Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati
Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and John and Eileen Barrett and Chris Bochenek, were recently honored by the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati at its annual awards presentation for their commitments to giving back.
Mary was recognized with a National Operation School Bell Award. Operation School Bell is an Assistance League program that provides school uniforms annually to more than 2,500 children in poverty in 35 public and parochial schools in greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
Some of the ways Mary has supported Operation School Bell and the Assistance League include: regularly assisting as a volunteer during Operation School Bell uniform distribution; developing a protocol enabling Cincinnati Public Schools to pay for school buses used to transport students to Assistance League distribution sites, which freed the nonprofit organization’s chapter funds, enabling an increase in the number of children served; and arranging for Operation School Bell coordinators to regularly attend staff development meetings with the resource coordinators from each school, strengthening the AL role and program impact on the children participating in Operation School Bell.
John and Eileen Barrett
The Barretts are long-time community leaders and have received many awards for their philanthropic work.
John is chairman, president and chief executive officer at Western & Southern Financial Group. He serves on the board of directors for Western & Southern Financial Group and Cintas Corporation and is a member and former chairman of the Cincinnati Business Committee. He serves on the executive committee of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and is active with REDI Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati and its foundation.
Eileen serves or has served on the board of trustees for Central Clinic Foundation; Barrett Cancer Center; Children’s Protective Service-Families Forward; The Children’s Home of Cincinnati; Cincinnati Country Day School; Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden; and The Springer School. She is co-chair for Ride Cincinnati; former United Way Campaign co-chair; and helped raise more than $1 million in 2011 at the Queen City Ball Gala benefitting the Barrett Cancer Center and the Lindner Center of Hope.
Christine A. Bochenek
Vice president and senior program officer for human services with the Haile/USBank Foundation, Christine has served 28 years with U.S. Bank and has been with the foundation since it opened in 2007. She serves on the board of trustees for the Women’s Crisis Center and the Hamilton County Job & Family Services Family Fund; Scholar House of Northern Kentucky; Homeless to Homes Plan; and Seton High School’s Advancement Committee.
The Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati is made up of volunteers who run programs dedicated to aid women and children in crisis, serving Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties in Ohio, and Kenton, Boone, Campbell, Grant and Mason Counties in northern Kentucky.
At nearly 96 years of age, Marian Alexander Spencer is an endearing, down-to-earth leader who has championed human rights and equality through her lifetime. She has been honored time and again for her unrelenting commitment to positive change; and this week she was recognized twice – the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) and the office of Cincinnati Council member Wendell Young announced a downtown street named for her legacy; and the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati presented her with its esteemed annual Aspire Cincinnati Award.
Marian stood behind the podium at the Aspire Cincinnati™ Award Luncheon, and told a filled room of her grandfather who was a freed slave. His advice to her, and her brothers and sister, was always to ‘get your education, vote, and find people who will move you forward.’ (The Award is given to a local community leader and philanthropist who has demonstrated a passion to inspire and aspire, and to giving back.)
She followed that advice, graduating Gallia Academy High in Gallipolis as co-valedictorian and a member of the National Honor Society. She moved to Cincinnati to attend the University of Cincinnati, earning her bachelor of arts degree and meeting her husband, Donald A. Spencer.
Marian is a woman who has the courage to look adversity in the face and say, we can do better and we will all be better when we are as one. According to the Cincinnati Museum Center, one of her earliest, most visible civil rights activities was in 1952 when she chaired the NAACP Legal Action vs Coney Island so that her sons Donald Jr. and Edward Alexander could swim there. Marian then became a life member of the NAACP, serving on the Executive Board, as chairman of both the Legal Redress and Education committees. In 1981, she became the first female president of the Cincinnati branch.
She also served as chairperson of the Community Steering Committee for Indigent Defense, as chairperson of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, and as president of both Woman’s City Club and Links, Inc. In addition, she was a member of the University of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees. In 1983, Marian was elected to Cincinnati City Council as a Charterite and served for one term.
Sitting at her side, holding her hand and being warmed by her smile; I felt as if I had known Marian my entire life. Her sweet, tenderness reminds me so much of my late grandmother, who traveled as a young girl on a crowded boat from Russia to find hope in America and who died at 101.
Marian’s strength of character and tenacity to create a world where we can all be stronger and happier together is what makes her a hero. I am so glad for the opportunity to have gotten to know her, and for her legacy she has bestowed on our Greater Cincinnati region and beyond.
About the Assistance League:
The Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to meeting critical needs of children and adults by identifying, developing, implementing and funding ongoing community programs. If you would like more information including membership, please visit their website.