William Copacino’s work as a manager and consultant inherently dealt with the larger picture, such as how to make many moving pieces flow together as seamlessly as possible to achieve the goals of his clients. His leadership philosophy, however, touched individual employees in a manner that left an indelible impression.
Foremost among his guiding principles was the importance of recognizing employees’ needs, he said in a 2005 interview with the trade publication Supply Chain Management Review. He believed in signaling to employees that they would be cared for, while still balancing their needs against what companies were trying to accomplish.
“What he did in his life was take care of others,” said his twin brother, John, of Washington, D.C. “He was just genuinely interested in people.”
Away from the office, that care was evident in Mr. Copacino’s commitment to his family and to the schools his children attended, including the Carroll School in Lincoln and Waltham, and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge.
William Charles Copacino, a former group chief executive for business consulting at Accenture, died May 17 of complications from cancer. He was 61 and a longtime Newton resident.
Diagnosed 14 years ago, Mr. Copacino only learned in late April that the illness had taken a dire turn. As word of the prognosis spread among former colleagues, he received a flood of e-mail chronicling common memories and expressing gratitude for his role as a mentor.
“You should know that I rarely go a week without sharing some lesson you taught me with someone else and telling them about the influence that you have had on my life,” one former employee wrote.
“As I continue my career journey, I remain influenced by your unique, inspirational leadership style,” wrote another, who praised his “powerful, yet all too rare, mix of intellectual and operational horsepower” that was complemented “by an equally compelling, genuine interest in the welfare” of those who worked for him.
John, who began monitoring his twin’s e-mail when Mr. Copacino became too sick to do so, said he had not realized the breadth of his brother’s influence.
He described Mr. Copacino as a ceaseless list-maker who always focused on others, whether making improvements on the Cape Cod home he envisioned his twin sons and daughter owning in the future, or spending time with his children.
Mr. Copacino often accompanied Caroline, a senior at BB&N, to her softball games. And in his final weeks, he resolved to attend graduation ceremonies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., for Michael, and at Emory University in Atlanta for Michael’s twin, Steven. He made it to both commencements.
Born in Torrington, Conn., Mr. Copacino was an athlete, particularly in basketball and later in golf. After graduating from high school in 1968, he attended Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., from which he received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and operations research in 1972.
He spent two years in General Electric’s manufacturing management program before joining a Cornell classmate in a humanitarian start-up in Guatemala.
They helped found Agua del Pueblo, a company that builds potable water systems for remote Guatemalan villages that lack easy access to drinking water.
After two years, Mr. Copacino went to Harvard Business School, graduating in 1978 with a master’s in business administration. Then he began working as a management consultant at Arthur D. Little Co.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Copacino met Dr. Janet Hall at a dance at the athletic club to which they belonged. That same day he told a friend “he had just met the woman he was going to marry,” his brother recalled, and it did not take him long to persuade her, too. They were married for 25 years.
Mr. Copacino was vice president of operations when he left Arthur D. Little in 1989 and joined Andersen Consulting, now Accenture, as a partner. He spent 15 years at the company, by the end heading a group of more than 7,000 employees. He became recognized as a leading authority on supply chain management, writing three books and more than 150 articles on the subject.
For his contributions to the field, he received the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Distinguished Service Award in 1998, and Syracuse University’s Salzberg Medallion in 2002.
After retiring from Accenture in 2004, Mr. Copacino became chief administrative officer of C&S Wholesale Grocers in Keene, N.H.
In 2007, he served briefly as chief executive of Oco Inc., a software company. Most recently, he was on the boards of PRGX Global and Swift Rivers Inc.
Through donations and leadership, Mr. Copacino also was dedicated to helping the educational institutions he and his children attended.
He was a member of the Cornell University Council, his alma mater’s alumni organization, and the boards of the Carroll School and BB&N.
At the Carroll School, which teaches children with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities, Mr. Copacino was on the board for about a decade, including as chairman the past five years. He led the school’s multimillion-dollar capital campaign and spearheaded its acquisition of a second campus in Lincoln, which allowed the school to increase enrollment, said Steve Wilkins, the head of the school.
“In doing that he solved just about every strategic challenge the school had,” said Wilkins, who described his partnership with Mr. Copacino as “amazing.”
“I think he fell in love with the Carroll School because it addresses different thinkers,” he said. “It really creates different kinds of thinkers and problem solvers, and Bill was all of those things. I think he admired what he saw in our students.”
A memorial service will be announced for Mr. Copacino, who in addition to his wife, two sons, daughter, and brother leaves another brother, James, of Seattle.
Mr. Copacino was involved with BB&N’s board recently, said Charlie Ruopp, assistant head of school for academic affairs and a longtime friend.
He said that even though Mr. Copacino’s work was demanding, he was committed to family, volunteer work, and maintaining friendships from every stage of his life.
“He kept in touch with people all the way back to college,” said Ruopp, whose wife, Faye, became friends with Mr. Copacino when she dated his freshman year roommate at Cornell.
“I considered him one of my very best friends,” Faye Ruopp said. “He was incredibly reliable and loyal. . . . I think he protected people. I feel like he protected me his whole life. It was who he was.”