Editor’s note: Victoria Haynes, chief executive officer of RTI International, was among the many friends and colleagues of the late William F. “Bill” Little who recalled his many achievements as a professor, academic leader and one of the visionaries who created Research Triangle Park 50 years ago at a memorial service in Chapel Hill on March 27.

Dr. Little, a member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty for more than 40 years, was a former vice president of the UNC system and helped create Research Triangle Institute, now RTI International. He died on February 27. Haynes has worked at RTI since 1999.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Most of us who knew Bill Little will remember him as a humble man.

If he were here with us today, he would probably ask why all of us are making such a big fuss.

I am confident he also would want us to acknowledge that he led a great life … and that he enjoyed every minute of it. So my intent is not to dwell on the loss we are all feeling today, but rather to briefly reflect on the Bill Little I knew…

I first met Dr. Little when I was interviewing at RTI. He was warm and friendly, and had a twinkle in his eye that I will NEVER forget.

Actually, I was a little intimidated when we first met.

I am a chemist myself, and I found myself being interviewed for an important position by a senior university professor, distinguished scientist and renowned chemist.

Given Bill’s background, I was a little fearful that he would continue to test my chemistry knowledge. Out of courtesy to me I suppose, he never did… at least not publicly.

Instead, he shared with me and others at RTI his vision, patience and the calm persistence that made him so successful throughout his life.

As an RTI Board Member, Bill was kind of an imp… in a positive way.

No matter how serious the business or issue we faced, Bill started each meeting with a joke… and then used his charm and intellect to help focus our conversation and smooth over any rough patches in our discussions.

Bill always took the long view. He was a bit of a dreamer in that sense but a very practical one. He turned dreams into reality by being very practical by getting into the details and by working hard to make things happen.

His efforts to recruit businesses to the Triangle in the late 1950s reflect that sense of practicality. He used his personal contacts, university contacts and government contacts to sell the vision for Research Triangle Park.

Bill had the power of persuasion and the sense of optimism that was vital to the Park’s success in the early days, when many people thought the Park would fail.

Through his tireless efforts and persuasion, Bill recruited Chemstrand as the first commercial company to RTP. In the process, he helped secure the future of RTP, which is one of the most successful research parks anywhere in the world and today serves as the economic engine of central North Carolina.

While he was recruiting businesses for RTP, Bill also had a hand in recruiting some of RTI’s first chemists and was instrumental in establishing our chemistry research program at RTI.

We dedicated the William F. Little Medicinal Chemistry Building on our campus in 2003 to honor Bill’s numerous contributions to RTI and its chemistry program over many years.

Throughout his tenure at RTI, Bill remained the consummate teacher – and he LOVED to grade. He also liked to poke fun and tease people a little, too.

I remember the detail with which he set up a grading system for our Board Members’ self assessments! What can you say about a guy like that?

What some people may not know about Bill is that he was an accomplished chef. He was a member of the Triangle chapter of Le Chen Routiseurs, a gourmet club. He enjoyed cooking, eating good food and drinking good wine in the company of family and friends.
Bill introduced me to a number of very good North Carolina wines.

Beyond his prolific scientific and business careers, Bill Little would most want to be remembered as a family man… a loving husband, brother, father and grandfather.

Bill took great pride in his daughter Terry, his son-in-law Denis, and their two children Arianne and Julien. He spoke of you often and fondly, as he did you, Dell [Little’s wife.]

Dr. William Little accomplished more in a lifetime than most people would in 10 lifetimes. He had a big heart, a brilliant mind, and a gift for helping people see the brighter side of things.

I think the most valuable thing Bill taught me, and perhaps some of you as well, is that anything is possible if you dream… and that great things are possible for those who follow their dreams.
While he will probably be most remembered for his role in helping to sell the vision of Research Triangle Park and his teaching at UNC Chapel Hill… I will most remember him for …that twinkle in his eye.

That twinkle said it all about the man I knew as Bill Little… who he was….his curiosity, his warmth, his dreams, his thirst for knowledge, his humanity….

I will miss him dearly.