William Soza, secretary of the George Mason University Board of Visitors, passed away on Friday morning.

The cause of Soza’s death was unclear, though a colleague said he had been “struggling with an illness.”

Soza had been a member of the BOV since 2005.

“He’s somebody who was a real asset to the university,” said press secretary Dan Walsch. “He was a real advocate and a leader. We appreciated the support he’d given us all these years.”

Peter Pober, the faculty representative to the board, echoed Walsch’s sentiments.

“This is just very, very sad,” Pober said. “William was a kind and gentle soul. He cared immeasurably for the students and faculty of this school. He always had a kind word and a smile, was always willing to help. He wanted to make sure people benefited from the work of the board.”

Soza was influential not only at Mason but in the wider community.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce named him the most influential Hispanic businessman of the year in 1998, and in 1999 Hispanic Business Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U.S.

Soza was the founder of Soza & Company, Ltd. an accounting, management, and technical consulting services firm, and he also sat on several boards in the Northern Virginia area.