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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.

Honorable Sandra S. Beckwith

Awarded In 2011

1943 –


When Sandra Beckwith was a law school student, her constitutional law professor pulled her aside and said she was occupying a slot that a “smart young man” could have found much more valuable. These comments fueled Beckwith’s drive to succeed, and for the next 40 plus years she repeatedly broke through one glass ceiling after another.

Growing up, Beckwith’s idol was Dr. Reed Shank, her paternal grandfather. Shank was not only an acclaimed surgeon, but the team doctor for the Cincinnati Reds, the original Bengals (1937-41) and the athletic teams at the University of Cincinnati. In 1942, he also became a trustee of the university.

“In my family,” Judge Beckwith jokes, “if you don’t go to the University of Cincinnati, your name is crossed out of the family bible and never spoken again.”

Upon graduation from law school in 1969, Beckwith joined her father, an attorney in Harrison. Since her father didn’t like litigation, she found herself in court. At a time when only a handful of women lawyers argued cases in court, she stood out, leading to her appointment to the municipal court bench after just eight years of practice.

In 1987, she became the first woman elected to the Court of Common Pleas in the Division of Domestic Relations. Beckwith helped establish processes to deal with domestic violence cases, something she had observed on the municipal bench, and in 1989 became the first, and only to date, woman to serve on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.

In 1991, a statewide panel recommended that President George Bush appoint her to the United States District Court for Southern District of Ohio, again breaking new ground for women when she won Senate approval. And in 2004, her fellow judges selected her as chief judge of the court until she took senior status. Over her time on the federal bench, she served on commissions on lawyers’ responsibility, prison overcrowding, death penalty appeals and computerization of the courts.

But her proudest moment on the bench came in overseeing the settlement of a case brought by relatives of 91 poor patients in the 1950s. The patients’ bodies had been subjected to whole-body radiation experiments at the Cincinnati General Hospital without informed consent, and the results had been shared with the Department of Defense without the patients’ full knowledge. Judge Beckwith insisted that the claims be decided on its merits, not on technicalities. In the negotiated settlement, in addition to the monetary settlement, an apology was extracted in the form of a plaque erected at University Hospital recognizing the patients.

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