Disgraced United Way Leader Bill Aramony Dies

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November 14, 2011; Source: New York TimesBill Aramony, who led the United Way of America for 22 years—between 1970 and 1992—only to resign in disgrace, died Friday in Virginia. Aramony is credited with making coherent and guiding the United Way network as it built from $787 million in fundraising proceeds to $3 billion. This growth fed directly into the coffers of UWA since the national hub took 1 percent of every dollar raised by every affiliate around the country. Aramony lived in high style while leading the network, however, with a salary that topped out at $460,000 and a number of perks later deemed criminal. The iconic image in his story was a UW funded trip down the Nile with a teenage girlfriend. Aramony and two associates were jailed for fraud in 1994, but that was not the end of the story for affiliates, who were faced with many years of donor distrust as a result of the high-profile tale. Still, feeling badly used, Aramony sued United Way while incarcerated, saying that it owed him $4.2 million in pension benefits and deferred compensation. Remarkably, the court agreed they owed him something and awarded him benefits. But after restitution of stolen money, taxes, and lawyers’ fees, he received only $7,781.—Ruth McCambridge 

  • Margot Knight

    There’s an opera in there somewhere. A sad tale.

  • ruth

    Now that you mention it! Great idea!


    Truly a fall from grace in operatic style but I can’t help but recall what the UW was like before he took over and the transformation and global reach he led that in many ways transformed the nonprofit world and helped UW touch an incredible number of lives. Ironically, I find the United Way’s publications and manuals some of the best in the business, which helps them identify misdeeds and bad actors today. While he should be remembered for the scandal as cautionary tale, his vision and contribution might be remembered somewhere in the mix as well.