Alumnus of the Year – David Wills, B.B.A. ’85, J.D. ’88

Alumnus of the Year

December 22, 2023

David Wills has a passion for generosity and eternity.

When describing the relationship between the two, Wills recalled words of a Baptist hymn: “The world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”

“Having an eternal perspective is really important in order to live a generous life,” he said. “To the degree you can live with eternity in mind, your decisions will start being very different. This life is very short, but what we do in this life will matter forever.”

Wills earned two degrees at Baylor, a B.B.A. in finance and entrepreneurship followed by a law degree. He later earned an M.A. in biblical and theological studies from Dallas Baptist University in 2020 and a postgraduate degree in strategy and innovation from the University of Oxford in 2022.

“God used my education exactly for where he wanted me to go in the future,” Wills said, even if he didn’t know what that path would be when he set out on it.

Wills studied litigation in law school, and, upon graduation, he moved to Dallas to practice. Almost five years later, though, Wills felt God calling him to an unexpected place. He had met a former litigator like himself who moved to a tax practice to help Christian families plan well regarding their trusts, estates and charitable giving. One year later, Wills made the same move into tax practice. Six months after that, the two men were in Georgia building a foundation called Christian Ministries Foundation to help Christian families and organizations navigate stewardship of their resources.

Building a foundation called upon Wills’ education in entrepreneurship and finance. A couple of years later, he met the founder of National Christian Foundation (NCF), which had a very similar purpose to the foundation Wills helped establish. The NCF is the world’s largest Christian grant-making foundation, with a mission to mobilize resources by inspiring biblical generosity. At the time, NCF had a single employee. He joined the team as the foundation’s president in 1992.

The NCF grew rapidly, coming alongside families that sought lives of generosity for God’s purposes.

“There are three questions that we all ask with regard to being generous and being wise stewards,” Wills said. “Why should I be generous? How do I do that? And where should I give?”

The NCF helped answer the question, ‘how?’, but it became apparent that ‘why?’ was the most important question.

To answer ‘why?’, Wills cofounded Generous Giving, an organization that helps people answer the question from a spiritual standpoint through stories, teaching and experiences.

The answer to the question ‘where?’ came later, through TrustBridge Global Foundation. Cofounder of the final piece to the puzzle, Wills saw a need to connect the global network of foundations affiliated with NCF to facilitate cross-border grants that fund charitable work across the world.

Although being a Christian is not a requirement to partner with NCF in stewardship, Wills finds that a Christian faith is still at the center of generosity.

“It is the Gospel,” he said. “It is grace. It is the generosity of God himself.”

Now, Wills serves NCF as president emeritus. He continues to serve several families, some of whom he has worked alongside for decades, and he functions as an ambassador for the foundation. Wills also serves on more than 20 boards.

Wills said that the underlying motivation that directs everything he does is living a life abiding in Christ and following Him wherever he says to go. But on top of that, he loves to see people experience the joy and the freedom that comes from living a generous life.

“You never have met an unhappy generous person,” Wills said.

“I get to work with extravagantly generous people and these ministries and churches that are doing extraordinary work. Does it get any better? I don’t know. I’ve never met anybody that’s got a better job. But the ultimate underlying thing is that I want to live my life in a way that is honoring to my savior, and this is the calling, the path He’s put me on.”