3.6.19 – Lorain, Ohio - United Way of Greater Lorain County executive director Bill Harper announced plans to retire after a distinguished 42 year career as a social worker, the last nine as lead of the local United Way.
Harper, who will retire on Nov. 27, has also served as executive director of three alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services boards, the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, and as assistant director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health.
“I feel very fortunate to have chosen a profession that matches my personal values and strengths and has given me the opportunity to work with and serve so many wonderful people,” said Harper.
After growing up in Euclid and Chesterland, Ohio, Harper earned his B.S. in Social Work from Bowling Green State University and a Master in Social Work and M.A. in Public Administration from The Ohio State University.
Harper first came to Lorain County in Dec. 2002 to lead the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, a position he held through June, 2007. While continuing to live in Lorain County, Harper was appointed to positions as the Assistant Director for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and the executive director of the Summit County ADM Board. Harper returned to work in Lorain County in 2010 as director of United Way.
Under Harper’s leadership, United Way of Greater Lorain County purchased and renovated an 8,064 square foot building located at 642 Broadway Avenue in Lorain. The move saved the agency money, increased the office’s visibility and accessibility, and positioned United Way to be a part of revitalization plans in downtown Lorain.
Harper was also instrumental in leading the local United Way’s change in business model from primarily being a corporate fundraiser to becoming a leader in cross-sector collaboration aimed at achieving measurable community transformation through Collective Impact.
Collective Impact is a national movement in philanthropy that is being led locally by United Way of Greater Lorain County. The fundamental belief of Collective Impact is organizations that coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal achieve the best results.
The focus on collaboration has resulted in local and national recognition for United Way of Greater Lorain County, as the agency was named the Ohio United Way of the Year in 2016 by Ohio United Way and has been rated as one of the highest performing United Way’s in the nation by United Way Worldwide. United Way of Greater Lorain County has also been awarded a Guidestar Platinum Seal of Transparency each of the past two years, an honor that less than one percent of nonprofits achieve.
“Our collaborative approach demands that we set aside our competitive impulses. Instead, we continually seek partners who are committed to the same vision of educational achievement, living wage employment, strong families and optimal health for all. There is always room at the table for another organization or individual who believes that by working together, we can insure that Greater Lorain County is extraordinary,” said Harper.
Harper’s decorated career has included plenty of individual accolades as well, including the prestigious Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Leadership in 2016 from Leadership Lorain County. Other honors include the National Association of Social Workers Ohio Region 2 Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, Bowling Green State University 100 Prominent Graduates in 2010, and the Ohio Advocates for Mental Health Administrator of the Year in both 1999 and 2006.
“Looking back on Bill’s career, I am very impressed with the level of impact we have been able to sustain under his capable leadership here in Lorain County, and with the amazing accomplishments he has led across the state,” said Keith Brown, president of United Way of Greater Lorain County’s Board of Directors and director of HR and organizational development at Lorain County Community College.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with Bill on the LCCC workplace campaign, as a donor, and as a volunteer on the Campaign Cabinet and Board of Directors,” said Brown. “I always found Bill to be someone who was well entrenched in the community and wasn’t afraid to take risks to help alleviate and solve the underlying issues plaguing our county, and for that we are going to miss him.”
The public search for Harper’s replacement is being led by United Way’s board of directors and will begin immediately to ensure a smooth transition from Harper to the new director.
“We’ve made tremendous progress under Bill’s leadership in Collective Impact, as evidenced by our eleven Community Collaboratives having over 150 partners, and the many lives we continue to touch,” said Brown. “I am confident that our Board will find a successor that has the integrity, leadership capabilities, and collaborative spirit to propel us forward as we continue to fight for the health, education and financial stability of our families, friends, and neighbors.”