Bill Ahlem was the second of five children born to Bill and Elsie Ahlem of Hilmar. He attended Hilmar schools and graduated from Oregon State University with a dairy science degree, then returned home to become a third-generation dairyman. Throughout his life he made a great contribution to the dairy industry both locally and nationally and was a great friend to Stanislaus State.
Bill served on the University’s Foundation Board from 1995-2017 and was president of the board in 1998-99. On Nov. 30, 2017 he was conferred as an emeritus board member. The generous gifts from Bill and Carolyn Ahlem, Ahlem Farms, Ahlem Farms Partnership and Ahlem Farms Rental included a sum to establish the Ahlem Family Excellence Fund (dedicated to food science and technology) as well as gifts to support the Ernie T. Gemperle Endowed Chair of Finance and the Rolland Starn Ag Studies Chair.
After graduating from Oregon State in 1966, Bill joined his father, William Sr., on one of the family's two 100-cow Jersey dairies. In 1972, he and his brother, Chuck, established a farm and dairy partnership. Six years later, their brother, Jim, joined the partnership to form Ahlem Enterprises. The partnership later split into three thriving businesses. Bill was a founding member of the Hilmar Cheese Company, which for many years was recognized as the world’s largest single-site cheese plant.
Bill was appointed to the National Dairy Board in 1999 and in addition to his long association with Stanislaus State’s Foundation Board he also sat on the boards of Dairy Management Inc., Western United Dairymen, the California and American Farm Bureau Federations, Hilmar Unified School District and Benevolent Ministries of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He also served as chairman of the National Dairy Board, and in 2015 his Jersey herd earned the Distinguished Breeder Award from National Dairy Shrine.