UC unveils winners of top alumni awards for 2024

The University of Cincinnati Alumni Association has announced the names of this year’s recipients of the highest honors for UC graduates.

Top awards are going to Dr. Dean J. Kereiakes, Ruthie S. KeefeKathy Wade and Sean A. Addo. UCAA will recognize them alongside 13 Outstanding Alumni Award winners at an event this spring.

An aerial photo of the University of Cincinnati campus. (Photo by Casey Weldon)

The 2024 honorees reflect the excellence that the university’s former students “demonstrate across so many disciplines and in service to people around the world,” according to Jennifer Heisey, chief alumni officer and a UC Foundation vice president.

“From saving lives in the operating room and performing at the Kennedy Center to excelling in business and entertainment, we see these great Bearcats achieving at the highest levels while using their platforms to enhance their communities and help others,” Heisey added.

Celebrating Red, Black greatness

Each year, the UC Alumni Association selects a few of its more than 340,000 former students to celebrate for professional accomplishments and contributions to the university and community.

The signature prizes are the William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement, Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award, Marian A. Spencer Mosaic Award and Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award. UCAA also recognizes several other alums who best represent the college or school they attended at UC. This year’s group represents 13 colleges and the “unique training ground of UC athletics,” Heisey said.

The University of Cincinnati will celebrate all 18 individuals during the UC Alumni Celebration on Thursday, April 11. Each of the honorees will also have their likeness added to a new mural being painted on the side of a building in Over-the-Rhine.

Details about each of the recipients are below. Movers & Makers edited the descriptions from the UC Alumni Association for length and style.

William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement

Dean J. Kereiakes, MD, Ph.D., Arts & Science 1975, College of Medicine 1978, Honorary 2014. He’s chairman of The Christ Hospital Heart and Vascular Institute in Cincinnati and medical director of The Christ Hospital Research Institute. He’s also a professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University. 

Kereiakes founded and served as CEO of the largest cardiology subspecialty group in Ohio, which became the cardiovascular service line of The Christ Hospital. He’s also the founder and medical director of The Carl & Edyth Lindner Center for Research and Education at The Christ Hospital, one of the nation’s top clinical research sites.

Dean J. Kereiakes

The author of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, abstracts and book chapters, Kereiakes has performed more than 30,000 catheterization laboratory procedures, receiving “first in human” and “first in the U.S.” credit for his use of novel medical devices. He has been the national/international principal investigator in trials for FDA approval of more than 26 novel drugs and medical devices.

Kereiakes received the coveted “Master” distinction by The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions and earned recognition as one of the Best Doctors in America.

Robert E. Dobbs Distinguished Service Award

Ruthie S. Keefe

Ruthie S. Keefe, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services 1981. She’s widely known as a volunteer leader, supporter and ambassador for her alma mater. She’s the owner of Cincinnati marketing and software development company BlueSky Creative, Inc.; a partner at ARK Innovations, LLC and EVisit; and a member of the UC Foundation board of trustees.

With deep family roots in the university and a long tradition of service, Keefe served seven years as chair of the UC Alumni Association. She received praise for her instrumental role in the growth of numerous UCAA endeavors, especially the UC Alumni Celebration. “Keefe has always brought enormous energy and passion to her volunteer work and has great determination to see UCAA maximize its impact in the university community,” the organization wrote of her.

Marian A. Spencer Mosaic Award

Kathy Wade, College-Conservatory of Music 1981. Wade is a celebrated entertainer, producer, arts and education entrepreneur. A winner of multiple regional Emmy Awards, she co-founded the nonprofit Learning Through Art, Inc. more than three decades ago. The arts education organization offers family-focused activities that have impacted more than 1 million participants in her native Cincinnati and beyond.

Kathy Wade

Her “Books Alive! for Kids” program aims to excite and engage young children and their families about reading. She also hosts a signature “Crown Jewels of Jazz” summer concert series. 

“Wade’s prestigious singing career is storied, and her ongoing innovations exemplify her commitment to building resilient communities through art,” UCAA wrote.

Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award

Sean A. Addo

Sean A. Addo, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning 2010. He’s a writer-director and a fellow of Facebook Seen’s New Black Filmmakers and Panavision New Filmmakers Program. He’s known for using identity, diversity and social awareness to bridge cultural gaps through edgy and often original supernatural stories. His recent film “Rooted” premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Canada’s Fantasia, among other festivals worldwide. Addo’s supernatural horror feature, “The Homesick,” was part of The Blackhouse 2020 Producers Lab and Sundance Inaugural Producers Program.

2024 Outstanding Alumni Awards

  • College of Allied Health Sciences: Cynthia P. Blocksom, 1979
  • College of Arts and Sciences: Edwin J. Rigaud, Jr., 1973 
  • Blue Ash College: Henry N. Comer, 2009, (Arts and Sciences 2011) 
  • Clermont College: Michele E. Wells Walker, PharmD,1988, (Pharmacy 2015)
  • College-Conservatory of Music: Stephen C. Flaherty, 1982
  • College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning: Mitchell E. Sutika Sipus, 2010, 2011
  • College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services: Yvonne A. DiCristoforo, 1991
  • College of Engineering & Applied Science: Lawrence “Larry” J. Blanford, 1977
  • College of Law: H.C. “Buck” Niehoff, 1972 (Honorary 2011)
  • Carl H. Lindner College of Business: Paul D. Green, 1990
  • College of Medicine: Dr. George G. Bemis, Jr., 1964
  • College of Nursing: Holly L. Lorenz, 1981, 1991
  • James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy: Colleen R. Lindholz, 1995
  • UC Athletics: Connor A. Barwin (football), 2018

UC Alumni Celebration

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