Bill Kay speaks at a Cornell real estate event in 1994.

Courtesy of Cornell University

Bill Kay speaks at a Cornell real estate event in 1994.

April 18, 2020

Kay Hall Namesake, Bill Kay ’51, Dies of Coronavirus Complications

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Real estate developer and generous Cornell benefactor William Kay ’51 died of COVID-19 related causes on Easter, April 12, The Delaware County Daily Times reported Saturday morning. He was 93.

A Pennsylvania native and 1951 graduate of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Kay had long been closely involved with the Cornell community.

The middle section of Court-Kay-Bauer, which opened to freshmen residents in 2001, was named for the Kay family in 2006 after he and his wife gave $10 million to the University. According to his obituary, Kay “loved to return to the first-year student residence every August to welcome new students and their families during orientation.”

While a student, he was a founding member of Watermargin, a co-educational cooperative living residence.

He was a life member of the University Council, a body of mostly alumni who have “demonstrated leadership and involvement in Cornell activities for 5 or more years.” Kay also served as the Class of 1951’s president from 2006 to 2011 and participated on advisory councils for ILR, Cornell Library and Outdoor Education.

For his contributions to the University, Kay was awarded the Frank H. T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award — an honor given to “alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary service to Cornell through long-term volunteer activity” — in 1997 and ILR’s Jerome Alpern Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000.

In his over 60-year real estate career, Kay developed single family housing in New York and Philadelphia suburbs. One of the largest projects Kay spearheaded was Drexelbrook, a large residential community located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.

He later helped found Cornell’s Real Estate Advisory Council, a volunteer-led organization comprised of alumni that help mentor students interested in pursuing real estate careers.

“[Kay] was a mentor, friend and a father-figure,” wrote Domenick Savino, chief executive officer of Drexelbrook, in a Facebook tribute. “He was a leader, visionary, believed in giving back … and was always available to provide advice or encouragement.”