He has since returned that favor to hundreds, by building an Arts and Cultural center in Pittsburgh. He has helped to develop similar institutions in other inner cities.
Bill Strickland recently spoke in our home state of Michigan. Alex Nixon of the Kalamazoo Gazette caught the speech.
"I suffer from a form of depression," Strickland said. "So I'm up at three in the morning watching CNN and see all these children in Africa with flies around them ... or the children standing outside homeless shelters at Christmas time with no hope. And I can't block out the images. Which I suspect is a condition the president-elect of the United States might share with me."
Strickland, a seemingly tireless pitchman for his community and the work of his organization, Manchester Bidwell Corp., addressed an audience organized by Leadership Kalamazoo, a program of the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce that works to develop people to serve Kalamazoo's nonprofit organizations.
The Pittsburgh native, who says he was saved from the streets by a public school art teacher, has spent the past 40 years trying to surround poor people with the best the world has to offer.
Remember one point from this speech, Strickland told his audience: "Environment drives behavior."
"If you build prisons, you get prisoners," he said. "The only thing wrong with poor people is they don't have any money -- and that's a curable condition."
Strickland's Manchester Bidwell Corp., which started in 1968 as a pottery class in the basement of a Pittsburgh row home, today is a 62,000-square-foot arts and training center that also runs a jazz recording label and a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse.