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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
1926 – 2000
The name Clement Buenger meant business in Cincinnati.
Whether running the city’s largest bank or heading the study that helped save the city’s school system from bankruptcy, Buenger was recognized as one who knew how to cut to the heart of an issue, organize and motivate people, and get things done.
Buenger grew up in Fort Thomas, Ky., and graduated from St. Xavier High School and Xavier University. After 23 years in the insurance business, 16 of those years with a division of Kroger Co., Buenger joined Fifth Third Bank in 1969 as a commercial loan officer. Ten years later, he was named Fifth Third president, and the next year was also named president and chief financial officer of parent company Fifth Third Bancorp.
Buenger believed one of his legacies at Fifth Third was fostering energy and fairness in the workplace. Under Buenger, “banker’s hours” were no longer acceptable. At the same time, he instituted employee incentives and rewards, such as stock option and retirement plans.
“I’m results-oriented,” Buenger said. “I’ve always tried to be honest and direct. Not mean, but direct. I’m very opinionated when something’s screwed up. I’ve never been politically correct.”
In Buenger’s tenure as president, Fifth Third’s assets grew from $1.1 billion to $7.8 billion and branch offices more than doubled to more than 200 in 38 counties.
In 1993, he became a household name in Cincinnati with the release of the Buenger Commission report, which recommended sweeping reform of the Cincinnati Public Schools.
Buenger retired as Fifth Third’s chairman in 1991. He was on the boards of Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co., Xavier University, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Fifth Third. In 1991, Buenger was chairman of the Chamber and the Fine Arts Fund campaign.
Buenger died on March 29, 2000 at 74.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization