William T. “Bill” Dillard, II, chairman of Arkansas-born department store Dillard’s, is this year’s honoree for Easterseals Arkansas’s Arkansan of the Year.
The annual gala recognizes a distinguished leader who has given their time, talent and resources to improve the quality of life for Arkansans. Dinner, a live auction and tribute to Dillard will be held Friday, May 4, in the Little Rock Marriott Grand Ballroom. The cocktail reception begins at 6 p.m., with the dinner and program starting at 7.
In addition to financial support of Easterseals Arkansas and other nonprofits in our community, Dillard’s commitment to our post-secondary program at UA Little Rock for students with disabilities makes his company a role model for other employers.
Dillard was born in Nashville, Arkansas – the same town where his father established the first Dillard’s department store in 1938. Dillard began working part-time in his father’s company while he was still in school. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arkansas, he joined the board of directors of his father’s company and completed an M.B.A. from Harvard University. In 1977, Dillard was promoted to president and chief operating officer of Dillard’s, Inc. He succeeded his father as chief executive officer of Dillard’s, Inc. in 1998 and was later named chairman of the company in 2002 after his father’s death.
Today, Dillard’s, Inc. ranks among the nation’s largest fashion apparel, cosmetics and home furnishings retailers. The company continues to be a family business, as siblings Alex Dillard, Mike Dillard, Denise Mahaffy and Drue Matheny all have important roles with the store their father started, as does Dillard’s son, William T. Dillard, III.
Dillard has been a longtime supporter of the University of Arkansas and Razorback Athletics. He has been an active member of the Razorback Foundation, Inc., for more than five decades and his generosity has helped make a difference in the lives of thousands of student-athletes for more than a half century. Additionally, the third floor of Old Main on the Fayetteville campus was named “The Dillard Floor” in recognition of the Dillard Family’s support of the Old Main renovation project in 1991. He is also a former member of the Sam M. Walton College of Business Dean’s Executive Advisory Board.
Dillard lives in Little Rock with his wife, Mandy. They have three children and eight grandchildren.
Arkansan of the Year chairmen are Gus Vratsinas, chairman of the board of Bailey Construction and Consulting, LLC; and Chris Johnson, the principal financial officer for Dillard’s, Inc. Both serve on Easterseals Arkansas Board of Directors, with Johnson in an officer capacity as secretary.
For more than 70 years, Easterseals Arkansas has been a resource for people with disabilities and their families. Its mission is to provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. For more information, visit www.eastersealsar.com.