Kobacker family to receive Spirit of Denny Griffith award

John S. Kobacker and his wife, Catherine Chapin Kobacker, are the 2018 recipients of Columbus College of Art & Design’s Spirit of Denny Griffith Award.

The recognition is “a great honor,” said John Kobacker—but a bittersweet one, too.

“I am really sorry Denny won’t be here. You miss your friends,” he said. “I am glad Denny has a legacy like this at CCAD, that the community cared enough about the college and Denny to put this in place.”

The Spirit of Denny Griffith Award celebrates the legacy of the late CCAD president who led the college from 1998 to 2014. The award, begun in 2016, honors a volunteer or volunteers for their service to the college.

John Kobacker, who served his first of multiple terms on CCAD’s Board of Trustees in 2001, says his family has committed time and financial resources to the college because “we care a lot about education.”

“We’re more drawn to smaller institutions because we have a better understanding of how a smaller institution operates and can better interact with decision makers,” Kobacker said.

CCAD is a college—not an art school, Kobacker is quick to point out, with a nod to his old friend. “I think Denny recognized how education is significantly changing. It’s a revolution, if you will, in terms of the disciplines such as illustration, animation, and fashion design. I think Denny understood that in order to survive and succeed and prepare students for meaningful careers, the perception had to be completely uprooted from art school to college.”

“I think corporations now understand the concepts of design are in everything we do,” he noted. And students are gaining a greater understanding they need to both hone their creative skills and understand what it’s like to work in a business environment and sell themselves as entrepreneurs.

CCAD’s current president, Dr. Melanie Corn, has brought a good understanding of “what we need going forward,” said Kobacker. “She understands what disciplines will be needed 30 years from now, and talks about a sustainable financial model for the institution.”

The Kobackers, longtime CCAD Fashion Show host committee members, have provided significant and continued financial support to the college, including the Design Studios on Broad, and, most recently, CCAD’s new Cloyd Family Animation Center. John Kobacker’s service as a CCAD trustee included time as the board’s treasurer and chair.

The Kobacker family’s charitable impact in central Ohio—primarily via the Jerome M. Kobacker Foundation started by John Kobacker’s grandfather and with Kobacker’s son, James, as a fourth-generation trustee—touches not only CCAD but many places beyond.

John Kobacker, president and CEO of Marlenko Group, is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization and has been a member of nonprofit boards including the Wexner Center Foundation, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Development Board, as well as Ingram White Castle Foundation.

Catherine Chapin Kobacker has a longtime passion for hospice work, serving as a home care volunteer and member of the Riverside and Grant Hospice Board of Directors. She has also served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, Columbus Academy, and the YWCA. She is a founding member of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and of the Matriots.