Alumni Review

In Memory: Bruce C. Gottwald Jr. ’81

Bruce Gottwald smiling.

Former member of the VMI Board of Visitors, former president of the VMI Keydet Club, businessman and philanthropist Bruce C. Gottwald Jr. ’81 died Oct. 20, 2019. He was 61.

Gottwald matriculated at VMI after what he described in his Bomb history as a “freshman – not rat year” at the University of Virginia. As a cadet, Gottwald majored in history and was a member of the soccer and lacrosse teams for three years. He also was involved with the Young Democrats and served on the staff of The Cadet.

After his graduation in 1981, he began working at Ethyl Corporation. The following year, he entered the Master of Business Administration program at the College of William and Mary and he received his MBA in 1984. He then returned to work for Ethyl, holding numerous positions including with the Lynchburg-based firm First Colony Life Insurance. He became president and chief executive officer of First Colony Corporation in 1992, the same year he joined Ethyl’s board of directors. He oversaw the transformation of First Colony into an independent, public company and led it until it was sold. He went on to found Jonah, LLC, a private investment management company, which he led until his death.

Gottwald served on the boards of many corporations, including the Albemarle Corporation, Paragon Mutual Funds and Signet Banking Corporation. He also was the chairman of the board of First National Bank of Hempstead County, Arkansas.

Although he was busy as a business leader, he managed to find time to build an impressive record of service to his community. He was on boards of numerous Richmond-area organizations, including the Union Presbyterian Seminary, St. Catherine’s School, the Children’s Museum of Richmond and the YMCA of Greater Richmond. He was trustee of the William and Mary Foundation and a director of World Pediatric Project’s World Ambassador Society. He was also a member and elder of Richmond’s First Presbyterian Church.

A loyal alumnus of VMI, he dedicated his time and talents to advancing the Institute. He began his service in 1985 when he joined the VMI Keydet Club Board of Governors. He served that organization, which is dedicated to the support of VMI’s cadet-athletes and its NCAA sports program, for the next 12 years and was its president from 1995-97. In 2006, he became a trustee of the VMI Foundation and served on that board for four years. He also was a member of the board of VMI Investments, LLC. He gave consistently and generously, but always quietly, in support of the Institute.

In 2010, Gottwald was named to the VMI Board of Visitors and served on the board for two four-year terms. During those eight years, he applied his experience in business and charity, to include his previous service to VMI, on almost every committee of the board, such as the Athletics Committee and the Nominating and Governance Committee (he was the chairman of both) as well as the Auditing, Finance and Planning Committee and Academic Committee. He was a member of the Executive Committee for several years and was a vice president of the board, as well. The resolution presented to him by his colleagues on the board at the end of his tenure stated that he “always provided sage counsel and was consistently relied upon to provide careful analysis of major issues confronting the Board and the Institute.”

In addition to his parents, Nancy and Bruce C. Gottwald Sr. ’54, Gottwald is survived by his brothers, Mark H. Gottwald and Thomas E. Gottwald ’83; six children; their mother, Kimberly C. Gottwald; three grandchildren; 10 nieces and nephews (two of whom are alumni); and his companion, Brooke Hanckel.

  • Scott Belliveau

    Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects

    The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.