Obituary: William Benjamin Arce
Veteran, internationally-renowned coach
William “Bill” Benjamin Arce Jr., a longtime resident of Claremont, died on March 7, 2016 at the age of 90. He passed in peace, surrounded and comforted by his loving family.
Born in Oakland, California to William Benjamin Arce Sr. and Edith Caroline Friberg Arce, Bill was raised with his older sister Lorraine. His father shared with him his love for the game of baseball. Pearl Harbor and World War II interrupted what might have been a great professional baseball career. He enlisted at 19 and, as part of the “Greatest Generation,” he fought with Patton’s infantry in Europe and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. A critical point in Mr. Arce’s life came while facing a life or death situation. He made a promise that if the Lord spared him, he would do something meaningful with his life. He survived to win a Purple Heart and fulfill his promise. He attended Stanford University, captained the baseball team, became a math teacher and earned a doctorate in education from Stanford.
In 1956 Mr. Arce accepted an offer to join the athletic staff at Pomona College, and in 1958 he was asked to become the first athletic director and baseball coach for Claremont Men’s College-Harvey Mudd College (now combined as the Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Scripps colleges or “CMS” teams). He retired as the CMS baseball coach in 1980 and as athletic director in 1982. Under Bill’s initial leadership, CMS became one of the top collegiate NCAA Division III athletic programs. The CMS baseball field is named for Coach Arce; there is an Arce Scholarship Fund established by former players and CMS. In 2013, CMS endowed its athletic director position as the “Director of Athletics William B. Arce Professor and George Roberts Fellow.”
In addition to his storied collegiate coaching career, Mr. Arce developed a second, unpaid “side career” coaching and teaching baseball internationally. In 1962-1963, he took his young family to live in the Netherlands to help develop the Dutch national baseball program. The contacts he made on this trip led to him taking multiple collegiate teams to Europe. He organized clinics and taught players and coaches alike, all over the globe, many times taking Major League coaches with him. He was the first American to run baseball clinics in Belgium, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia and, in 1980, the People’s Republic of China. He coached numerous US national and international all-star teams in tournaments and competitions throughout Europe, Central America and Asia. And, as head coach, he led the Dutch and later the Italians to win the European Baseball Championship. In 1985, Bill founded International Sports Group (ISG), still operating today, to continue his mission of coaching and teaching baseball around the world.
Using baseball and sports as a metaphor for life, Mr. Arce coached and developed generations of young players and coaches throughout the world. He became one of the most well-known and influential people in international baseball. He was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, the Claremont McKenna College Hall of Fame, the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Dutch and Italian Baseball Halls of Fame. In 2001, he was awarded the prestigious “Lefty Gomez Award,” collegiate baseball’s highest honor.
Mr. Arce took great joy in traveling to Hawaii, Australia and San Francisco to visit his children and their families. He loved spending time at the family lake house in Twain Harte, California, and he was very proud of the colorful flowers that bloomed in his garden at his home in Mt. San Antonio Gardens. Bill was a member of the “Bear Valley Gang,” was on the board and a past president of the American Baseball Coaches Association and was an elder at the Claremont Presbyterian Church.
He was preceded in death by his sister Lorraine, who died in 2012. He is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Nancy; his daughter Judy Arce Scott (David); sons Jim (Pat) and Jeff (Loan); nine grandchildren, Michael, Douglas, Owen, Erin, Beth, Paul, Jamie, Caitlyn and Brianna; and his great-grandchildren, William, Thomas, Christopher and Oliver.
The family appreciates the professional and thoughtful care of the nurses and physicians in Bill’s final days and is comforted by the outpouring of love and affection received in his passing. Personal stories and memories are posted at and can be shared at www.forevermissed.com/bill-arce-memories.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bill’s honor to the “William B. Arce Scholarship Fund” at CMC, 400 N. Claremont Blvd., Claremont, CA 91711, or online at cmc.edu/arcegiftpage, or to the Mt. San Antonio Gardens Scholarship Fund at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, 900 E. Harrison Ave., Pomona, CA 91767.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, May 1 at 1 p.m. at McKenna Auditorium on the Claremont McKenna College campus, with a reception to follow.