Distinguished alumnus William Akers was Nashville business leader

William Ballance Akers, a Nashville business leader and Vanderbilt School of Engineering distinguished alumnus, died Aug. 27, 2016, in Nashville. He was 91.

At 17, following in his father’s footsteps, the Nashville native enrolled in Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering. He attended two years before entering the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The Navy sent him to the University of Oklahoma where he graduated in 1945 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. At the war’s end, he was in midshipmen’s school at Cornell University.

William Akers

Because a degree from Vanderbilt was important to him, he re-enrolled in the School of Engineering. He was president of the campus chapter of Sigma Chi and helped raise money to build Vanderbilt Memorial Gymnasium. He also was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. In 1947, he graduated from Vanderbilt with his second bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering. Akers went on to earn a master of science degree in soil mechanics in 1948 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After MIT, he worked for the U.S. Corps of Engineers at the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 1949, he returned to Nashville, founded and served as president of Asphalt Products Company, a paving materials manufacturer. In 1956, he and his brother formed the Globe Company, a highway contractor. In 1966, they formed Dotiki Webster County Coal Company with a childhood friend. In 1980, the brothers formed the Parent Company Inc., a general contracting business. After 25 years of successful business partnership, the brothers retired in 1981.

Akers contributed to Vanderbilt in a number of ways. In the 1960s, he was president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and raised money through the Clinic Bowl to help build the children’s wing at Vanderbilt Hospital. In the 1970s, he led a crucially important fundraising campaign for Vanderbilt School of Engineering. In 1991, the school awarded him their Outstanding Service Award, and in 2006 he was inducted into the school’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni. Recently, he gave the James Clark Akers, Jr. Honor Scholarship – in memory of his father – to the Vanderbilt School of Engineering

Akers was a charter member of the board of the Nashville Better Business Bureau, served on the board of Family and Children’s Services, was president of the Nashville Area Junior Chamber of Commerce, and was a co-founder of the Hundred Club of Nashville.

Akers was born in Nashville in 1925. He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann Denman Akers, four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild; his brother and a number of nieces and nephews.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering