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NKU to Honor Farrises, Schepers, and Votrubas

Northern Kentucky University announced Friday that it will present the 22nd annual Lincoln Award to Oakley B. and Eva G. Farris, Charles R. Scheper and Julie Geisen Scheper, and James C. and Rachel M. Votruba. They will be honored at a ceremony June 18 at the NKU METS Center (3861 Olympic Blvd, Erlanger).

In 1992, the NKU Office of the President established the Lincoln Award to honor residents or former residents of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana who exemplify the qualities of outstanding citizenship, notable achievement and distinguished service in their professions and contributions to the Northern Kentucky or Greater Cincinnati community.

Oakley B. and Eva G. Farris

In the 1950s, Oakley Farris began buying homes and apartment buildings in Covington and then renovating, renting and reselling them. With Eva’s encouragement and savvy business sense, the couple’s first duplex was converted to an apartment building renting out the attic, living room and two-car garage as studio apartments. The Farrises had 40 buildings at the height of their real estate business, including an entire block at 15th and Greenup.

Farris graduated from Lexington’s Lafayette High School in 1943. That year he joined the U.S. Army. He served in the infantry as a machine gunner in World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, Farris worked for Harry Segal of Segal-Wilson Co., a Cincinnati firm that sold sewing notions. He traveled by train, bus and on foot selling pins, needles and thread. Eva Farris, who is originally from Cuba, eventually learned to drive and bought a car so she could drive her husband around the country to make sales calls for 16 years.

The longtime Covington residents have invested substantially in support of education and civic initiatives, including funding for the Covington Archdiocese, Covington Latin School, remodeling the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center and the creation of two murals near the Roebling Bridge. The couple has contributed to NKU in support of scholarships in the Haile/US Bank College of Business and renovations including the Eva G. Farris Reading Room, the Eva G. Farris Auditorium, the Oakley and Eva G. Farris Amphitheater and the Eva G. and Oakley Farris Commons in Griffin Hall. The Steely Library Schlachter Family Archives has also benefitted from their generosity resulting in the Eva G. Farris Special Collections. The couple also commissioned two sculptures of Abraham Lincoln as a young man which now proudly stand outside the entrance to the NKU Chase College of Law and the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library.

Mr. and Mrs. Farris’ board memberships have included the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, Behringer-Crawford Museum and the Northern Kentucky Regional Board of the Commonwealth Fund for KET. Eva currently serves on the NKU Foundation Board.

Oakley received the Voices of Giving Award from the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council (GCPCG) for having contributed with a planned gift to the long-term sustainability of NKU in 2011. That year, the Farrises were named Benefactors of the Year by Gateway Community and Technical College in honor of their commitment to provide $500,000 to create a child development center at the college’s proposed urban campus in downtown Covington. 

They also received the Devou Cup in 2009 for their generosity to the Northern Kentucky region, the Covington Education Foundation Award (2004) and are members of the Holmes High School Hall of Distinction.
This year, the couple was also recognized by the Behringer-Crawford Museum with the Two-Headed Calf Award, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the preservation and celebration of local history, art and culture.

Charles “Chuck” R. Scheper and Julie Geisen Scheper

Chuck Scheper was sworn in as the 40th mayor of the City of Covington in October 2011, to complete the unexpired term of former Mayor Denny Bowman, which ended in December 2012. During his short term, Scheper started a business and community advisory group to leverage the expertise of the local community, contributed half his salary as mayor to pay for a study of city operations that resulted in a reorganization of departments and personally got involved in union contract negotiations that had been stuck in neutral for more than a year.

Until his retirement in December 2010, Scheper served as chief operating officer at Great American Financial Resources (GAFRI), a $13 billion life and annuity services company based in Cincinnati. Before joining GAFRI in 1997, he was president and chief executive officer of Manhattan National Life Insurance Company and president of Pioneer Financial Services. He began his career in the insurance industry as vice president and controller at Union Central Life Insurance Company and before that was an audit manager at Price Waterhouse. 

Scheper is a member of the regional stewardship council of Northern Kentucky’s Vision 2015, chair of the Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky, a member of the World President’s Organization and member of the 2011 United Way of Northern Kentucky Campaign Cabinet.

He is a cancer survivor and his journey to wellness led him to become active in various causes related to cancer, including the Cancer Support Community, where he now serves as the national board co-chairperson. He also serves as chairman of the board of Bexion Pharmaceuticals, which is focused on the development and commercialization of innovative cures for cancer. Additionally, he works to advance cancer research through clinical trials and also provides personal coaching and support to other cancer patients. 

Scheper and his wife, Julie Geisen Scheper, are both graduates of Thomas More College and currently reside in Covington. 

Julie had a 25-year career in counseling. She was appointed by the Kentucky Department of Education to the Covington Board of Education in November 2012 to fill a position left vacant with two years in its term. Prior to the appointment, Julie had been heavily involved with Covington Partners, which works closely with the school district. Julie is a member of Thomas More College’s Distinguished Alumnae League, the board of Covington Partners in Prevention and BRIDGES for a Just Community. Her volunteer activities also include Mother of God Catholic Church. 

