Will McDonald, 1952-2021

Will McDonald, dressed in a suit, holding a red velvet cupcake in one hand and a cigar in the other.Will McDonald, a longtime Freese and Nichols Principal and Account Director with legendary networking skills, died unexpectedly Dec. 29. He was 69.

Will was Freese and Nichols’ first “official” salesperson when he was hired in 1998. At that point, he already had 20 years of technical sales expertise, and he went on to be instrumental in expanding our client relationships. During his 23-year Freese and Nichols career, Will built a well-deserved reputation across Texas as a champion of client service, and his skills helped lay the groundwork for our expansion into the Southeastern United States.

Will’s roots were in Arkansas and East Texas, and he received a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce. He had a special talent for connecting organizations with the right engineers, planners and scientists who could help solve their problems.

“His greatest gift was his ability to read people and learn their personalities,” said Mike Nichols, who served as Freese and Nichols’ Chief Marketing Officer for 15 years and who recruited Will. “He never wanted to take credit for winning jobs because that would take away from other people getting credit.”

Alan Greer, Chief Business Development Officer for Infrastructure, said Will never met a stranger and could talk to anyone. “He didn’t go to meetings and conferences to only talk to people he knew,” Alan said. “He went to meet people he didn’t know.”

Whether based in North Texas (his first 15+ years at Freese and Nichols) or Southeast Texas (his last half-decade or so), Will thrived on conferences, including Texas Water and the Texas Municipal League annual conference. He developed contacts at all of these events and made sure to connect those contacts with his colleagues.

“As soon as you walked into a meeting or conference, Will would come up and grab you and say, ‘Here’s a person you need to meet,’ ” Alan said. “You would start talking with this person, and then look around, and Will was off making another connection with another person.”

Will also was savvy about client dinners and visits to clients’ offices. He’d arrive early at dinners to scout the best seating arrangements to connect attendees with one another. And when he traveled to see clients, he would buy a local newspaper to read about the latest community issues – then use that information as a conversation starter.

“My best memories of Will have to be the many meals we shared,” Alan said. “These were Will’s strategy meetings, his chance to brainstorm ideas and talk about anything, so you never knew what to expect.”

Will’s legacy at Freese and Nichols extends to the many employees he trained in formal and informal settings. He helped facilitate at least nine Freese and Nichols University courses on sales and business relationships; his practical strategies for introducing oneself and establishing rapport made networking seem less intimidating. In fact, just last month, Will was developing materials to teach ways to further improve our client relationships.

“Will was passionate about what we do for our clients and the unique impact Freese and Nichols makes on quality of life,” said Chuck Wolf, Western Gulf Coast Division Manager. “In his words, ‘we build cities.’  Whether you knew Will well or not, I know we can all take pride in continuing to care for clients the way he would expect and helping them do their critical work even better.”

A memorial service for Will will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. A live-stream link will be available on Christ Chapel’s website on the service date. His obituary is available here: William Sanford McDonald