After being named Citizen of the Year, Bill Chapman no longer can hide from the spotlight

Monitor staff
Published: 10/31/2017 11:51:46 PM

Concord attorney Bill Chapman has never sought the spotlight, preferring to move through life anonymously while leaving a trail of goodwill behind.

Next Wednesday, however, Chapman will stand in front of about 300 people at the Grappone Conference Center as the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year.

Chapman was told a week ago by a voting member of the chamber and the news was released Tuesday via Twitter.

“I was glad I was sitting down because I might have fainted,” Chapman said by phone Tuesday. “Obviously, I’m really honored.”

While Chapman was stunned to hear the news, at least he was given time to prepare his speech, since the winner has traditionally been a closely guarded secret, known only to the voting board and no one else.

That has made things difficult for chamber President Tim Sink, who’s had to convince the winner and those in his or her inner circle to attend the annual banquet without tipping his hand.

“The way we were doing it was the old-fashioned chamber way,” Sink said. “The benefits of doing it this way outweigh the complications. We were trying to get someone to go who might not otherwise be there, and we heard complaints from people saying they should have been informed ahead of time so they could be there to support the winner. And some winners have said they appreciated the award, but they didn’t appreciate the surprise.”

Those who know Chapman best are not surprised that he won this year. He moved to Concord 45 years ago from the New York City area and has been helping others ever since.

A review of the nominating letters submitted to the chamber board revealed a commitment to both housing for the mentally ill and legal services for the poor.

Chapman, who works for Orr & Reno law firm downtown, has given large sums of money and served on numerous boards to help various organizations, including the Concord Boys & Girls Club, the Carolyn Jenkins Estate, Concord Hospital, the Campaign for Legal Services, the New Hampshire Humanities Council, the United way and New Hampshire Public Radio.

Adjectives like modest and humble were common from sources asked to describe Chapman. Chris Emond, the longtime executive director of the Concord Boys & Girls Club, said Chapman’s financial contributions have helped the club reach its potential.

He praised Chapman’s down-to-earth style of dealing with people, saying that he’d often do his research and offer suggestions to help the club thrive.

“I go in there to talk about the Boys & Girls Club and he asks me questions, and for someone who is so busy he could easily say thank you for coming and be done with it,” Emond said. “But he might spend an hour with you like he has all day, and he’s asking meaningful questions and thoughtful questions.”

Attorney Robert Carey joined Orr & Reno 10 years ago. He mentioned that Chapman was a star running back on the Williams College football team, and records show Chapman scored the lone touchdown in a 12-0 win over previously unbeaten Amherst in 1961, one of the greatest wins in school history.

A Williams periodical, recalling the game two years ago, called Chapman “soft-spoken and reserved.”

“Something I’m sure he didn’t mention is that he’s a very good athlete,” Carey said. “He’s a person of old fashioned values of decency, kindness and charity, and that is so important, not only to his profession, but to the community. He is a guy who is unselfish with his time and support and advice, and he’s affected so many different people in so many different ways.”

Sink said about a half dozen candidates were in serious contention for this year’s award.

“If you read the nominations, you know Bill is a pretty humble guy,” Sink said. “A lot of things he’s done have fallen under the radar. A lot of people know him, but a lot of people don’t know  all the things he’s done.”

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