When Perry Thatcher sat around, envisioning his next idea, he often asked anyone who would listen: “What if?”
That question was answered with loud applause and a few tears Tuesday morning when the Thatcher Family Wing was dedicated at Cincinnati State Middletown. Thatcher was one of the leading forces behind convincing Cincinnati State to open a branch campus in downtown Middletown. And since his death four years ago, his estate has given a $200,000 endowed gift to the college to establish a scholarship fund to support students.
Two of his daughters, Sheree Garrett and Kathie Wassenich, unveiled the 120-pound bronze plaque emblazoned with Thatcher’s image near the elevator in the main entrance as a large crowd of Middletown dignitaries watched. In part, the plaque reads: “Perry Thatcher was a self-made man, an industrial designer and entrepreneur known for his intellectual curiosity.”
Wassenich said when her 79-year-old father died Jan. 28, 2010, their “world was forever changed.” She said Middletown lost one of its “biggest supporters,” but through Cincinnati State, his legacy and hopes for Middletown growth can continue. She said Cincinnati State was “a huge part” of her father’s dream.
“It is our hope that it also will mean something to all Middletown families now and in the future,” she said.
Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens called the unveiling of the plaque, which was delayed more than a week because of inclement weather, “an exciting and important event” for the city and the university.
He said Thatcher continued recruiting Cincinnati State even as he became seriously ill. He said the success of Cincinnati State Middletown, which has seen increases in its enrollment, shows the “power of one.”
Then he added that as long as Cincinnati State is open, “a part of Perry will always be here.” He said it was important that current students and those who follow, understand the role Thatcher played.
Bob Fairchild, one of Thatcher’s longtime business partners, called Thatcher an incredible man, “a community servant.”
“He always challenged himself,” Fairchild said.
Thatcher co-founded numerous businesses including Precision Packaging Services Corp. and Ample Industries, and later owned the Manchester Inn. Education also was important to Thatcher, said Fairchild, vice president of the folding carton division of Huhtamaki, which acquired Franklin-based Ample Industries.
He said Thatcher started his career without a college degree, which he acquired later in life. He said Thatcher frequently emphasized the value of education.
“He was a thinker,” Fairchild said.