Commonwealth Award

Each Year, the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative honors individuals and organizations who have distinguished themselves in the field of philanthropy in Kentucky, through service, innovation, commitment and/or lifetime achievement. The Commonwealth Award is presented to honorees at the annual Summit on Philanthropy.

2016 Honorees

Susan Zepeda

Susan Zepeda

Susan Zepeda is President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a major influencer on health issues in the state. The Foundation was created in 2001 when Anthem acquired Blue Cross Blue Shield and the state required that some of the proceeds of the sale of the tax-exempt BCBS go to a foundation whose mission is to address the unmet healthcare needs of Kentuckians and the issues surrounding that — policy and systems, health disparities, health equity and more.

As CEO, Zepeda has successfully led the Foundation to accomplish this mission and has been the voice of authority on healthcare issues and policy in the state.

Before joining the Foundation in 2005, she was the first CEO of The HealthCare Foundation for Orange County (1999-2005), and prior to that served as Director of the San Luis Obispo County (CA) Health Agency and CEO of that County’s General Hospital. Earlier in her career she was Executive Director of a consortium of nonprofit healthcare providers in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Zepeda is a member of the Boards of the Kentucky Institute of Medicine and the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Prior Board and civic service has included the Boards of Grantmakers in Health (Chair, Terence Keenan Award; Member, Finance Committee), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (Chair, Environmental Health Task Force); County Health Executives Association (Vice President and Chair, Legislative Committee); Hospital Council of the Central Coast (Chair); Rotary Club (Club President, 2001, 2004); and service as a City Planning Commissioner. She holds degrees from Brown University, University of Arizona and International College, and is a graduate of the CDC-sponsored Public Health Leadership Institute and Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation for Senior Executives.

She has impressively carried her passion for public health into the work of health philanthropy, changing the state’s health policy environment — from programs that focus on healthy diet to building sidewalks, parks and playgrounds that encourage physical activity to smoke-free advocacy and more.

Al Rider

Al Rider

Al Rider served with distinction as the first president and CEO of the Central Kentucky Community Foundation in Elizabethtown. He had already earned a stellar reputation as President/CEO of the North Central Education a position he held since 1992 but he expanded — and hit — his stride with the Community Foundation.

He actually still serves the Central Kentucky Community Foundation — providing help with fund development, continuing to work as a connector for his community and supporting his successor.

As CKCF’s first president, he led the way to greater resources and extraordinary impact.

In addition, he has served as president of Rotary, treasurer of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, on the Workforce Investment Board of Lincoln Trail Area Development District, on the Advisory Council for the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, and on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Known as “Mr. Education” in Hardin county, Rider has facilitated numerous educational summits and conferences for this region and the state, spoken at state and national conferences and served as a resource for numerous civic organizations and businesses. He has assisted with numerous fundraising efforts for community initiatives. And he has grown new — and impactful — educational initiatives through the Foundation. He is regarded as a catalyst for the development and implementation of ideas for change that has led to greater educational access and attainment in Hardin County.

He was the 2008 recipient of the Joseph W. Kelly Award for leadership in education and was the 2011 Hardin County Distinguished Citizen of the Year.

Rider has served on the Endow Kentucky Commission, as education committee chairman for Hardin County United, and in too many ways to list. His vision and passion for both his community and Central Kentucky Community Foundation are unmatched.

Mike Hammons

Mike Hammons

Mike Hammons headed the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative in its infancy, leading it to prominence as an advocate for private, strategic philanthropic investment in Kentucky. He lead the process that resulted in the transformational 2010 Transfer of Wealth Kentucky report that showed how a game-changing $707 billion would move from one generation to another in the state over a 50 year period.

That report got attention across the state, and subsequently the state legislature unanimously passed the Endow Kentucky Commission and a tax credit that has resulted in multi-millions of new endowed funds established in certified community foundations across the state. It also caused the creation of new community foundations in the state and has leveraged millions of dollars for public-good projects in every county.

A life-long Northern Kentucky from a family of 10 children, Hammons joined Children, Inc. as Director of Advocacy in 2011. He leads efforts to increase public awareness of and support for young children. He also serves as director of Kentucky’s Voice for Early Childhood, the organization’s online advocacy network.

