Math took Bill Sonsin many places. Now, as a donor, he shares the journey with others.

“Math is a process,” Bill Sonsin says. “It helps you think logically.” The Prescott resident’s career proves the study of Mathematics can go far beyond numbers. “In higher math, you don’t really work with numbers. You work with concepts. You’re dealing with approximations – do they add up or not?” He describes Math as a discipline that embraces the variables of everyday life. “That’s why I’m so big on it as a training.”

With a bachelor’s in mathematics from Michigan State, and a masters in Math and Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, Sonsin built a successful career at Standard Oil and Norwest, then became a successful financial advisor with American Express. In retirement, he applies the lessons of a career that took him places he never imagined.


An eye for opportunity

“Plotting your career is not an exact science.” He says. “You need an idea of what you’re interested in, where the opportunities are, and changes in the world and the marketplace.”

Bill’s future took an unexpected turn in 1965: “I was in my junior year at Michigan State and needed one more course.” His advisor suggested computer programming. “I said, ‘What’s that?’” He laughs at the memory. “The advisor said, ‘You might want to try it, it’s an up-and-coming field. There might be some jobs there someday.’” He took a FORTRAN programming class, then a few more, and built the skill set that launched his career.

When he retired to Prescott, “I was going to restart my golf game. That lasted for two lessons, and I thought, ‘I’m never doing this again.’” So, he volunteered at the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), then wrote a small business column for the Daily Courier. Now he serves on the boards of both the Yavapai College Foundation and the Yavapai Regional Medical Center Foundation.

But he is especially proud of the scholarships he created, to open doors for others.


Maximizing your impact

“There are an awful lot of kids out there who want to go to school. They just need the opportunity and money is the issue.” Bill established scholarships at two schools: The Bill Sonsin Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) at Yavapai College; and The William J. Sonsin Scholarship in Mathematics at Michigan State.

“I’m trying to help people in STEM-related fields. We need them. There really is a shortage of qualified mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, chemists and physicists. People in technical fields. We’ve got to help them because it’s a tough slog.”

He tailored his scholarships to maximize opportunity. “I asked both schools: ‘Is it better to give more money to fewer kids? Or less money to more kids?’” In both cases, he was told half of the students who request funding don’t get any. “So, it’s better to spread out [my] donation. That way, more students get some.”

Forty-seven Yavapai College students have pursued STEM credentials under Bill Sonsin scholarships since he established the fund in 2017. “Now, I split my donation so many ways, I don’t even know anymore.” He laughs. His expanded support now includes CTEC scholarships, Education Now! scholarships and the performing arts department. “I’m trying to help as many kids as I can.” Bill says. “It’s gratifying.”

For more information on the Bill Sonsin Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), please visit: