By Carlye Pollack
Sitting in his dress pants, turtleneck and top hat, alumnus Bill Kopper politely offers to buy lunch at Bowling Green’s Sam B’s.
With kind eyes and a polite smile, he orders lunch and gets to talking about his life.
After graduating from BGSU in 1960, Kopper started on a career path that would take him from Navy intelligence, through several business executive positions and wind him through retirement as a founder of a successful business start-up.
Kopper is an avid Wall Street Journal reader and comes from a family of entrepreneurs. He started in the business field at the age of 12 and earned his Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from the College of Business Administration.
His sequence was public relations, which he utilized throughout his careers.
“Back in the day, public relations was like a new enterprise within the organization,” Kopper said.
When Kopper graduated BGSU in June of 1960, he began training with the Standard Oil of Ohio company.
“When I was 21, I was sitting in lunch with businessmen, first class in downtown Cleveland,” Kopper said. “I didn’t even know I was being interviewed.”
Kopper continuously stated his appreciation for the education that he earned at BGSU and how it gave him the tools he needed to succeed.
“I come from a school where they give you life lessons and experiences that will help you in the real world,” Kopper said.
At BGSU Kopper was involved with The BG News where he did writing, reporting and photography. He is also a brother of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
“Bill really shows how a person with a journalism degree can branch out and prosper in other fields,” Bob Bortel, director of student media, said.
Kopper’s friends describe him as positive, self-confident, passionate and work oriented.
“He truly is one of the last of the good guys,” said Bill Keller, a close friend, work colleague, military comrade and fellow alumnus.
Kopper’s accomplishments stem from a strong work ethic and experience in the real world.
“I built a bowling alley on Navy money then paid it off in three years when I was 23 years old,” Kopper said. “It’s about hard work and putting your mind to it.”
Kopper was drafted into the Navy shortly after graduation, where he started out as a line officer, designed to drive ships.
He then converted over to intelligence, where it took him three years and a tough load of course work, to graduate as a Navy intelligence officer.
Aside from being a retired senior Navy intelligence officer, Kopper is an active member of the Navy League of the U.S.
His love for the Navy and being a retired USN Captain draws you into the conversation.
Kopper is the type of person who tells you a story with every word, a quality he believes everyone should possess in order to be successful.
“If you can communicate, if you can convince, if you can handle yourself, you’ll make it,” Kopper said. “You want to do it? It’s possible.”
After the Navy, Kopper decided it was time to go back to work.
He enrolled in law school but dropped out to start a family.
Kopper settled down with his late wife, an alumna and Delta Gamma, and together they raised three children.
He continued to work within the sales and marketing side of IBM for numerous years.
He contributed much to IBM, such as introducing a plan to build 250,000 PCs in 1982.
After Kopper retired, he decided retirement wasn’t for him and went to work for a small startup software publishing company.
Starting with eight employees, by the time Kopper sold his business to the inventor of LexisNexis, they had over 70 employees.
Kopper went through many different job positions, but said, “You have to grab fate as it passes you by.”
If there was one message that Kopper would want to get across, it is that life isn’t going to be handed to you; you must work for what you want.
“If you think you can’t, you’re right,” Kopper said. “You’ve got to have that positive attitude.”
Kopper is a supporter of BGSU and the journalism department.
“There are endless opportunities that you can gain from your time here at BGSU,” he said. “It’s all a matter of what you’re going to do once that opportunity arises.”