In Memoriam: The RBF Honors the Life of William M. Dietel (1927–2023)

Few people outside the Rockefeller family have made an impact on the RBF as profound as Bill Dietel. Bill, who served as president of the Fund from 1975–1987, passed away at home surrounded by family on October 10, 2023, after a brief period of failing health.

Bill led the RBF as it evolved into a more programmatically oriented organization able to align its efforts with the evolving needs of the world. His vision and guidance steered the Fund through a challenging period of shifting priorities and the deaths of several founding trustees.

“Bill was a magnificent human being,” said Stephen Heintz, current president and CEO of the RBF. “I have always felt I am standing on his shoulders.”

Bill joined the RBF as a program officer in 1970 after serving as principal of the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. He was one of the Fund’s first five program officers, who together transformed the organization and enabled it to grow in new directions. He then served as executive vice president before succeeding Dana Creel as president in 1975.

Under Bill’s dedicated leadership, the deep involvement characteristic of the Rockefeller brothers’ philanthropy became a distinguishing feature of the RBF. Bill oversaw the Fund’s separation from the Rockefeller Family Office and major final grants to longtime partners, as well as new efforts to provide grantees with resources that went beyond financial support, helping build the capacity of many fields.

After leaving the Fund, he established a consulting firm that became Dietel Partners when his daughters joined him in 2007.

“Bill lived his life to the fullest with travel, consistent engagement with family, friends, work colleagues, and more,” said Jennifer Nolan, RBF trustee and fifth-generation member of the Rockefeller family. “To say he had a life well lived and made the world a better place doesn’t begin to cover it.”