From her extensive involvement in the nonprofit sector to her passion for community engagement, Maria Dehne ’06 is an embodiment of selfless service and leadership. Along with her current role as Senior Social Media Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dehne has devoted her time and energy to numerous local charitable organizations in her hometown. As a VP of Neighborhood Games, she spent two years organizing local events that brought together thousands of people from Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie. Additionally, she was heavily involved in the Cincinnati Association of Volunteer Management and is a dedicated supporter of the Aubrey Rose Foundation, which provides assistance to families with critically ill children.
Her commitment to the community has not gone unnoticed. In 2021, Dehne was recognized as a 40 under 40 in Cincinnati, a prestigious award given to young leaders who have made significant community contributions. Adding to her accolades, she was named Ohio’s volunteer of the year for Southwest Ohio, was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in 2023 and even has a volunteer award named in her honor.
These recognitions are a testament to her unwavering dedication to making a difference in the community.
The motivation behind Dehne’s spirit of service is her deep and abiding compassion for others. “I’ve always wanted to help people, to make their lives better,” she says. “But over the last few years, I’ve learned that I have a real heart for helping children, giving them the best opportunity possible to live their best lives.”
Her time at Ashland University played a significant role in shaping this outlook–including four years on the basketball team under Hall of Fame Coach Sue Ramsey.
“To know her,” Dehne says, “is to be blessed. I learned so much from her. She showed us, every day, the power of commitment, integrity, how to be a good teammate and so much more. She is one of the most genuine people I know, and that had a big impact.”
With a lifelong fascination with history, Dehne also cites the influence of Drs. John Moser and Duncan Jamieson, who had a substantial hand in shaping the course of her life after graduating with a bachelor of arts in history. She says her choice of a religion minor had much to do with her involvement with FCA as a huddle leader and Dr. Don Rinehart’s mentorship and personal attention.
“Dr. Rinehart showed what it means,” she says, “to have a passion for your community and the individual people in it.”
A four-year women’s team member, basketball was the primary reason Dehne chose to attend Ashland. She wanted to play basketball at a high level in college within an environment that would also prepare her for life after graduation.
“Being part of those teams and making lasting connections was amazing,” she says. “You’re going through the same things with a group of people who are committed to your success. And those bonds last for a lifetime.”
During her tenure, the team traveled extensively, including tournaments in Hawaii and California. During this time, she also joined Sue Ramsay for an Athletes in Action event in Switzerland and Greece. Being able to experience the culture and history of new places during these trips, she says, was a valuable experience.
Perhaps the most significant takeaway from her time at Ashland was the distillation of the university’s core principle.
“I love the idea of Accent on the Individual,” she says. “I’ve carried that forward in my career and how I engage people.”
After graduation, Dehne returned to Cincinnati to accept a position at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where she applied her history degree while simultaneously experiencing firsthand the nonprofit sector. Her love of photography and knack for social media and digital marketing put her in contact with other area nonprofits, and after the pandemic forced the museum to scale back its activity, she accepted her current position as the Senior Social Media Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
For all of her work in her hometown, however, her ties to Ashland remain unbroken. She currently serves as a board member of the Ashland University Alumni Association (AUAA), with a mission to engage alumni in meaningful ways.
“It’s a perfect opportunity,” she says, “to give back to an institution that has given me so much in terms of personal and professional growth.”
Maria Dehne’s story is a shining example of what happens when the knowledge and experiences particular to Ashland connect at an essential level with the people who continue to embody and pass on the spirit of what makes this place so special. The result is a deep understanding of all the good that can be done in the lives of others–along with a heart-deep drive to make it happen. Her story underscores the profound impact that Ashland University has on its students’ lives, molding them into individuals who are not only successful in their careers but also active contributors to their communities.
Because she’s less than a three-hour drive away, Dehne still makes it back to campus for basketball games when she can. She’s continually impressed with the ongoing campus beautification efforts and loves seeing the people here. Coming back to Ashland in her current role on the board, she admits, also has some additional benefits.
“I try to eat at Convo every time,” she says. “The chicken wraps have always been a big hit.”