Donna Wiesenhahn: One of a Kind; Colleagues Pay Tribute to Respected Bluegrass Prevention Director

By John Lynch

donna-wiesenhahnLike everyone who has worked with Donna Wiesenhahn, the Bluegrass Prevention director, Laura Nagle considers July 31, the date of Wiesenhahn’s retirement, a sad day.

“I am thrilled that Donna is able to begin her next adventure,” said Nagle, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Coordinator.

“At the same time, I am trying hard not to be heartbroken about it.”

After nearly three decades of tireless effort improving the community in terms of drug, alcohol and prescription pill abuse, Wiesenhahn will retire at the end of this month.

Wiesenhahn will be remembered for her open-mindedness, commitment to the cause, sense of humor and her supportive, nurturing leadership style.

“She always made me feel that I made a contribution,” said Marianne Blodgett, who worked with Wiesenhahn on the Keep It Real anti-underage drinking campaign.

“She was always so appreciative of everyone who served. That was a real gift she had.”

Blodgett’s sentiments were echoed by numerous colleagues.

As Wiesenhahn enters retirement planning to travel and spend time with family, her colleagues recall her contributions.

Marianne Blodgett: Retired city government worker. Worked with Wiesenhahn on Champions against Drugs campaign in 1980s; with the Mayor’s Alliance and Fayette County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, and the Keep It Real campaign, 2004-2013.

Scientific Approach
“Donna led us through an era when we switched our focus from just awareness to proven results.

“This was a more scientific approach with surveys and experts from other fields, and Donna led the charge with this.

“Our programs responded to the data we collected and that made all the difference in the community.”

Jan Chumley: Bluegrass Prevention office manager. Hired by Wiesenhahn in 1998.

Leadership Style
“She was great at motivating me to do things I thought I couldn’t do. She’s been an inspiration to me. She believes in her staff and builds strong relationships within the organization and the community.”

Saying Goodbye
“I have four more years before I retire and I wish I could walk out with her. We’ve been a great team. I have the upmost respect for her and I will miss her terribly.”

Laura Nagle: Fetal alcohol coordinator. Wiesenhahn has been her supervisor for 15 years and the two have traveled the state and country to conduct Training of Trainers.

Donna as Innovator
“Donna is allergic to doing things the way they’ve always been done before.

“This means that she always leaves fingerprints of enthusiasm and creativity on any project she touches.

“Donna has always given me the freedom to try new things. She has always valued creativity and innovation over perfection.”

Donna as Leader
“At the beginning of my work in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, she encouraged me to do things that were slightly beyond my comfort and my abilities at the time.

“There are many things that I tried only because she seemed to believe I could do them.

“I will forever be grateful that my first job brought me to Donna, who brought me to myself.”

Arthur Rouse: Owner and Senior Producer of Video Editing Services. Charter member of Keep It Real campaign that featured an Internet contest in which high school students made 30-second videos with an anti-underage drinking message.

Donna’s Open-Mindedness
“At our first meeting, it was clear that she was sincerely looking for new ideas, something different, something they hadn’t done before.”

Donna & Meetings
“Our meetings were always open-ended and we always laughed a lot. She had a great sense of humor.

“She got buy-in from everyone. There was always a great spirit to the meetings and when you left the room, you were fired up and ready to go.”

Final Word
“There will be a huge hole in the middle of everything as we recalibrate a new normal,” Nagle said, who then added:

“Although I am pretty sure I’ll still be getting emails from Donna starting with, ‘Hey, listen to what I heard on the radio – we need to try this!’”