Every student who has attended Southwestern since 2000 has heard of William Joseph King ’93. Many of them are indebted to him. The King Creativity Fund, which King endowed that year, provides grants that allow students to pursue visionary projects that transcend disciplinary boundaries and stretch the imagination. Over the years, the fund has evolved from a generous gift to a beloved campus tradition.


“Joey is a brilliant, thoughtful, and caring risk-taker,” said Southwestern President Emeritus Jake B. Schrum ’68. “His gift to establish the King Creativity Fund Endowment is a college president’s dream because it increases the University’s endowment, encourages innovation and creativity in students, and models philanthropy for other alumni.”


Grant recipients present their projects at both the annual King Creativity Symposium and the Research and Creative Works Symposium. King returns to the Southwestern campus each year to attend the King Creativity Symposium and present the Walter Milton Potter Prize to that year’s best student or project. He named the prize after his mentor, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Science Walter Potter, who died last year.


“Joey seems to know that each student who has made their way to Southwestern is a person who hungers for knowledge, seeks to explore new corners of their own creativity, and longs for a better world to live in,” said Nisa Sharma 92. “He has always embraced that truth and set a path in order to ease the path for these special young people. Serving them has been his life’s work.”


Much like the award that bears his name, King’s career has transcended boundaries. After graduating from Southwestern with a degree in computer science and experimental psychology, King went on to earn his doctorate in human-computer interaction from the University of Washington. He has served as a research scientist, an entrepreneur-in-residence, and a university president. He also has co-authored two books on the challenges confronting higher education with retired Bucknell University President Brian C. Mitchell and is working on a third as the 2024–2025 Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Distinguished Presidential Fellow. Every step of the way, King has advocated tirelessly for Southwestern and the value of a liberal arts education.


“Joey is a warrior for education,” said Georgianne Hewett ’90. “He has been relentless in his efforts to help university leaders clearly see the threats to higher education and envision new paths. He is meticulous in his research and prophetic in his predictions. His bravery has often left him bloodied, but his strength of character and deep commitment to the power of education as a force for good has withstood.”


In addition to establishing the King Creativity Fund, King has supported Southwestern in several ways over the years. He served on the Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2009. He was a member of the Alumni Self-Study Commission, which made recommendations to improve the Alumni Association’s governance, structure, and programming. He donated artist James Acord’s Monstrance for a Grey Horse sculpture to the University and had it installed on campus, thereby starting another tradition: During finals week, students cover the sculpture with offerings of food for good luck.


“Joey has been a constant source of inspiration and engagement,” said Bryan Hooper92. “His considerable intellect makes him very well-versed in a vast range of subjects. His fierce commitment to his sense of justice makes him a powerful ally to marginalized communities. His pragmatic work ethic empowers him to generate real-world results. But it is his outsized compassion for people generally that allows him to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.”


For his generous support and selfless service to the University, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is proud to honor William Joseph King with the Distinguished Southwestern Service Award.