4C Announces Champions for Children

September 19, 2017


4C for Children will honor Father Michael Graham, S.J., and Diane Jordan-Grizzard as Champions for Children. Both will be celebrated at the 12th annual Champions for Children Gala to be held on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at JACK Cincinnati Casino.

“For more than a decade, 4C has celebrated the people who are on the forefront of early childhood,” stated 4C President/CEO Vanessa Freytag, “Every year we scan our community for the heroes and heroines who are striving to unlock the potential of our youngest children.”

Father Michael Graham has served as president of Xavier University since 2001 and is currently serving as the chair of the Cincinnati Preschool Promise Board. During his time as president, Father Graham has invigorated Xavier's Jesuit tradition of serving society by educating students intellectually, morally, and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity and service.

Under his leadership, Xavier has established an academic vision, increased the number of full-time faculty, enhanced interdisciplinary study and expanded academic service learning and study abroad. Father Graham’s passion to connect and collaborate with local and regional communities inspired him to establish the Community Building Collaborative as well as the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning, the hub of Xavier’s community engagement network.

That same passion led to his involvement with the Cincinnati Preschool Promise (CPP) and the passage of the levy to fund the initiative last November. Father Graham also serves on the boards for The Center for the Holocaust and Humanity Education, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Gonzaga University in Spokane, St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati and chairs the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Board of Directors.

Freytag stated, “Father Graham is the unsung hero who helps our community find common ground by reminding us of who is in need and who will be served through working together, even when there are multiple sides to an issue.”

Diane Jordan-Grizzard is director of strategic talent at BHDP Architecture and is a past chairperson and current member of the 4C for Children Board of Trustees. She also serves as the CEO/president of Thembi Speaks, a management consulting service she founded in 2004.

Diane has a long history of supporting early childhood education and parent involvement, including past roles with Head Start on both the local and regional level and as COO of Beech Acres Parenting Center. She was an Advisory Committee member of Children’s Defense Fund and a strategic partner to its Black Community Crusade for Children. An impetus to that involvement was her work in Liberia, West Africa, from 1979-1984 where she served as a doula, business owner and World Health Organization volunteer. The integration of these experiences with her formal studies inspires the framework she uses today to encourage individuals to unlock their purpose, passion, and power.

Diane is also involved with a number of local outreach efforts including the University of Cincinnati CECH Higher Education Mentoring Initiative and is a member of the Interact for Health Board and the YWCA Board of Directors. She has been recognized as a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement Honoree and was a finalist for the Cincinnati Chamber Women Excel Nonprofit Woman of the Year.

“Diane has dedicated much of her personal and professional life to children and families who have the greatest needs, and was one of the first advocates of our region’s early childhood movement,” stated Freytag. “4C benefitted from her passion for 12 years on our board, during which she helped create our strategic plans and shepherded the transition from founder and CEO Sallie Westheimer to our new leadership.”

Says Freytag, “We hope these stories inspire others in our community to continue the leadership these two have shown in service to children and families.”

Co-chairs Zamaris Geleszinski and Christy Stockton are leading the 4C Champions for Children Gala Committee, which also includes Katie Gawne, Lucy Gross, Veronica Sebald, Jill Warman and Jessica Woodward.

More information about the event visit