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Kentucky by Heart: Humility of Northern Kentucky’s 2019 Newsmakers evidence of state’s giving spirit

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune Columnist

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” — Harry S. Truman

On many occasions, being a columnist and author affords me the opportunity to meet or be around inspiring people doing good things in their communities. I’ve written about a whole slew of them, and it’s my hope that those accounts will invigorate others to jump on board the “giving train.”

Sometimes, the authenticity of such individuals blows me away.

Attending the sixth annual Northern Kentucky Tribune Newsmaker Awards program in Erlanger last week, I was struck by the humility of the five award winners while accepting their recognition. All plainly were of the “givers” mentality, both in their service for which they were recognized and also in seeing themselves as members of a larger team accomplishing positive things together.

Newport resident Rich Boehne worked his way up from a reporter to CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company, among other positions along the way. He’s a philanthropist extraordinaire, especially supporting his alma mater, Northern Kentucky University, and is an integral part of organizations in the area supporting causes for financially vulnerable individuals. My impressions of Rich from what he said at the dais? He’s simply a good neighbor sort of guy who wants to give back to his community.

Some people are good at administering the talked about plans of big ideas for the good of all. Karen Finan is such a person. She leads the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance, which, according to the event program, is “an amazing new initiative to mobilize energy and resources around health, education, job growth and community vibrancy in NKY.” People who can handle such robust complexity and turn it into something that helps individuals improve their daily lives are hard to find, and the obviously kind reception for her showed the deep appreciation she’s engendered.

When individuals gain deeply deserved respect for their professional abilities, yet can step out to wear another hat to effectively promote their chosen field, that’s special. Dr. Doug Flora, a fierce fighter of the scourge of cancer, is now leading fundraising for St. Elizabeth’s new Cancer Center in Northern Kentucky, a huge challenge but already the initiative is finding success. Watching Dr. Flora accept his award, I saw a person standing before the large gathering who appeared to be presenting it to a legion of others, playing down his own accomplishments.

David Spaulding builds buildings — hospitals, educational institutions, etc. — but he is just as adept at building communities in the NKY area, being regarded as a true team builder. According to those who know, he goes the extra mile and gives back. Again, I saw on stage a person who has the aura of being “blessed to be a blessing,” just happy to use his own skills to bring out the best in those around him. Despite that, David appears to not take himself too seriously, poking lots of fun at himself while accepting the award. He’s the type of guy we’d all like to sit down with a sparkling drink and share laughs and life — and to discover his next plans to improve lives.

Reading the program about Rhonda Whitaker, another NKY Newsmaker awardee, I was drawn to what it said was her lifelong motto: “Take the high road. Attitude is everything; integrity is critical; trust is earned.” She’s a vice president specializing in community relations for Duke Energy, called “the face of Duke Energy in NKY,” and formerly chaired the NKY Chamber of Commerce. She’s led in a whole assortment of other good causes, but like the others, she almost fell over herself thanking and giving credit to others.

Rich, Karen, Doug, David, Rhonda — I use first names because they truthfully portray themselves as just “one of us” — are models of leadership that we should embrace. They each seek to unite and look to challenge us to find the “better angels” in ourselves. These leaders make it about “we,” not “I.”

I went away from that gathering feeling uplifted and invigorated, one more time, by my fellow Kentuckians.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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