Goodfellow was a businessman of extraordinary ability, a pioneer of New Zealand's dairy co-operative movement and a philanthropist. He was born in Pirongia, but moved to Auckland soon afterwards, where he was educated and Mount Eden School and Auckland Grammar School. After Goodfellow finished school, he took a job with the leading Auckland hardware merchants T. & S. Morrin &Co., where he developed an understanding of machinery. He progressed quickly and, at 21, he become the partner of a hardware merchant, and soon became manager of Green & Colebrook. Travel to Europe and the United States in 1906 broadened his experience of the hardware business.
With much foresight, he founded the Waikato Dairy Company in 1909, and in 1915 also formed the Waikato Co-operative Cheese Company. Goodfellow was committed to building a large company to achieve economies of scale and to the use of modern technology. Under his management, his company and another merged in 1919 as the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company to create by far the largest dairy company in New Zealand.
Goodfellow was managing director of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company from 1919 to 1932, and it was the first dairy company with an on-site laboratory and a farm instruction service teaching herd and grass management. His greatest contribution to the company's expansion was his insistence on firm control of marketing. In 1947 when the New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission was established, it endorsed Goodfellow's vision of the 1920s by successfully adopting the marketing strategy he had advocated.
Goodfellow became a director of many New Zealand companies, and was an elder of the Presbyterian church for some years. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1951, knighted in 1953, and he received an honorary LLD from the University of Auckland in 1963. He was a private person, yet also a generous benefactor to educational institutions in Auckland. The Maclaurin Chapel at the University of Auckland commemorates both the death of son in WWII and the life of his uncle, the distinguished academic Richard Cockburn Maclaurin. He donated scholarships at the university in engineering and medicine in memory of his brothers, Eric and Gordon, both killed in WWI, though his great donation was to the trust of St. Kentigern College. 173 acres of bush was given to the municipal authorities as a reserve and he substantially funded the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Source: M. Rowe, "Goodfellow, William - Biography"