Visalia Campus Director is Named 2015 “Man of the Year”
Campus Director Donn Ritter could already claim the BMOC (Big Man on Campus) tag if put to vote on the Visalia campus. But the Visalia Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him yet another appreciative title – Man of the Year – at their recent annual awards dinner held at the Visalia Convention Center this month.
This award recognizes outstanding community service, leadership and support by an individual whose service goes way beyond professional job description and financial contributions. It is an award for those who have made a personal commitment to represent, lead and energize any worthwhile group, organization or cause that forwards progress in the community.
“There are many unsung heroes out there who probably do a lot more than I do, but just don’t get the acknowledgement,” says Donn. “They’re doing it for the same reason I am…to make the world a little better place.”
More than 600 Chamber members, their families and friends attended this annual dinner and awards ceremony that also recognized those who earned community appreciation for their service in six other categories: Woman of the Year, Emerging Leader, Small Business of the Year, Medium-sized Business of the Year, Large Business of the Year and Non-profit of the Year.
Donn was deeply touched by Emerging Leader recipient Matt Seals’ acceptance speech when Matt said, “I want to thank Donn Ritter because he taught me how to be a leader, and how to have fun being a leader.”
Donn’s community involvement and leadership has been demonstrated in various roles over many years. He has sat on and presided over many local organizations at the helm of service, support and growth in the Visalia community. Among those organizations are Sunset Rotary (founding President), CASA (past President), Visalia Chamber of Commerce (past President), Happy Trails Riding Academy, Boy Scouts of America and the Bethlehem Center, which serves the homeless population of Visalia.
“At The Bethlehem Center, we do a lot of good work just helping people meet their basic needs of food and clothing,” says Donn who, along with other volunteers, bring their own BBQ to host meals for those on the fringe of society. “It brings us into direct contact with those we are helping,” he says. “They come up and thank us, which we don’t usually get when it isn’t person-to-person.”
Donn’s good works and humanitarian spirit make him an even more effective Campus Director in Visalia.
“Donn has provided our community with his many gifts of time, dedication, leadership and attention to detail,” says Mark Perry, SJVC President. “These are the attributes we all look for in our employees and in those who serve on our Boards. We are thankful that Donn has joined our team, and as a Campus Director will foster like-minded young people who might follow in his footsteps and also become pillars of our community.”
Donn’s family, wife Frony and sons Cale and Getty were at the Chamber awards ceremony to witness his special recognition. None knew, until that evening, that Donn would be this year’s Man of the Year recipient. Still, there was no surprise in their hearts that Donn received such an award.
As Donn acknowledged to the assembled and appreciative audience: “Thirty-five years ago when I met Frony – who would later become my wife – she told me something important. ‘I don’t want to marry someone who wants to watch history being made; I want to marry someone who makes history.'”
“I never thought I could make history, but I guess I got to in my own little way.”
Visalia is grateful for the big ways in which Donn has marked this community and for the sizable footprints he has made for other shoes to shadow.