Hamilton County
Education Foundation

Starry Horizon with HCEF
Starry Night with HCEF

Celebrate Excellence is a fundraising event and opportunity to honor educators and other dedicated individuals in Hamilton County’s public schools.

The HCEF Scholarship program is designed to assist educators and related service personnel in advancing their career in Special Education.

You can support the Hamilton County Education Foundation in a number of ways — from attending the Celebrate Excellence event to making a contribution.

About Us

The Hamilton County Education Foundation supports and enhances the lives of educators through the provision of scholarships and recognition of their service to the students in our community.

In 2006, the Hamilton County Education Foundation (HCEF) was established by the governing board of the Hamilton County Educational Service Center (HCESC) as a separate, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.


Our Vision

Each year, the HCEF honors the Educators of the Year from the public school districts throughout the county at its annual Celebrate Excellence event. The event serves to honor these educators for their accomplishments, as well as raise funds through sponsorship, individual donations, and grants. The proceeds, in turn, provide scholarships to teachers already working in a Hamilton County public school who are pursuing their Master’s Degree in Special Education.

Providing these scholarships helps to address the local and growing national shortage of Special Education teachers and related service personnel. The shortage issue, as well as the fact that HCESC is one of the largest employers of Special Education personnel in Southwest Ohio, serves as a key driver behind the establishment of these scholarships.

Celebrate Excellence, held on a Friday morning in May, brings together education, business, and civic leaders to pay tribute to the outstanding educators from across the county who have been selected by their school districts.

Our Mission

  • Provide college scholarships to administrators/teachers majoring in Special Education and other related fields of study on an annual basis.
  • Recognize, honor, and learn from educators who exemplify the best in their profession.
  • Make financial resources available to individuals or public education organizations for the purpose of professional development.
  • Make financial resources available to individuals or public education organizations for the use of creative best practices.

What is Celebrate Excellence?

Play Video

Hamilton County Education Foundation’s goal for Celebrate Excellence transcends its purpose as the main fundraising event for the scholarship fund. It is an opportunity to publicly honor the dedicated individuals who serve as a parent, pastor, friend, adviser, protector, confidant, and teacher to the children in Hamilton County’s public schools on a daily basis. Each district in the county is invited to submit their own top educator, which includes not only classroom teachers, but all certified personnel.

Past honorees have included special education teachers, music directors, principals, intervention specialists, guidance counselors, and classroom teachers.

The event is unique in that it brings K-12 education, university, business, and civic leaders together to pay tribute to this impressive group. Since the inaugural event in 2007, former Cincinnati Bengal and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Anthony Munoz has served as Master of Ceremonies, except in 2016, when award-winning news anchor, Clyde Gray filled in for him.

Keynote Speakers:

2020 & 2021 – Event not held due to COVID-19 pandemic; see video celebrating all staff & educators for the 2020-2021 school year.
2019 – Tanya O’Rourke, News Anchor, WCPO_TV
2018 – Jim Mahoney, Ph.D., Executive Director Emeritus, Batelle for Kids, Executive in Residence, Ohio University
2017 – Dr. Thomas Tucker, Superintendent, Princeton City Schools, AAASA 2016 National Superintendent of the Year
2016 – Kathy Nimmer, Indiana Teacher of the Year 2016
2015 – O’dell Owens, President, Cincinnati State
2014 – Clyde Gray, WCPO’s “9 On Your Side” award-winning news anchor/reporter
2013 – Dr. Mark Meyers, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Social Sciences, Health & Education, Xavier University
2012 – Krista Ramsey, Columnist & Editorial Board, Cincinnati Enquirer
2011 – Anthony Munoz, President, The Anthony Munoz Foundation
2010 – Jim Mahoney, Executive Director, Battelle for Kids
2009 – Marilyn Troyer, Senior Associate Superintendent for Educational Programs, Ohio Department of Education
2008 – Nancy Zimpher, President, University of Cincinnati
2007 – Sharon Draper, Award-winning author and 1997 National Teacher of the Year

Celebrate Excellence is a sit-down breakfast event held in the ballroom at the Sharonville Convention Center on a Friday morning in May. Each educator is accompanied by their superintendent and a guest. Many are also joined by members of their board, fellow staff, students, and even their former teachers! They are individually introduced to the audience and presented with a plaque by the emcee.

The leadership of the HCEF believes that through the provision of more scholarships to K – 12 educators to complete their Master’s, as well as recognizing the achievements of local educators through Celebrate Excellence, more outstanding educators will choose to serve the children and communities of Southwest Ohio.

Collage of photos - click me for individual pictures.
Click to find images from Celebrate Excellence 2008-2019.

