Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Leadership
Bill Harper was trained in social work and administration at Bowling Green State University and The Ohio State University. His 33-year career as a social worker in the mental health and substance abuse fields throughout the state of Ohio led him to be appointed by Governor Ted Strickland as Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health in 2007. During his tenure as Director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, he developed innovative services for adults with severe mental illness and was instrumental in the creation of Gathering Hope House, widely recognized throughout Ohio for consumer empowerment. Bill retired from public service in 2010 to return to Lorain County as Executive Director of United Way of Greater Lorain County, where he continues as a champion of collaboration and urgent needs. Recent examples of his response to those needs include: a strategic partnership to bring HandsOn Northeast Ohio to Lorain County; the staffing of a Spanish-speaking 211 First Call for Help operator; and advocacy in support of public transportation.
Bill believes in community service, volunteering, and mentoring. He seeks opportunities to bring students on to the United Way team each summer. Bill serves as a mentor to many newly-appointed non-profit Executive Directors and encourages his staff in both their personal and professional growth. Bill’s dedication to the community is evident in his past and present affiliations which include: Current Board Chair, Lorain County Children’s services; Board Member, Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio; Past President, Elyria Sunrise Rotary; member of the United Way Worldwide U.S. Network Engagement Corps and the Community Advisory Council for NOACA. Additionally, Bill meets regularly with other funders and philanthropists, has created a quarterly networking opportunity for Lorain County non-profits, conducts a workshop series in the use of improvement science to improve outcomes in social services, performs board training for non-profits, marches annually in the MLK Day parade in Elyria, serves as a certified Free tax Prep volunteer during tax season and is a proud member of the Leadership Lorain County Class of 2004. Bill has supported the United Way since he was a young child, giving .25 cents at a school fundraiser. He has since served on multiple United Way boards across Ohio, including in Lorain, Summit and Warren counties and has been a Rotarian for his entire professional career. Bill’s numerous recognitions and awards, include: 100 Prominent Graduates, Centennial Celebration, Bowling Green State University, 2010; Administrator of the Year, Ohio Advocates for Mental Health, 1999 and 2006; and Advocate of the Year, Jewish Vocational Service of Cincinnati, 1996.
In 1984, with help from many friends and family members, he built a log home on the Maumee River in rural Henry County, Ohio. He continues to enjoy home improvement projects and developing the property in Penfield Township, Lorain County, he shares with his wife, Pam, four dogs and an African Grey parrot named “Woody”.
Bill and Pam’s son, Ben, owns and operates Breakwall Media, a video production company based in Cleveland, Ohio. Their daughter, Dr. Beth Harper, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Dayton, Ohio and assistant professor of psychiatry at Wright State University.