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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.
Francie Pepper, a well-respected advocate and volunteer, was best known for leading an impressive fundraising effort for a cause close to her heart.
Pepper was best known for devoting herself fully into all of her pursuits. When asked once by a reporter what her occupation was, Pepper replied “WMV”—wife, mother, and volunteer. She excelled in all three.
Pepper grew up in Mount Auburn in the 1950’s. It was there that she says she first recognized people in need, an observation that would guide her life for decades to come. As a child, she was in awe of the accomplishments of her mother. A leader and philanthropist herself, her mother served as President of the YWCA in 1968. Additionally, Pepper’s aunt would found several YWCA Asian chapters.
Upon graduating from Cincinnati’s Hillsdale School in 1958, it was then on to Smith College in Massachusetts. Eventually marrying husband John, a 2006 Great Living Cincinnatian, they found themselves following his career with Procter & Gamble and living in cities across the globe. Not one to sit idle, she volunteered by helping fellow P&G wives settle in to their new homes, serving as an unofficial welcome wagon. Upon returning to Cincinnati, she dedicated herself to our city, volunteered with organizations like Youth Collaborative, Junior League, and Cincinnati Country Day.
Soon her skills at fundraising became apparent. She learned early on to value both small and large-scale donors, because both create awareness and community ownership. A colleague once remarked that Pepper was as comfortable volunteering in a woman’s shelter as she was in a board room. She was also pleasantly tenacious in her activism. One community partner recalled Pepper “trapping” business leaders in her van until they made a significant pledge.
One of the largest beneficiaries of her commitment would be the YWCA. Asked to lead their capital campaign in 1995, she led them to raise a staggering $7.5M. With the money raised, the group renovated an old mansion and transformed it into a battered women’s shelter, eliminated the waiting list in the process. A self-proclaimed feminist, Pepper would become a national voice in support of domestic violence awareness. With that message that when women suffer, so too do their children, her words tried to end that cycle before it started. To this day, many in our area continue to benefit from Pepper’s efforts. Francie Pepper, 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