Julie received the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Humanitarian Award in 2005 and the Bishop Hughes Award for her involvement in Catholic higher education from Thomas More College in 2012. Chuck received the Mike Partin Community Leadership Award from the Covington Business Council in 2000, was honored by the American Cancer Society at its 2002 Striders’ Ball for his work promoting cancer research and clinical trials and was also the winner of the 2011 Second Act Award. As a couple, they were honored at the Wellness Community Evening of Hope in 2009 and will be honored at this year’s Metropolitan Club Awards.

James C. and Rachel M. Votruba

James Votruba retired as NKU’s fourth president in 2012 after 15 years. Under Dr. Votruba's leadership, NKU enrollment grew from less than 12,000 to nearly 16,000. The university’s endowment grew from about $12.3 million to $68 million and its academic offerings grew by 19 additional bachelor’s degrees, 42 more master’s degrees and NKU’s first two doctoral programs.

Dr. Votruba presided over the construction of The Bank of Kentucky Center, the Dorothy Westerman Herrmann Natural Science Center, the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union and the Griffin Hall informatics center. The university also moved to NCAA Division I athletics in 2012.

Much of what Dr. Votruba accomplished had its seeds in the strategic planning process dubbed “Vision, Values and Voices” that kicked off his presidency. The endeavor was so successful that Harvard University completed a case study about it.

Dr. Votruba is on administrative leave this year. He will return to NKU to teach educational leadership to doctoral candidates, in keeping with his plan to continue his career in the classroom.

Dr. Votruba came to NKU from Michigan State University, where he was a vice provost for university outreach for eight years. He previously spent six years at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he was dean of the School of Education and Human Development and was later interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. He began his career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as assistant head of the Division of Extramural Courses and assistant professor of higher education.
Rachel Votruba was head advisor for Michigan State for four years. When the family moved to Northern Kentucky in 1997, she became a professor of classroom management at NKU. She retired in 2003. 

Dr. Votruba earned all three of his degrees from Michigan State: a B.A. in political science, a M.A. in interdisciplinary social science and a Ph.D. in higher education administration. Rachel earned her B.A. in physical education and English from Drake University and an M.A. in counseling from the State University of New York Oneonta.

Dr. Votruba served as chair of the board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 2010 and president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities from 2004-06. He has served as a faculty member in both the American Association of State Colleges and Universities New Presidents’ Academy and the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education. He served as a member of the National Campus Compact board of directors and the Association of Governing Boards council of presidents. He previously served as co-chair of the Vision 2015 planning process for Northern Kentucky and as co-chair of the Metropolitan Growth Alliance. His most recent publications include Becoming an Engaged Campus (Jossey-Bass, 2011) and “Achieving and Sustaining High Performance” (Public Service, AASCU, 2012).

Rachel has been a volunteer for the Women’s Crisis Center in Covington, where she spent six years on the board and presided over two capital campaigns and the building of new shelters in Maysville and Newport. She has also been a member of the board of the Brighton Center; the Children’s Law Center; and the Friends of Steely Library.

Dr. and Mrs. Votruba received the Metropolitan Award in 2009. Cincy magazine named Dr. Votruba one of the 100 most influential people in the region. "Under his leadership, NKU's ambitions, accomplishments and growth seem to know no bounds – and as it ascends, so do the communities south of the river," the magazine said.

The Votrubas have three grown children and six grandchildren.

Past recipients of the NKU Lincoln Award include: Monsignor Ralph W. Beiting; Rich Boehne; Gary R. Bricking; Leon E. Boothe; Raymond J. Brokamp; Otto M. Budig, Jr.; Clement L. Buenger; William R. Burleigh; William P. Butler; Rodney Scott “Biz” Cain; Helen Carrol; Paul W. Chellgren; Judith G. Clabes; Thomas G. Cody; Jr.; Jane and John Domaschko; R.C. Durr; The Honorable Wendell H. Ford; Judith H. Gibbons; Merwin Grayson, Jr.; Joseph W. Gross; Ralph V. Haile, Jr.; Michael J. Hammons, Sr.; Sr. Jean Patrice Harrington, S.C.; Nathaniel R. Jones; William J. Keating; Carl H. Lindner; Kenneth R. Lucas; Daniel J. Meyer; Mary Middleton; Richard L. Murgatroyd; Dr. O’dell M. Owens; John E. Pepper; Larry R. Pike; Henry E. (Bud) Pogue IV; Robert C. Reifsnyder; Ellen and George Rieveschl, Jr.; Edwin J. and Carole T. Rigaud; Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III; Lois and Richard Rosenthal; George A. Schaefer, Jr.; Paul F. Smith; Alice S. Sparks; The Honorable S. Arthur and Louise W. Spiegel; Jack W. Steinman; Kimberly A. Brooks Tandy; Charles Whitehead, John P. Williams, Jr. and Justice Donald Wintersheimer.

From Northern Kentucky University

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