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William Earl Greiner

Bill GreinerJune 17, 2020

William E. “Bill” Greiner came to Yale from Short Hills, NJ, after graduating from Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ. A teacher’s serendipitous seat reassignment introduced him to Susan, his wife of 54 years, who became an Elementary School teacher and later principal. Friends and neighbors remember him for his warmth and kindness, and for his intelligence.

At Yale Bill was a Mechanical Engineering major; he made the Dean’s List in 1964 and 1965; and he was invited to join the nation’s preeminent engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi, an invitation-only society limited to members in the top 1/8th (for juniors) and top 1/5th (for seniors) of the engineering class. A resident of Pierson College, he early took a position in the famed Yale Precision Marching Band and continued to play for the Elis all four years; and he also volunteered and was a regular tutor for Dwight Hall from 1964 to 1966.

Following graduation from Yale, Bill was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and in 1968 graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then served as an Engineering Manager for a semi-conductor company in New York and for some years was an owner in his own company, Inscom Electronics. In 1975 Bill earned an MBA in Finance from the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, and in later years finance also became a major focus of his career. He went to work for Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., in Global Financial Planning, and retired as Senior Financial Analyst for the company in 2020.

Bill had a number of interests. These included carpentry, classical music, and reading voraciously, especially history and literature. His interests also included birding, something that had been a love of his mother’s and he likely developed for himself as boy growing up. Ever the engineer, Bill converted his backyard in Stony Brook into a small sanctuary for some of his favorite birds, including hummingbirds, goldfinches, woodpeckers, and Baltimore orioles. He studied what plants attracted the birds and planted those; and he learned what feed or food to put out, like navel oranges for the orioles.

The commitment to service that he manifested at Yale continued throughout his life. He was a member and later President of his Rotary Club and was deeply involved in arranging for Russian children in need of heart surgery to be brought to America, where they obtained the needed medical attention at the world-famous St. Francis Hospital on Long Island. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and ever grateful to Yale, Bill interviewed Yale candidates as part of the admission process.

Bill died in June of 2020 after a courageous fight against esophageal cancer. He and Susan had two daughters and two grandsons who survive him. As a husband, father and grandfather, Bill was the cornerstone of his family. He was most at home with them at the beach in Stone Harbor, NJ – a Greiner vacation spot for generations. There, he taught his grandsons to body surf and to love the sea. He and Susan spent their happiest hours together walking the beach surrounded by their loved ones.

David Walker

Marc Hecht remembers:

I roomed with or next door to Bill for four years. In all that time, including two years sharing a microscopic bedroom in Pierson, I don’t think there was a single harsh word between us.

We got to know each other well, although there wasn’t much downtime in his Yale schedule and Bill didn’t talk much. But it was only a few years ago that I learned that, five days a week, Bill had to turn in homework assignments in his Engineering classes, or that he worked at the Student Laundry. He wasn’t in management; he was in handing out sheets and towels every week, to earn money for concert tickets and other extras when Sue came up from Douglass College for an occasional weekend.

Every single night ended with Bill writing a long letter to Sue. He told me he just went over his day, but I still can’t believe what he found to say – what’s so interesting about going to classes? I’ve asked Sue, but their letters – she also wrote every day – were accidentally thrown away in a clean-up campaign. After sealing the envelope, Bill would place his hands on the top bunk and vault in; shows what gymnastics can do for you.

I remember many private moments. One I can share was shortly after I handed in my senior thesis, and Bill told me he’d never seen anyone work as hard on anything as I’d worked on that paper. Bill saying that meant a lot, like when Fritz Barzilaukas came over in the locker room once and told me I’d played well.

By the way: I haven’t had an inquiry on that paper in months. If anyone wants a copy of “Radical Republican Politics in New York City in the Summer of 1864,” let me know.

Dave Mette remembers:

Besides being very bright, Bill was highly organized and very focused on his studies, as an engineering student needs to be. But it was his kindness and generosity that I remember best. Perhaps the best example is our freshman year. Knowing it was not possible for me to travel home for Thanksgiving, he invited me to his home in New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with him and his family. This continued all four years. I’m sure that Bill and his wonderful girlfriend Sue, who became his wife after graduation, would rather have had some alone time instead of with me along as a fifth wheel! But Bill and his family, as well as Sue and her family, welcomed me to their homes, knowing that I would otherwise have been pretty lonely over those holidays.