July 7, 2016

CCHE mourns the passing of founding director Bill Beery


Bill Beery, MPH, founding director of Group Health Research Institute’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation

Members of the Center for Community Health and Evaluation at GHRI remember Bill’s leadership, mentoring, and humor. Bill passed away on July 5.

by Allen Cheadle, PhD, Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) senior investigator and director of the Center for Community Health and Evaluation (CCHE) and Maggie Jones, MPH, associate director of CCHE

Along with many colleagues across the country, CCHE is remembering our founding director, Bill Beery, MPH.

Bill had a lifelong commitment to public health. He served the Peace Corps in Senegal, Malaysia, and Thailand, and led public health centers in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1985, he came to Group Health to direct the Center for Health Promotion and Department of Disease Prevention and Community Service. In 1997, he moved to the Group Health Community Foundation where he was vice president of programs and led the evaluation team.

In 2007, Bill founded CCHE as part of GHRI. CCHE’s origins go back to a 1990 grant to conduct a community health evaluation. From there, Bill created the Evaluation Team at the Group Health Community Foundation, which led to CCHE. We carry out Bill’s mission every day, as we use evaluation to strengthen programs and initiatives to make our communities healthier.

Bill retired in late 2012 after 27 years at Group Health. In 2013, he experienced a serious brain trauma after a fall. On July 5, 2016, he died peacefully, after spending the Fourth of July surrounded by his family.

Bill was committed to advancing community health. He believed that, when done well, evaluation could be a tool to inform health program improvements, strategies, and investments. He believed that CCHE could best achieve its goals through long-term, collaborative partnerships with organizations investing in health. He positioned CCHE as an evaluation partner, rather than an external evaluator, and focused on making evaluation useful, relevant, and grounded in context and reality. Bill often said, “our job is to answer questions for audiences that matter.” This pragmatic approach, combined with Bill’s passion, commitment, and ability to effortlessly connect with anyone led to increasing demand for CCHE’s services across the country.

CCHE is a family and we owe that closeness to Bill’s leadership. He took our work seriously, but approached it playfully. Everyone knew that his true priorities were supporting his coworkers as people and making sure we all got to go home to our families at the end of the day. He saw the best in people—providing us with opportunities, pushing us to grow, and having faith in us. He created time and space for connection and fun, often lightening the mood with a personal story, trivia question, New Yorker cartoon, book recommendation, or by showing off his crazy socks.

Bill’s wisdom, guidance, passion, and humor will be greatly missed. We were fortunate to have him as a colleague and friend.

If you can, please join us in a service to celebrate Bill’s life on Saturday July 16, 2016 at 2 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church (1217 6th Avenue) in downtown Seattle. We’d love to hear any stories you have about Bill. Please share them in the comment section.


This post was updated on July 8, 2016 with new information about Bill's memorial service.