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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.
Ed Rigaud is smart, but not in a way that makes others afraid to speak up. He’s driven, but not in a way that uses other people for his own ends. He’s serious, but with a huge smile that welcomes every new idea and new person. He’s innovative, but committed to getting things done.
Rigaud remembers the exact date he arrived in Cincinnati. It was the evening of Saturday, June 5, 1965. He and his bride Carole got married earlier that day in New Orleans and flew directly to Cincinnati for a “leisurely” 36 hour honeymoon before he was to start work at P&G on Monday morning.
Coming from fierce segregation in New Orleans, Rigaud hoped for greater openness, freedom and opportunity in the north. What he found was that P&G was “new at it,” and that Cincinnati had its own racial divisions.
The couple immediately confronted this local divide in their search for an apartment. After repeated rejections, Rigaud turned to the only other African American he saw at the Winton Hills Technical Center — a man who worked in the mail room — who helped them find a place in Silverton.
But Rigaud quickly rose through the ranks. In 1992, he had moved into general management and eventually rose to vice president of Food and Beverage Products.
Rigaud served on the boards of many local organizations, including the National Council of Christians and Jews (now Bridges for a Just Community).
In 1994, NCCJ Executive Director Robert “Chip” Harrod gathered a small group of people, including Ed Rigaud, to test the idea of creating an Underground Railroad Museum. The primary goal was to facilitate social change, the historical story of the underground railroad serving as a metaphor around which to organize programs. And because the primary mission was inclusion, leadership of the board and every committee was shared between an African American and a Caucasian.
A few years later, P&G named Rigaud an executive on loan to serve as the first full-time director of what had been named the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Over the next eight years, he led the effort to refine the concept, ground the effort in market research, build a staff, design the space, raise $110 million and construct the new facility.
When he left the day-to-day responsibilities at the Center, he formed EnovaPremier, LLC, to produce tire and wheel assemblies for automobile manufacturers. Enova is now the largest company of its kind in the U.S.
At about the same time, Bob Castellini was preparing to purchase the Cincinnati Reds and wanted one of the shares to be owned by minorities. He turned to Ed Rigaud, who assembled a minority group to buy one share of the club.
After 48 years in Cincinnati it’s clear that Ed Rigaud is smart, driven, serious and innovative.
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