Sandy Neely received the 2015 Distiguished Citizen of the Year Award at the 50th annual Town and Gown Banquet held on Monday evening at Ohio Northern Universiy McIntosh Center. Neely was recognized for her 48 years of service to the community, including her unswerving passion for coordinating and teaching Red Cross lifesaving swimming lessons to the many families of Ada over the years. Pictured from left is Mary Berger, who presented the award to her friend, Sandy Neely. (Ada Herald/Darla Crownhart)
Sandy Neely received the 2015 Distiguished Citizen of the Year Award at the 50th annual Town and Gown Banquet held on Monday evening at Ohio Northern Universiy McIntosh Center. Neely was recognized for her 48 years of service to the community, including her unswerving passion for coordinating and teaching Red Cross lifesaving swimming lessons to the many families of Ada over the years. Pictured from left is Mary Berger, who presented the award to her friend, Sandy Neely. (Ada Herald/Darla Crownhart)

ADA — Sandy Neely was announced as the 2015 Distinguished Citizen of the Year during the 50th Town & Gown banquet Monday evening.   

Most of the community knows Neely well as she has taught generations of kids how to swim in the Ada pool. She also taught physical education at Ada and Upper Scioto Valley elementary schools.

What started in her hometown pool in Medina as a swim volunteer for a Red Cross Learn to Swim Class became a lifelong passion for teaching lifesaving swimming skills, By 1965, Neely became certified as a Water Safety Instructor, and began teaching Life Guard classes as well. Since 1975, she has been involved with the Ada Municipal Pool and coordinating the swimming lessons.


According to Deb Curlis, President o f the Town & Gown Association, nominees for the Distinguished  Citizen of the Year are considered to be those who get others involved, have demonstrated extensive and diverse participation and have provided  leadership and support in public or private civic endeavors over a period of years.

Although the awardee is not aware until they hear their name announced, Neely may have suspected something when she heard the speaker of her introduction say,   “The impact on her community is somewhat like a ripple in the water, it initially started with her providing swimming lessons to her community, but the ripples do not stop there. They expand to create a much larger visual as she continues to take on leadership roles to promote a greater involvement by those she interacts with in order to improve the quality of life in her community.”

Neely has been actively involved over the years with the Hardin County Red Cross Advisory Board as a board member; a member of the Ada Junior Civic League; Ada Kiwanis Club; the Hardin County Community Foundation as Trustee;  and as a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ada serving on the Staff-Parish Relations Committee.

The Town & Gown Association was established in 1957 by a group of townspeople and Ohio Northern University personnel whose primary interest was to develop and maintain a strong and positive relationship between the village (the Town), and the university,(the Gown).  In that effort the banquet is held every year to formally introduce newcomers to the community and recognize them at the dinner.