By HILLARY GAVAN
Senior staff writer
BELOIT — Daily News Editor Bill Barth presented the prestigious Laurence A. Raymer Headliner Award to Dr. William Flanagan, as a champion for educating Beloit’s youth and for commitment to serving his community.
The award was given at Tuesday’s Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce 91st Annual Dinner.
As the former vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Beloit College, Flanagan is credited by Beloit College with guiding decades of students to the graduation stage. In his current role as executive adviser to the president-emeritus, he continues to inspire alumni and advocate for the city’s youth.
Barth said Flanagan worked overtime for many years making sure students get the kind of education that opens doors and provides opportunities.
Flanagan’s sons — Beloit Police Sgt. Ryan Flanagan and Beloit Fire Lt. Jeremy Flanagan — accepted the award on his behalf as their father was celebrating his 46th wedding anniversary in sunny Maui. Flanagan and his wife Cathy accepted the award via video message, with blue skies and ocean waves in the background.
In the video, he thanked the selection committee and those who made the nomination as well as his sons for all their service to the community.
“I am so deeply grateful for this award and honored by it,” Dr. William Flanagan said.
Upon accepting his father’s award Sgt. Ryan Flanagan said his father has always been proud to serve Beloit in a variety of capacities. He said he and his brother continue to live that dream and are proud to live and work in the community.
“He is truly honored to have this award,” Lt. Jeremy Flanagan added.
Barth said Bill Flanagan brought commitment to all his endeavors and encouragement to all he meets. Most recently, Flanagan’s been a leader and advocate for the Beloit School District’s literacy initiative aimed at children age birth to 3 in order to improve academic performance when they reach school. It’s hoped to help break the cycle that can include poverty and may alter the trajectory for kids and families at the earliest possible point of intervention.
“He is pouring his energies into an effort that just may impact the single most critical social need facing our community,” Barth said.
Prior to his commitment to the city’s littlest learners, Flanagan had a storied career as vice president of student affairs and dean of students at Beloit College. Thanks to his encouraging and nurturing nature, many alumni over the past 30 years credit Flanagan for helping them graduate college.
Barth told the chamber crowd he had reached out to Beloit College President Scott Bierman and Beloit College graduate and Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett for their thoughts on Flanagan.
“I never met anyone like him. You can’t have a conversation with Bill and walk away feeling bad. He is the ultimate encourager and supporter. Bill nurtured everyone he met, and the world is a better place because of it,” Klett told Barth.
Bierman told Barth he credited Flanagan’s unique relationship with alumni for making the Powerhouse project become a reality.
“The Powerhouse would have never risen from vague concept to extraordinary idea and would never have transitioned from decommissioned power plant to being under construction as one of the most interesting student centers in the country were it not for Bill Flanagan,” Bierman told Barth.
Flanagan served his community generously as the following: Brother Dutton School Board member; Beloit School District Student Services Advisory committee member; Beloit Youth Hockey Association board member; youth soccer coach; two terms on the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce as board member as well as member of the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation committee; YMCA mentoring program member; Habitat for Humanity board member; Beloit Regional Hospice board member for two terms; TEDtalks Beloit Planning and Selection committee member; Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois board member and current president as well as Ribfest coordinator; Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church Parish Chair of Jubilee Committee, OLA stewardship committee chair, finance committee member and eucharistic minister; Stateline Community Foundation board member and secretary; Stateline Community Foundation Early Childhood Literacy Committee chair; Beloit School District Ad Hoc Committee for Closing the Achievement Gap member; Beloit School District mock interview volunteer; Beloit Police and Fire Commission member.
The award is named after the late Laurence A. Raymer, who served over a long career both as executive editor of the newspaper and executive director of the chamber.