Biff Steel '60 (2010)

William “Biff” Steel’s family roots run deep at North Shore. His mother Miriam Fetcher Steel is a 1933 graduate, his father Bill Steel taught for 20 years at North Shore, (and remains highly respected; the impact on his students has been life-long), and sister Polly Steel is a 1965 graduate. Biff is currently Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana, teaching microfinance, and also consulting for the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and others. 
He retired in 2005 as Senior Advisor in the Africa Region Private Sector Group of the World Bank, where he worked since 1983, specializing in small enterprise development and microfinance. He co-authored the World Bank’s “Framework for the Development of Micro, Small Enterprise and Rural Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “Rural Financial Services: Implementing the Bank’s Strategy to Reach the Rural Poor,” as well as studies of microfinance regulation in four African countries.

William “Biff” Steel’s family roots run deep at North Shore. His mother Miriam Fetcher Steel is a 1933 graduate, his father Bill Steel taught for 20 years at North Shore, (and remains highly respected; the impact on his students has been life-long), and sister Polly Steel is a 1965 graduate. Biff is currently Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana, teaching microfinance, and also consulting for the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and others. He retired in 2005 as Senior Advisor in the Africa Region Private Sector Group of the World Bank, where he worked since 1983, specializing in small enterprise development and microfinance. He co-authored the World Bank’s “Framework for the Development of Micro, Small Enterprise and Rural Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “Rural Financial Services: Implementing the Bank’s Strategy to Reach the Rural Poor,” as well as studies of microfinance regulation in four African countries.

In recent years, Biff has led IFAD teams to design and review Rural Finance programs in Ghana and Uganda, and participated in the design process in Ethiopia, and has also worked on projects in Ghana and Uganda to apply microfinance techniques to enable the rural, unelectrified poor to purchase solar home systems and lanterns.

He is one of the founders and currently a Board member of the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing Network, which brings grassroots women’s organizations together with statisticians, researchers, policymakers and development professionals to highlight and address issues affecting informal women workers in developing countries. As Co-Chair of the Donor Committee for Small Enterprise Development from 1991-2004, he led the development of Guiding Principles for donor support of microfinance and business development services to small enterprises. He previously taught economics at Vanderbilt University and the University of Ghana, and has served as an Advisor in the African Development Bank and the Indonesia National Planning Agency. Biff has published widely on small enterprise development, informal finance, microfinance regulation, employment and industrial adjustment.

Alumna Dr. Deborah Vainder Edidin ’67 reflected recently on Biff’s “Live and Serve” spirit. She asked for his help with a patient of hers from Rwanda who needed critical surgery. She described the tremendous effort, kindness and expertise he provided to ensure the success for her patient to receive the surgery, medical care and attention in Accra. Deborah states “he follows in the great Steel and North Shore Country Day School tradition of service, not only working for the people of Ghana but assisting me to help the people of Rwanda. His contributions are enormous.”

Presented October 2, 2010 by Courtney Williams ’88
Alumni Board President, North Shore Country Day School
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North Shore Country Day School is a junior kindergarten through 12th grade, college-preparatory school founded in Winnetka, Illinois in 1919.  With rigorous academic pursuit as the cornerstone, North Shore provides many opportunities for all students to excel – in the classroom and the laboratory, on the stage and the playing field, in their communities and beyond.

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