2024 Honorees

Each year, the UC Alumni Association recognizes and celebrates the many contributions and overall excellence of UC alumni in countless fields of endeavor, throughout the world.

UCAA selects honorees for the William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement, Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award, Marian A. Spencer Mosaic Award, Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Outstanding Alumni Awards representing 13 colleges and the unique training ground of UC Athletics.

William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement: Dean J. Kereiakes, MD, PhD

The William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement is the highest honor the UC Alumni Association bestows, and is dedicated to the memory of William Howard Taft, Law 1880, Hon 1925, twenty-seventh president of the United States and tenth chief justice. Over the award’s 60-year history, Taft Medalists have personified excellence in a broad range of professions, shared a passion for helping others, and proudly expressed appreciation for the role their alma mater played in their success.

Dean J. Kereiakes Headshot

Dr. Kereiakes is a two-time graduate of UC where he was the Stella Feis Hoffheimer Memorial Award recipient as valedictorian of the 1978 College of Medicine graduating class, as well as the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2014. He was founder and CEO of the largest cardiology subspecialty group in Ohio, which became the cardiovascular service line of The Christ Hospital, and was also founder and Medical Director of The Carl & Edyth Lindner Center for Research and Education at The Christ Hospital, one of the nation’s top clinical research sites. His vision directed the establishment in 2005 of the facility’s Lindner Heart Failure Treatment Center, a 30-bed in-patient unit dedicated to the treatment of congestive heart failure.

The author of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, abstracts and book chapters, Dr. Kereiakes has performed more than 30,000 catheterization laboratory procedures, including First in Human and First in the U.S. use of novel medical devices. He has been the national/international Principal Investigator in trials for FDA approval of more than 26 novel drugs and medical devices. He was previously honored with the Samuel Kaplan M.D., Visionary Award from the American Heart Association, Best Doctors in America, and Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare among multiple other accolades.

Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award: Ruthie S. Keefe

The Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award recognizes a dedicated alumnus who, through their deep commitment and voluntary service, elevate their alma mater and the UC community. The award is in honor and memory of Robert E. Dobbs, Bus ’76, ’88, past president of the UC Alumni Association.

Ruthie Keefe Headshot

Ruthie Keefe is a proud alumna, volunteer leader, supporter and ambassador of her alma mater. She is the owner of BlueSky Creative, Inc., a full-service marketing and software development company in Cincinnati, and a partner at ARK Innovations, LLC and EVisit.

A member of the UC Foundation board, Ruthie recently ended a successful seven-year term as chair of the organization’s Alumni Association Committee, a role in which she takes enormous pride. Previously a member of the UC Foundation board’s executive committee and the Bicentennial Community Connections Committee, she currently sits on the College of Cooperative Education and Professional Studies Industry Advisory Cabinet, and is a former Distinguished Alumni honoree of the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. With deep family roots in the university and a long tradition of service, she has been instrumental in the growth of numerous UC Alumni Association endeavors, especially the expansion of the UC Alumni Celebration in terms of its scale, reach, innovation and impact. Seeing great Bearcats honored each year inspired her to engage more alumni and community members in the experience and compelled her own increased commitment to serve UC and her fellow alumni. 

Ruthie is known for her tremendous energy and enormous passion in her volunteer work, and her determination to see the Alumni Association maximize its impact in the university community. Perhaps her greatest joy comes from working amidst her fellow alumni leaders and feeling blessed to see so many authentic people involved with the university and alumni association, seeking to meaningfully engage with their alma mater and each other. 

Marian A. Spencer Mosaic Award: Kathy Wade

The Marian A. Spencer Mosaic Award honors an alumnus who has demonstrated leadership while enhancing our shared community through cultivating collaboration, fostering inclusiveness, championing the cause of the underrepresented, and promoting greater equity and opportunity for all. This award is in honor and memory of Marian A. Spencer, A&S '42, Hon '06, a revered champion of civil rights.

Kathy Wade Headshot

Kathy Wade is a beloved entertainer, producer, arts and education entrepreneur, CEO, and community bridge-builder. The winner of multiple regional Emmy® awards, she co-founded the nonprofit Learning Through Art, Inc. more than three decades ago as a performing arts education organization that provides a variety of family-focused activities impacting over a million global participants in her native Cincinnati and beyond. It is the accomplishment of which Kathy is most proud.

