In Memoriam Howard Lester

Chairman Emeritus, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

In November 1978, Howard Lester purchased Williams-Sonoma, Inc. from Founder, Chuck Williams. Over the years, he and Mr. Williams built a great friendship while overseeing the growth of the company from one brand with four stores and $4 million in annual revenues to a nationwide specialty retailer. Today, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is comprised of six distinct merchandise brands – Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma Home – with over 600 stores, seven direct mail catalogs and six e-commerce websites. Mr. Lester took the company public in 1983, and its stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WSM.

During Mr. Lester's tenure with the company, he held the positions of President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1986 to 2010, and as Chief Executive Officer from 1979 to 2001 and again from 2006 through his retirement in May 2010.

Prior to purchasing the company, Mr. Lester spent 18 years in the computer industry. He began selling computers in 1958, and from 1961 to 1972, created several of his own computer service and software businesses, eventually serving as vice president for the country's then top software company, Computer Sciences Corporation. He subsequently left to develop Centurex Corp., which became one of the leading suppliers of software systems to America's banks in the 1970s. After selling the company in 1976, he "retired," only to purchase Williams-Sonoma a short time later.

In addition to Mr. Lester's leadership of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., he served on many industry and philanthropic boards during his career. He and his wife, Mary, supported education, medical research, youth programs, and the arts. In 1991, Mr. Lester endowed The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation within the Haas School of Business at the University at California, Berkeley. In 2005, the Lesters endowed a new addition to the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, designed by acclaimed architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen.

Mr. Lester also served on the Executive Council of UCSF, and the Advisory Boards of the Retail Management Institute of Santa Clara University and the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a national trustee of The First Tee.

Mr. Lester's past board leadership included Boy Scouts of America, Conner Peripherals Inc., Harold's Stores, Inc., Il Fornaio (America) Corporation, International Association of Shopping Centers, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Good Guys, Inc.

Mr. Lester was born and raised in Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma. Among his many honors, he was honored in 1989 by the Institute of American Entrepreneurs as Entrepreneur of the Year and inducted into The Institute of American Entrepreneurs as a lifetime member, elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2001, named Haas School's Business Leader of the Year in 2003, and awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2004. In 2007, he was recognized as Lifetime Humanitarian by the Housewares Charity Foundation. In 2008, Mr. Lester and Chuck Williams, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.'s Founder and Director Emeritus, received the Direct Marketing Association's highest honor by being inducted into their Hall of Fame. Most recently, he was inducted into the Bay Area Council's Business Hall of Fame in October 2010.

Following his retirement, Mr. Lester assisted Williams-Sonoma, Inc. in an advisory role and carried the title Chairman Emeritus.

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