William Paul Dunk was born in Mount Kisco, NY on March 3, 1938, the youngest child of Leonard and Marie Kennedy Dunk. He died in Chapel Hill, NC on January 2, 2021. The youngest of four siblings, Bill had an upbringing that was anything but ordinary. His father was an agricultural advisor who developed prize dairy cattle herds for notable East Coast families. As a small boy he traveled with his father to visit clients — Doris Duke taught him to use a soup spoon — and a memorable part of his childhood was spent on a Maryland farm where he herded geese in a cart hitched up to his dog. After his parents divorced, his mother became a chief dietician at Harlem Hospital where, he proudly related, she ran the kitchen that produced hundreds of meals daily for doctors and patients. After attending Williston Academy and Edgemont High School, he graduated from The Hill School in 1956. He received a BA in English Literature from Yale University in 1960 and an MA in History from San Francisco State University in 1967. During the Vietnam War he served in the 6th US Army at Fort Ord. His early jobs included elevator operator on Wall Street and barista at Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Berkeley, California. The latter led to a lifelong love of espresso; he was known to drink as many as five in a row during an entertaining conversation. In the 1970’s Bill went to work for and eventually headed Corporate Annual Reports, a New York firm that produced financial publications for Fortune 500 companies. In 1982 he founded William Dunk Partners, through which he advised CEOs in the high tech and health care industries on strategy. For 20 years he also wrote and published The Global Province, a biweekly online newsletter for investors, business executives, journalists and “elitists everywhere.” Although the newsletter focused on business and the economy, it also allowed him to “wrestle,” as he once wrote, “with more things we think about from olive oil to Johnny Mercer to losing weight.” In 1983 he married Courtenay Beinhorn, a food and business writer. They had two children whom he adored: Courtenay Alexandra and Angus William. In a poem he compared them to “birds on the wing:” she “a red-tailed hawk ready to pounce” and he “an eagle who wants to see what’s behind the sky.” For many years the family happily spent part of each summer on Nantucket at Chez Noir, a home belonging to his sister and brother-in-law. Bill was a vibrant, gregarious man who engaged with everyone he met. He was as at ease chatting with a local postal employee as discussing environmental policy with the Prime Minister of Bhutan. His prodigious appetite for food and drink ranged high and low, from foie gras and rare malt whiskeys to BLTs and Mexican Coke. He and Courtenay traveled extensively during their marriage; their trips usually began with lists of restaurants to investigate. He befriended the general managers of his favorite four star hotels , often providing them with “helpful” advice on improving their service. In his later years, Bill took up yoga and qi gong and went for companionable walks with Domino and Nick Charles, his cherished springer spaniels. He wrote poetry, often early in the morning just after waking, scribbling words on whatever paper was at hand. He left behind sheaves of poems in various stages of completion, many dealing with life’s big topics. His passion for old growth forests led to planting offspring of the Maryland Wye Oak around his home in Chapel Hill. Shortly before his death, he gave a grove of trees to the Hill School in honor of Edward Tuck Hall, headmaster at the time he matriculated there. In every way Bill was larger than life. His booming voice, easy laughter and unique humor created an unforgettable persona. Viewing the world from 30,000 feet, his singular talent was for synthesizing ideas from many sources, creating incisive, original, often contrarian insights into the topic at hand, whether in daily conversation, in his poetry and essays, or in the advice he gave to clients. He often put his life well-lived down to “luck;” in truth, it had everything to do with the person he was. Bill was preceded in death by his brothers Leonard and Peter and his sister Deborah. He leaves behind his wife of 37 years, Courtenay Beinhorn Dunk; his son, Angus William Dunk; daughter, Alexandra Dunk and son-in-law Brian Keith; and many nephews and nieces. The family asks that any contributions be given to The Hill School, in honor of William P. Dunk, Class of 1956.
Remembering members of the Williston Northampton community