Learning Through Art’s performing arts programming positively impacts education, literacy, community engagement, and multicultural understanding in the community. That includes her “Books Alive! For Kids®” program that excites and engages young children and their families about reading, and her signature “Crown Jewels of Jazz®” summer concert series. She cherishes her ongoing opportunity to deliver arts-related experiences celebrating our global mosaic beauty by providing inclusive access at the Kids, Cultures, Critters and Crafts Festival in partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo.

Kathy became one of the first Black women to earn a master’s degree in arts administration from CCM and embarked on a prestigious singing career, including performing at the Kennedy Center for the White House Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C.; Cincinnati Music Festival; with the Cincinnati Pops, in jazz clubs around her hometown and throughout the U.S.; and in Europe as a Jazz Ambassador for the Cincinnati Sister City program. Kathy’s ongoing innovations exemplify her commitment to build resilient communities through art. 

Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award: Sean A. Addo

The Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award is presented to a UC graduate on the basis of significant professional achievement in his or her field of endeavor, and continued service and involvement with the university and community. This award is in honor and memory of Jeffrey Hurwitz, Bus '72, '73, past president of the UC Alumni Association.

Sean A. Addo Headshot

A Ghanaian-American filmmaker from Cincinnati, Sean Addo turned a passion for motion graphics while a UC student into a burgeoning career in film that revolves around his sense of identity. After earning his degree in digital design from UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, he gained a Master of Fine Arts degree in cinematic arts from the University of Southern California. His award-winning thesis, DEEPER THAN BLACK, was a personal journey into being a third-cultured Ghanaian-American kid.

After college, Sean worked professionally as director of photography on the feature film INQUISITOR. It would later be on the set of FX’s “Snowfall,” under the guidance of the late filmmaker John Singleton, that his passion for directing would be reignited. Along with co-creator Harry Locke IV, Sean created IV Sight Pictures where he wrote and directed short-formed projects for future feature development. 

Through such original works as THE HOMESICK and KINGS, Sean attempts to use identity, diversity and social awareness to help bridge cultural gaps through edgy and often original supernatural genre stories. His recent film ROOTED premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Canada’s FANTASIA, and is being developed into a feature film.

As a fellow of Facebook Seen’s New Black Filmmakers and Panavision New Filmmakers Program, Sean has established himself as a uniquely talented writer-director who bears watching in the years ahead. 

Outstanding Alumni Awards

As part of the annual UC Alumni Celebration, we honor a select group of prominent Bearcats representing 13 colleges, as well as the unique training ground of UC Athletics.

Cynthia Blocksom headshot

Cynthia is a champion of consumer protection, especially as it relates to health, food and nutrition. She has filled a variety of leadership roles with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is currently serving as the Ohio Academy’s State Policy Representative and the Cincinnati District’s Legislative Policy and Reimbursement Co-Chair. She served a five-year appointment to the Ohio Board of Dietetics and chaired the Board of Commissioners for the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. She has also engaged in extensive Homeland Security training around the intersection of food supply and national security. In retirement from a 30-year career in public health, Cynthia is an adjunct instructor at the University of Cincinnati. She has enjoyed giving back to UC as a longtime sorority advisor where she has influenced members to flourish in leadership roles. She is passionate about how public policy and licensure affect food security as well as the health and safety of the public.  

Edwin J. Rigaud, Jr. Headshot

A 36-year Procter & Gamble veteran, Ed was one of the company’s first African American vice presidents, eventually becoming Vice President of Food and Beverage Products, and Vice President of Government Relations in North America. When the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was established in Cincinnati, Ed was its first President and CEO, prior to its 2004 grand opening. Since 2017, he has been President and CEO of Legacy Acquisition Corp, as well as chairman, founder and owner of EnovaPremier, LLC, a national tire and wheel assembly business in the automotive industry; a Director of Taft Business Consulting with Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP; and head of one of the first African American co-ownership groups of a Major League Baseball franchise, the Cincinnati Reds. Among his extensive board service, he was appointed to the Ohio Board of Regents by Governor Taft, and to the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C. by President George Bush.  He was named a “Great Living Cincinnatian” by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber in 2013.

Henry N. Comer Headshot

Wonderfully reflecting UC Blue Ash's mission, Henry was a non-traditional student, first earning an associate degree in pre-psychology, then his bachelor's in psychology while also a member of the UC football team in 1994-95. As an alumnus, he has been active in the London, Ohio, community, co-founding Madison County’s largest privately-owned daycare company. Henry has been president of London’s city council since 2020, and he has served on the boards of the local hospital and the West Central Community Correctional Center. At the correctional center, he has been instrumental in a unique approach to correctional rehabilitation that employs multiple methods of cognitive therapy to reset the course of the lives of those incarcerated. Henry is proud to make new Bearcat memories with his two children, each of whom are current UC students.  

