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CEO/Founder honored as 2024 A. Monroe Courtright Award

Rick Bannister honored with A. Monroe Courtright Award

Apr 29, 2024


Rick Bannister was honored with the Rotary Club of Westerville’s 2024 A. Monroe Courtright Volunteer Service Award at the club’s weekly luncheon Thursday, April 25.

The award is presented by the club each spring to recognize outstanding volunteer community service by a local individual or organization that is both “significant and sustained.” This service must come without pay, and not as part of one’s paid job.

Courtright was the longtime publisher of Westerville’s historic hometown newspaper, The Public Opinion, and also was a charter member the Rotary Club of Westerville. He died unexpectedly just a month into his term as the club’s president in 1977, and the club launched the award in his honor.

Bannister, a 50-year resident and 1980 graduate of Westerville South High School, served for five years on the Westerville Board of Education, and has volunteered to run seven district levy campaigns over the years.

He left his job as Chief Operating Officer of the Ohio State Bar Association to, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2017, launch Neighborhood Bridges, an organization that seeks to bridge donations from the community to school district students in need, to eliminate barriers to student success.

Neighborhood Bridges has grown from a single community (Westerville) in 2017 to serve 52 communities in Ohio, Alabama, and Mississippi in 2024. It is poised to extend to nationwide impact in the foreseeable future. The charity has directly impacted more than 433.000 students and families. Last year alone, its total charitable distributions exceeded $2 million dollars.

Bannister is a past member of the Rotary Club of Westerville, and current member of the Westerville Sunrise club.

Gifted with a smooth baritone voice, Bannister for many years also was known as, “The Voice of Westerville South Athletics,” for donating his time to announce sporting events at Westerville South. From the enrollment of his oldest daughter at South to the graduation of his youngest, for 20 years he volunteered as the public address announcer of South football, boys and girls basketball, and girls soccer games.

Also calling games for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Otterbein University, and for the Ohio State Buckeyes (OSU men’s and women’s soccer, women’s national champion ice hockey, baseball and softball), he called more than 1,400 athletic and special events.

Bannister has won nearly every significant community service award in Westerville and many regional accolades, including the City of Westerville’s Champion of Westerville award (2020), the Columbus Dispatch’s Everyday Heroes Award (2019), the Ohio State School Boards Association’s Friend of Education Award (2019), and the Rotary Club of Westerville Sunrise’s Community Service Award (2012). He is the only member of the Student, Alumni and Athletic Halls of Fame at Westerville South High School.

Longtime Rotarian Brent Rosenthal, a past president of the Westerville club and past governor of Rotary District 6690, nominated Bannister for this year’s Courtright Award. In announcing the honor during the April 18 luncheon The Medallion Club, Rosenthal said,

“While many of us have known Rick for years and are aware of his deep involvement in the City of WesterviIIe, I don’t believe many of us understand the full depth, breadth and length of his service to our community. Especially impressive is how many people have benefited from his selfless devotion to service.”

“In my long Rotary career, I have been privileged to serve with outstanding Rotarians and leaders at the club, district, and zone levels, and even directly with RI presidents and the international board. In all that, I can say without exaggeration that I have never met any person, Rotarian or otherwise, who lives and exemplifies the ideal of ‘Service Above Self’ to the extent Rick Bannister does,” Rosenthal said. “He is certainly most worthy of the Rotary Club of Westerville 2024 A. Monroe Courtright Award.”

John Oleyar, chairman of the club’s Courtright Award Committee, similarly praised Bannister’s service to the community – both the well-publicized, and little-known, behind-the-scenes work. He credited Bannister’s work with ending disputes two decades ago between the city and school district over tax abatements, helping to forge a “make-whole” agreement between the School Board and City Council.

“Although many of Rick’s community contributions are known publicly, there’s a great deal more for which he will never receive recognition. He’s a very worthy choice for this year’s award,” Oleyar said.

In accepting the Courtright Award April 18, Bannister dedicated the honor to his wife, Diane, crediting her with all the success he has enjoyed pofessionally, and all his capacity to provide volunteer service in Westerville. The two began dating while seniors at Westerville South High School and continued dating throughout their years at Ohio State.

Rick and Diane have four daughters, all South graduates – Hayley, Amy, and Lindsay who are college graduates, and Riley, who is a sophomore majoring in musical theater performance at Western Michigan University. Rick and Diane enjoy five grandchildren: Theodore, Opal, Charlie, Arthur, and Arlo.

PHOTO (ABOVE): From left, Rotary Club of Westerville President Katrina Plourde, Courtright Award Committee Chairman John Oleyar, Past President and District Governor Brent Rosenthal, 2024 A. Monroe Courtright Award winner Rick Bannister and his wife, Diane Bannister. Upon being presented with the award April 18, Rick dedicated the honor to Diane, crediting her with all the success he has enjoyed professionally, and all his capacity to provide volunteer service in Westerville.

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