Alumnus honors late wife with seven-figure gift to UC’s co-op program

Karen Hoeb’s career, leadership will continue to inspire many

When Bill Hoeb talks about his 56-year marriage to his late wife Karen, he shares that the University of Cincinnati, cooperative education and Cincinnati Milacron played a large role.

Bill, DAAP ’64, a Cincinnati native, recalls that his father told him at a very young age that he would attend UC because of their co-op program. Karen, BUS ’65, grew up in Indianapolis. She enrolled at UC after learning the co-op program would help her pay for college while she also gained on-the-job experience.

The couple — Bill, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, and Karen, a member of Alpha Chi Omega — met at a fraternity function. Their relationship quickly developed and they were married in August 1963. Bill had one year remaining until graduating and Karen had two. Marriage agreed with them… Karen spent her senior year on the dean’s list. 

woman and man sitting at table

Karen and Bill Hoeb.

Sadly, Karen died in March 2020. Bill thought about a way to celebrate the memory of a woman known for not only her career successes, but also her generosity, warmth, and kindness. He decided a gift to the co-op program at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business honored both Karen and their mutual experience.

A seven-figure estate gift to the Lindner College of Business will create the Karen Bennett Hoeb Directorship in Cooperative Education Endowment Fund. An additional fund — the William R. Hoeb Jr. and Karen Bennett Hoeb Cooperative Education Programmatic Support Fund — will assist with operational needs. 

This generous gift comes at a time of growth for UC’s co-op program, in particular at the Lindner College of Business. Over the next two years, co-op will become universal at Lindner. Every business student will complete multiple, paid, professional experiences before graduation. Bill’s gift will be transformational in its ability to help the college deliver quality professional development and experiences to students.  

“I’m grateful that Bill has chosen to honor Karen by supporting both the college and program she loved,” said Marianne Lewis, dean and professor of management at the Lindner College of Business. “Our data shows that students with multiple co-op experiences receive better job offers, higher salaries, and start their careers at a higher trajectory. This gift will allow us to elevate our existing co-op excellence, and further empower our students.”

Bill says Karen’s co-op and business experience allowed her to thrive in a field that wasn’t as receptive to women in the late 1960s. She did face obstacles, but persevered and succeeded with her skills and winning personality.

I can’t think of a better way to get the education you need than using your skills through UC’s co-op experience. Karen and I had a valuable experience at UC and want to ensure our community continues to benefit from the co-op program.

Bill Hoeb DAAP '64

In 1981, Karen was the only woman in a Cincinnati Post story featuring UC alumni who had benefited from co-op experiences. At the time, she was 38 and a vice president at Southern Ohio Bank. She was one of the first female leaders in Cincinnati’s banking industry. Among those interviewed for the article were UC basketball legend Oscar Robertson and former General Motors President Elliott Estes.

Karen went on to become the first salaried president and CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF), growing its assets from $65 million to $200 million. In 2003, she was named a Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year. From 2000 to 2007, she served as executive director of the Farmer Family Foundation.  

Throughout her career, Bill says Karen brought numerous friends into their lives and many became family. Among this close circle is Amy Cheney, the CEO of Crayons to Computers. Karen recruited Amy to work at GCF in the 1990s. 

“Karen was a role model for the kind of leader I want to be,” Cheney says. “I observed the value of being warm, welcoming, respectful and humble. She also demonstrated that nurturing the people around you is part of a leader’s role.”

I’m grateful that Bill has chosen to honor Karen by supporting both the college and program she loved.

Marianne Lewis Dean and Professor of Management at Lindner College of Business

Bill’s career was influenced by his co-op experience at Milacron and he joined the company after graduation. He proudly notes that Milacron and UC have a long co-op partnership. As one of UC’s first co-op partners in 1906, Milacron hired the first student to graduate from the program.

The co-op connection doesn’t stop there. Bill went on to manage the co-op program at Milacron and served as a board member of the Cooperative Education Association and president of the Ohio Cooperative Education Association, winning awards for his efforts.

I can’t think of a better way to get the education you need than using your skills through UC’s co-op experience,” he says. “Karen and I had a valuable experience at UC and want to ensure our community continues to benefit from the co-op program.”

Featured image at top: Karen and Bill Hoeb in 1965. Photo/Provided.

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