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Mary Joan Riehm

RIEHM, MARY JOAN, 62, died Sunday, January 20, 2008, after battling pancreatic cancer for many months. Joan was born June 17, 1945, the daughter of Charles E. and Katherine Grigsby Riehm. After graduating from Sacred Heart Academy and Ursuline College (now Bellarmine University), she received two master's degrees, in journalism from Northwestern University, and in community development from the University of Louisville. Joan's distinguished career in communications, public service and civic affairs spanned more than three decades - beginning as a journalist at Louisville's Courier-Journal and culminating in her serving for 15 years as deputy mayor of the city of Louisville. She worked for The Courier-Journal from 1968 - 1973 as a reporter covering religion and urban affairs, and as editor of a weekly environmental section. She worked as a news editor for two weekly newspapers in the U.S. Virgin Islands before being appointed to serve as press secretary to Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane from 1974 to 1977. When Mayor Sloane left office, Joan became director of communications for the Kentucky Department for Human Resources, then served as manager of government relations for Humana, Inc., from 1979 through 1985. In 1985, then-newly-elected mayor Jerry Abramson appointed Joan the first woman deputy mayor of the city of Louisville, a post she held through 1995 and, again, from 2003 through 2006. In her first eleven years as deputy mayor, Joan oversaw economic and community development, human services and educational initiatives for the city. She was also the driving force behind a variety of mayoral initiatives, including downtown, waterfront and neighborhood development projects and the creation of programs like the Urban Workshops and Operation Brightside. She left city government in 1996 to become a consultant specializing in public issues management and communication. Her many clients included the Downtown Development Corporation, Jefferson County Public Schools, Greater Louisville Inc., River Fields, Inc., Louisville Area Workforce Development Council, Louisville Water Company, Louisville Community Development Bank, the City of Louisville and a number of area universities. Excited by the opportunity to help develop a new metro government after voters approved city-county merger in 2000, Joan decided to return to local government. She was invited by Mayor Abramson to co-chair his merger transition team in 2002, and then to join his administration as a deputy mayor and chief point person for government reorganization and implementation of the mayor's strategic plan. Joan became recognized nationally as an expert on local government reorganization. She was also a leader in regional development efforts, serving as founding director and coordinator of the 23-county Regional Leadership Coalition and as chair of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a national organization promoting regional development across the country. In recent years, she traveled to dozens of cities across the country, educating leaders about Louisville's successful government merger and regional cooperation efforts. She also co-authored A Guide to Successful Local Government Collaboration in America's Regions, published by the Alliance for Regional Stewardship and the National League of Cities. Joan was a vibrant, dynamic community leader throughout her life, with an abiding love for the City of Louisville and a commitment to service for the public good. She was particularly passionate about women's issues, education, the environment and the beautification of Louisville. Joan was one of the driving forces behind Benchmark 2000, a community-wide effort to document the status of women and girls in Jefferson County at the millennium, which led to the creation of Women 4 Women. She served on the boards of Operation Brightside, Norton Healthcare, Louisville Central Area, Inc., Louisville Planned Parenthood and the Jefferson County Air Pollution Control Agency. She also served on the board of overseers for Bellarmine University and on the advisory board of the University of Louisville's College of Business. Her leadership and mentorship as an alumna of the Leadership Louisville program led to the board's recent creation of the Joan Riehm Women's Leadership Fund. She was also a cofounder and board member of the Leadership Kentucky program, and founder and chair of The Louisville Store, a non-profit venture to sell Louisville-related products. Joan was widely respected and admired for her wisdom, integrity, optimism, incisiveness, determination and masterful organizational skills. She was named one of the 50 most powerful people in Louisville by Louisville Magazine and Most Admired Woman in Politics by Today's Woman magazine. She received a number of prestigious community awards, including the Jack Paxton Award for Service from Leadership Kentucky, the Jefferson Award for Community Service from Jefferson Community and Technical College, the Order of Merit Award from the University of Louisville Alumni Association and the Tower Award for Women Leaders from Presentation Academy. She was named Alumna of the Year by both Sacred Heart Academy and the University of Louisville College Of Business, and an Outstanding Catholic School Alumna by the Archdiocese of Louisville. Joan had a great capacity for friendship and was famous for sending unique handmade greeting cards with poems and messages she collected and wanted to share. She loved her garden, and traveled extensively with her husband Mel. Joan greatly appreciated the many cards, flowers and mementos that her legions of friends sent her during her long illness. Joan was preceded in death by her parents and by a brother, James Dennis Riehm, M.D. She is survived by her beloved husband of 21 years, Dr. Melvin E. Greer, chairman emeritus of the University of Louisville's Department of Philosophy; a stepson, Boyce Greer, his wife Anne and grandchildren Tessa, Cory and Riley; a sister, Louisa "Weda" Riehm; two brothers, Charles E. Riehm, Jr. (Edith H.), Atlanta GA, and John G. Riehm, M.D. (Rose S.); a sister-in-law, Janie May Riehm, Bowling Green, KY; twelve nieces and nephews: William, Katherine, and Amy Mapother; Chuck Riehm (Kathy), Steve Riehm (Margaret), Eric Riehm, Cathy Riehm, Julie Riehm McGuffey (Keith), Jonathan Riehm, Rachel Riehm Hawkins (Curt), Amelia Riehm Cook (Ryan), Jordan Riehm; and 11 great nieces and nephews. The public is invited to celebrate Joan's life and legacy at a memorial service to be held at The Olmsted, 3701 Frankfort Ave. Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. Her family has requested that expressions of sympathy take the form of a donation to one of Joan's favorite charities: Brightside ,c/o Louisville Metro Department of Neighborhoods, 400 S. First St.,Louisville KY 40202; The Louisville Free Public Library Foundation, 301 W. York St., Louisville, KY 40202; Joan Riehm Women's Leadership Fund Leadership Louisville Center, 732 W. Main St., Louisville KY 40202
Published in The Courier-Journal from Jan. 22 to Jan. 23, 2008
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