December 1, 2021

Alumni Profile: Denson’s decades of giving allows others to follow in his footsteps

Making the short drive from his family’s home in Calera to attend classes each day as a UM student, Bill Denson ’65 felt as if he was entering a new world filled with opportunities and promise.

Although Montevallo was only a few miles away from his hometown, Denson had never experienced anything like the atmosphere he found at the University.

“It was a grand experience, and it felt like another world to me. I had great teachers and a lot of wonderful experiences there,” Denson said. “It was a small place — only 1,400 students at that time — and everyone knew everyone else. And it’s still small enough today to remain that way.”

Because he lived so close to campus, Denson did not experience on-campus living. However, his involvement at the University allowed him to connect with friends he still has to this day.

While working toward his bachelor’s degree in political science, Denson embodied the spirit of a liberal arts education by playing baritone saxophone in the UM Wind Ensemble, getting involved with the history honor society and the Delta Theta Pi men’s leadership society, working in Carmichael Library and even taking golf lessons.

At the beginning of each day, Denson placed his textbooks and classroom materials on a table in the library and returned to the table throughout the day to complete assignments, study and socialize.

“Since I didn’t live on campus, that was how I made friends,” Denson said. “Rather than keep everything in my car, I’d just leave it in the library all day, and nobody ever bothered it.”

Denson credits the well-rounded education he received at Montevallo with preparing him to succeed at Emory University School of Law where he earned his juris doctorate. He worked at a Birmingham law firm for a few years and then enjoyed a 36-year career in the legal department of the Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Company.

Receiving multiple scholarships at UM and Emory allowed Denson to achieve his professional goals and retire in 2008 after a distinguished career. Throughout the years, Denson has made it a priority to give back to UM, thereby allowing future generations to enjoy the opportunities he had as a student.

Denson chaired one of the first major capital campaigns in UM’s history in the 1980s and served on the UM Board of Trustees from 1987 to 2000. He also served eight years on the University’s Foundation Board of Directors beginning in 2007.

In a personal capacity, Denson and his wife, Deborah, have provided financial support to UM scholarships for more than three decades and established the Deborah D. and William F. Denson III Recruitment Scholarship in 2011.

“I benefited greatly from Montevallo, and I think it’s important for people to give back if they have benefited. I’ve always tried to do what I could when I could,” Denson said.

Denson said he and his wife have deeply enjoyed meeting the recipients of their scholarships at donor recognition events and other campus activities and look forward to being able to participate in those events again as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

“We really enjoy hearing about their lives and what they want to do. There are so many wonderful students that have come through Montevallo, and we’ve been fortunate to meet some of them,” Denson said. “You don’t always know what benefit your giving has provided. You just know that somewhere out there it helps someone, and that’s about all one could hope for.”