Profile – January 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Profile” January 2011.

Bill Blanckenburg … Napa’s Own
“Pay It Forward” Good Guy
By Dorothy Salmon

Bill Blanckenburg epitomizes the “Best Generation.” He has spent his 90 plus years quietly doing the right thing with confidence, conviction and strength. As a young attorney with an exciting career in front of him, he left it all and joined the Army as a Private, and fought in some of the toughest battles in Europe in World War II. Bill never thought of not doing what he could to help America, his generation and the next. That’s just what Bill has done every day of his life. He has consistently paid it forward to help young people become all they can be.

Bill returned from WW II to become a distinguished attorney in Napa and to then go on to become one of Napa’s great Superior Court Judges. He is well remembered as a tough, no-nonsense judge by many of today’s baby boomers who strayed off the path as adolescents and ended up in his courtroom. Napa County’s Juvenile Hall on Old Sonoma Road is named after Bill as a permanent reminder of his years of service helping young people stay on the right track. Bill was tough, but always kind, generous, and, most of all, set an example of what “doing the right thing” really meant.

Bill has been a lifelong supporter of continuing education and Napa Valley College’s number one cheerleader and visionary for many long years. He is a proud Rotarian who never misses a meeting or an opportunity to speak up for the Napa Valley College Foundation.

“Bill Blanckenburg is the Father of the Napa Valley College Foundation,” said Ann Cash, whose father, Harry McPherson, served as the very first superintendent and president of Napa Valley College. “Bill served on the Board of the Cal Alumni Association for six years where he saw tens of thousands of dollars coming into the University for scholarships, buildings and to enhance programs. He said to my father, ‘we can do the same on a smaller scale for Napa Valley College.’ And he did. Bill put together a group of civic-minded people and founded the Napa Valley College Foundation.”

“Bill served as the Foundation’s first Board President, and went on to serve as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for the next 33 years,” said Kathleen Lucier, president of the Napa Valley College Foundation. “Our community is fortunate to have Bill’s leadership and vision, and the college is blessed to have such a generous and determined friend. Today, at 95 years young, he continues to be one of the college’s most ardent supporters and friends.”

“Bill has been a tremendous and caring benefactor to the community of Napa in general and to Napa Valley College in particular, ”said retired Napa County Superior Court Judge Phil Champlin, who succeeded Bill on the bench. “He was a great role model as a judge and continues to be a role model to the community through his tireless civic involvement. He’s the most active and vigorous person I know. He’ll probably outlive us all.”

Bill is loved, admired and treasured as one of Napa’s true heroes and he will be honored at Napa Valley College’s Winter Gala this month. If you are lucky enough to see him honored, it will be an experience that you’ll remember forever. There are too few Bill Blanckenburgs in the world today and I am proud to call him my friend.  Honoring his wisdom, generosity and humor reminds me of how lucky I am, and we all are, to know and love him.

The Spirit of Napa Valley College Award will be presented to the Honorable Bill Blanckenburg for his exemplary leadership and generosity to the college at the Napa Valley College Winter Gala on Friday, January 28, 2011. The evening features a reception, dinner and auction followed by a performance by Pride and Joy, one of the most popular bands on the Bay Area music scene. All proceeds from the Gala will benefit the college and its students. Tickets are available for the dinner, presentation and performance for $150 per person, or for the presentation and performance only for $35. Call (707) 253-3374 or visit for more information and to purchase tickets.


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