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NKU names winners of annual alumni awards: Scott, the Blanks, Smitherman-Voltaire, Gardner



Northern Kentucky University has announced the recipients of its annual Alumni Awards: Chad Scott, Lisa and Gary Blank, Kristen Smitherman-Voltaire, and Jennifer Gardner.

The winners will be honored in a celebration on Saturday, Feb. 3, in the H. Gordon and Thelma Martin Ballroom at the Votruba Student Union at 6 p.m. To purchase tickets for the event, click here.

“This year’s deserving honorees have made a lasting and profound impact on both NKU and the region,” said NKU President Dr. Cady Short-Thompson. “We are proud of their accomplishments, inspired by their dedication to their respective fields and honored to count them among our esteemed graduates and faculty.”

• Chad Scott (’97) is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award, which recognizes an alum who, through their successes and accomplishments, has enhanced the image of NKU.

Chad Scott (Photo provided)

Scott is founder and managing director of Tindall Capital, a growth investment firm focusing on lower-middle market technology and early-stage software investments. Chad has personally led 26 technology investments with Tindall Capital and through co-investment partnerships, has participated in 68 additional acquisitions of high growth tech-enabled businesses comprising over $2 billion in total enterprise valuation. He began his career as a tech entrepreneur, launching and scaling several successful national real estate technology companies, including ePremium in 2007, which grew to be the dominant insurance program management software platform in the multifamily real estate industry. ePremium was consistently recognized as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the nation.

Scott currently serves on the NKU Foundation Board, is a member of the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee and the Young President’s Organization (YPO). He graduated from NKU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Communication. Chad was captain of the Norse men’s soccer team and finished his career as NKU’s all-time leader in goals scored and total offensive points and 2nd all-time in assists. He was inducted into the David Lee Holt Hall of Fame in 2011. Chad and his wife, Jessica, are investors and co-owners of FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer. They reside in Cincinnati with their four children (Emma, Grace, Isabelle and Jacob).

• Lisa (‘82, ’01, ’07) and Gary Blank (’83, ‘99) are the recipients of the Distinguished Service Award which recognizes alumni who have contributed time, talent and effort enhancing the quality of life at NKU or to make their community a better place to live.

Lisa Blank (Photo provided)

Lisa Blank recently retired as the system director of organizational development and the office of workforce development at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. She spent the last 35 years in roles across the system and has over 40 years of healthcare experience. She graduated as a registered nurse at 19 and started her career at Providence Hospital in Cincinnati.

Blank joined St. Elizabeth in 1985 and spent the next 15 years in emergency services, critical care, cardiac surgery and as nurse manager of the critical care units. Lisa’s passion for people led her to human resources. She led the region’s first Regional Healthcare Workforce Center as part of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council. During her tenure there, the vacancy rate of nurses in Greater Cincinnati dropped from 21% to 8% in just three years.

Lisa returned to St. Elizabeth and became a director of human resources, where she was responsible for recruitment, engagement, employee relations and succession planning. In 2007, Lisa moved to organizational development where she was responsible for house wide education and simulation, the development of the Leadership Academy and creation of the first hospital-based Administrative Fellowship Program which had national outreach. Most recently, Lisa led workforce development at St. Elizabeth working with stake holders to improve pipelining efforts before retiring this year.

Lisa spent six years on the NKU Alumni Board of Directors and as an adjunct instructor in the College of Health and Human Services. She was a member of area college advisory boards and the NKU MSIO Advisory Board. She is vice chair of the KET Regional Board. Lisa is a member of the national chapters of the Society of Human Resource Management and the American College of Healthcare Executives. At NKU, she received an Associate’s Degree and Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the College of Health and Human Services and a Master of Science in Industrial Organizational Psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Gary Blank (Photo provided)

Gary Blank recently retired as executive vice president and chief operating officer for St. Elizabeth Healthcare, where he was an officer of the corporation and served as staff to St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s Board of Trustees. In his role, he oversaw operations with more than $4 billion in gross revenue and over 8,400 associates.

