From left, Robert J. Kohlhepp; Chester C. Pryor II, M.D.; 
 Judith B. VanGinkel, Ph.D.; and
John F. Steele Sr. are
to receive region’s preeminent honor at Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’ Annual Dinner. Photo Photos by Mark Bowen Media/Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

From left, Robert J. Kohlhepp; Chester C. Pryor II, M.D.; 
 Judith B. VanGinkel, Ph.D.; and
John F. Steele Sr. are
to receive region’s preeminent honor at Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’ Annual Dinner. Photo Photos by Mark Bowen Media/Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber announced the 2018 class of Great Living Cincinnatians. The honorees are Robert J. Kohlhepp; Chester C. Pryor II, M.D.; 
John F. Steele, Sr., and Judith B. VanGinkel, Ph.D.

“Since 1967, the Cincinnati Chamber has been honoring greater Cincinnati leaders who dreamed and made lasting impact for our community,” said Jill P. Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. We’re proud to welcome Mr. Kohlhepp, Dr. Pryor, Mr. Steele and Dr. VanGinkel to this prestigious group.

The 2018 Great Living Cincinnatians join 151 previous awardees chosen for this preeminent honor by the Chamber’s Senior Council. Honorees are recognized for service to the community; business and civic attainment on a local, state, national or international level; leadership; awareness of the needs of others; and distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization.

The 2018 honorees will be installed as Great Living Cincinnatians at the 2018 Cincinnati Chamber Annual Dinner at the Duke Energy Center Grand Ballroom, Thursday, February 22. Table and individual reservations available now via or phone 513.579.3111.

Honorees profiles follow:

Robert J. Kohlhepp.

Kohlhepp already resides in the Xavier University Hall of Fame for his work to create the Sr. Rose Fleming endowment for Student-Athlete Academic Advising. The endowment is named in honor of Fleming, who for nearly three decades has served as the academic advisor for Xavier student-athletes and has guided Xavier to national recognition and success in student-athlete graduation. 

He is a Xavier alumnus and former longtime Cintas executive. He first joined Cintas as controller in 1967. In 1979, he was appointed executive vice president and in 1984, became president and chief operating officer. In 1995, he became chief executive officer, the position he held until becoming vice chairman in 2003. He became Chairman of the Board in 2009, a position he held until his retirement in 2016.

As Mr. Kohlhepp served Cintas, he was also serving Xavier University, including nearly 30 years on Xavier’s board of trustees. He chaired the University board from 2009 to 2014 and continues to chair the Xavier Athletics Leadership Advisory Committee. Kohlhepp’s many contributions to Xavier include the effort to construct Cintas Center as well as championing Xavier’s move to the Big East Conference.

In addition to Xavier, Kohlhepp’s board service includes Cincinnati Association for the Blind, United Way of Greater Cincinnati; Parker Hannifin Corporation, Eagle Hospitality Properties Trust and Mead Paper.

Chester C. Pryor II, M.D.

Chester C. Pryor II, M.D. was born in Cincinnati on Sixth Street hill, January 2, 1930, to Marie and Percy G. Pryor. He was raised Christian in Allen Temple A.M.E. Church and joined Allen Temple Church at 12 years of age. Being raised in the Church included being an altar boy, Sunday School pianist, Junior and Senior Usher and a steward for 47 years (now Steward Emeritus). Dr. Pryor’s public communication skills were largely developed in Church Easter and Christmas programs.

When confronted by racism, Dr. Pryor looks to the wisdom of his mentor, the late Dr. Raymond E. Clarke, the first Black doctor to perform surgery in a White hospital in Cincinnati. “Even if they’re wrong, always do right. Always do your work. Always be respectful. Always be honest and never plot revenge.”

With that attitude, Pryor became the First African American ophthalmologist in Cincinnati, the first African American to intern at a private Cincinnati hospital, the first African American certified ophthalmologist in Ohio, the first African American treasurer of the Academy of Medicine in Cincinnati, the first African American president of the Cincinnati Eye Society and the first African American faculty member of the Academic Faculty of the UC Department of Ophthalmology. His story is highly featured in the book, “Breaking the Color Line in Medicine, African Americans in Ophthalmology.”

Pryor graduated Withrow High School, gained a bachelor’s of science in chemistry at Central State University, earned an M.D. degree at Howard University Medical School and completed residency at Boston City Hospital, Heed Fellowship 6 months of Ophthalmic Pathology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He also served our nation as a captain in the U.S. Army, working as an ophthalmologist at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He continued to serve through board seats and leadership with the Association for the Blind, Negro Sightless Society, Council on Aging and Mallory Center for Community Development. Social memberships include The Argus Club, Funday Nighter’s, Life Member of NAACP and Alpha Pi Alpha Fraternity Inc; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc., Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, True American Lodge #2, Past Grand Master of Ohio, and active member of the United Supreme Counsel (PHA) Northern Jurisdiction, Director of Medical Services.

