Born in Somerville and raised in Medford, William Cummings has long held tight to his roots north of Boston. So tight, in fact, that he tends not to let go.
For Cummings, going away to college meant traveling just a few blocks from his family’s home to Tufts University. Later as a young businessman, he acquired and built up Old Medford Foods, a juice concentrate manufacturer. But even when he sold the company in the early 1970s, he made sure to hold on to its building.
Thus was born Cummings Properties, a commercial real estate enterprise that became a dual testament to its founder’s business acumen and his dedication to the region. Woburn-based Cummings Properties provides space for more than 2,000 businesses and organizations in Massachusetts.
Preserving and developing local assets has been William Cummings’ trademark. His company has either built or redeveloped 10 million square feet of property in the region, including Beverly’s Cummings Center, on the site where United Shoe Manufacturing operated a plant for most of the 20th century.
With eclectic interests, Cummings, 76, has built up more than real estate. He founded and published the Woburn Advocate, Stoneham Sun, and Winchester Town Crier newspapers. Both he and his wife, Joyce, 72, have served on the boards of numerous nonprofits.
These days the couple, who live in Winchester, focus their efforts largely on strengthening local communities through the Cummings Foundation’s expanding outreach as a grant-making organization. Their travels to Israel and Rwanda have kindled their passions for projects to prevent genocide and tamp down intolerance.
But even their global concerns tend to get worked out locally, such as by supporting Salem State University’s new Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies or helping fund human service organizations.
“Small local charities are on the streets . . . they’re close by, they know individuals who need things, and they are filling these cracks very effectively when they have some funding available to them,” William Cummings said.