Blank joined St. Elizabeth Healthcare in 1981. He began his career in nursing and was manager of the Emergency Department prior to moving to the finance division where he became the assistant vice president of revenue cycle. He eventually moved back to operations as vice president of professional services, then served as senior vice president and chief patient services officer/chief nursing officer and retired as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. He was instrumental in the development of an organizational structure across all patient care areas at St. Elizabeth Healthcare which helped align the organization around patient and family centered care. In 2023, St Elizabeth also completed the first phase of a comprehensive master facility plan which included just under $500 million in capital expenditures.

He is a current board member of ANC Home Care, Preferred Lab Partners, Thomas More University, and the American Heart Association. He is a former board member of the Kentucky Chapter of ACHE, NKY Independent Health District, and until recently, served on a Community
Health Board Committee for the Health Department. He earned an Associate’s Degree and Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from NKU’s College of Health and Human Services and went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration from American Intercontinental University. He has 43 years of healthcare experience in a variety of positions.

The Blanks live in Hebron and have three daughters and seven grandchildren.

• Kristen Smitherman-Voltaire (’17) is the recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, which recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years or are under the age of 40 who have contributed through service by enhancing the quality of life at NKU or their community and/or who have distinguished themselves through professional achievements.

Kristen Smitherman Voltaire (Photo provided)

Smitherman-Voltaire is an economic inclusion activist, construction career advocate, and community engagement practitioner with over 10 years of experience in the equity and inclusion space. As community and citizenship director at Turner Construction, she leads the company’s community outreach and economic inclusion efforts, applying her unique combination of community engagement, equity and inclusion, and project management expertise to cultivate sustainable economic impact for underrepresented businesses and inspire the next generation of go-getters to imagine themselves in a fulfilling career in the construction industry.

She also co-founded and co-leads Turner’s Mid-North Inclusion Action Team, the first regional model at Turner designed to enact an anti-racism strategy. Some of her accolades include the 2015 Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Emerging Leader Award, 2019 Northern Kentucky Young Professionals Next Generation Leader Award, 2022 Walter L. Pieschel Volunteer of the Year Award, 2023 Allied Construction Industries Workforce Inclusion Champion, and various invitations to speak to audiences across the globe.

To align her community work with her personal passions, she proudly serves as vice chair of the City of Cincinnati Human Services Advisory Council, Allied Construction Industries She Builds Committee, the Northern Kentucky Chamber Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and the Library Foundation of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Board of Directors. She received a Bachelor of Art Degree in Spanish & International Studies from the University of Michigan, graduated from the University of California Berkley’s BASE (Business for Arts, Sciences and Engineering) program, and earned her Master of Science Degree in Executive Leadership and Organizational Change (ELOC) from NKU’s Haile College of Business.

She and her husband, Emilio, live in Westwood with their two daughters, Arya and Gianna, and two rescue dogs, Bart and Gio.

• Jennifer Gardner is the recipient of the Faculty/Staff Strongest Influence Award, which recognizes a faculty or staff member whose teaching, counseling or advising had a strong and lasting impact on the life and/or career of our students as well as the University.

Jennifer Gardner (Photo provided)

Gardner is the executive director for the Center for Student Excellence. In this role, she provides academic advising, student professional development, employer relations, internships, and career planning assistance for all students with undergraduate majors and minors in the Haile College of Business. She was previously the director of the Sports Business and Event Management Program. She managed business relationships with sport and entertainment organizations to establish volunteer, internship, and job opportunities for student, including opportunities at such organizations as the Reds, Bengals, and FC Cincinnati. She is also teaching in the classroom and has been serving as a faculty member for 11 years.

Gardner also served eight years as the chairperson for the Haile College of Business’ Business Week student conference event. Giving back to the college, she coordinated industry speakers and sponsor participants for students to network and gain important professional experience. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with an emphasis in broadcasting and public relations from the University of Dayton before going on to pursue her Master of Arts in communication with an emphasis in organizational communication from Miami University. She and her husband, Brian, have two children; Chloe and Sydney.

Northern Kentucky University

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