Mr. Blair was the founding President of the Ohio Foundation of the Arts, Inc., a statewide arts service corporation; and is a past President and Executive Committee Member of the Canton Symphony Orchestra, an association he has maintained for over 45 years. In 2019, the CSO honored him for his service to us and the Arts. He has received numerous awards and prizes for work in the arts and humanities including the Cleveland Arts Prize in July 2006 and Americans for the Arts award for state arts Advocacy. He is a recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Service Medal from The Ohio State University and the Heinlen Award from the Ohio State University Alumni Association for his work on behalf of his alma mater.
Mr. Blair is directly responsible for arts organizations existing in the capacity that they do statewide. His efforts have supported the enrichment of countless lives through art and music, for both those who receive and those who create it. He spent his entire life working to prove that access to the arts is a basic human right.
From all of us who are artists, advocates, administrators, and patrons… thank you, Bill. You fought the good fight for us all.
Bill Blair’s love of music was the centerpiece of not only his life and career, but also within his home. His gorgeous 1902 Boston Model A Steinway & Sons grand piano originally lived in his library, which he played often and had restored some time ago.
On Monday, April 17, 2023, the CSO purchased the piano from the estate sale with the help of Mr. Robert Leibensperger, as to not overburden the CSO’s cash flow.
$25,000 is our goal to purchase the piano outright and properly recognize the community that helped us provide it. Mr. Leibensperger has graciously agreed to donate the funds he provided once this campaign has concluded. With your help, we can honor Mr. Blair’s contributions to the arts and to the Canton Symphony in a permanent way.
William P. Blair III passed away on February 2, 2023. Born and raised in Canton, Bill attended The Ohio State University, and received the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in History and Government, Master of Arts in Public Administration and Juris Doctor from the College of Law. Bill was dedicated to his hometown and to his state, and served with distinction as Executive Counsel to the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Canton City Prosecutor, private practice attorney since 1977 and as one of the greatest arts and culture advocates our state has ever seen.
Bill is pre-deceased by his mother Rachel, his father Edmund and his sister Nancy and is survived by numerous cousins and extended family, and Godchildren across the country.
Bill’s arts-related achievements have included serving as co-founder and President of and legislative counsel and lobbyist for the Ohio Citizens for the Arts(now Creative Ohio), trustee of Canton Symphony, Cleveland Institute of Music, Apollo’s Fire, Cleveland International Piano Competition, Cleveland Chamberfest, past chairman of the American Arts Alliance, founding Chairman of the Alliance of Arts Advocates, and former chairman of the National Cultural Alliance, board member of the American Symphony Orchestra League, and Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Opera National Council. His awards from the arts include receiving the Cleveland Arts Prize, the award for state arts advocacy from Americans for the Arts, and the Virtuoso Award from the Ohio Alliance for Arts in Education, and the first “William R. Joseph Medal for Arts Advocacy”, named in honor of Bill’s dear friend and law partner, the late Bill Joseph.
Bill proudly served The Ohio State University as Chair of the Ohio State Advocates, member of OSU’s College of Law and its capital campaign committee, as mentor and funder of scholarships for the College of Law, chair of the OSU Government Affairs Advisory Group and on the board of The Ohio State University Foundation. In a world that has known many passionate Ohio State Football fans over generations, Bill was among its most dedicated.
Bill’s service extended beyond the arts and higher education and included his advocacy for support for natural history, zoos and public broadcasting and his being founding chairman of the WKSU Advisory Board, member of the Kent Foundation at Kent State University, his role as President of The National First Ladies Library and Museum upon the retirement of its Founder & President the late Mary Regula, member of the Board of Trustees of the Capitol Square Foundation which helped restore Ohio’s State Capitol Building, member of the Stark County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, executive committee member of the Friends of Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens, and member of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Bill’s ability to cross generations and party lines to find common ground and a way forward he believed was best put him in a class of his own. With an indomitable will and discerning tastes and a pursuit for inspiration from the arts, he served his time on this earth with high conviction and distinction, and will be missed by so many who he touched and connected with along the way. From the halls of the State Capitol, to the seats of his beloved Severance Hall and Blossom Music Center and Canton’s Umsattd Hall with musical scores in hand to the classrooms and meeting rooms of his alma mater The Ohio State University and beyond, Bill led a life of significance and singular personality and leaves behind a legacy of friendship, service and advocacy for public funding for the arts and education that will endure for generations to come.