He also served his community with medicine. It is estimated that half of Pryor’s patients were welfare referrals.

He has been recognized as a Profile in Courage; first African American Professor Emeritus from the Department of Ophthalmology at UC, the Chester C. Pryor II, MD Lectureship was initiated in June of 2016, and he was an inductee in the Black Business Hall of Fame Inductee. He has been honored by the African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. Additionally, he has received the Maurice F. Rabb Jr. M.D. Distinguished Medical Achievement Award; Glorifying the Lions Award, and was one of the first African American recipient of the Heed Fellowship Award for advanced training in ophthalmology in the U.S.

Pryor has one son, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He lives with his wife, Audrey, in North Avondale.

John F. Steele, Sr. is the strategic advisor for Hilltop Basic Resources, Inc., a company owned by his parents and now run by his son, John Steele, Jr.  Hilltop was named Tri-State Family Business of the Year in 2006.

Mr. Steele grew up in Rochester, New York and lived there until age 16.  As a youth, he earned the rank of Life Scout and throughout his life remained heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America.  In 2015, Senator Rob Portman celebrated his commitment to scouting by presenting him the Honoree award at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

As U. S. Navy Lt. JG John Steele served as a pilot on U.S. Aircraft carriers during World War II.  Beginning in 1944 he flew TBM Avengers which were designed to launch torpedoes at the enemy. After the War, he returned to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1948.

During his tenure, John Steele aggressively expanded the business to market ready-mix concrete and aggregates in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, and the downtown Cincinnati plant. He and his team literally helped build Cincinnati as Hilltop worked on projects including Great American Ball Park, Paul Brown Stadium, Fort Washington Way, the I-471 Bridge, Central Street Bridge, 312 Walnut, Covington Riverfront Developments and the University of Cincinnati Molecular Studies Building.

He served as Chairman or President of the following community organizations:  Salvation Army Advisory Board, Cincinnati Art Museum, Art Academy of Cincinnati, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. In addition, he served as a board member of many other organizations.

Mr. Steele was married to Dorothy Conroy and had four children. After her death, he married Lela Emery, daughter of Mr. John J. Emery, recipient of the Greater Living Cincinnatian Award in 1967.

Judith B. Van Ginkel, Ph.D.

Judith VanGinkel, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and president of Every Child Succeeds, grew up in West Virginia, where her father, a pediatrician, took her along on house calls. The experience ignited her lifelong passion for improving the health of children and their families and culminated in her current role leading Every Child Succeeds, an evidence-based home visitation program designed to ensure an optimal start for high risk children, ages 0-3.

Prior leadership roles for Dr. VanGinkel included chairing three successful health service levy campaigns, assuring that uninsured adults and children in Hamilton County had access to medical care, regardless of ability to pay. In her role of vice president of Drake Center, she led successful efforts to restore its viability as a community resource. And as assistant senior vice president of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, she obtained funding to launch BIOSTART, a biomedical incubator that fostered development of technology based products and services for medical research and patient care. 

   At age 60, VanGinkel became the founding president of Every Child Succeeds, which in its first 18 years has provided 600,000 home visits and served more than 25,000 families. Based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and with co-founding partners United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Every Child Succeeds has gained national attention for its academic research partnerships, innovation and results. In recognition of her leadership of Every Child Succeeds, VanGinkel received the prestigious Purpose Prize in 2010. This national award honors social innovators, age 60 or older, who tackle challenging social issues in their encore careers. VanGinkel donated the $100,000 prize to Every Child Succeeds.

In her 37-year career, she chaired the boards of WGUC – Classical Public Radio;

Hoxworth Blood Center as the first female president of a blood bank community advisory board in the country; and Cincinnatus Association, the first female board chair in its 97-year history. She served on the boards of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, International Visitors Council, Thinkronize Inc., and three start-up enterprises and volunteered with many more.

Her greatest interest outside of work is international travel. VanGinkel has visited more than 200 countries, has written extensively about her travels and has won national awards for her travel writing. In 2007, Dr. VanGinkel co-authored the best-selling “Life Begins and Ends with Girlfriends,” a book that explores the significant role women’s friendships play in their lives.

She lives in Wyoming with her husband, David, a pediatrician.  She has two daughters and two granddaughters.

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