Ed Diller '69
Former trustee’s dedication and vision recognized by OFIC
For 22 years, Bluffton alumnus and respected Cincinnati lawyer, Ed Diller, served on Bluffton University’s Board of Trustees, including ten years as chairman. Now, his dedication to the university is being recognized by the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) as the 2016 recipient of the Earl F. Morris Trustee Award. Diller will receive the award during OFIC’s Evening of Excellence on April 6, 2016, in Columbus.
The award was established by OFIC to annually identify and recognize an outstanding trustee who has served at one of its 34 member institutions in Ohio and who has provided exceptional leadership and institutional support in the board member role.
“This is a much-deserved honor for Ed Diller,” said Bluffton’s president, Dr. James Harder. “Bluffton is a better university today because of Ed’s commitment, inspiration and generosity as a long-serving board member and from his continuing connections as an honorary trustee. He is passionate about Bluffton’s educational mission and has been a leader in shaping the scope and expression of that mission for the benefit of multiple generations of Bluffton students.”
Diller graduated from Bluffton in 1969 with a degree in mathematics. He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School and in 1976 entered practice in Cincinnati with Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP. He became a partner in 1984 and served as partner-In-charge of the Cincinnati office, starting in 2007, before retiring on Jan. 1 of this year.
Diller served on the Bluffton University Board of Trustees from 1979-2001. In 2002, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the university, and in 2007 he returned to serve as Bluffton’s commencement speaker.
During his time as board chair, Bluffton achieved significant enrollment growth, developed a variety of successful programs—including graduate programs in business and education—and constructed a number of crucial campus buildings.
When Dr. Elmer Neufeld, who served as president for 18 years, retired, Diller led the university through a presidential search process that resulted in the hiring of Bluffton’s first female president, Dr. F. Lee Snyder, in 1996.
Diller also provided leadership for multiple campaigns for Bluffton that resulted in the construction of Sauder Visual Arts Center (1991), Emery Sears Athletic Complex (1993), Yoder Recital Hall (1994) and Centennial Hall (2000), Bluffton’s 44,000 square foot main academic center. The facility transformed teaching and learning on Bluffton’s campus.
Diller’s board leadership enhanced the academic and financial well-being of the institution. As board chair, Diller played important roles in a successful re-accreditation process and in developing Bluffton’s first comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan and the 2000 campus facilities master plan. These initiatives positioned Bluffton for continued effective planning.
Diller was also a passionate advocate for growing Bluffton’s endowment with a special emphasis on building an endowed scholarship program. Bluffton students benefit from Diller’s vision through support from 350-plus scholarship funds including one established by Diller and his wife Karen (Esmonde ’68).
The Dillers are members of the Heritage Society, which recognizes Bluffton’s lifetime giving leaders and the Noah C. Hirschy Legacy Society, which recognizes donors who have included Bluffton in their estate plans. Ed and Karen’s son, Jason ’95 and his wife, Rachel (Helmink ’98), and their daughter Anna (Diller ’01) Stried and her husband, Tim ’98, also graduated from Bluffton, carrying on the family’s legacy and tradition of their Bluffton support.
Diller currently serves as a trustee of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, whose mission is to promote and advance higher education in the United States and to provide direct grants and contributions to qualified colleges and universities. Bluffton University has benefited greatly from foundation support of the Austin E. Knowlton Memorial Scholarship that provides 4-year support for a student entering Bluffton University each year.
Diller’s service extends far beyond Bluffton University. He is committed to his Mennonite faith community and served as moderator of the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA from 2009-11. During this tenure as moderator, he was heavily involved in the process of merging General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church into what it is today, Mennonite Church USA. Diller also served as board member and vice-chair of the Mennonite Education Agency, which serves K-12 Mennonite schools and the five Mennonite colleges/universities. Diller’s leadership roles in the church have been instrumental in building Bluffton’s reputation and growing the number of Bluffton faculty and staff involved in church leadership roles.
Diller also sits on the board of the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Cincinnati, Center for Holocaust Education, Mennonite Central Committee (treasurer), Cincinnati Museum Center and the Dan Beard Council of the Boys Scouts of America. He chairs Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the board of Ten Thousand Villages of Cincinnati. He serves as the director of Messer Inc., Messer Construction Co. and Saturday Knight Ltd.
He is involved in leadership positions in the following organizations: Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, Family Service of the Cincinnati Area, Forest Hills School District, General Conference Higher Education Council, Mental Health Services East, and Working in Neighborhoods.
Bluffton is a better university today because of Ed’s commitment, inspiration and generosity as a long-serving board member and from his continuing connections as an honorary trustee. He is passionate about Bluffton’s educational mission and has been a leader in shaping the scope and expression of that mission for the benefit of multiple generations of Bluffton students.”