William B. Greene and Civic Affairs

Submitted by Nancy Hopp

Barber Greene executive William B. Greene is perhaps one of the best examples of how the manufacturing leaders in Aurora involved themselves with the development of services and amenities for the growing Fox River manufacturing community. In the fall of 1967, he was honored by the United Funds and Councils of America and presented with the group’s Outstanding Citizenship Award. This was the first national recognition of its kind for an Auroran.

In describing his community service, Mrs. Dudley (Margaret McWethy) Smith summarized Mr. Greene’s many contributions for an article published in the United Funds national magazine.

Children were clearly a focus for Bill Greene. He was instrumental in getting the local school boards to provide kindergartens. The Juvenile Protective Association carried his interest in various practical ways, through donations and programming, for several years.

As his own boys grew up, Mr. Greene turned his attention toward two organizations dedicated to training youth – the Boy Scouts of America, of which he was president of the Aurora chapter from 1933 to 1935, and the Aurora Playground and Recreation Board of Commissioners, of which he was a member for almost 40 years, from 1923 to 1961. Having earned the rank of Eagle Scout himself, he regularly attended the annual awards banquet. At one of these celebrations, he was awarded the Silver Beaver recognition from the Boy Scouts. He also assisted the local Girl Scouts chapter.

Since Mr. Greene lived most of his life in the neighborhood of Aurora College (now University) and in the atmosphere of the institution, he developed a genuine respect for higher education. He was a close friend to Orrin Jenks and Theodore P. Stephens, successive college presidents. Bill was a member of the initial Citizens Advisory Committee, and from that, stepped into the Chairmanship of the Aurora College Development Planning Committee in 1959. He had been a director since 1948.

Because of his continuing interest in higher education and the belief that it should be supported by industry as well as other businesses, he accepted a position as director of the Associated Colleges of Illinois in 1962. That same year, Aurora College awarded William B. Greene the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities.

In 1948, Mr. Greene became interested in the possibility of a foundation for Aurora, an organization of public-spirited individuals working without compensation, empowered to receive gifts or bequests, manage them to produce income, and spend the income from principal for any worthy projects, but especially for youth scholarships. He became the first president of The Aurora Foundation in 1948, and held that office until 1950, and again from 1955 to 1964.

In 1952, Bill Greene joined the YMCA Building Fund Committee as a member of the Pattern Gifts Committee, and later in 1956, served as Chairman for the YM-YW Building Completion Campaign, bringing this joint fund-raising effort to a successful conclusion.

In 1954, he became a member of the University of Illinois Foundation, and continued as an active member. His continuous community service was noticed and appreciated, and in 1959, he was awarded the Cosmopolitan International Medal for Distinguished Service.

It was 1967 when William B. Greene received the national United Funds and Councils of America’s Outstanding Citizenship Award, presented by Calvin B. Thelin of Aurora’s United Community Services. At this time, Bill’s other civic activities consisted of being Director of the Council of Community Services, a member of the Central Housing Committee, Co-Chairman of the United Fund Special Gifts Committee, and Co-Chairman of the United States Savings Bond Campaign, both of the latter in 1961. Also in 1961, he helped with the establishment of the Federation of Chest and Red Cross.

Without a doubt, William B. Greene set a formidable example not only with his leadership at Barber-Greene but with his many community involvements that enriched the entire Aurora community. Perhaps most importantly, he inspired many other significant business leaders at the time to follow his footsteps.