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TTU News

Seven decades after Captain William Anderson earned a business degree from Tennessee Tech University, his legacy is becoming clear with an estate gift that is the single largest gift (estate or outright) in university history.

When the retired merchant marine, who traveled the world but considered his university relationships his most enduring, passed away earlier this year, his gift began to come to fruition. Currently, the university has received about $2.1 million. But with an upcoming auction on Dec. 6 of his home and personal property added to other liquid assets, the total gift may climb as high as $2.5 million.

"During these tough budget times, it is so appropriate that this historic gift will benefit students directly," said TTU President Bob Bell. "The largest single gift in our history signifies how much university family members continue to care and support us throughout the decades."

Anderson designated his gifts to 14 different areas -- 13 new scholarship endowments and one existing scholarship endowment. Over the past couple of decades, Anderson financially supported student scholarship in many disciplines, often anonymously.

"Captain Anderson left a legacy that will help generations of young men and women achieve what he so cherished, an education from Tennessee Tech," said President Bell.

Close friend Michael Birdwell, a TTU history professor, says you can't talk about Anderson without mentioning his interest in students. Birdwell says he met Anderson where most students met him, at TTU's Memorial Gym swimming pool where Anderson regularly swam a mile every day.

"He loved going to the cafeteria and just eating lunch with students," said Birdwell. "He sort of adopted some students because he understood how important it was for those students to have him to take them under his wing."

Indeed, Anderson worked his way through school, encouraged by Charles Bryan, who was his friend and mentor. In his later years, he especially enjoyed the Bryan Symphony Orchestra because he was a former student and great admirer of Bryan.

Anderson was born in 1918 to James Montgomery Anderson and Mary Jane Brock Anderson, friends of Jere Whitson, one of Tech's founding fathers. He graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1939 with a degree in business and went on to receive his master's degree in education from the University of Kentucky.

He entered active service with the Coast Guard, and then left to begin his tenure with the U.S. Maritime Service as an ensign. He spent the rest of his career there, becoming chief officer, then captain.

After his retirement, Anderson reconnected with the university, often entertaining university guests in his home.

"He was well traveled and a most gracious host," said Birdwell. "It was a real treat to go to his house. Dinner often was quite an affair, lasting from 6 p.m. to midnight in European style."

After Anderson moved to an assisted living facility in Knoxville in 2001, he still traveled to Cookeville often to visit Tech friends.   After failing health left him unable to travel, Tennessee Tech family members visited him often, and some even helped him celebrate his 90 th birthday. Anderson passed away in June.

"Captain Anderson expected loyalty, but he also proved himself loyal to others, especially to TTU students," said Birdwell.

McWilliams Realty is donating much of its time spent preparing for the Dec. 6 auction in order to make Anderson's last wishes come true   --   give all he had to students who want to attend Tennessee Tech.

The auction will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at 706 N. Jefferson Ave. (Corner of North Jefferson and 7th Street).

Anderson's home will be auctioned, as well as his 2004 Mercedes-Benz, fine furniture, antiques, china, fine quilts and area rug and a grandfather clock more than 200 years old.   Due to limited parking around the house, shuttle service will be provided to the auction site from TTU's School of Nursing parking lot.

Visit for more details and a large collection of photos of Anderson's personal property. For more information, contact Tiff Rector, TTU's Director of Planned Giving, at 931-372-3055.