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Read articles and learn more about the Cincinnati Chamber through our related news articles

Introducing United Way’s 2024 Campaign Co-Chairs
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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.

George A. Schaefer Jr.

Awarded In 2014

George A. Schaefer Jr. guided Fifth Third to its current position of banking power over the course of three decades, and continued to lead in his hometown.

His story began in 1946, born into a blue-collar family made up of five brothers and sisters. Like many a boy on the city’s West Side, his first love was high school football. It was on the gridiron at Elder that his life would change: his coach encouraged him to apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was there, on the banks of the Hudson River that a patriot was born and a leader was formed, with Schaefer flourishing underneath West Point’s strict discipline.

He graduated from the academy in 1967 with a degree in nuclear engineering. From there, he served two years in Germany with a demolition team specializing in nuclear weapons. He then would serve our country for two years in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star in the process.

In 1971, with his military commitment behind him, he became a management trainee at Fifth Third for $8,500 a year. His first success for Fifth Third came in the mid-1970’s with the bank entering the still-new credit card business. Schaefer used both his engineering background and his love of numbers to overhaul the company’s data-processing and build it into a strength for the company.

Over the next several years, he rose through the ranks of Fifth Third, becoming a Senior VP of commercial loans, then eventually being promoted to Executive Vice President. Then in 1989, he was appointed Fifth Third’s President and COO. A year later he would become CEO. While trying to grow Fifth Third’s bottom-line, Schaefer also developed a reputation for his thriftiness.

He once compared banking to “guerilla warfare”, and put those words into action. Through a combination of cost-controls and acquisition, his vision would lead Fifth Third’s assets to hit more than $91B. He retired from the bank as President in 2006, stepped down as CEO in 2007 and left his role as Chairman in 2008—leaving the bank 13th in the U.S. in asset size. In his retirement, he served several local boards including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. He is married to Betty Ann, and is the father to three children. George Schaefer Jr., a Great Living Cincinnatian.

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