Hammons served as president of Vision 2015 (now Skyward) and its predecessor, Forward Quest, before joining KPI. In that position, he helped build broad-based support for regional strategic planning. The plans set ambitious goals to improve the economic vitality and quality of life of the region.

He served in the Brereton Jones administration from 1991-1996 initially making appointments to gubernatorial boards and commissions. He also worked on health care and insurance reform legislation and helped lead efforts to implement it. From 1977-1991, Mike practiced law in Covington. He currently serves as board chair for the Kentucky Historical Society.

Mike and his wife, Kit, have three children, the oldest is Katie Scheper, who previously taught at Treasure House and now is a busy mom of four. Daughter Tess is a communications analyst for the City of Cincinnati, and son John works in the Housing Department of the City of Covington.

2015 Honorees

Beshear photo

Governor Steve Beshear

In his first term, Gov. Beshear worked closely with the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative to create a Commission on Philanthropy, the first-ever state effort to focus on the power of private philanthropic investment to address Kentucky’s enduring challenges. The Commission spent a year engaging citizens around the state in a study of the strategic interventions in early childhood education that would matter most to Kentucky’s children. The Governor has been an effective and dedicated advocate for early childhood education.

The Commission encouraged public-private partnerships and, in cooperation with KPI, undertook to establish the Endow Kentucky tax credit now overseen by the Endow Kentucky Commission. The tax credit has been responsible for leveraging millions and millions of new endowed funds in Community Foundations around Kentucky – and in the growth of new foundations and funds dedicated to here-to-fore underserved areas of the Commonwealth.

KPI’s Commonwealth Award goes to Governor Steve Beshear for leadership that will have an impact in perpetuity on the people of the Commonwealth.

Jane Beshear

As First Lady, Jane Beshear has set a new standard for philanthropic leadership. Because breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among Kentucky women, she founded Horses and Hope with the Kentucky Cancer Program to provide breast cancer awareness, education, screenings and treatment referrals. She has created a public-private partnership to fund a Mobile Cancer Screening van to improve health outcomes in the state. She worked to push legislation to keep students in school. She launched the Shop and Share annual, one-day drive to benefit the 15 Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence shelters around the state.

In 2009, she started the Governor’s Garden to encourage schools and other community organizations to cultivate their own gardens in an effort to educate Kentuckians about the health and economic benefits of community gardening and utilizing locally grown foods. Produce harvested from each official Governor’s Garden site is donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries or prepared at on-site kitchens.

Mrs. Beshear serves as a Scholastic Reading Ambassador encouraging students to read throughout the year and has been a driving force behind works to boost tourism and grow Kentucky’s film industry.

Jean Hale

Jean Hale

Jean Hale has been with Community Trust Bank for 45 years and has participated in the growth of the Corporation from $18 million in assets to $3.8 billion in assets. She is Chairman, President, and CEO of Community Trust Bancorp, Inc., and also the Chairman of the Board of the Corporation’s two subsidiaries, Community Trust Bank, Inc. and Community Trust and Investment Company.

Ms. Hale is very active in economic development and education initiatives. Currently, she is Chairman of the Kentucky Economic Development and Finance Authority Board, a member of the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board and serves on the boards of Commonwealth Seed Capital, ARH Foundation, University of Pikeville and Co-Chair of CEOs Against Cancer. Ms. Hale is also working with SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region), a bi-partisan initiative of Congressman Hal Rogers (R) and Governor Steve Beshear (D) to change the economy of the Appalachian region. She is serving on the Executive Committee and Chair of both the Development and Finance Committees.

Previously, she served as Chairman of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the KCTCS Foundation Board and as Director of the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for six years.

A native of Pike County, Kentucky, Ms. Hale is a graduate of the University of Pikeville and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.

She leads an important and impactful regional business enterprise that invests heavily in its communities.

Christina "Christy" Lee Brown

Christina "Christy" Lee Brown

Christy Brown has devoted her life to social responsibility and community service. Originally from Maryland, she married Owsley Brown with whom she shared a commitment to philanthropy and settled in Louisville, the base for the Brown family’s businesses. In 1985, she co-founded the Center for Interfaith Relations and launched the first US Festival of Faiths. She is a co-founding board member of the Berry Center, whose mission is to perpetuate the legacy of Wendell Berry and his family, a culture that uses nature as the standard, that accepts no permanent damage to the ecosphere and that takes into consideration human health in local communities. She has served as an international trustee of Religions For Peace, the world’s largest international interfaith organization and believes in the potential of faith communities to effect positive change by working together.

