Hulefeld to retire after 43 years

Longtime Northern Kentucky leader Rick Hulefeld has announced his retirement from Learning Grove, a nonprofit serving the region for more than 40 years through research-based educational services prenatally through college and career.

Most recently, Hulefeld served as the organization’s president of special projects.

Hulefeld became the executive director of the Cathedral Child Development Center in Covington, Ky., in 1979. From there, one center grew into a network of centers and family supports, eventually becoming Children, Inc. before merging with Cincinnati Early Learning Center in early 2020 to form Learning Grove.

Rick Hulefeld

“Here is what the 77-year-old me has learned: that when we dreamed deeply enough about something that would make a difference for others, even when we didn’t know how we would get it done, we began it anyhow,” said Hulefeld. “Life sent us what we needed.”

Prior to the merger with Cincinnati Early Learning Center to launch Learning Grove, Hulefeld spearheaded Children Inc.’s extensive programming as its chief executive officer. In 2017, he transitioned his role to allow for new leadership, with Shannon Starkey-Taylor coming to the helm. Starkey-Taylor continued to grow the agency, facilitating the massive merger to nearly double each agency’s scope and footprint of services.

“Rick’s work set the standard for early learning and family partnerships in our region,” said Starkey-Taylor. “His impact has reached well beyond those direct services to help guide research and policy to change our community’s families for the better. We’ll continue to operate at the highest standard and at the forefront of innovation to bridge Rick’s legacy for decades to come.”

The formation of Learning Grove allowed Hulefeld to consolidate the workload that had previously kept him busy as chief executive officer at Children, Inc., giving him time to instead focus on a handful of collaborations that kept the agency at the forefront of serving the region’s children and families.

“Rick always, always knows how to surround himself with the smartest folks in the room, and at the same time they’re looking to him for his leadership,” said Drew Tilow, Learning Grove board president. “His innumerable community partnerships carved a unique path for Learning Grove to really get to know how to set up the entire family for success, beginning with supports for parents to-be, all the way through post-seconary education.”