Michele E. Wells Walker Headshot

When she determined to begin a second career after raising her family, Michele returned to school, enrolling in the pre-pharmacy program at Clermont College, then completing her education in the Winkle College of Pharmacy. Now as a pharmacist for Bon Secours Mercy Health (BSMH) in Clermont County, she strives to build strong relationships with her team and patients to ensure personal, quality care. In 2016 she helped open the Clermont Outpatient Pharmacy for the BSMH retail division, which increased the Meds to Beds prescription capture by breaking down barriers to access medications. Michele works with charitable programs, including maintaining the vital relationship with the organization Dispensary of Hope, to assist patients who cannot afford the prescription medications they need. In 2012, she and her husband established the Walker Family Scholarship Fund to award scholarships to students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math at UC Clermont.   

Stephen C. Flaherty Headshot

Stephen is a decorated composer for theater, film and the concert hall. With longtime collaborator lyricist-librettist Lynn Ahrens, he has composed music for some of the most celebrated Broadway musicals in recent years, including “Ragtime,” “Seussical,“ and “Once on This Island,” which is currently being developed as a live-action musical film by Disney. His stage work has been produced in theaters around the world. Flaherty and Ahrens have received theater, film and music’s highest honors, including Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Olivier awards, as well as nominations for two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes and four Grammys. They serve on the Council of the Dramatists Guild of America and co-founded the DGF Fellows Program for Emerging Writers. In 2014 they received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2015 were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in New York City.   

Black White Simple Dark Arts QR Code Square Business Card - 2

Mitchell is an artist who combines interdisciplinary design methods with expertise in social and computational sciences to shape our individual, human experiences of global security, economic development, and governance. From 2006 to 2013, Mitchell pioneered new techniques in data analysis and city planning for post-war reconstruction; working with governments and agencies to stabilize and rebuild fragile cities such as Kabul, Afghanistan and Mogadishu, Somalia. Upon returning to the United States in 2014, Mitchell founded his first A.I. company, when he was concurrently appointed as a Presidential Innovation Fellow by The White House. As a federal executive, Mitchell improved the speed and effectiveness of the EPA, the VA, the State Department, and the National Security Council by designing and implementing new enterprise scale data science and software solutions.  In the following years, Mitchell co-founded his second AI company, an AI research and development hub for a private equity portfolio while completing a PhD in Design for Human Computer Interaction (2020). Today, Mitchell cares most about touching people’s lives by producing electronic dance music, while continuing to invent new AI technologies and business models across public and private sectors. 

Yvonne A. DiCristoforo Headshot

Yvonne is a Senior Executive and federal law enforcement special agent with over 30 years of experience with the U.S. Secret Service, focusing equally on the agency’s protective and investigative responsibilities. Throughout her career, she initiated and managed high-profile fraud investigations while managing various protection details for the Vice Presidential Protective Division, Special Services Division and former Presidential details. She also has a vast range of expertise managing multimillion dollar projects involving renovations, relocations and the acquisition of facilities, equipment and resources for the Secret Service. Yvonne is devoted to UC’s Criminal Justice program and has been integral in its growing relationship with the Secret Service to help students access internships and jobs with the agency. She is proud to serve as a mentor and help recruit others to the law enforcement field. 

Lawrence “Larry” J. Blanford Headshot

Larry led a revolution in North American coffee consumption at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, with the Keurig Single Serve Brewing System. Before retiring in 2013, his six years leading the company capped a 37-year career in various leadership positions across seven public companies, beginning with Procter & Gamble. Recently he has invested his time and energy serving on boards to support for-profit and non-profit enterprises, including the Board of Visitors of The Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America, where he was instrumental in its founding and development. Other board work has included the Board of Governors of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a global, faith-based media enterprise; the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria School of Law; and the Board of Pastime Pictures, Inc., a production company focused on creating values-oriented motion pictures.   

H.C. “Buck” Niehoff Headshot

Buck spent four decades with the Cincinnati law firm Peck Shaffer & Williams, with four years as a managing partner. A noted philanthropist, author and champion of education, he served on the UC Board of Trustees; co-chaired the university’s Proudly Cincinnati capital campaign that raised $1.1 billion; and helped establish UC’s Niehoff Urban Studio, a multi-disciplinary, experiential, academic center. More recently, his major gift to UC in honor of Peck Shaffer & Williams supported the new College of Law building. Buck has also been a volunteer leader with the Great Parks of Hamilton County, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Mercantile Library.