Earlier this year, she arranged a visit of the Prince of Wales to Louisville to call attention to work involving sustainable practices, an interest she and the Prince share. Christy founded Louisville’s Sustainable Food Trust. Among the prince’s stops on his visit was the Neighborhood House, a food literacy project.

To bring about the kinds of changes that will help people live healthier lives, she founded and serves on the board of The Institute of Healthy Air, Water and Soil, leading the nation in creating new models that empower “citizen scientists” to reveal the connections between environmental health and human health starting with air quality and asthma.

2014 Honorees

Henry Heuser, Jr.

Henry Heuser, Jr.

Henry Vogt Heuser founded UNISTAR LLC, an internet-based national group purchasing company, based in Louisville. He is former president and CEO of the Henry Vogt Machine Company which was founded in 1880 and president of the Henry Vogt Foundation. He also founded and still serves as chairman of Grateful Greens Inc., an urban hydroponic greenhouse growing lettuces, herbs, and edible flowers.

His generosity and civic involvements are legion in Louisville. “Henry is a fine human being,” says his nominator and former recipient of the award, Randy Coe, president and CEO of Kosair Charities. “He is a very smart, gracious and generous person. The lives of thousands of people have been positively affected by his actions. He is one of the finest citizens of Kentucky.”

A former U.S. Navy officer and graduate of Southern Methodist University, Heuser has been involved with numerous civic organizations, including Enterprise Angels of Greater Louisville Inc., the Helium Club, the Rotary Club, Venture Club and the Nature Conservancy.

He has been held leadership positions with Junior Achievement, The Louisville Orchestra, Speed Art Museum, the Bernheim Foundation, Trees Inc., Operation Brightside, the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation, the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation and Housing Partnership Inc., to name a few.

Among his honors are the Champions for Children Award from the Jefferson County Public Schools, The Spirit of Louisville Award from the YMCA of Greater Louisville, the Sam Swope Community Leadership Award from Kosair Charities and an honorary doctorate from the University of Louisville.

Durr Foundation, Wilbert L. Ziegler

Durr Foundation, Wilbert L. Ziegler

Wilbert Ziegler is a prominent Northern Kentucky attorney and long-time friend and colleague of R.C. Durr a successful businessman whose R.C. Durr Foundation was established on his death in 2007. Ziegler is president of the foundation, which will distribute an estimated $2.5 million to nonprofits and schools in the Northern Kentucky region this year.

“Reflective of R.C.’s generosity throughout his life, the Durr Foundation focuses on education, special needs and community-building,” said Ziegler.

The foundation’s gifts include on-going support for 4-H scholarships, technology grants to rural schools, educational programs, and programs aimed at helping the less fortunate.

Durr, a self-made entrepreneur, was born in the small Northern Kentucky community of Atwood, built his R.C. Company into one of Kentucky’s largest, most successful heavy construction and highway contractors. He operated coal mines, was a horse and cattle farmer, built numerous enterprises, invested heavily in land and was a successful banker.

He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Northern Kentucky Chamber’s Frontiersman Award, the University of Kentucky Construction Management Founders Society Lifetime Achievement Award and the Devou Cup Award from the Northern Kentucky Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

The Summit will be held at the Marriott Griffin Gate from noon Tuesday through the awards luncheon on Wednesday.

2013 Honorees

Randy Coe

Randy Coe

Randy Coe is the President of Kosair Charities, the largest childcare charity in this region. A native of Louisville, he is married to Christie and they have two adult children. He is an undergraduate of the University of Louisville where he has done graduate studies. He has experience in private business in the United States as well as England. He has served in his role with Kosair Charities since 1996. Other current and past experience and service includes being a member of the board of directors numerous private companies, civic, governmental and social organizations. Notable among his current roles are chairman of the board of directors of Jefferson Riverport International; and member of the board of the Al J. Schneider Corporation.

He and his wife are members of St. Agnes Church in Louisville. He has received numerous recognitions, awards and honors including Good Guy of the Year from the Business and Professional Women of River City. He is a member of the 1999 class of the Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellows and a founding board member of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative.

