Remembering William ("Bill") J. Bailey, 1947-2005
- Published on November 12, 2012
This month marks the anniversary of the birth in Gary, IN, on Nov 5, 1947, of the IPRC’s past Executive Director, William J. Bailey, who passed away on Jan 29, 2005. We pause to honor his memory and his legacy.
All who knew Bill know how much he poured his passion and his energies into the work of drug prevention. The following article is based on notes written upon the occasion of his death, after having worked for him for fourteen years at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center. During office discussions Bill would often recount stories from his youth that revealed much about how he came to hold the beliefs and values that shaped his character and life goals.
Bill knew poverty. In the context of prevention planning, he shared memories from his childhood that troubled him still, and that inspired him to pursue a career in public health. He was concerned about the children who wore their house key on a string and had no one to care for them after school. He cared about the elderly and worried about those who lacked access to medical care and prescription drugs. He reminisced about elderly women in his home town, who suffered malnutrition because they could not afford both food and medicines.
Bill loved children. Though he had none, his life was about improving their chances for health and happiness. The Search Institute assets approach to prevention appealed tremendously to him, because it celebrated the beauty of childhood and what is right and wholesome: parents bonding with their children; children bonding with their school and other mentoring adults; and the community of neighbors and communities of faith embracing the children and providing them with healthful activities and strong values, attitudes and beliefs. For him prevention was local. In his last days, he took joy in interactions with the child of one of his caretakers, with whom he shared prevention messages and clearinghouse materials from our Center.
Bill was a teacher and author. Using the curricula he authored and incorporating service learning, he taught large classes with the same title -- Drug Use in American Society* -- for years at Indiana University. He also taught other classes, such as graduate classes in grant-writing.
Bill believed in Everyman. He believed in the power of the people to solve their own problems. He believed in resiliency. At the same time, he believed in the responsibility of the government to provide a safety net for the disadvantaged and in federal and state grant-funded programs like those he sought for the state of Indiana.
Bill was about finding solutions. He was a master at identifying simple solutions to complex problems. Bill studied a situation in all its intricacy and reduced it to its basic components, both negative and positive. He drew attention to those key elements. Then he found ways to attack the negatives at their point of greatest vulnerability, and to reinforce the positives to enhance their impact. He strove for efficiency and economy of means, calling this “Precision Targeting in Prevention.” He targeted youth 10-14 in their “critical years.” He targeted the gateway drugs, and he targeted the after school hours from 3-6 pm, naming them the “critical hours.” He launched a campaign for science-based prevention strategies and programs before “science-based” became a national mandate. He envisioned a State where children would have healthy alternative activities in the after school hours. He invested hundreds of hours in grant-seeking and won the largest prevention grant in the history of the state to that date, establishing after school programs in cities across the state. By doing so he demonstrated the value of this innovative approach. Time moves on, lessons are learned and new challenges taken on. Having passed on the know-how, I think he would approve of the State taking on new frontiers and handing the work of after school programming over to Indiana communities to maintain.
Bill was a visionary. He foresaw the monumental educational force of the internet and concentrated his energies and resources in the early and mid-1990s into building the first major drug information portal of any state Prevention Resource Center. Only the federal National Clearinghouse of Drug Information (NCADI) was bigger. IPRC and Join Together would vie for second place to NCADI in any given month. Bill was work personified. He devoted not only his weekdays, but also evenings and weekends to the building, maintenance and expansion of the IPRC web site. He would be proud of its development since his passing.
Bill was an innovator. Besides the potential of the internet, he foresaw the power of desktop publishing to reach the most people with the greatest efficiency and for the least cost. He also foresaw the power of mapping to inform prevention planning and decision-making. He called it “creating a statistical picture of your community,” and he squeezed the power of GIS software when it was in its infancy and its potential had not yet evolved. Ahead of the industry, he labored for many hours to produce maps which today would take minutes. But by doing so, he demonstrated the value of this innovation and justified major investment in it, again positioning Indiana as a leader in the nation.
Though he lived just 58 years on this earth, he accomplished more than most could in two lifetimes. Today the IPRC remembers and honors his legacy.
* Bailey, William J., Drug Use in American Society: An Epidemiologic Analysis of Risks (1981, 1988) Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company.