William Earl Savage, considered a finance expert and a great churchman who devoted much of his life to Asbury Theological Seminary, died Wednesday at Wesley Village in Wilmore. Mr. Savage, who had Alzheimer's disease, was 90.
He was a former president and vice chairman of the board of First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Lexington, a business founded by his father and other area businessmen.
But Mr. Savage was perhaps best known for his service to the theological seminary in Wilmore and the Methodist Church.
He became Asbury Theological Seminary's business manager in 1946 and retired as vice president of business administration in 1976. He started an endowment fund at the seminary, his daughter, Sue Ann Truitt, said.
During Mr. Savage's tenure, the school grew from one building with 144 students to 18 major buildings, 562 students, a $5 million endowment and no debt.
Mr. Savage was a 1939 graduate of Asbury College, out of which the seminary grew. His father had been the college's business manager.
William E. Savage was born in Wilmore and grew up on his family's farm in Lexington, which stretched between an area now bordered by Central Baptist Hospital and Zandale Shopping Center.
Mr. Savage attended Millersburg Military Institute and Sayre School in Lexington and, after graduating from college, worked at Savage Lumber Co., which was owned by his father. The lumber company was sold a short time later, and the Savages bought thousands of acres in central Florida, where they started Pineland College.
The college was set up to be much like Berea College — students were from homes of modest means and were required to work while attending the college. William E. Savage was vice president of the college; his father was president. But Earl Savage died in 1942, and the son returned to Kentucky. Walt Disney World now sits on part of the Florida acreage, Truitt said.
Mr. Savage was vice president in charge of business at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Winchester before he took the seminary job.
He had been a lay leader in the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church; treasurer of the Kentucky Methodist Foundation board of directors; a member of the World Methodist Council executive committee; and a member of the United Methodist Global Ministries board. He also served on the board at Lexington's Park United Methodist Church.
"I know of no finer Christian gentleman any place than Bill Savage," said the Rev. James Shepherd, former pastor of Park United Methodist Church and now minister in residence at Frankfort First Methodist Church. "He was an expert at finance and he helped an awful lot of people that nobody knows about, I'm sure,"
Mr. Savage also was a former member of the boards of Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and the Lexington Council of the Arts.
Mr. Savage was the widower of Dorothy Dorrycott Savage, who died in April. They were married 69 years.
Surviving are two daughters, Sue Ann Truitt and Carolyn Jane Threlkeld; a son, William Earl Savage II; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Asbury Theological Seminary's Estes Chapel. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Park United Methodist Church. W.R. Milward Mortuary — Broadway is handling arrangements.