Bill Strickland to Deliver Bethany College Commencement Address

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College President Scott D. Miller announced that Bill Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its subsidiaries—Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) and Bidwell Training Center (BTC) in Pittsburgh—will give the graduation address at Bethany’s 2009 Commencement exercises on May 16.

“We are honored to welcome Bill Strickland to Bethany College,” stated President Miller. “His entrepreneurial sense and philanthropic spirit provide a vital vision to emerging leaders. Bill’s message of service is timeless, but it is especially crucial to Bethany graduates as we send them out from our campus to engage the world.”  

A Pittsburgh native and one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs, Strickland is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in American History and Foreign Relations. Strickland returned to Manchester, the inner-city neighborhood in which he grew up, and created a model for turning underprivileged people into productive workers. His business model proved highly successful, and he continues to replicate it across the country.

Strickland founded MCG to teach life skills to at-risk children through the arts. Students have the opportunity to take classes and workshops in photography, design, ceramics and more and learn from internationally known artists. In addition, MCG works extensively with jazz artists and audiences to preserve and promote jazz music through a variety of performances and recordings. Grammy-winning MCG Jazz is the most successful jazz subscription series in America.

Strickland also created BTC, an innovative partnership with local companies that provides displaced adults with the training they need to land jobs in those companies. Participants can earn an associate degree or complete diploma programs in fields such as horticulture, office technology and chemical laboratory technologies. MCG and BTC have each grown into $3 million-a-year operations.

Strickland has received numerous awards in recognition of his contribution to the arts and his community. These include the MacArthur Genius Award for leadership in 1996 and the Coming Up Taller Award, which was presented to him by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a 1998 White House ceremony. Strickland also served a six-year Presidential appointment as a Council Member to the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of numerous boards and councils domestically and overseas.

Strickland is the author of “Make the Impossible Possible: One Man's Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary,” published in 2007. In 2008, he was named Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine.

The Commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the Quadrangle of Bethany’s Old Main.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.