HCEF Scholarship Program

Across the nation, a shortage of Special Education teachers and related service personnel continues to grow. The Hamilton County Educational Service Center is one of the largest employers of Special Education personnel in Southwest Ohio. These two factors serve as key drivers behind the Hamilton County Education Foundation scholarship award.

The HCEF Scholarship Program is designed to provide an incentive to pursue an advanced career path in Special Education. While the problem is national, HCEF hopes to make a difference at our local level by providing financial support to a local teacher who, in turn, will support our students’ Special Education needs.

HCEF presented its inaugural scholarship in 2008 – one year after the first Celebrate Excellence educator recognition breakfast. This first scholarship was established in partnership with the University of Cincinnati College of Education, Criminal Justice and Health Services. The University of Cincinnati (UC) has since awarded six scholarships to current K-12 educators employed by a public school district in Hamilton County who are pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education or other related fields.

In 2009, the Xavier University College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education became the second partner, and has since awarded four scholarships to their graduate program.

Each scholarship award is equal to one semester of tuition. The ideal candidate is committed to working public education and will pursue their Master’s Degree in a Special Education or other related field.

HCEF, in partnership with Xavier University, awarded a scholarship to Tiera Anderson, a math teacher from Purcell Marion High School, at the 2016 Celebrate Excellence event.


To be eligible to receive a scholarship, applicants must:

  • Be currently employed as a full-time teacher in a public school district in Hamilton County.
  • Demonstrate commitment to education in public schools.
  • Be currently enrolled in the Master’s Degree Program in Special Education or related field at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, or intend to enroll in one of these programs for the summer or fall quarters.

If the nominee for the scholarship is not currently enrolled in a Special Education Program at the University of Cincinnati or Xavier University, the nominee must meet the criteria and be accepted during the academic year following the award.

The scholarship recipients will be notified by May 1st and must attend the Celebrate Excellence breakfast at the Sharonville Convention Center on the day of the event.


Applications for this year are currently closed. Be sure to check back for 2021-2022.

Want to Learn More?

For more information about the HCEF Scholarship Award, please contact:

Karen Muse

Tracy Mielke

For more information about the Master’s Degree in Special Education at the University of Cincinnati, please contact:

Dr. Regina Sapona
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

For additional information about the Master’s Degree in Education at Xavier University, please contact:

Dr. Sharon Merrill
Director of Special Education

Get Involved

You can support the Hamilton County Education Foundation in a number of ways – from attending the Celebrate Excellence annual recognition breakfast to making a contribution. Financial gifts received are designated for unrestricted use unless otherwise noted by the donor.

The HCEF is a 501(c)(3) organization and can accept gifts, such as:

Making a Donation

Levels of support range from a $10,000 Platinum-level sponsor to a sponsorship of a breakfast table at $500. Each level of giving has a recognition package. For more information, please visit the Support Excellence page.

Sponsorship and Corporate Giving

The Foundation welcomes corporate participation through annual financial support, in-kind giving, and sponsorship of the Celebrate Excellence event.

Honorary and Memorial Gifts

Honor a birthday, anniversary, or graduation with a contribution to the Foundation. Funds established honor living or deceased family members, friends, and Hamilton County ESC employees.

Casual Fridays

HCESC employees can support the Foundation by purchasing a “Hamilton County Education Foundation” logo shirt here to wear to work on Fridays.

We encourage you as a friend of HCEF to make a personal contribution. Donations meeting applicable provisions are tax deductible.

Thank You!

Karen Muse serves as the President and CEO of the Hamilton County Education Foundation. She supports the Hamilton County Educational Service Center programs by planning, leading, and evaluating overall development with the business and community organizations. She also coordinates the Munich Teacher Exchange Program that has been an HCESC project for more than twenty years.Karen has been active with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, working on the Qualified Workforce goal of Agenda 360, as well as the Strive Education Initiative. Karen’s previous experience includes Grades K-12 administrative and counseling positions, as well as teaching counseling classes for the University of Dayton. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio University, Master’s from the University of Dayton, and Doctorate from Ohio University. Board of Directors
  • Karen Muse, President/CEO
  • Dave Distel, Chairperson
  • Larry Johnson, Secretary
  • Dave Horine, Treasurer
  • John Bryant
  • Mat Dutkiewicz
  • Adrienne James
  • Leslie Kreines
  • Bronston McCord
  • Rick Theders
  • Greg Wheeler

Contact us

    The Hamilton County Education Foundation office is located at the Hamilton County Educational Service Center:

    Karen Muse

    Tracy Mielke