DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENT
Susan Abernethy Frank
Susan (Heil) Abernethy Frank, a graduate of Mariemont High School’s class of 1960, has left an indelible mark on the fashion and retail industry in Cincinnati. Susan’s family moved to Terrace Park in the early 1940s and she returned as an adult to raise her own children. Her remarkable career in fashion and her extraordinary volunteer efforts in the community make her a truly distinguished alumnus of Mariemont High School.
Back in the 1960s, Cincinnati was a fashion go-to destination with the top department stores attracting high-end customers from all over the Midwest. Stores like Shillito’s, McAlpin’s, Pogue’s and Gidding Jenny made a lasting impact on the retail landscape of Cincinnati, and Susan a key figure in making this happen.
She began her career in 1964 with Shillito’s and quickly became a notable figure in the world of fashion, working as a show producer, special events coordinator, and public relations director. She retired from full time work to motherhood for a time, and later returned after years of free-lance and volunteering. Finding time to balance between family and career, Susan’s innovative work extended to youth engagement, where she initiated and managed programs to attract the younger generation to the world of fashion and especially self-improvement through classes, fashion shows and other special events.
As the Fashion Director for Gidding Jenny, she orchestrated high-profile events with renowned designers like Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass. She oversaw their famous Gidding Jenny Bridal Show, which attracted people from all over to attend. Susan’s work caught the eye of Neil Bortz of Towne Properties, as he was reorganizing Kenwood Towne Center, and he hired her for all marketing and PR, eventually running fashion events as well.
In addition to her career, Susan has devoted her life to community service, volunteering with all the school district PTOs, as PTO President in Terrace Park Elementary, as a coach and statistician, scout leader, traveling to Appalachia and setting up programs with InterParish ministries, Junior League volunteer and through teaching a self-esteem program for teenage girls. Even after leaving Terrace Park, Susan became the President of the Terrace Park Historical Society.
At a city level, Susan was on the board and volunteered for various organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Wellness Community, Emmanual Community Center in OTR Elementary Schools, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the East Rowe Historic District in Newport, and the Cincinnati Parks Foundation board. She helped grow support in starting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and remains a docent at the Museum. Her dedication to mentoring and her involvement with the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative are testaments to her commitment to helping others. It’s no surprise that Susan was recognized as a Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the year in 2011, one of the most prestigious awards for women the region.