William F. May, a corporate executive who was key to the founding of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, died of congestive heart failure on Sunday, Sept. 18, in Greenwich, Conn. He was 95.
May presided over a long period of expansion at the American Can Co., retiring from the company in 1980. He was later named dean of the NYU business school and was a longtime member of the board at the New York Times Co.
At Lincoln Center, the executive was elected to the board in 1967 and tasked with building up the organization’s young film department, founded in 1963. May’s role was to raise the money while others, Amos Vogel and Richard Roud, tended to creative matters.
Crises bedeviled the org in its early years; Vogel, director of the film committee and its festival, resigned after Lincoln Center withdrew its financial support in 1968.
But after securing new sources of funding the following year, May, together with two other Lincoln Center execs, founded the Film Society of Lincoln Center, elevating cinema to a place among the other arts to which the complex was dedicated.
William Frederick May was born in Chicago and earned degrees in chemical engineering and organic chemistry from the U. of Chicago, among other institutions. He spent more than four decades at American Can.
Survivors include his wife, Kathleen; two daughters; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.