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PHILADELPHIA-Willard G. Rouse III, founder of Malvern, PA-based Liberty Property Trust, died today at age 60 following a 17-month bout with lung cancer. “Bill was simply our hero,” says Bill Hankowsky, CEO and Rouse’s hand-picked successor at Liberty, in a statement.

“It is impossible to express the loss our employees are feeling today,” Hankowsky continues. “He cannot be replaced, but the culture of this company is indelibly stamped with his uniquely moral view of the individual’s place in the corporation and the corporation’s responsibility to the world.”

With his friends George Congdon, David Hammers and Menard Doswell, Rouse founded Rouse & Associates, an industrial development company, in 1972. In 1994 it became Liberty Property Trust, one of the country’s largest REITs with market capitalization of $4.6 billion. Rouse & Associates spawned many other ongoing businesses in the fields of construction, architecture and housing development.

Through his companies, Rouse was responsible for the creation of more than 50 million sf of office and industrial space in the US and UK, hotels, urban and suburban housing, and the redevelopment and restoration of Philadelphia landmarks. Among them are the 650-acre Great Valley Corporate Center in Malvern that is credited with establishing the Rte. 202 business corridor as a major employment center, and Liberty Place, the 3.4-million-sf, mixed-use Center City landmark skyscraper that dramatically changed the Philadelphia skyline.

Influenced by his uncle James Rouse’s views on social responsibility, Rouse served as a trustee of his uncle’s Enterprise Foundation, which is dedicated to leading low-income people out of poverty.

He also oversaw development of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Kimmel Center of the Performing Arts. He served on numerous boards including the Kimmel Center, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Philadelphia Children’s Network, Council of Labor and Industry, Philadelphia Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Center, the Fine Arts School of the University of Pennsylvania, and many others.

He is survived by his wife, Susannah, eight children, two grandchildren, three sisters and a brother. Funeral services will be private. Details for a public memorial service will be disclosed at a later date.

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