Al Rider leaps into a new role

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Editorial: Nov. 6, 2013

ISSUE: Al Rider steps down as foundation leader
A passionate voice for philanthropy, education

“Sometimes you have to leap without knowing where you’re going to land.”

In a January 2012 interview with this newspaper, Al Rider reflected on that statement as the wisest advice he ever received. Before a room filled with business and community leaders early last Friday morning, it appeared as if Rider will be acting upon this advice once again, taking a new leap in the coming months.

During the gathering at Nolin RECC, and in a voice cracking with emotion at times, Rider announced his retirement as president and CEO of the Central Kentucky Community Foundation. Speaking to friends and colleagues assembled, he said when an individual loves the work they do, it often can be hard to see clearly when it is time to step aside.

Rider went on to say, however, that the time has come in the life of Central Kentucky Community Foundation for “a new face, a fresh perspective, ideas and thinking.”

Ever the model of humility and lifting up another, Rider announced Davette Swiney, the foundation’s vice president, would be his successor to take the helm of the organization. Swiney steps into the leadership role Feb. 1.

It’s true it can be hard to leave an endeavor one loves. But for those who have had the privilege of working with him, it isn’t hard to see the love and passion Rider has for improving education and philanthropy in the community.

It was some 20 years ago when a telephone call to Rider delivered the request and invitation from the North Central Education Foundation to help with a fundraising campaign for then Elizabethtown Community College. At the time, Rider was working in Tennessee. He took a leave of absence to return home to Hardin County to lead the effort. Needless to say when looking at what Elizabethtown Community and Technical College has become, the campaign was a success.

From that time to today, Rider has been an influential and instrumental player in improving educational opportunities and, thereby, quality of life in Hardin County. His accomplishments along the way have been many.

Under his leadership, the North Central Education Foundation awarded more than $1 million in scholarships and loans to struggling members of the community seeking to improve their station in life. As the foundation’s executive, Rider worked tirelessly with other education, government and community leaders to morph the former Challenger Learning Center in Radcliff into a multi-institution education center hosting remote campus classrooms for six institutions. He served as Fort Knox education liaison during the post’s multi-year BRAC transformation process.

And most recently, Rider played an important part in merging NCEF and the Heartland Community Foundation into the Central Kentucky Community Foundation, expanding the mission of both foundations.

He has been an always-accessible resource to many who have sought and implemented his advice to the betterment of their organizational and cause.

Although his plans aren’t firm for the future, Rider says he will stay with the foundation in a part-time capacity for a time and will continue to serve the community he loves in other ways.

Let’s all hope so.

As Swiney alluded to in her comments during the announcement, Rider is known by many as the face of philanthropy in Hardin County. And his is a face we hope to see often as he steps into retirement.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.