It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Bill McKinney passed away unexpectedly this past weekend at his home in Arizona. Bill was a dear friend to many of us. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was quick to laugh and share a joke. He was a loyal and trusted friend, and his passing has left many of us with a great sense of loss.
Bill retired in the spring of 2009 and has been missed since his departure. After completing his doctoral degree, he was hired as an Assistant Professor in the department. He worked his way up the ranks and became Chief of the Office of Recreation and Park Resources, and eventually Head of the Department. He remained Head of the department for almost 10 years. During his period as Head he faced many challenges, including the potential closing of the department. Thankfully (for all of us here today) he rallied our supporters and prevented that for occurring. It was due to his leadership and dedication that the department not only survived but thrived.
His commitment to public parks and recreation was impressive and unwavering. He truly believed in the value of this field, and its ability to improve lives. His research examined the management of park and recreation agencies, investigating how they could be more efficient, effective, and better meet the needs of community residents. He mentored successful students, academics, and professionals who assumed positions in the recreation field all over the US and abroad.
He had a long professional history with the National Recreation and Park Association and was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Certified Leisure Professional Examination, an exam that had an impact on the professionalization of our field. He was also heavily involved with the Illinois Park and Recreation Association, serving on various boards and as chair of numerous committees. He authored 4 books, over 60 articles and monographs, and made over 100 conference presentations. He headed numerous research projects that led to positive program and policy changes for community parks and recreation departments.
However, Bill would tell you his greatest accomplishment was his loving family. They were his pride and joy. He was quick to share their pictures and tell stories of their accomplishments. He loved being a dad to his three daughters and a papa to his grandkids. He cherished the times they spent together.
When he retired, I remember telling him how much I was going to miss him, how much we all were going to miss him. He responded, “You know how you can tell if you will be missed? Put your hand in a bucket of water and then take it out and see if you can tell any difference.” I remember responding by telling him that I thought a more fitting analogy for his departure was to put your hand in a pile of clay, and then taking it out, and see if you can tell any difference. Bill made a difference in our department and in this field, and he will be missed.
On a personal note, Bill was a dear friend to both me and my husband Rich. We enjoyed his visits to Illinois to see his Champaign friends and Foosland buddies. We both feel his loss deeply.