As published by Charlevoix County News — February 2, 2023
Written by John Keyser
(Note internal changes included below.)
Bill Aten – Be Involved!
I was urged to meet with Bill Aten and write about his community leadership. I am so glad I now know Bill. He is an inspiration for all he has done and continues to do to help others.
As background, Bill and his wife, Maxine, grew up in the Battle Creek area, attended Lakeview High School and Central Michigan University, focusing on mathematics and secondary education, and subsequently earned his Masters Degree in Secondary Education Administration. By the way, Bill captained the Central Michigan swim team and was a two-year NCAA Division II All-American. Following graduation from CMU, Bill gave two years of service to VISTA (What is now called AmeriCorps), and was trained as a community organizer. He worked two years in Gary, IN, and those years set in motion an awareness of the needs of a population that was poorly served and under recognized.
Following his years with VISTA, Bill taught math at Battle Creek Central High School and was granted a sabbatical for additional studies. In 1978, he, Maxine and their children moved Up North to Boyne City. They had loved the area from their ski trips up here. His first position in our area was Director of the Youth Diversionary Program for the Department 0f Juvenile Justice, supervised by Charlevoix County Juvenile Court and the Michigan Department of Social Services. This was rewarding as Bill enjoys, well, lives to help others. Next, Bill became a mathematics teacher at Boyne Falls School, and then taught at the new Math Science and Technology Center at East Jordan High School. The MST Center was a team-taught program that was centered around project based learning, with an emphasis on writing, where students were required to explain their reasoning rather than just provide answers.
Bill was recruited to become Principal back at Boyne Falls School, which is a special place, for sure. In fact, the number of ‘school of choice’ students from outlying areas grew under his leadership as parents learned of the benefit of a small school with a very nurturing environment.
After formally retiring, Bill was contracted as Mathematic Consultant for Charlevoix Emmet School District. He shared his knowledge in math education through workshops for teachers at all levels.
Lots of awards recognized Bill’s teaching and leadership accomplishments, e.g., Michigan Dept of Education Teacher of the Year (well, runner-up), Char-Em Delta Gamma Society Teacher of the Year, American Red Cross Everyday Hero- Educator Award…..and a bunch of others.
But let me discuss Bill’s service to our community, which is endless. In fact, Maxine says he has never learned to say “No”.
Bill has served as the Board President of Challenge Mountain for a number of years, which is especially meaningful to him, helping those physically and or mentally handicapped, children and adults. He is proud that since joining the organization that they now provide four-season activities, such as adaptive biking, sailing and water sports, a rope course at Camp Daggett, of course downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding and snow shoeing, and equestrian riding. Bill notes that he has witnessed how these adaptive activities are magical for the kids and provide opportunities for a segment of our population to understand and enjoy the joy of recreational activities.
Bill also served two four-year terms on the Board of Directors of the Charlevoix County Community Foundation, which I am sure we all know is an amazing asset to us all with its support of community needs, education, well more than 100 nonprofits, the arts and other very worth causes. In fact, Bill helped create both the Wisser-Saworski Endowment for the Arts and Wunderlust Fund.
There are many, many more important community activities that have benefited from Bill always wanting to help, some examples being the Boyne Falls Polish Festival, Boyne Theatre Renovation, the Boyne Valley Trailway, Char-Em Cultural Alliance Committee, Boyne Thunder, Top of Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and others. And all the while, Bill is a self-taught mandolin player and a member of Full Moon Jam Band, regularly playing at the Boyne City and East Jordan senior centers, as well as Stroll the Streets and Concerts in the Park in Boyne City.
Boyne Thunder has received national recognition as “the Best Poker Run” in the United States, as 120 high-performance boats participate, and nearly 10,000 people visit the Boyne City area for the event. The weekend includes lots of picnics, music, and numerous “Main Street” activities. The proceeds of Boyne Thunder are contributed to Challenge Mountain, Camp Quality, and the Boyne City Main Street Program.
Bill thoroughly enjoys all he does to help often overlooked young people, and some not so young. He happily shares that he is paid with smiles, laughs and giggles. Great message, Bill!
When I asked about his wish list, Bill immediately said “More volunteers and younger volunteers”. So many of our volunteers are older, often retired, and we need to encourage younger folks in our area to volunteer as well, to realize the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from our giving back, the feeling of helping others.
A last principle I’d like to mention is that when Bill is in leadership positions, he always believes that those with whom he works often know more than he does. When someone comes to him with an idea, he nearly always says, “Thanks, and run with it”. The sense of ownership that this creates helps ensure that the idea is effective and successful. This approach is far more effective than top down directives. People appreciate the respect and do their very best.
Thank you, Bill, for all you do for our community and those of us who are so fortunate to live here.
Yes, let’s follow Bill’s advice, let’s be involved, and encourage others to be, as well…