A Nashville native now chair and chief executive officer of Dillard’s Incorporated will be presented with an honorary degree at next month’s University of Arkansas spring commencement ceremony. Arkansas businessman William T. Dillard II will receive an honorary Doctor of Business degree. The university says that he did more than just carry on the tradition of his father, that he created his own legend in the Arkansas retail industry. Dillard remains a steadfast supporter of the University of Arkansas.
Bill Dillard, chair and chief executive officer of Dillard’s Inc., is the oldest son of retailing pioneer William T. Dillard, the founder of Dillard Department Stores. He was born in Nashville, Arkansas, on March 4, 1945, and began working part-time in his father’s retail operations while still in school. He graduated from what is now the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration as an accounting major. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University two years later.
Dillard began his career in the family business in 1967 and joined the company’s board of directors the same year. From 1977 to 1998, Dillard served as president and chief operating officer of the company. He succeeded his father as chief executive officer in 1998 and was named chair of the company in 2002.
Dillard was among the first in the industry to computerize his company’s business operations, and also guided the $3 billion purchase of the Mercantile Stores Company in 1998. He has continued to guide Dillard’s during the tumultuous changes in the retail clothing industry.
Dillard served on the University of Arkansas’ Campaign Steering Committee and the Corporate and Foundation Relations Committee of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century and now serves as a member of the Executive, Campaign Steering, and Corporate and Foundation Relations committees for Campaign Arkansas.
He is a former member of the Dean’s Circle and Dean’s Executive Advisory Board of the Walton College and has been a member of the Razorback Foundation for more than five decades.
Dillard received the University of Arkansas Chancellor’s Medal in 2015 and joined his father in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2016.