William F. May

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William Frederick May (October 25, 1915 – September 18, 2011) was an American chemical engineer, businessman and co-founder of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.[1][2]

May was born in Chicago in 1915 and raised in the suburb of Oak Park.[2] He graduated from Oak Park High School and earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester in 1937.[1] He pursued graduate studies at both the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology.[1]

In the 1930s, May joined DuPont as part of a research team which developed the first rust-proof paint.[1][2] He was hired by the American Can Company in 1940, based in a laboratory in Maywood, Illinois.[2] May became head of the American Can Company and shepherded the company through fifteen years of expansion and growth from 1965.[1] He spearheaded American Can Company's relocation of its corporate headquarters to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1972.[2]

May was elected to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' board of directors in 1967.[1] He was tasked with establishing a new film department for Lincoln Center.[1] He worked as the program's chief fundraiser, while two other members of the committee handled artistic contributions, Richard Roud and Amos Vogel, both of whom founded the New York Film Festival.[1] However, Lincoln Center withdrew financial support from the committee in 1968 due to financial woes.[1] May searched for new financial donors. In 1969, May and two Lincoln Center executives, Schuyler G. Chapin and Martin E. Segal, co-founded the Film Society of Lincoln Center.[1]

May retired from the American Can Company in 1980.[2] He served as the dean of what is now called the New York University Stern School of Business for four years.[1][2] He later became the chief executive of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, eventually becoming chairman emeritus in 2006.[2]

William May died on September 18, 2011, in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he resided since 1970, at the age of 95.[1] Before moving to Greenwich, he and his family had lived in nearby Chappaqua, New York.[2] He was survived by his wife, Kathleen; two daughters; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Grimes, William (2011-09-20). "William F. May, 95, Dies; Helped Found Film Society". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chamoff, Lisa (2011-09-22). "William May, former chairman and CEO of Greenwich's American Can Co., dies at 95". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 2011-10-02.