William G. "Bill" Connolly, founding ACES member and former ACES Education Fund president, has died.

William G. "Bill" Connolly, founding ACES member and former ACES Education Fund president, has died.

December 14, 2023 By ACES Staff ACES News
Bill Connolly, ACES founding member and former president, ACES Education Fund

ACES: The Society for Editing and the ACES Education Fund are saddened to announce the death of founding member and former Education Fund president William G. Connolly on Dec. 12. He was 86. 

Bill Connolly, a retired copy editor and senior editor of The New York Times and co-editor of the 1999 revision of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, helped develop ACES quickly after the organization of editors was formed. He served on ACES’ steering committee at its first conference in 1997, becoming instrumental in establishing its bylaws. He was on ACES’ executive committee for 15 years. 

In 2005 Connolly became the first president of the ACES Education Fund, established to create scholarships for students aspiring to become editors. He played a key role in establishing that nonprofit organization’s bylaws and over the following years he led efforts to raise thousands of dollars for the scholarships, which soon allowed the ACES Education Fund to become self-sustaining. He was the Education Fund’s president until 2010.

Bill Connolly with reporter Dudley Clendenin at the old New York Times building, 2001.

Longtime teacher and mentor

Leading up to his work with ACES, Connolly had lectured frequently at the American Press Institute and taught courses over a couple of decades at the Maynard Institute's editing program, the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Berkeley. He also conducted workshops on editing for newspapers as well as journalism schools and associations throughout the country. He soon was giving his presentations at ACES conferences. 

His “Jimmy’s World” session, instructing on how editors could have, with a critical eye, detected that a newspaper profile was fabricated, was a staple for several years. Then, working with representatives of several journalism organizations, media, and universities, Connolly led the creation of an e-book, “Telling the Truth and Nothing But,” instructing on how to fight plagiarism and fabrication. The work preceded a National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication at ACES’ national conference in St. Louis in 2013.

Semicolon Appreciation Society

In 2012, ACES bestowed upon Connolly a Lifetime Achievement Award, at which people were asked to wear stickers for the “Semicolon Appreciation Society,” in honor of Connolly’s favorite punctuation mark. At that conference, in New Orleans, the late Chris Wienandt, a former ACES president, summed up Connolly’s contributions:

“He hasn’t just been a showcase figure,” Wienandt said. “He has given quiet, thoughtful, rational guidance as a board member on issues involving personnel, policy, finances, insurance — practical, real-life issues that many of us were ill-suited to address. And when Bill speaks, everyone listens. He has never once raised his voice. When he offers an idea, he offers it quietly and straightforwardly. You know it’s going to be the best one in the room, and you miss hearing it at your peril.”

Self-portrait. After retirement, Connolly took many art classes.

Connolly continued to serve on the Board of the ACES Education Fund until the spring of 2023.

“Following Bill as Ed Fund president was the scariest thing I’d ever done,” said Merrill Perlman, ACES Education Fund board member. “I had worked with Bill at The Times for so long, knew how well organized and thoughtful he was, and admired him so much. I was terrified I was going to break his creation. But Bill being Bill, he just quietly supported me, even when I misstepped. His advice was always right. And his sense of humor kept me laughing for more than 30 years.” 

“Bill made ACES such a big part of his life, and in so doing he became such a big part of the lives of those of us who later got involved with ACES,” said Neil Holdway, president of the ACES Board of Directors. “He already had been a mentor to so many editors in his career, and then he became an inspiration for so many more in the ACES world. I’m so grateful that he supported me as an ACES Board member and that I got to work with him so closely on the Education Fund Board.”

A full obituary will be available at Friends are invited to visit with the family from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, December 22, and 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, December 23, at the Dooley Funeral Home in Cranford, New Jersey. A memorial gathering and reception will be held on Saturday after the visitation. 

Donate to the ACES Education Fund

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