Chase Fulcher

Chase Fulcher

Chase Fulcher’s proudest accomplishment to date is jump starting the Henderson Community Foundation and personally raising in excess of a $1,750,000 while he and his wife set up a $3,000,000 endowment for 42 charities. Chase currently serves on the Independence Bank Board, a lifetime sponsor of Ducks Unlimited, the Hospital Foundation Board and the River City Renaissance Board. He has served Henderson on the Airport Board, Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA Board and also coached little league sports. He financially contributes to over 40 charitable organizations on a yearly basis. He is also very proud of being a key contributor and fundraiser for Colonels to College, Henderson City River Front Development and Young Life. He has been a huge supporter of the American Cancer Society, Women’s Addiction & Recovery, Women’s Shelter, YMCA, Red Cross and the Booster Club for all Henderson County Sports on an annual basis.

He is married to Marjorie Fulcher and has two grown daughters and grandchildren. They are members of Holy Name Catholic Church in Henderson, KY.

Tony Watkins

Tony Watkins

Tony Watkins is the founding executive director of the Community Foundation of West Kentucky. Having served since 2002, he has led its tremendous growth. The foundation, located in Paducah, manages over 110 funds and has affiliates in Madisonville, Henderson, Glasgow and Murray. It has over $17 million in assets. He is a graduate of Georgetown College with a degree in theology. Recipient of the Kentucky Oak Leaf Cluster for Achievement, he has been a Fundraising Consultant for religious organizations since 1983.

Watkins has been a leader in providing opportunities as well as advice for start-up community endowment funds throughout Western Kentucky. Because of his commitment to nurturing and incubating new funds, Western Kentucky will continue to enjoy growth in new Community Foundations.

2012 Honorees

Kathryn E. Merchant

Kathryn E. Merchant

Kathryn E. Merchant, President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation since 1997. She previously served as director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Neighborhood Preservation Initiative and a partner in the consulting firm Holt, Wexler & Merchant. She also served in leadership positions on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, Center for Effective Philanthropy, the National Center for Arts and Technology, and in numerous leadership positions with the Council on Foundations. The NonProfit Times named her one of the “Top 50 Power & Influence” leaders in 2008. Since taking the helm of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Merchant has worked with Northern Kentucky leaders to establish and build the Northern Kentucky Fund of GCF and has provided leadership for the development of other regional funds. While achieving a national reputation in philanthropy, she has led GCF to record assets, pro-active leadership in her community, and to a model for civic engagement.
Gerry F. Roll

Gerry F. Roll

Gerry F. Roll, Executive Director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, formerly the Hazard-Perry County Community Foundation, a community foundation establishing an endowment in southeastern Kentucky based on the principles of rural development philanthropy. The Foundation was created in 2006 by Hazard Perry County Community Ministries, where Roll served as executive director for 18 years. Her work in eastern Kentucky has been focused on equity in housing, early childhood education, and health care. She is recognized locally, regionally, statewide and nationally as an advocate for rural development and community philanthropy. She was an early supporter of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative, supporting its transformational Transfer of Wealth Study, and was a major influence in the crafting and passage of the Endow Kentucky tax credit which encourages new private donations to community funds across the Commonwealth.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky celebrated its 25th year in Kentucky – and a new benchmark of $42 million in charitable donations to the state. TMMK proves its commitment to the community, as well as to the state, through both monetary contributions and personal involvement of TMMK team members. Recognizing a great resource in its people, processes, and business practices, TMMK provides – in addition to financial resources, representation on governmental and non-profit boards, and encourages its team members to volunteer their time in community organizations. The United Way of the Bluegrass, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Governor’s Scholars Program, Leadership Kentucky, Urban League, YMCA Black Achievers, Lexington Humane Society, Louisville Zoo, Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass, the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and the Governor’s School for the Arts are just a few of the many organizations that TMMK supports. Through its innovative national 100 Cars for Good, Toyota award new cars to eight Kentucky non-profits this year.

2011 Honorees

KY State Senator Brandon D. Smith

KY State Senator Brandon D. Smith

KY State Representative Fitz Steele

KY State Representative Fitz Steele

Commissioner Tony Wilder

Commissioner Tony Wilder