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NKU honors Lincoln Award winners Bob Griffin, Carol Swarts, Sheila and Marty Zalla

Northern Kentucky University honored community members who have shaped the face of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky through their vision, compassion and commitment to philanthropy.

The university honored Bob Griffin, Carol Swarts and the Sheila and Marty Zalla Family at its annual Lincoln Award Ceremony.

The Lincoln Award was established in 1992 to recognize and celebrate individuals in our community who exemplify the qualities of outstanding citizenship, notable achievement and distinguished service. 

Bob Griffin was born in 1953 in Northern Kentucky to John L. and Rose Griffin. He grew up in a large family with six brothers and five sisters. He attended St. Xavier grade school and Pendleton County High School in Falmouth.

Bob attended Northern Kentucky State College from 1971 to 1973 after accepting a scholarship to participate on the first ever basketball team at NKU, playing for legendary coach Mote Hils.

President Ashish Vaidya and Dr. Nita Vaidya pictured with the 2019 Lincoln Award Recipients: the Zalla Family, Carol Swarts and Bob Griffin.

Carol Swarts was born on a farm in the Sand Hills of western Nebraska in 1933, a time and place where early education was taught in a one-room country school. Still, the limits of rural education, coupled with the mores of the day and life during the Great Depression, would not deter the young girl from the dreams of living a life dedicated to helping others as a physician.

With the love and support of her parents and three brothers, Carol realized her dream of becoming a physician, earning her B.S. degree in chemistry and medical degree from the University of Nebraska in 1959. She was one of only three women in her medical school graduating class.

Sheila and Marty Zalla were both born and raised in Covington. They married in 1962 and had the first of their 10 children in 1963. The young Zalla family bought a few acres and a farmhouse in the then-wilds of Edgewood, as Marty had always loved farming. Even though he grew up in “the city,” he spent summers working on the farm of close family friends. Marty also took over as second-generation owner of Building Crafts, Inc. and grew the modest business his father, Andrew, had started into a multi-dimensional, multi-million dollar engineering and construction firm. 

While still consulting, Marty is retired from Building Crafts and his son John is the third generation owner and CEO. John graduated from NKU’s Construction Management Program in 1988 and earned his MBA from NKU in 2006. In addition to being the busy mother of 10 children, Sheila yearned to continue her education. She began taking classes at Thomas More College and transferred to NKU in the early 1970s to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications.

To read full bios of the awardees, click here.
Over the last 26 years, 75 individuals have received the Lincoln Award.

Northern Kentucky University

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