By William Croyle
FLORENCE - George Renaker was 5 years old when his father, a Florence deputy sheriff, was killed in a car accident while chasing a fugitive.
Dr. George Renaker gave Thomas More College $22,500.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
For the next nine years Renaker moved around, living with his mom, with grandparents and in the Covington Protestant Children's Home (now the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky).
At 14, he was on his own. He worked for a tailor to put himself through Covington Catholic High School and lived with friends, neighbors and anyone else who would give him shelter.
Renaker attended Villa Madonna College (now Thomas More College) and medical school at the University of Louisville, driving 100 miles home on weekends to work as a waiter at the Beverly Hills Supper Club.
Today, the 71-year-old general surgeon is still hard at work, having seen about 40,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 operations in 38 years. He's also giving back to the community.
"I've had a lot of trying times in my life, and a lot of people helped me get through it," Renaker said between surgeries at St. Luke Hospital in Florence. "This foundation is at least one way that I can show my appreciation."
He established the George A. Renaker Charitable Foundation in 1998. It's funded each year through two trust funds he set up worth $8 million.
So far this year, the biggest beneficiary of the fund is the biology department at Thomas More College, which received $22,500 this week for new microscopes and other scientific equipment. The old microscopes were more than 25 years old.
"Some of the equipment has been there since my dad went to college there (in the early 1950s)," said Stephanie Renaker-Jansen, Renaker's daughter and CEO of the foundation. "We're working on updating the department."
Since 1998, Renaker-Jansen said the foundation has given more than $70,000 to the biology department.
With technology in the field always changing, it's money the department puts to good use.
"They certainly have improved the quality we can offer to our students," Dr. William Bryant, biology professor at Thomas More for 33 years, said of the foundation.
Bryant said the school has between 90 and 120 biology majors each year. According to the school, 20 percent of enrolled students have declared first majors in a medical-related field of study.
The foundation has also established a scholarship at Thomas More for biology and nursing students who live in Northern Kentucky and achieve certain educational requirements. It will be fully funded at the end of this year at $100,000.
Other past and present recipients of the foundation's generosity include Northern Kentucky University's Department of Nursing, Children's Home of Northern Kentucky, The Point in Covington and the Diocesan Catholic Children's Home.
"Dad has devoted his life to the practice of medicine and taking care of people," said Renaker-Jansen.
"It's very important to him."
"A lot of people have been good to me," said Renaker.
"I'm just paying them back."
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