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William Copeland 1918-2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

William J. Copeland, prominent Pittsburgh executive and philanthropist and former chair of the university's Board of Trustees, passed away February 16 at his home at the age of 98.

Copeland was born on the Fourth of July in 1918 and served his country in the U.S. Army Air Force for five years, later becoming a co-founder, as well as director and vice president, of the National Flag Foundation.

He served on the board of then-Robert Morris College for three decades of significant growth, from 1970 to 2001, including a decade as the chair, and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from the institution.

The Uniontown native earned his bachelor's degree from Penn State University and  juris doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.  Copeland joined Peoples First National Bank and Trust Company, predecessor to Pittsburgh National Bank, in 1947 as a trust administrator. He rose through numerous positions including executive vice president in charge of the trust division and vice chairman of the board, and was eventually named vice chairman of the board of the bank's holding company, PNC Financial Corp. which he held until his retirement in 1983. 

Copeland was extraordinarily active in community service and was named 1980 Pittsburgh Man of the Year. In addition to his years with Robert Morris, Copeland's list of chairmanships includes Family House, Civic Light Opera, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the advisory committee of the Forbes Fund, St. Clair Memorial Hospital, the Health Education Center, the Hospital Trustee Forum, and the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania. Copeland was also president of the Allegheny Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the local council representative for the National Council of Boy Scouts of America.

After his retirement from the business world in Pittsburgh, he and his wife, Joan, retired to Catawba Island, Ohio, where he remained active in community and civic organizations. He enjoyed boating and fishing, playing golf, and his daily cigar chews. He is survived by his wife, son, four daughters, 10 children and 13 great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the William J. Copeland Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation.  Condolences may be expressed online here.