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Two CISE Leaders named Greatest Living Cincinnatians

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Two of CISE’s most important leaders, Don Neyer and Harry Santen, have been named 2020 Greatest Living Cincinnatians. The award by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce is generally considered to be the finest honor given to Cincinnatians.

The honor to Don and Harry has special significance to CISE as its support for inner city Catholic parochial schools is in its 39th year.

Don and Harry have been involved since the beginning. When asked about their commitment to CISE, they had very similar answers to explain their involvement. “A good education is the surest way to break away from poverty,” said Don Neyer. “From the beginning CISE seemed to offer opportunities that weren’t available before.” Harry Santen said, “to me CISE was exciting from the start because it was bringing resources from throughout our community to make a major positive impact on the future of needy children.”

Don Neyer is the fourth generation of his family to head Al Neyer. As a champion of the design-build system for construction services he helped the company build its reputation of being ethical developers and contractors.

“And,” Don says, “since I’ve retired the company has done remarkable things and grown remarkably.”

Don’s involvement with and care about CISE can perhaps be seen in his own family. He has eight children, 32 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and six of his children live in the Cincinnati area.

Don’s business philosophy aligns closely with his CISE involvement. He and his wife Phyllis made a significant contribution in CISE’s early days and the contribution has continued.

Phyllis suffered third degree burns in a car accident in 1982 and Don never left her side. They moved into Twin Lakes in 2012 when Phyllis began to suffer from dementia. She passed away in 2016, but not before Don had received the Hamilton County Caregiver award for his dedication to Phyllis’s care.

At Twin Lakes he is involved and referred to as the unofficial Mayor. He also maintains the involvement he has shown with CISE, the Rotary Club, Stepping Stones, and Camp Allyn.
Don said that his values and the type of life he has led was the result of the type of life his parent instilled in him.

“They were fervent Catholics who made God first in our lives and I’ve continued that. Christ came here 2,000 years ago to give us two words to love and serve all who we meet,” Don said. “That’s been my criteria for all my working career and my joy since I’ve retired.”

Harry Santen has had a special involvement with CISE since its beginning and no one has spent more time serving to keep CISE strong, growing and adapting to the changing needs of CISE’s mission.

In CISE’s first year he served as a sixth grade teacher at St. Francis Seraph. He continued his 38-year involvement by serving as Chairman of the Board from 1991 to 2000 and as a member of the Executive Committee since. He also finds time to teach a pottery class at St. Francis Seraph.

“My biggest interest is in the education of inner-city children, many of whom are African-American. I have a passion for giving those children the ability to enter the mainstream, to become professionals and executives and to be good family people.”

In addition to his CISE contributions Harry has contributed to Cincinnati in many other ways.

In 1958 he, his father and brother William formed the law firm Santen & Santen, now Santen & Hughes. During his career Santen has often worked to correct inequities. In 1989 under the leadership of Judges Nathaniel Jones and Robert Black he helped to form the Roundtable whose goal was to increase diversity in Cincinnati law firms where diversity was often lacking. The Roundtable is still active.

Harry and his wife Ann have three children—a doctor, a lawyer and a pastor. They work and manage their own 200-acre farm in Felicity, Ohio.

Harry’s involvement in Cincinnati has also included a term as President of the Cincinnati Bar Association in 1991, three years as President of Cincinnati Opera from 1972 to 1975, membership in the Literary Club of Cincinnati, and President of the University of Cincinnati Law School Dean’s Council.

As President of the Dean’s Council had the privilege and honor of “hooding” his son Edward as a law school graduate. If he had to sum up what he has tried to do in his many involvements, Harry said. “it is to help people help themselves.”

For more on Catholic City Inner City Schools, click here

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