms of a global society."