CINCINNATI, OH, February 17, 2015 – The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is proud to announce 18 new winners for its Spirit of Cincinnati USA Awards Program. The individuals and businesses selected for the 2014 awards program represent a diverse mix of Cincinnati’s corporate leaders, performing arts organizations, and dedicated front-line hospitality staff. 

The winners were chosen by a selection committee of regional hospitality executives out of a large pool of community nominations. With the introduction of a new, year-round nominations process, updated program branding, and the increased awareness of the Spirit Awards in 2014, total nominations increased, making the selections process highly competitive.

“2014 was an important year of growth for Cincinnati USA,” said Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The national awareness of our destination continues to grow, bolstered by the high-profile conventions and meetings we host and the major headlines about our world-class hotels and vibrant downtown. This group of Spirit Award winners represent the individuals and organizations that are the driving vision and passion behind Cincinnati’s transformation, and we are proud to honor them.”

The following award recipients will be recognized during the CVB's 2015 Annual Meeting at 12 p.m. on March 4, 2015 at the Duke Energy Convention Center:

Special Recognition – 2014 Spirit of Cincinnati USA Ambassador

Lauren Hill
This award, given to only a select few individuals over the years, was recently presented to Lauren Hill, the Cincinnati-area woman fighting a rare form of terminal brain cancer, for her cancer fundraising efforts, positivity, and strength of spirit while battling the disease. Her remarkable story and unquenchable spirit have impacted the community, the country and the world. See Lauren Hill Ambassador Award press release.

Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award. This award is given to an individual(s) or organization(s) whose actions have attracted positive national media coverage of Cincinnati USA.

Cincy in NYC - Julie Shifman
The “Cincy in NYC” seven-day event in May 2014 showcased the region’s world-class arts community with performances by many of the region’s arts organizations, while regional business executives promoted Cincinnati’s friendly business climate. 

Led by Julie Shifman, board member of the Cincinnati Ballet, this initiative resulted in incredibly positive national media attention, including appearances on CNBC, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. More importantly, this effort created new media connections for Cincinnati, with a total potential reach of more than 305.3 million impressions.

Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity. This award is named for the son of a Virginia slave who attended college in Cincinnati and was an author, publisher, musician and political activist early in the 20th century. It goes to an individual or organization for the practice of diversity and inclusion.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Classical Roots Community Mass Choir Leaders
This community-wide music celebration features singers from more than 50 Cincinnati-area churches, creating bridges between the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the region’s neighborhoods with the annual concert and concurrent activities. Over the last decade, the program has engaged thousands of diverse families and created authentic, lasting relationships through its commitment to an inclusive and innovative musical landscape.

The program’s dynamic music leaders volunteer countless hours and manpower leading the choir year after year. These individuals include Eric Oliver, Geneva Woode, Deborah Shipps, A. Michael Cunningham, Brenda Screws, Ronald Logan and Dr. Robert Gazaway. 

Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, under the leadership of CEO Shep Englander, is a leading example of community engagement and activism. The Federation sponsors programs to promote peace and diversity in our region, including the Civil Rights Awareness Dialogue, the Netanyahu-Cincinnati sister city exchange, and the Stop the Sirens Campaign.

Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service. Honors individuals on the front line of the hospitality industry; those who set an example for others by their excellent customer service. 

Karen Beckley, The Millennium Hotel Cincinnati
When working with Karen in her role as guest services agent at The Millennium, guests often reference her, calm, friendly personality and quickness to resolve issues with genuine kindness and empathy as a highlight of the visit.

Jack Whitmer, Westin Cincinnati
Jack started as a door attendant at the Westin in 1984, and now knows guests by name and greets them with a warm smile and conversation. He thrives on sharing his knowledge of the city and goes above and beyond to help every guest—even tracking down a wallet left in a city cab.

Missie Schweikart, BB Riverboats
Missie has spent almost two decades as cruise director for BB Riverboats and customers constantly remark on her passion for exceeding expectations and desire to make each cruise experience unforgettable. Missy also created and developed themed cruises for children now offered each week during the regular season.

Partnership Award. The Partnership Award recognizes an individual or organization who has partnered with the Cincinnati USA CVB and made significant contributions to the local meetings and tourism industry.

Molly Wellmann, M. Wellmann Brands
Molly invests in up-and-coming neighborhoods on both sides of the river and now owns four unique, highly successful businesses including Japp’s, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and the newly-opened Myrtle’s Punch House. She continually volunteers her time to partner with the CVB, hosting national press trips, sales site visits, media missions. It is her passion to change the conversation on Cincinnati one good cocktail at a time, however, that makes an unforgettable impression on visitors.  

John Barrett, Western & Southern Financial Group
As President & CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group, John Barrett is indispensable to Cincinnati USA’s efforts to attract and retain high-profile events and conventions. His determination to keep the Western & Southern Open in the region provides a stand-out event that attracts the CVB’s prospective clients, targeted media and civic partners.

Champion Award for Convention & Meeting Sales. This award is presented to one or more individuals who have worked with the CVB to bring important meetings to Cincinnati USA.

Patty Brisben and Chris Cicchinelli, Pure Romance
Pure Romance President & CEO Chris Cicchinelli and Founder Patty Brisben partnered with the CVB to bring the Pure Romance World Conference to Cincinnati August 5-10, 2014, adding more than $2 million in economic impact to the region.

Judge Tyrone Yates, State Representative Alicia Reece, Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, Sean Rugless, Ishton Morton and the Cincinnati NAACP Chapter – NAACP 2016 Annual Convention
This dedicated team of Cincinnatians worked closely with the CVB and civic leaders to bring the 2016 NAACP Annual Convention back to Cincinnati after eight years in other locations, from traveling to Las Vegas for the sales presentation to offering their time and energy supporting site visits in the region. The 2016 convention is expected to draw approximately 7,500 attendees to the region and deliver an economic impact of $2.2 million.

Mary Jo and Brennan Dean and Tracy Eilers, Great Homeschool Conventions
Mary Jo and Brennan Dean and meeting planner Tracy Eilers have worked closely with the Cincinnati CVB team for a number of years to bring the Midwest Homeschool Convention to the region for many years, most recently signing contracts to continue holding the large convention in the city in 2018 and 2019.

The Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award. Recognizes the practical accomplishments of businesses in or supporting the hospitality industry that contribute to diversity and inclusion through demonstrated leadership in areas such as supplier diversity or workforce development programs.

The RCF Group
The RCF Group, led by Carl Satterwhite and Scott Robertson, has built a powerhouse business helping to supply high-profile companies, all while keeping a constant focus on community and civic involvement through partnerships with Children’s Hospital projects – specifically in the preservation and restoration of the Vernon Manor Hotel into office space for the hospital.

Carl Satterwhite also continues to blaze the trail for other minority-owned businesses through leadership roles on the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s executive committee and the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council.

“We welcome 94,000 visitors to our region each year, and they spend more than $4.1 billion while visiting, so there’s no question that this industry and these inspirational leaders, are helping to shape the future of the region,” added Lincoln. “Congratulations to each of the 2014 winners for this deserved recognition of their incredible efforts to improve our destination.”