William F. Sprenger, social worker, dies

He organized Project Urban Self-Help while at United Way of Central Maryland

  • William F. Sprenger
William F. Sprenger
March 31, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

William F. "Bill" Sprenger, a social worker who had been managing director of community services for United Way of Central Maryland, died March 23 of heart failure at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center in Cumberland.

The former Towson resident was 86.

Mr. Sprenger was born in Derby, Conn., and raised in Albany, N.Y., and Westchester County, N.Y. He was a 1942 graduate of Mamaroneck High School in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and enlisted in the Navy the next year.

An ensign, he served during World War II in the Pacific aboard Landing Ship Tank LCT-88 and remained an active reservist until 1962.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1947 in biochemistry from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. In 1952, he earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and received management training at Harvard University in the early 1980s.

From 1951 to 1953, he was a psychiatric social worker at the Lyons Veterans Administration Hospital in Lyons, N.J.

He later was executive director of the Family Agency of Chester County, Pa., and was project director for the Central Rehabilitation and Referral Service in Philadelphia, before being named associate director and planning consultant in 1959 for the Health and Welfare Council of Central Maryland.

From 1967 to 1972, he was director of agency operations and acting director of the old Community Chest of Baltimore.

Mr. Sprenger joined United Way of Central Maryland in 1972, where he was deputy executive director, a position he held until 1982, when he was named managing director of community services for United Way.

Mr. Sprenger was named Social Worker of the Year in 1976 by the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

In 1978, he served as acting executive director of United Way after its former head, H. Allen Larsen, left to become campaign director for United Way of Houston.

In addition to his work with United Way, Mr. Sprenger was a counselor at the House of Ruth in its batterers program.

The former Guilford resident, who later moved to Towson, retired in 1984.

"At United Way, he supervised such new projects as the funding for sickle cell anemia programs and the organization of PUSH — Project Urban Self-Help," said his wife of 13 years, Johanna Walti, a retired social worker.

"He had been the key person in the operation of Community Chest and later with United Way of Central Maryland," said Mr. Larsen, who was senior vice president of United Ways of the Greater New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Tri-State Area.

Mr. Larsen, who now lives in Austin, Texas, praised Mr. Sprenger's abilities.

"Bill was always very, very resourceful and had certainly been most effective in the social work field. There's no question in my mind about that," he said.

"He was always very energetic, positive and full of ideas. He was good at taking outreach programs such as PUSH, which he managed, to the various neighborhood associations. It worked out well, and we got good results," Mr. Larsen recalled.

"Bill also knew how to keep friendships. He was a wonderful colleague, and I shall miss him," he said.

Mr. Sprenger, who had been in failing health in recent years, had been an avid Chesapeake Bay sailor before moving to Cumberland in 2007.

"He loved sailing the Chesapeake aboard the Aurora, an Alberg 20," said Ms. Walti.

He was a former communicant of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Baltimore.

Services were Monday at the Maryland State Veterans Cemetery at Rocky Gap.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Sprenger is survived by a daughter, Lee Sprenger of Los Angeles; two stepsons, Louis Passano of Baltimore and John Loeb of Philadelphia; a sister, Marion Sarah Crum of Providence, R.I.; and several nieces and nephews. Three earlier marriages ended in divorce.


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