June 7, 2005
By Jennifer Rogers
Ohio Senate President Bill Harris (Ashland) was honored as the first recipient of the Dan Schneider Strategic Leadership Award, which was presented at the 22nd Annual Ohio University State Government Alumni Luncheon on May 17 in Columbus, Ohio.
Named for the former director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), the director of the National Network for Child Safety and the Ohio University State Government Alumni Award winner of 1990, the Dan Schneider Strategic Leadership Award is meant to honor a person who leads by creating public value and inspiring others to make change for the better.
During her presentation of the award to Harris, Gayle Channing Tennenbaum, a PCSAO representative, said that Harris was chosen because of his public service career and leadership accomplishments.
"This award recognizes one's achievements - a person whose clear vision and dedicated service enhances both their profession and the lives they touch," Tennenbaum said. "Today, I have been asked to present the Dan Schneider Strategic Leadership Award, in memory of a truly remarkable human being to another remarkable human being, Sen. Bill Harris. This is indeed an honor for me to be able to remember my friend Dan and to present this award to someone Dan respected and admired very much."
Harris said it was humbling to be asked to accept an award for his work. "I know there are so many people who are much more deserving," he said. A longtime friend of Schneider's, Harris said it was his privilege to work alongside the former director of the National Network for Child Safety. "Maybe this award will help me follow in the footsteps Dan left on this earth. My prayer is that each one of us will strive to be the type of servant that Dan was," Harris said.
Harris, a retired Marine Corps officer and former small business owner in Ashland, Ohio, has been a member of the Ohio Senate since 2000 and was sworn in as president of the Ohio Senate in January 2005. He also served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1994 to 1999. Harris has chaired the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee and has been a member of the Education and Public Utility committees, the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission, the Controlling Board, the Legislative Committee on Education Oversight and the Legislative Service Commission. In the House, he served in several leadership positions, including Majority Whip.
"In every position that he has held he has done it with respect for all people and concern for the least of these among us," Tennebaum said of Harris. "Dan has been smiling down a lot these past few months as he has seen Sen. Harris give leadership and a voice to victims of sexual abuse and to persons with mental illness, and he is watching him now as he tries to present a budget that will bring Ohio's economy back and yet not leave the most vulnerable populations behind."
Dan Schneider served for 14 years as the director of the Knox County Department of Human Services before joining the PCSAO in 1987. He served as the executive director of the PCSAO until 2001, when he was named the director of the National Network for Child Safety. Schneider attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997 and applied the lessons he learned there to his work with the Voinovich Center, helping to develop the Ohio University Executive Leadership Institute (OUELI). OUELI has grown to include more than 800 participants and 100 organizations from 17 states. Schneider continued to serve as an OUELI faculty member and senior policy fellow for the Voinovich Center and hoped to one day include OUELI in the National Children's Infrastructure Network.
According to Mark Weinberg, Voinovich Center director and co-founder of OUELI, Schneider was passionate about children's issues and had a knack for leadership, qualities that are shared by Harris. "Dan was a unique individual in that the public and private Dan were the same," Weinberg said. "He was of high moral value as a public servant and as an individual."
Schneider, who died in 2003, received the Ohio University State Government Alumni Award in 1990 and was inducted into the Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee at the same time. Wanda and Mark Weinberg, in consultation with his family, established the Dan Schneider Strategic Leadership Award though the Ohio University Foundation last year to honor Schneider's contributions to the lives of children and families and to inspire continued leadership in public service professionals.
Jennifer Rogers is a graduate assistant at the Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs.