By Hillary Copsey
Vicky and James B. “Rick” Reynolds have been married 36 years. They raised three children and mentored countless more young adults, both in their work (she as an English professor at the University of Cincinnati, he during his 50 years at Bartlett & Co.) and philanthropic endeavors.
Now they’re working together to support a new generation of Cincinnati youth with their work on behalf of DePaul Cristo Rey High School. The two are co-chairs of a $19.5 million capital campaign for a new building for the high school and a $4 million campaign for the school’s graduate success program, which supports students after they enroll in college.
DePaul Cristo Rey began accepting students – starting with a class of freshmen in 2011, the year Rick Reynolds joined the board. The school provides a college prep curriculum and requires students to participate in a work-study program. Students earn up to half of their tuition while they gain work experience. The couple has been instrumental in connecting the school to a variety of resources: board members, fundraisers and businesses willing to employ and mentor students.
“The Reynolds are people who are willing to put their own resources at the service of community,” said Sister Jeanne Bessette, president of DePaul Cristo Rey.
Not only does the couple show up for events at the school and lunches and dinners with prospective fundraisers, they open their home for DePaul Cristo Rey.
“I consider that wisdom,” Bessette said. “Don’t just tell someone that they should get involved. Show them why you are. That person-to-person touch has stood us in good stead.”
DePaul Cristo Rey currently enrolls 335 students and has graduated 145 since the first group of freshmen graduated in 2015. All students have attended college after graduation, and 80 percent are still in school. Increasing that percentage is the goal of the graduate success program, which covers everything from books to emergency expenses for DePaul Cristo Rey graduates while they’re at college. Recently, Bessette said, a student needed help with funeral costs for a parent.
“If kids are having a hard time making ends meet in high school,” Bessette said, “all you have to do is throw them into college and the bottom falls out.”
The Reynolds, who regularly have dinner with students they’ve mentored over the years, know the importance of helping the next generation.
“The young people coming up, I think they’re even more aware (of community needs),” Vicky Reynolds said. “One thing about media and technology that might be positive: It brings the world right into your home every day. To participate in the vision of creating something better, there are people who want to do that.”
Both Cincinnati natives, the Reynolds always have been among those people, giving time and money toward organizations. They developed that trait watching their own mentors – at Bartlett, where Rick Reynolds’ father also worked, and in the city.
In addition to her work for DePaul Cristo Rey, Vicky Reynolds is a board member of St. Xavier High School, where increasing diversity has become a priority.
Rick Reynolds is a director emeritus on the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra board of directors and helped guide and grow the organization as it restored 14 full-time tenure-track positions. Together, the couple endowed a clarinet position, a gift that marked a turning point in raising the $26 million required, said Trey Devey, CSO president at the time.
“The culture of the CSO is very healthy because there are calm, thoughtful and level-headed people like Rick who are also willing to work unceasingly to make the organization better,” Devey said.
Vicky Reynolds has served on the board of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for the last decade. She is a champion and staunch advocate of the company’s educational programs, especially Project 38. The program, which has been shown to increase students’ engagement with all classes and topics, brings Shakespeare’s plays to life in 38 schools each year.
“I saw an eighth-grade boy do ‘to be or not to be’ (from ‘Hamlet’), the whole thing, and you can see that that would just stick with him for life,” Vicky Reynolds said. “Cincinnati Shakespeare, in everything they do, they go by the text. You really get to hear the text and develop a respect for words. It expands their level of thinking. That’s really what words do.”
She also helped the company develop Revel, its black-tie fundraising gala.
“Well, the thing about planning galas – you have to have gone to them,” said Jay Woffington, executive director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. “I’m not sure anyone else in our organization had ever been to one. So that helped.”
Increasing fundraising capacity was an important task for the company as it built the new $17.5 million Otto M. Budig Theater, which opened in September. The theater will have a room dedicated to Project 38 and the company’s educational programs.
Art and education are the through lines through everything the Reynolds have supported over the years.
“We’re looking for long-term change. We’re looking to making a sustainable difference,” Vicky Reynolds said. “Urgent needs do call out – and I have so much respect for organizations and people who are working on meeting needs for food and housing and all these critical things – but these organizations, well, I do believe that, for instance, DePaul Cristo Rey can – it does – address the cycle of poverty.
“These students will get college educations. They will get a job. They will probably live in Cincinnati, and they will contribute to the community and they will bring along others with them. That’s something that interests us very much. Art is the same. Art helps people rise above their daily lives, see the big picture and create a more humane community.”
The couple’s dedication to community – and to each other – is aspirational, said Kelley Downing, president and CEO of Bartlett. She has worked with Rick Reynolds for 21 years, watching him mentor younger employees and set an example of professionalism and philanthropy.
“The culture here is that your career is more than just what you do professionally,” Downing said. “It’s about giving back to the community in some way.”
Downing got involved with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company – “Rick and Vicky collaborated somehow to pull me in” – and now serves as board president. The philanthropic connection has given her more opportunity to watch the Reynolds, together, doing good in the community.
“They don’t just talk about it. They do it,” Downing said. “They set a really good example. Not just professionally, but as a couple. … They’re really supportive of one another. They respect one another and what one another’s interests are.”
“They give of both their time and their money. “They do it in a quiet way, and they invite other people in. They’re really about diversity and bringing other people to the table.”