Stephanie A. Hightower
President & Chief Executive Officer
Columbus Urban League
Stephanie A. Hightower is the eighth, and first female President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League—Columbus’ oldest and most successful urban family advocate. Since taking the helm in 2011, Ms. Hightower has transformed the organization into a more relevant and effective force in helping individuals and families overcome poverty and achieve self-sufficiency— today’s civil rights struggle—by offering a holistic set of initiatives focused on economic transformation, foundational education and family stabilization to touch and transform the lives of more than 7,000 people a year.
Columbus Urban League stands as Central Ohio’s oldest and most successful family advocate. Fighting for equity and justice for nearly a century, our agency’s wrap-around family strategies and personal mentoring efforts include early learning and after-school education, workforce readiness and career coaching, ex-offender re-entry and fatherhood coaching, financial capabilities, housing advocacy and foreclosure prevention, and family stabilization. Under Ms. Hightower’s leadership, Columbus Urban League has met and exceeded ambitious goals around four critical initiatives centered on foundational education, economic transformation, family stabilization, and organizational sustainability. Within a three-year period, the agency has achieved unprecedented success by ensuring nine out of 10 of its Head Start program graduates enter kindergarten reading or reading-ready; assisting more than 500 hard-to-place chronically unemployed individuals in secured full-time jobs; putting 700 young people to work through a summer youth employment program that provided more than $900,000 in income for their families; and securing the philanthropic investments of the city’s major business partners to complete a $3 million community campaign.
Formerly Vice President of Institutional Advancement for the Columbus College of Art & Design, Ms. Hightower exceeded eight-digit development and fundraising goals for capital improvements and endowment growth. She also served as President of the Columbus school board from 2001-2005, a $1.3 billion enterprise.
Ms. Hightower is among the greatest student athletes in the history of Ohio State, and one of the highest profile female track athletes of the late 1970s and early 80s. Ms. Hightower was a world record holder, 1980 Olympian and was an NCAA and Big 10 champion in the hurdles. From 1977 to 1980 at Ohio State, she was undefeated in Big 10 competition. Ms. Hightower now holds a position on the International Associate of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
Ms. Hightower’s additional civic involvement includes: Future Ready Columbus, Community Engagement Council, Chair; City Council President Zach Klein's Advisory Committee; African American Leadership Academy, Advisory Board; US Bank, Advisory Officer; Columbus Zoo, Board of Directors, Member at Large; Columbus School for Girls, Board Member; and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, Advisory Board.
She is mother to Cameron Baker, a graduate of Haverford College and Contract Analyst at Cardinal Health.