Chairman Dr. Ray Daniels said the board has designated its executive committee to search for Epperheimer’s replacement and will hire an outside search firm to assist. He said the board hopes to hire a new CEO by late spring.
“Bill has provided outstanding leadership for the Wyandotte Health Foundation since its inception,” Daniels said. “He has consistently demonstrated his commitment to improving access to quality health care services for the Wyandotte County community, especially those who are underserved. His leadership at the local, metropolitan and state levels has been exemplary. The community and the board have greatly benefited from his experience and commitment.”
The Foundation was created in October 1997 with proceeds from the sale of the former Bethany Medical Center to Columbia HCA. The medical center changed hands again 18 months later and subsequently was closed. The main hospital buildings at 51 N. 12th St. were later razed.
Epperheimer was hired by the new Foundation in June 1998 when the sale of The Kansas City Kansan to a California company triggered his departure there after 14 years as publisher. In subsequent years, The Kansan ceased publication.
From the beginning, the Foundation has had the distinction of existing solely to serve Wyandotte County residents. It began with approximately $37 million in assets and has made grants of about $2 million every year since 1999. Grants to date total $30 million, and the foundation’s current assets stand at about $40 million.
In its earliest days, the Foundation operated from a small office suite at Bethany. It moved to its current location at 755 Minnesota Ave. in 1999 after the building, previously home to ProSoCo, Inc., was donated by Gerald and Bonnie Boyer.
“I am grateful to the Board of Directors for its support and guidance,” Epperheimer said. “It was a stroke of good fortune that my exit from The Kansan and the birth of the Foundation occurred simultaneously. I am indebted to those members of the board who placed their confidence in me when we were all feeling our way in the new world of philanthropy. It has been my privilege as well to work with my two associates, George Howell and Marolyn Kelley.
“In the last 16 years, it has been gratifying to serve this community through the grant process to support organizations that provide health services to the poor and uninsured,” he said. “It is my belief that the Foundation has substantially strengthened the medical safety net community in Wyandotte County, and I am proud of that.”
“Bill has done an excellent job as our president/ CEO and been a good steward of the Foundation’s resources,” said Charles “Bud” Thurston, past board chair and charter member. “From the beginning, he immersed himself in the health concerns of the people we serve and worked tirelessly to increase not only access but also quality of the care available. His knowledge of Wyandotte County has been instrumental to our success. Bill will be difficult to replace.”
Epperheimer’s career included 40 years in newspapers and journalism education. After his 1958 graduation from Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, he worked for newspapers in Illinois and New York before joining the University of Florida (Gainesville) staff. He later became publications manager and lecturer in the SIU Department of Journalism.
In 1972, he became publisher of the daily newspaper in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, beginning a 25-year association with Inland Industries of Lenexa, Kan.
In 1984, Epperheimer was asked by Inland to become publisher of The Kansan, where he remained until 1998 with the exception of two years with another company in Delaware.