What does Kathy stand for?
Answering that question was the theme of Kathy Merchant’s retirement toast last week, held in the beautiful Cincinnati Music Hall and attended by hundreds of friends, colleagues and even the mayor. He proclaimed it Kathryn Merchant Day and presented her with a key to the city.
It was a terrific tribute to Kathy’s 18 years leading the Greater Cincinnati Foundation; under her leadership, the foundation grew not only the assets, staff and giving of the foundation but became a recognized convener and partner in search of a better, stronger, healthier community. As person after person got up to share reflections on their interpretation of what Kathy stands for, I began to think of my own answer to that question.
Kathy was one of the first people I met when I started work at Philanthropy Ohio back in 1998. Coming from jobs in textbook writing and human services coordination, I didn’t know much about foundations and what they did, other than a general idea that they award grants. Over the years, I was able to watch and learn from Kathy as she became a widely-recognized innovator in the community foundation field, both in Ohio and across the country, and as she took on tough issues in southwest Ohio. And, yes, along the way I also learned a little bit about wine – a recurring theme from the reflections shared during last week’s toast.
In 2006, we presented Kathy with our Ohio Philanthropy Award, which we give each year to someone recognizing their “outstanding contributions to organized philanthropy in our state.” When I re-read the many letters submitted to support and celebrate her nomination for the award, I got my answer to the question of what she stands for: she stands for philanthropy. Her commitment to the field of philanthropy has taken many forms, from participating in the CEO Leadership Circle to encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy, leading an effort to create the Endow Ohio tax credit and sharing her expertise and knowledge with other community foundation leaders in formal and informal ways.
Thanks, Kathy, for all you’ve done to make the philanthropic landscape in Ohio a more effective, strong and visible force for good.
Entry filed under: Miscellaneous, Uncategorized. Tags: CEO, Cincinnati, community foundation, Endow Ohio, giving, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Kathryn Merchant, Kathy Merchant, leadership, Ohio, Ohio Philanthropy Award, Philanthropy, Philanthropy Ohio, retirement, wine.