A Couple to Be Reckoned With

The power couple. Usually reserved for celebrities or politicians, the term refers to dynamic duos who are strong independently but undefeatable when together. Here in Louisville, there is one power couple just as tenacious as those in Washington but even more giving. That couple is Kent and Kathy Oyler, a husband and wife team who are being recognized by this year’s Bittners Award presented by Whitehall Louisville’s Estate Garden for their community involvement and unparalleled generosity.

A businessman in the most robust sense, Kent Oyler earned business and MBA degrees from the University of Louisville before working for Henry Vogt Machine Company, where he eventually rose to Chief Financial Officer. In 1992, he founded OPM Services and began a career as a serial entrepreneur, launching 19 new ventures in a variety of industries. Oyler currently serves as president and CEO of Greater Louisville, Inc. where he leads the metro chamber of commerce in retaining and growing existing businesses.

IMG_5742Kathy, meanwhile, tends to focus on fundraising. She served 10 years concurrently on the boards of the Louisville Science Center and Louisville Collegiate School and has acted as president of the Speed Museum Alliance and the ADPi Alumni. She has chaired countless fundraising events and, in fact, once chaired the Speed Ball and Louisville Collegiate School’s Annual Campaign just a week apart. Both set new fundraising records that year.

The Oylers clearly have remarkable records and histories most could only envy, but it is when they join forces on a project that their impact is truly profound. Together, they successfully co-chaired the Louisville Science Center’s $10+ million “World Around Us” Capital Campaign. Additionally, they were the founding members of Metro United Way’s Million Dollar Roundtable.

Married for thirty-two years and the parents of three girls, the Oylers gallantly hold giving as one of their core values and strive to impart that to the community. “We espouse the idea of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” Kathy Oyler asserts. “So we just feel that [giving back] is part of life. Just like paying your taxes or mowing your lawn; it’s just part of what you do.”

Accordingly, the couple’s incomparable mix of kindness and philanthropy has made them prime recipients for this year’s Bittners Award presented by Whitehall. This is the fifth year that the historic mansion has given this award named for the design firm that played a significant role in Whitehall’s history. “We’ve had a close relationship with Bittners since we first opened to the public in 1994,” describes Merrill Simmons, Executive Director of Whitehall. “They helped guide us and really oversaw the interior restoration of the mansion.”

Given the criteria of the award, the Oylers were a clear choice as honorees. “We try to pick people from the community who have made a significant contribution in some way to the community through their charitable endeavors,” relates Simmons. And regarding the Oylers, “Their reputation really precedes them with how much money they’ve raised for the Metro United Way and also for the Science Center and so many other organizations.”

The award will be presented on Friday, June 5 at Whitehall’s Summer Celebration. The evening entails hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a silent auction in the formal gardens and then elegant dining, a live auction and presentation to the Oylers on the garden terrace. Kent Oyler is certainly looking forward to the event. “We are both honored to receive this important award,” he remarks. “We are fortunate to share community service as our avocation; it gives us plenty to discuss over dinner.”

Without question, there is no couple more worthy of the honor than the Oylers, two remarkable individuals who have separately done an unmatched amount of good for Louisville and together have become the most effective, generous and inspiring couple in the community. But for the Oylers, it’s not about attention, and it’s not about money; it’s about making a difference. “Although [Kent] does get a paycheck, he see it as more of a mission. He’s passionate about jobs and creating jobs for people,” Kathy Oyler professes. “My paycheck is feeling like I’ve made a little bit of a difference.” VT

Tickets to Whitehall’s Summer Celebration, honoring Kent and Kathy Oyler and taking place Friday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m., are still available. Individual tickets are $200/person, and reserved table of eight are $1,600/table. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Whitehall@historichomes.org or call 502-897-2944.

By REMY SISK, Contributing Writer