Bill Alcorn
Bill Alcorn (BSBA ’71) has been a leader in providing female entrepreneurs more opportunities to compete.

Organization’s award highlights alumnus’ work for businesswomen

In the competitive and sometimes cutthroat world of big business, Bill Alcorn (BSBA ’71) is somewhat of an enigma. While some business executives do all they can to shield competitors from the marketplace, Alcorn did everything he could to welcome them in, especially female entrepreneurs who he felt weren’t given a fair shake.

Alcorn’s generosity and leadership were honored again Thursday with the awarding of the William J. Alcorn Leadership Award by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) during the organization’s National Conference and Business Fair in Minneapolis. The Alcorn Award “recognizes exemplary leadership contributions made by individuals in support of WBENC’s mission to open the doors of opportunity in corporate contracting to certified Women’s Business Enterprises.”

“It’s very touching and I’m very proud,” Alcorn said. “I worked hard in support of all this, and there were a lot of barriers to overcome and work through. I’m very honored that something like this will be around for a long, long time.”

WBENC was formed in 1996 when 15 major companies, including JC Penney, where Alcorn served as the retail giant’s Senior Vice President, Controller and Chief Procurement Officer, joined forces to help level the playing field for female business leaders.

“There was certainly an inequity in the marketplace,” Alcorn said. “There were a lot of good ol’ boy networks, companies using the same people and women never got the opportunity to bid.”

When it came time to choose WBENC’s first leader, a logical choice was to select an elite businesswoman. Instead it was Alcorn who was selected to get the new organization off the ground thanks to his past success as Chairman of the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s Business Consortium Fund, which aided the financing and growth of minority-owned businesses. He was instituted as the organization’s first Chair of the Board of Directors and remained involved with WBENC in various capacities until his retirement in 2008.

“If I can play a role in making a difference,” said Alcorn, “then I’ll do it.”

Upon Alcorn’s retirement, WBENC President Pamela Prince-Eason said the organization’s board wanted to find a way to honor Alcorn for his years of service and leadership which led to the establishment of the Alcorn Award.

“Bill has been with WBENC as long as it has existed and we’ve seen the progress he’s made,” Prince-Eason said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

His service and dedication to WBENC also earned Alcorn a unique honor, an induction into the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame.

“One of my favorite things to tell people is that when you look at me, I don’t own a business and I’m not a woman, but I was inducted into Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame,” Alcorn said.

Alcorn has dedicated much of his time and energy to nonprofit causes. In addition to his work with the National Minority Supplier Development Council and WBENC, Alcorn served as the Chief Financial Officer for the North Texas Food Bank, and has served on the Boards of CONTACT Crisis Line, the Dallas Zoological Society and the Women’s Museum of Fair Park.

Alcorn has also extended his generosity back to his alma mater. He serves on the Executive Advisory Board for the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research and the UF Foundation Board of Directors. He and his wife, Patti, have established several major endowments at UF including one to support professional development programs in the Heavener School of Business, and another to support scholarships for students in retail management.

Although WBENC has made significant progress the past two decades, Alcorn said more can be done. He said WBENC will continue its mission here in the United States, but envisions its impact stretching globally into Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe.

“There are still many companies out there that aren’t open to giving women business owners an opportunity,” Alcorn said. “We still have work to do there.”

In the meantime, Alcorn can take pride in the progress he helped form. He has been reminded of the good work he’s done this past week in Minneapolis reconnecting with some of the female business owners who WBENC has assisted.

“I met a woman who a couple years ago had a small company, just getting off the ground,” Alcorn said. “Now, she’s doing over $50 million in sales and continuing to grow. It’s nice to know that we’ve been a part of that growth, and that’s exciting.”