Alumni of the Year



Walter C. Haffner, Jr., known to members of the UMS-Wright family as ”Bill,” has had a long, active and distinguished relationship at UMS-Wright. He also had a less direct relationship with Julius T. Wright School for Girls through his late wife Betsy, who taught at JTW. His many contributions to UMS-Wright have been unwavering. Through the years, Bill has invested his time and resources in an institution and students that he loves. 

Bill’s formal education began in 1951 when he entered first grade at University Military School. During his twelve years at UMS, he attended classes at the 1315 Dauphin Street campus and the current Mobile Street site of UMS-Wright. In addition, he displayed the same energy and dedication to his alma mater as a UMS cadet that would later characterize him as an alumnus, parent, coach and volunteer. After graduating from UMS, Bill entered the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and earned a degree in Transportation, known today as supply chain management, while he served as his fraternity’s president. Most significantly, Bill met his future wife Betsy while attending UT. Both personally and professionally, Bill’s time in Tennessee determined the positive direction his life would take.

Bill and Betsy Haffner began a very special relationship with UMS, eventually UMS-Wright, when their sons Chip and John started school. Betsy ended her teaching at JTW and would become the first female member of the UMS and UMS-Wright Board of Trustees, and Bill became an invaluable member of the UMS-Wright community as an alumnus, volunteer, and supporter. For three decades, Bill Haffner has coached boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, assisted the varsity coaches whenever needed, and has helped the school’s choral program. His sons Chip ’90 and John ’94, were high school basketball players who contributed greatly to the program. Clearly, their father’s loyalty to basketball is understandable, and he would even work with the 3A state championship boys basketball team in 1998. This tireless individual’s contributions to the school also extends well beyond the basketball programs.

Although his interest in and support for the choral program may surprise some members of the UMS-Wright community; through the 1990’s and well into the 2000’s, his devotion helped sustain this active, highly visible program. In addition to coaching basketball and supporting the choral program, Bill has served as an adult advisor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) for almost thirty years. Multiple generations of students have been beneficiaries of Bill Haffner’s kindness, loyalty, wisdom and character. He has lived much of his life on the UMS and UMS-Wright campuses where he has set an example for future generations of students, coaches, and teachers to follow.

Listing all of Bill’s contributions to our school and to our community would be an impossible task. At University Military School, he was, among other roles, a Primary Battalion Commander. As a UMS graduate he was elected to the UMS-Wright Sports Hall of Fame and served effectively as President of the Alumni Association. Bill’s impact on students since the merger which created UMS-Wright has been both inspiring and touching. His willingness to invest so much time, energy, and emotion to benefit others through his efforts illustrate how unselfish and caring Bill is. 

Outside UMS-Wright, Bill has also been an active individual and a positive influence. Besides running a family business founded in 1944; Walter Haffner Company, Inc., also known Wchx; he has been a member and leader of the Mobile Area fishing and sailing community. Bill has served on the boards of both the Mobile Yacht Club and the Mobile Bay Sailing School. In addition, he has served as a president of the Mobile Big Game Fishing Tournament and as a member of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation Board. Not surprisingly, Bill is a Certified International Game Fish Association Judge. 

In 2019-2020 Bill Haffner once more make UMS-Wright a better school through his devotion of time and his cheerful example. Fittingly, Bill’s grandsons Ty and Jack are now among the students who benefit from their grandfather’s influence on UMS-Wright. This young gentleman will also be able to observe firsthand the extraordinary level of admiration and affection the school community feels for him and his family. This was obvious at Betsy Haffner’s Memorial Service in 2013 when the outpouring of love and support y the UMS-Wright family was heartwarming. Bill’s impact on generations of students has been profound and transformational. In appreciation and recognition for all that Bill has done and continues to do, UMS-Wright is pleased to announce his selection as 2019-20 Alumnus of Year. 

Alumni of the Year Recipients | 2019 Program


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65 Mobile Street, Mobile, AL 36607 |
Telephone: (251) 479-6551