Armfield, benefactor for Gillings School’s atrium, dies at 81

July 14, 2016

William Johnston Armfield, headshot

William Johnston Armfield IV

William Johnston Armfield IV, 81, whose generous gift to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health resulted in the naming of its light-filled atrium, died July 11 in Richmond, Va., after a brief illness.

Born in Asheboro, N.C., on Nov. 3, 1934, Armfield is survived by his wife, Jane, who also was honored in the naming of the Gillings School’s Jane Hall Armfield and William Johnston Armfield IV Student Commons. He leaves behind numerous children, stepchildren and grandchildren, as well as a sister, Sallie Armfield McMillion, of Greensboro, N.C. He was predeceased by a daughter, Adelaide, and a son, William Johnston Armfield V.

Armfield graduated from Woodberry Forest School (Woodberry Forest, Va.) in 1952 and was a 1956 alumnus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, after which he served two years in the United States Army. He received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1962.

In 1970, Armfield co-founded Macfield Inc., a textile company in Madison, N.C., and served as president and director from 1970 until 1991, when Macfield merged with Unifi Inc.

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Students and members of the Gillings School faculty and staff enjoy the ‘living room’ quality of Michael Hooker Research Center’s Armfield Atrium. The plaque states that the Armfields donated money for the space in 2005 in ‘memory of [the recently deceased] Chancellor Michael Hooker, whose leadership and friendship they admired and treasured.’

He served as an executive officer and director of Unifi from 1991 to 1995, and as a director again beginning in 2001. During his business career, he served on the boards of numerous textile industry associations and other professional groups. In 1995, he founded Spotswood Capital LLC, a private investment company in Greensboro, N.C., and served as its president until his death.

Armfield and his wife had been generous benefactors of numerous educational and charitable institutions, especially including Woodberry Forest School, St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served on the board of trustees of Woodberry Forest School from 1978 to 2001, where he received broad recognition for his many contributions, including his active role as chairman of the investment committee for many years. In 2015, he received the J. Carter Walker award, the school’s highest alumni award, for distinguished service to the school.

He also served in multiple leadership capacities at UNC-Chapel Hill, including service on the board of trustees, which he chaired from 1995 to 1996; at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and at the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation, among others. He was national co-chair of the Bicentennial Campaign for the University of North Carolina (1990-1995), the university’s largest fundraising effort up to that time.

Burial will be private, and a memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to Woodberry Forest School, Woodberry Forest, Va. 22989 or The Educational Foundation Inc., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Attn: Director of Donor Services, P.O. Box 2446, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27515.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu

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