Retired Columbus Dispatch reporter Lee Leonard has a long history of capital city journalism, having covered the Statehouse during his career. One of the people he worked alongside was the late Speaker of the House and Scioto County native Vern Riffe. Leonard visited Vern Riffe School recently to donate a framed copy of a Dispatch front page featuring a story he had written about Riffe’s passing.
An assembly was held for the presentation, and Leonard met students and staff. He also toured the 104-year-old school building and met with members of the Riffe family.
Leonard said he wrote many stories that involved Riffe and, while they didn’t always get along because of the nature of their respective jobs, he admired the Speaker’s ability to solve problems without regard to political affiliation. He advised the students to always look for the common ground with people they might disagree with so they can find solutions to problems.
“It is an honor that Mr. Leonard thought of us for this beautiful donation, and we are incredibly grateful,” said Principal Tammy Guthrie. “The Cardinals are proud to add this to the school’s collection of items about the Speaker.”
The piece will be put on public display in the school lobby near a sculpture of Riffe, the State Seal of Ohio and a glass case with historic school memorabilia.
“Any time we have the opportunity to remember and honor the people who have made our community and county the wonderful places they are, we embrace it,” said Scioto County Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Matt Purcell. “Mr. Leonard’s generous gift is a reminder of how large an impact a single gesture can have on an entire population of people.”