Bill Walsh is on his way to Bakersfield, California, to visit a carrot processing plant whose board he chairs. "Im casually dressed today," he laughs. "This is farming country." Another afternoon finds him in Menlo Park, at Consolidated Freightways, a transportation services provider. As a general partner of Sequoia Associates, a private investment firm based in California, Walsh pays many visits to Sequoia portfolio companies in the United States and Canada, to advise the management team on business dilemmas and decisions. He currently chairs or sits on the board of ten companies.
Since 1982, the Sequoia partners have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire and restore financial health to nearly two dozen ailing enterprises. Before joining Sequoia, Walsh was Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Arcata Corporation for more than 15 years. He also oversaw forestry operations and helped build sales from $7 million to more than $800 million, and after-tax profits from $900,000 to more than $32 million. Prior to his Arcata post, Walsh was a management consultant for six years with McKinsey and Company.
The 1955 HLS graduate has remained deeply connected to the School and his 1L study group friends. He recalls with special fondness Richard Field, his Civil Procedure professor, trusted adviser, and frequent bridge partner at Holden Green student housing, where Walsh lived with his wife and young daughter. "Dick Field recommended me for my first job," he recalls. It was in the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York, where he worked for U.S. Attorney J. Edward Lumbard 25, who went on to become an acclaimed U.S. Court of Appeals judge and an enduring role model for Walsh.
As Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1955 to 1958, Walsh ran narcotics investigations in the garment industry and on the waterfront, eventually winning the indictment of crime boss Vito Genovese. Starting in 1956, as counsel to the New York State Commission of Investigation, he targeted illegal gambling as a revenue source for organized crime, ultimately writing a book on the subject. Then his career turned from government lawyering to business.
A quiet, steadfast philanthropist, Walsh is a longtime member of the American Ireland Fund and received its Distinguished Leadership Award in 1997. Walsh, his wife, and six children together endowed The William D. Walsh Family Library at Fordham University, where he attended college.
In honor of the judge he so admired, Walsh and his family dedicated the Lumbard Classroom in Hauser Hall at HLS, and established the Lumbard Fellowship to fund summer interns from HLS and Columbia and Fordham Law Schools to work in the U.S. Attorneys Office where Walsh began his legal career. In 1996, to spur on fellow alumni, he established the "Walsh Challenge" to match gifts totaling $1 million. Walsh funds helped renovate the Law Library.
Walsh calls his generosity "repayment of a debt. An $800 scholarship made it possible for me to attend Harvard Law School." As cochair of the Deans Advisory Board and a Visiting Committee member, he is now engaged in planning the Schools future course. "I have great faith in Bob Clarks ability to set an agenda," he comments, "to build consensus in a diverse faculty, and to involve alumni in addressing globalization, the impact of technology, and other key issues of the twenty-first century."