William M. Dyal Obituary:
Funeral Date: 4/25/2015
William M. Dyal, a former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and a well-known leader among various ministries in Baptist, U.S. government and international volunteer agencies, died Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. He is survived by his wife of more than 64 years, Edie Dyal; three daughters, Kathy Schwab and husband James, Deborah DeMeo and husband Jonathan and Lisa Reese and husband Andrew; nine grandchildren; and brother Terry Alan Dyal of Pahrump, Nev. Bill was born May 13, 1928, in Austin, Texas. Both he and his wife, the former Edith Colvin of El Dorado, Arkansas, graduated from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, where they first met their freshman year during registration. From Baylor, Bill went to Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to study theology and pastoral counseling. Following a rural pastorate in Bagdad, Ky., the Dyals were appointed Baptist missionaries, where they served mainly in Costa Rica and Guatemala. This began their “love affair” with all things Latin American—especially Latinos, according to Bill Dyal. This first international experience expanded their interest into other regions of the world where Bill became recognized for his humanitarian approach to local issues and problems. After serving seven and a half years as missionaries in Costa Rica, Guatemala and a number of other Latin American countries, Bill worked with the Baptist mission’s agency to train other missionaries. In this capacity he traveled throughout the South American continent. Eventually he joined the Baptist staff of what was known then as the Christian Life Commission, now named the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Dyal’s agenda with the Baptist agency included race relations, war and peace, citizenship and international affairs. During his tenure he was a popular speaker in churches, conferences and student groups. He was especially aggressive on the subject of race relations, which many years later led to an interesting assignment he initiated when he was asked as the new president of St. John’s to lead a seminar in one of the Great Books series for which St. John’s College is well known. The story goes that Dyal chose to discuss a classic of civil rights literature written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The students did not know, and Bill did not tell them in advance of the discussion that he had met and visited Dr. King in jail while he was working for the church-sponsored social action agency in the South in the 1960s. Bill would have been the first to rejoice that he lived to see the day when many positive changes occurred. Dyal’s leadership and reputation grew into an invitation from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to serve as one of the country directors for the Peace Corps in Colombia in the mid-1960s. Colombia then, like now, was seen as one of the strategically important countries in the Western Hemisphere and Bill was given the challenge to develop one of the largest Peace Corps programs in the hemisphere. It was there that he received one of the highest honors bestowed by the Colombian government, a gold medal for his contribution to education, while he was the Peace Corps director. The honor was an unprecedented one for a North American. Based on Bill’s successful work in Colombia, the Peace Corps asked him to lead their programs in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. As one of the four Peace Corps regional directors in the world, he was able to develop a deep understanding of countries such as India, Nepal, Ceylon, the Maldives island, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Malta, Tunisia and Morocco. A favorite story loved by many of his workers was that at one time Bill trekked seven days up and down rugged mountains to a remote Nepal village to visit the local Peace Corps worker on his home turf. Bill’s response to their teasing and criticism was reported to be a typical retort that if the local worker could make this trek often, he surely could make it at least once! It was in this regional position with Peace Corps where his reputation for humanitarian and innovative approaches to poverty and political conflict were recognized. In 1971, the U.S. Congress formed the Inter-American Foundation, a new public corporation like the National Science Foundation to fund social and economic grassroots development in this hemisphere. Many in Congress were frustrated with the failure of the traditional bilateral programs in which we were working with corrupt dictators and governments and wanted to find a way of working directly with concerned citizens and non-government organizations. After a nationwide search, Bill Dyal was named the founding director, a position he held for nine years. Following that, he worked as a consultant to the president of the Ford Foundation as an advisor on foreign affairs, and as a trusted advisor to members of the U.S. Congress’s committee on Western Hemipsheric Affairs. As Congressman Dante Fascell, D-Fla., (deceased) once observed, “Bill is the North Star on restructuring our foreign aid programs. We need to listen to him and restructure our programs so that they produce real results for real people.” Dyal was invited in 1980 to become the president of the American Field Service (AFS), one of the best-known world programs that sponsors exchange students to and from the United States to other countries. This program began following World War II when volunteer ambulance drivers envisioned an exchange program for young people to live and study in another culture. Bill is credited with a number of major accomplishments during his tenure at AFS. He opened offices in major world cities to facilitate recruitment and training for the high school students and teachers who choose to study and live abroad for one to two years. Thousands of students and teachers, along with their host families, have participated in these cross-cultural exchanges. One of the lasting achievements at AFS was Bill’s role in opening China to become a part of AFS. To date, this program is ongoing and gathering strength. There are now more that 570,000 students studying in U.S. higher education institutions and AFS is credited with creating much of the supportive network for making this happen. Another part in the legacy of Bill’s distinguished careers was serving as president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. The current president, Christopher Nelson, praised Bill’s impact as significant and long lasting. He served St. John’s College for just four years, from 1986 to 1990 until he chose to step down due to health reasons. “He made an enormous and lasting impact on the college during his time here. He was loved and admired by faculty; students looked up to him. He was called accepting wise friendly. And particularly courageous in his determined approach to recovery after his illness.” Dr. Nelson praised Dyal further by saying he was adept at fundraising, securing funds for faculty salaries, and for a number of additions and renovations. President Nelson continued by saying, “Bill may have seemed an unusual choice for the presidency he never worked at an institution of higher education; he was unabashed about his unfamiliarity with our program, but his own description of how he saw his role indicates what a good choice he was. What the campus needed, Bill said, ‘is a president who is a presence.’” Among the words hanging beneath the portrait of William M. Dyal Jr., in the Great Hall at St. John’s are “Although he moved on several years ago, Bill left a lasting presence on this campus and an ideal of leadership that still inspires us today.” There is one more footnote to Bill Dyal’s varied and international careers. It was a call for help from the Peace Corps regional director, Vic Johnson, who later observed, “We needed someone of standing who could perform in this vitally important country. We were so fortunate to have Bill join us.” So, after living on Kiawah Island for four years, recuperating from brain surgery and before settling down in Fredericksburg, he and Edie spent two more years serving as Peace Corps director in Panama. Graveside services were 1:00PM Saturday, April 25th at Oakland Cemetery with Rev. Gary Harrison officiating. Arrangements were by Frazer Funeral Home.
|Message:||Edith and family, I was saddened to learn about Bill. Bing told me last weekend. I cannot come to be with you for the memorial, and that just breaks my heart. Bing will explain. You all will be in my thoughts and prayers, as you are, anyway, always.|