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Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

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.

Emily Watkins Spicer

Awarded In 2002
1927 –

Emily Watkins Spicer, experienced discrimination as a young African-America woman committed to a career in education. But she refused to allow it to undermine her dream: a fulfilling life of teaching.

“At that time, blacks were to go into the service industry,” she recalls. “There weren’t a lot of blacks in health and education.” But she refused to give up, saying “nobody was going to tell me what to do.”

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in teaching and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Cincinnati, she taught at Lincoln Heights High, Heinold Junior High and Aiken High School before becoming assistant principal at Woodward High.

In 1976 she was named principal of Merry Junior High School, overseeing about 1,000 seventh- and eighth-graders being bused in from across the city. “It was tense for a while,” she says. “But we had a good staff, got the building cleaned up and turned the school around.”

Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent James Jacobs took note of her turnaround efforts, and in 1978 assigned her to a similar task as principal of Taft High School.

“The school was in deplorable condition,” she recalls. “Dr. Jacobs called me and said, ‘Emily, go in there and wake them up.’”

She did that, giving the school a new sense of spirit, starting with a new coat of paint. “We all started painting,” she says. “Dr. Jacobs even came down and painted a room.”

She concluded her career with the district as director of staff development and director of secondary education before retiring in 1983.

Since then, she has been involved in numerous civic activities, serving four years on the Greenhills-Forest Park School Board. She has also been active with the YMCA, YWCA, Black Achievers, Black Family Reunion and other organizations.

Emily Spicer and her husband of 25 years, Roy, live in Springfield Township.

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

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