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In Memoriam: William "Bill" Graeper (1937-2016)

Published August 11, 2016 12:45:55 PM /


Many of those who have chosen interpreting as a profession see it as a calling as much as a way to make a living. We care about communication and believe deep down that what we do makes the world a better place.

Since our founding in 2009, at InterpretAmerica, we have worked constantly to build bridges between interpreters of different specialties, interpreter associations of different kinds, and the professional and business sides of the language industry. 

Along the way, we have had the opportunity to meet some outstanding people who have made interpreting better. William “Bill” Graeper was one of those people.

I first met Bill, the founder and president of Certified Languages International (CLI), in 2008, when I dared, as a curious conference interpreter and new professor, to attend my first conference of the Association of Language Companies (ALC) in San Francisco. He was the one organizing discussions about how to better provide interpreting services and to advocate for our profession. He was one of the first to call for lobbying at the national level to ensure that the language services industry was represented in Washington, D.C.

"Bill tore down preconceived boundaries between practitioners and the business end of interpreting. For him, there was room for everyone to participate in the discussion."

He immediately welcomed me into the group and sat me down next to CEOs and interpreting agency executives and considered my opinion just like that of anyone else in the group.  I was amazed. According to his daughter, Kristin, “Bill tore down preconceived boundaries between practitioners and the business end of interpreting. For him, there was room for everyone to participate in the discussion.”

He was an executive with a big heart. In the 90s when CLI was just getting started, most of their interpreting jobs were local face-to-face encounters in the Portland, Oregon area. To help interpreters for local immigrant communities, Bill would often drive them to interpreting assignments himself when they didn’t have their own transportation. He even helped babysit their children at the CLI office when interpreters couldn’t find childcare when they were hired for an assignment.    

“The interpreters became part of the CLI family,” Kristin told me. “They loved Dad. They invited him to weddings, birthdays, and even funerals. He befriended them. He really cared about making interpreters feel valued.”

Bill contributed to the development of interpreting as both a business and a profession in many ways over the years, founding the Association of Language Companies (ALC) in 2001, actively advocating in Washington, D.C., and serving on the ASTM Standards Committee F43 on Languages and its subcommittee on interpreting. You can read more about Bill’s work and impact on the business side of interpreting in two recent memorials posted on the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)and ALC websites.

As we prepared to launch the first InterpretAmerica Summit in 2010, Bill was one of our most enthusiastic supporters. He knew how important it was for everyone in interpreting to work together. His energy and enthusiasm for what my Co-President Katharine Allen and I were trying to achieve was crucial in the early days of InterpretAmerica.  Few understood what we were trying to achieve and many were skeptical of our vision. We will always be grateful to Bill for believing in our vision of raising the profile of interpreting and our ability to make it a reality.

In a time of change and disruption, when many interpreters feel disconnected from the companies that hire them, Bill gave us a model to follow; one that brings interpreters and companies together as allies and partners.

Bill Graeper will be sorely missed. We share this post in honor of the tremendous legacy he leaves our young profession.

Thanks, Bill, and godspeed.


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