Angela Ciccolo 
Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, Special Olympics
Tim Shriver
Chair of Board of Directors, Special Olympics

Bill Alford: A Legacy of Inclusion

Professor William Alford is a recognized expert in international legal studies. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree, delivered endowed lectures, held honorary professor roles in multiple countries, and received prestigious awards, accolades, and fellowships. He is a prolific author, having written dozens of books and publications. He has served as founding Chair of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. Professor Alford is undeniably a star.

To us, and to the Special Olympics movement, he is all that and so much more. He is Bill. Bill is a considerate, calm, conscientious force for good. His dedication, inspiration, ethics, collaborative spirit and incredible intellect have helped our organization to reach people with intellectual disabilities all over the world. As Lead Director and Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Board of Directors for Special Olympics, Bill’s decades of experience transcending barriers and borders are a natural fit with how we use sports as a catalyst for social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Bill has been involved as a volunteer for Special Olympics since the early days of the movement. He has applied the depth and breadth of his expertise to strategic plans, key milestones, and our raison d’être. Today, Special Olympics has six million athletes with intellectual disabilities and Unified partners participating in sports in over 240 local programs in over 190 countries and territories. His persistence and presence were instrumental in bringing the promise of inclusion for people with disabilities to China, and in ensuring the resounding success of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai. Indeed, although it took decades for the seeds of hope planted during his 1979 trip to China with Sargent Shriver to germinate, the fruits of that initial visit and legacy of those World Games are present today in vibrant programming for over one million Chinese athletes and their families. Bill is to thank for this, because he tied the country’s historic roots and benevolent approach to disability with the present need to give people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to display their gifts and to be productive citizens. 

Bill understands the significance of hearing the voices of the underrepresented. When he sees a barrier, he brings everything in his arsenal to tear it down. One facet of his leadership style is to clear paths for equity. His first initiative on being named Lead Director five years ago was to start a diversity and inclusion task force, with himself and our Chief Legal Officer as co-chairs, in an effort to empower staff at all levels in the organization to create a work environment and organizational culture that understands, values, and expects diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Bill shares his many gifts freely. He is generous to a fault with his time. Some would never imagine an esteemed Harvard Law professor sitting in a school gym on the Southside of Chicago chatting and laughing with students with intellectual disabilities like they were long lost friends. They might not be able to imagine him treating Special Olympics athletes to ice cream in Abu Dhabi just because he really wanted to hear about their lives and hopes for the future. Whether it is being a champion for inclusion, a wonderful friend, counselor, listener, hockey fan, husband and father, lawyer, student of history, volunteer and more, Bill is an extraordinary, inspiring advocate for justice. He’s often heard saying, “However much I work, I always receive more than I could possibly contribute.” You will often hear us saying, “We have received so much more from Bill than we could possibly acknowledge.” Thank you, Bill.