Bill Walsh '61
What does it take to turn a town lined with deadwood and ailing historic landmarks from the brink of destruction to a bustling mecca of entertainment and job growth? A Johnny with vision and a strong Catholic work ethic.
Bill Walsh grew up one of seven children raised by hardworking and loving parents with strong convictions and the help of the Presentation Sisters at Mitchel Notre Dame in South Dakota. His early examples taught him an Irish lad could be one of five things: Priest, Politician, Poet, Policeman and Publican. Being a man of great energy and an unerring thirst for knowledge and experience - Bill has dabbled in all five over the years. His speech will focus on his time as owner of the Historic Franklin Hotel (part politician, policeman, and publican) and the vision that turned the town around.
Deadwood is home to a rich tradition of gambling and entertainment. Bill harnessed this tradition along with a group of town leadership to lobby the state for legal gambling with a portion of the proceeds going back into historic preservation and education. With a clear touristic draw in place, Bill then went to work filling weekends with live music events to further encourage people to spend time and money in Deadwood. The Franklin was the anchor of Main Street, both in stature and frivolity with Walsh hosting talent in his three bars and restaurant on a nightly basis. Walsh believes and has proved that thinking outside the box can create economic growth. While Walsh has accomplished the five acclaimed profession, his greatest successes are linked to his role as Papa. Walsh attributes the ability to give continually to his community with the support of his wife of 35 years and their only daughter. As a family, they would work together to create magical New Year's Eve celebrations complete with "Time Square" ball drops to hosting a hotel of true cowboys for the town's annual Days of '76 festivities.
Today, Walsh has retired from many of his roles to focus on that of poet. Speaking and writing on his success and mentoring others to realize their potential and in turn give back to their communities.