Bill Christensen (BSME ’ 50) grew up in
Chicago during the Great Depression. He
started working when he was 8 years old,
and served as an infantryman in the Pacific
Theater during World War II before pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at
He went on to become a top executive at
IBM, an international business leader, and
a pioneer in the computer industry that
revolutionized the world in the second half
of the 20th century.
Throughout his life, he remained committed to Purdue and always remembered
that his education was made possible
through the benefits of the G.I. Bill.
When he died in 2013, his wife,
Rosamond “Ros” Grindy Christensen (BS
Home Economics ’ 50), united with family
and friends to honor his memory and
success with a scholarship endowment that
will help open the doors of opportunity to
more generations of Purdue students.
The Billy C. and Rosamond Grindy
Christensen Scholarship will support
undergraduate students studying
mechanical engineering at Purdue. The
endowment includes a matching gift from
the University’s Affordability Scholarship
Challenge, part of President Mitchell E.
Daniels, Jr.’s Purdue Moves initiative to
make education affordable and accessible.
Bill and Ros Christensen met at Purdue,
and both graduated in 1950. She was a
leader and served in student organiza-
tions. She was president of Gold Peppers, a
women’s organization encouraging female
support for Purdue's athletic teams, which
were all male at the time. She was also
vice president of the Student Union. Ros
was academically gifted and received the
Alliance Française Award in 1950, given to
the outstanding student in French from
each college in Indiana.
Bill Christensen had a near-perfect
academic record and was vice president of
The Billy C. and Rosamond Grindy Christensen
Scholarship was created as a gift not only to its
recipients, but to its memorial namesake as well.
his class, in addition to serving in leadership
roles in many extracurricular organizations.
Shortly before completing his degree,
Bill followed up on a friend’s suggestion
and applied for a position working for a
punch-card company named IBM. Bill and
IBM both began a rapid rise.
During his first eight years, he moved to
various company locations and assumed
many challenging responsibilities. One
assignment was to the “Future Demands
Team,” a select planning group challenged
to assist the company’s visionary leader,
Thomas Watson Sr. (and later, Watson’s
sons) in refocusing and transforming the
company from a developer and maker of
electronic tabulators, calculators, and typewriters into what became the world’s leading
data processing/computer company.
By 1959, Bill had achieved a high-level
management position, and in 1963 the
family, now including children Dave and
Jill, moved to France. In 1964, Bill was
named general manager of operations in
southern Europe and other nations such as
Egypt and Israel. That required a great deal
of commuting throughout Europe, Africa,
and the Middle East.
In the late 1960s, he was named
president of IBM Europe, heading up the
company’s entire operations in Europe and
the Middle East. The family returned to the
United States in 1971.
In 1975, he was elected vice president
and general manager of IBM World Trade
Corporation. He retired in 1986.
Bill's expertise as an international
management executive led to many
memberships outside IBM in Europe and
the United States.
A member of what has been called “The
Greatest Generation,” Bill understood the
value of hard work. During an interview
for the book A Force for Change: The Class of
1950, he said his success did not come easily.
“Growing up in the Depression and living
through the war stamped our generation
with a certain attitude,” he said. “When I
was working so hard for such long hours
and I would get called back to work while
we were on vacation, I used to say to the
kids: ‘ You have to learn something. In
this life, you do what you have to do and
you don’t complain about it. When you
complain, you just waste energy.’ That is
the kind of thinking that came from the
Depression and the war. The world does
not owe you a thing.”
In retirement, Bill and Ros were familiar
faces at Purdue, including participation on
the building steering committee for the
iconic Class of 1950 Lecture Hall. Some
of Christensen’s mementos, including his
Reamer cap and pins, are on display in the
Dauch Alumni Center.
“Bill thought Purdue was the best school
in the whole world,” said Ros. “Knowing how
he felt, we all agreed Purdue is where we
wanted to leave a lasting legacy in his name.”
To support this scholarship, please make your check
payable to the Purdue Foundation and designate
to “The Billy C. and Rosamond Grindy Christensen
Scholarship.” Mail to the College of Engineering,
Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, 701 W. Stadium
Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045; or call