Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders is Chief Executive Officer of the internationally acclaimed Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. She became one of fewer than ten African American women in the United States to build a successful broadcasting property ‘Hawes-Saunders Broadcasting Inc.’ from the ground up. In 1991 she created WROU FM radio station in her native Dayton, Ohio. Three years later she purchased WRNB in Dayton.
As an entrepreneur, Ms. Hawes-Saunders received accolades for her landmark success and outstanding community service, such as National Association of Broadcasters’ Marconi Radio Award (the nation’s top radio broadcasting award) and several National Black Programming Coalitions’ General Manager of the Year awards. Radio, Inc. magazine named her one of the top 25 African American leaders in the radio industry. Her stations received several ABC radio network affiliate Station of the Year awards.
After selling her radio stations, Ms. Hawes-Saunders in 2005 became CEO of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), a globally recognized African American performing arts company founded in 1968. During her tenure, DCDC has received distinguished awards, most recently the contemporary dance world’s highest honor (New York Dance and Performance Award or “The Bessie”) in 2016, as well as a 2016 workplace diversity award from the Dayton branch of the National Conference for Community and Justice.
Ms. Hawes-Saunders serves on the board of directors of CareSource Foundation. She is now a lifetime member of the board of trustees of Denison University (her alma mater) for her 24 years of service as a trustee.
She is a member of The Dayton Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and The Ohio Valley Chapter of Smart Set. Additionally, she is also an advocate for minorities and women in business ownership and has received numerous national and local awards for her service, dedication, and commitment to her community. In 2018, Ms. Hawes-Saunders received the Urban League Pillar of the Community Award. In May 2019, she was conferred an honorary doctorate degree from University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio.
Here’s what Ms. Hawes-Saunders had to say to us:
What are some of your goals for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in the coming year?
As Chief Executive Officer of the internationally acclaimed Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, I have three goals for the company in the following year and beyond. First, I must continue to ensure that the dance company remains a vital, artistic institution, adding to the cultural ecosystem of the Dayton region, by making good use of our outstanding board of directors, administrative staff, and, above all, our wonderful dancers!
Second, I must also ensure that the company deepens its presence as an African-American performing arts company in the community, sharing our unique historical, cultural, and social perspective with the Dayton region, the state of Ohio, the nation, and the world. Third, as Dayton Contemporary Dance Company turned 50 in 2018, I must continue to ensure that the company’s fiscal strength enables it to continue for the next 50 years!
What are some of your favorite places to go in Dayton, Ohio Region?
As a Dayton native, I love this community and region. I have a special fondness for community parks and nature. My favorite places include Carillon Park, Cox Arboretum, and, in Cincinnati, the Ohio River Trail. As for restaurants in Dayton, I always enjoy Coco’s Bistro, Jay’s Seafood Restaurant, and Basil’s On Market.
What do you like most about living and working in Dayton?
Dayton is a place where dreams come true. It’s a place where you can have a vision—as I did when I founded my company Hawes-Saunders Broadcasting Inc. and as did Jeraldyne Blunden when she founded Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 51 years ago!
Dayton is a place blessed with a brilliant arts community that is accessible and unpretentious. It is a place where you can form lasting friendships. In terms of my leadership of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, it is a place where partnerships are possible, such as University of Dayton, which has partnered with the company for many years. With such partnerships, Dayton institutions work together to enrich and enhance life in the Dayton region.