Sunday, August 06, 2000

Bob Wehling a patron saint for children's causes

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Every time you see Bob Wehling, he's wearing a Save the Children Foundation necktie.

        As a senior executive for one of the world's biggest companies, he could afford to wear the finest design neckwear. But his choice exemplifies that children always are close to his heart.

        “Almost all of the outside things I do — both locally and nationally — are education and children-related,” he says.

        “I just have a passion to help children get off to a good start in this life. I just felt blessed and fortunate that my six children (all daughters) were healthy and got a good education, and I think all children deserve that. So anything I can do to help that, I try to do.”

        That's a lot.

        His public service has taken him from Wyoming school board president 15 years ago to President Clinton's Summit for America's Future. He has been co-chair of the Ohio Education Improvement Council and a member of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

        He's also been president of the Greater Cincinnati March of Dimes, a member of the Mayor's Commission on Children and co-chair of Beech Acres' For The Love Of Kids parenting conference last November. He has served as chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce (1998) and the national Advertising Council board (1997-98), not to mention his job at P&G.

        Rosann Hassey, Beech Acres vice president for marketing, says the For The Love Of Kids session for 1,000 parents would not have happened without Mr. Wehling's total and immediate support.

        “He's my patron saint. He's a gift,” she says. “We went to him with a seed of an idea, and he simply said, "Yes.' Every single step of the way, he was amazing, constantly asking, "What can I do to help?' He empowers things, and they take off. He's a make-it-happen type of guy.”

        Instead of handing off to a subordinate, as some business executives do, he rolls up his sleeves and does it himself. When he heard that Steubenville elementary school students had higher than average reading scores, he drove to the eastern Ohio city to visit the school district last December.

        He found the entire Steubenville community — school board, superintendent, teachers, administrators, business leaders, parents — “totally focused on helping these kids read better,” he says.

        “I thought I could learn some things that I could bring back to Cincinnati, to help students here,” Mr. Wehling says. What he brought back was a shattered elbow, after tripping on a rock at the school. He has permanent limited mobility in his right arm from the injury.

        Everyone who has worked with Mr. Wehling is amazed by his ability to tackle big and small details, often in record time.

        “He is very committed to kids. Period. And he believes very strongly in the family role in raising them,” says Ms. Hassey, who is working with Mr. Wehling on a two-day For The Love Of Kids conference Nov. 4-5, before taking it statewide next year.

        “He really considers himself a regular guy,” she says. “He wants to do his fair share — and his fair share is huge.”


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