Paul D. Green Headshot

Paul is a key member of EY’s Global and Americas tax leadership team, currently as Americas Tax Sector Leader and Americas Consumer Products & Retail Tax Leader. Over 25 years, he has been a trusted business advisor to some of the world's largest companies, helping to solve the most complex business challenges, transactions, and tax issues. He works with EY teams to identify leading practices, new business models and technologies, and advises clients on maximizing value amid accelerating change. A relational and collaborative leader, he has been a recruiter and mentor to many other talented Lindner alumni he has brought into EY. Paul is also the ultimate Bearcat volunteer as a member of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business Advisory Council and UC Foundation board, and through his service with the UC Alumni Chicago Network. He received the Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award in 2002.   

George G. Bemis, Jr. Headshot

Dr. Bemis is retired from his successful OB-GYN practice in Lakeville, Minn., which had followed a career in the U.S. Air Force. Commissioned as a second Lieutenant upon graduation from advanced ROTC training at the University of Vermont, he was deferred to attend medical school at UC, then recommissioned as a first Lieutenant, serving in the reserves through 1969. After graduating from the UC College of Medicine, he interned at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, then returned to Cincinnati for his residency. Later, Dr. Bemis was on active duty commission as a major. Following active duty, he remained in the reserves until 1990, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in 1984. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1991 while in the process of a promotion to full colonel. For nearly two decades he served on many bases in his field of OB/GYN. He is a strong advocate for his college and UC Health, offering counsel around enhancing medical student education though a more humanistic approach. Dr. Bemis regularly participates in College of Medicine Class of 1964 reunions and related events. 

Holly L. Lorenz Headshot

Recently retired from her role as Chief Nursing Executive for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Holly created the strategic vision and provided leadership over a nursing practice with 20,000 nurses, as well as executive oversight for six schools of nursing with 900 students and 100 faculty. Her 40+ years of healthcare leadership and health system operational experience have made her a sought-after contracted speaker for global professional services firm Huron. Holly was named by Becker’s Hospital Reviews one of the top 60 “CNOs of Hospitals and Health Systems to Know” in 2017, 2020 and 2022, and is a Wharton Fellow for Nurse Executives. She was named to the 2015 University of Pittsburgh Nursing Honorary Alumni and received the Cameos of Caring Lifetime Achievement Award for Western Pennsylvania.

Colleen R. Lindholz Headshot

After joining Kroger’s Cincinnati Division as a pharmacist as a new graduate, Colleen rose through the company to become the first-ever President of Kroger Health in 2017. Her roles along the way had included manager, coordinator, sales promoter, recruiter, merchandiser, director of Pharmacy Sales and Marketing at Kroger’s General Office, and President and CEO of the Little Clinic. She is especially proud of Kroger’s Wellness Festival, the nation’s largest health and wellness event. The 2023 Festival drew 200,000+ attendees and 175 sponsors, and featured 125 demos, classes, panels, and concerts. Colleen is the lead architect of her company’s “Food as Medicine” strategy and a passionate believer in Kroger Heath’s vision to help people live healthier lives. She is active in her community, participating on the boards of such organizations as Easter Seals Redwood, American Heart Association-Greater Cincinnati, National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the Kroger Co. Foundation, Bon Secours Mercy Health Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health, and the Joe Burrow Foundation Advisory board.  

Connor A. Barwin Headshot

Following a 10-year NFL career with the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, Connor is in his fifth season in the Eagles' front office and third as director of player development. His impact on Greater Philadelphia extends far beyond football. In 2013, the former two-sport student-athlete and captain of UC’s 2009 Orange Bowl team founded the Make the World Better Foundation to help communities plan and implement urban revitalization projects with a focus on youth engagement, stewardship building, green infrastructure, and public art; over $30 million has been invested in public parks to date. After earning an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Connor co-founded Cotogna Sports Group, an investment fund that purchases professional sports teams internationally, including top-tier Italian basketball club Pallacanestro Trieste in 2023.  He co-founded Vera Y Records and Vera Y Productions with former Bearcat and Eagles teammate Jason Kelce; together they have released two Christmas albums which generated over $4 million for nonprofits, and produced “KELCE,” Amazon Prime’s most-ever watched documentary.