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Celebrating Our 2023 Virtue in Action and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Celebrating Our 2023 Virtue in Action and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

The Cincinnati Country Day School community honored two alumni during the 2023 Alumni Breakfast: Dick Durand `73 was named this year’s recipient of the Virtue in Action Award and Steve Lazarus `81 was selected as the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award.

“Every year on Homecoming weekend, it is my privilege to welcome alumni home to their alma mater – to our alma mater,” said Rob Zimmerman `98, head of school. “But this year as I look at the extraordinary and longstanding commitment demonstrated by our two honorees it seems to be more than merely a familiar cliché to call this a home for our alumni. In fact, if you combine all the years Dick and Steve have spent at Country Day as a student, parent, employee, and trustee, you get a staggering 85 years of active engagement.”

For the Distinguished Alumni designation, the Alumni Council elects one or more alumni in recognition of their contribution to the school, their contribution to the community, or their professional achievement. The Virtue in Action Award is given to an alum celebrating their 50th or greater reunion year whose volunteer service in their community exemplifies the school’s motto: Virtue in Action.

Durand, this year’s Virtue in Action Award recipient, has been an integral part of the Country Day community for 60 years. From his first day as a third grader in 1963, he has worn many Country Day hats: student, alumnus, parent, volunteer, employee, and trustee. Often juggling several of those hats at once, Durand has demonstrated a powerful commitment to serving Country Day.

While Durand’s contributions of time and energy have helped shape many elements of the Country Day experience, he has been particularly instrumental in the expansion and improvement of the school’s campus over the last 25 years. From helping to plan and oversee the construction of the Upper School building, the Early Childhood Center, and the Leonard Family Athletic Center, to managing the renovation of Broadwell House, he has literally left his mark on the Country Day campus.

“Country Day is a very different school than it would have been without Dick Durand, and the reminders are visible every day,” said Zimmerman. “We are grateful for Dick’s tremendous example of service and his commitment to Country Day over so many years.”

While he has given much of himself to Country Day, Durand has also made major impacts on the larger Cincinnati area through his award-winning volunteer service to the Cincinnati Children’s Home, the Inter Parish Ministries Food Pantry, and Camp Ernst. A true fan and student of the game of baseball, he has also spent many years coaching and promoting youth baseball throughout Ohio.

“Service to the community and school have been major priorities in my life,” explained Durand. “It is part of giving back for all the opportunities and things that have been given to me over the years. I have been very fortunate to have been able to support the school along with other organizations. I very much appreciate those who have sought out, welcomed, and embraced my advice, guidance, and knowledge. I am especially grateful to have been able to serve this school’s community for years in so many ways and to be able to help make a difference for the betterment of our students.”

Durand is the 11th recipient of the school’s Virtue in Action Award and Lazarus is the 61st recipient of the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

In May 2023, the CCDS Alumni Council unanimously selected Lazarus to be the recipient of the award.

A lifer who attended Country Day from kindergarten through graduation, Lazarus dove right back into the Country Day community after completing his collegiate and professional education. As a young lawyer only recently out of law school, he joined the Alumni Council in 1989 to champion the interests of alumni and to advance the school. Between 1989 and 2023, he gave 16 years of service to the council, helping to mold the council into an influential vehicle for alumni voices. For 14 of those 16 years, Lazarus also served as an alumni representative on the school’s Board of Trustees, and for the last three of those years, he was chair of the board’s finance committee. While he has been one of the school’s longest-serving trustees and one of its most dedicated alumni, his service to the school is not finished: Lazarus will continue to protect and promote the interests of the school as an at-large member of the Board of Trustees and as chair of the finance committee for another three-year term.

“Steve’s service has not just been exemplary; it has been extended,” said Zimmerman. “Since beginning his service to Country Day’s Alumni Council in 1989, Steve has been continuously engaged with Country Day every single year as a parent, Alumni Council representative, and trustee, up through today. Thanks in part to Steve’s volunteer leadership, Country Day began this school year with the highest opening enrollment in 20 years…. I am personally very grateful for Steve’s advice, support, and commitment, which has made me a better head of school. He has been the driving force behind so many good things here at Country Day.”

His dedication to Country Day and his love for the school are also reflected in Lazarus’s decision to send all four of his children to the school from their earliest years. Allison ’10, Meg ’13, Sam ’22, and Gertrude ’27 are all lifers.

“The Country Day I attended was a very different school than what exists today,” said Lazarus. “I have witnessed the school evolve from a very good school to an exceptional school. I am extremely optimistic for the school’s future given its strong foundation and terrific leadership team.”

In his professional life, Lazarus is a principal in the law firm of Lazarus & Lewis, where his practice focuses on the representation of public employees and their unions.

“My Country Day education was integral to my business success,” continued Lazarus. “Country Day taught me critical organizational skills and the ability to think independently. I also developed close bonds with the superb faculty members who helped foster a strong sense of my identity and self-confidence.”

For more than 30 years, he has been a powerful advocate for public employees, negotiating their labor contracts and protecting their rights in arbitration proceedings, disciplinary hearings, and court cases. Widely acclaimed as an expert in these fields, Lazarus is much in demand as a speaker, as a teacher, and as a panel participant throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

During the Alumni Breakfast on September 23, 2023, Zimmerman also acknowledged members of the Virtue in Action Society, a guild composed of alumni who are commemorating their 50th reunion or higher. “To those of you in the Class of 1973 and beyond, welcome back; we’re honored by your presence today and hope you enjoy reconnecting with classmates and sharing stories of your time on Given Road…. Nothing gives us more pleasure than connecting with alumni and linking our history to our future.”

Click here for pictures from the event.