Ronne and Donald Hess
Ronne and Donald Hess
The Hess Center was built on the work of Ronne and Donald Hess, longtime supporters of Birmingham-Southern College.
Ronne and Donald Hess both grew up in Alabama. Ronne graduated with a degree in education from UAB and taught special education in Walker County. Donald earned a degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College and returned to Birmingham to work for Parisian, Inc., a leading department store chain in the Southeast that his grandfather, Carl Hess, purchased in 1920. In 1976, Donald succeeded his father Emil Hess as president of Parisian and oversaw a period of significant company growth. Since Saks acquired Parisian in 1996, he has continued to serve on the Saks Board.
In 1989, Ronne and Donald Hess endowed BSC's Leadership Studies program. In honor of their commitment to the study of leadership and to the cultivation of civic responsibility, Birmingham-Southern launched the Hess Center for Leadership and Service with the central goal of fostering the leadership ability and talents of the BSC community. In 2015, the Hesses themselves volunteered to rename the center in honor of the college's retiring president, Gen. Charles C. Krulak. One of the center's core programs, the Hess Fellow advocacy internship, continues to honor their commitment to creating the next generation of engaged citizens.
The Hesses' community engagement extends beyond Birmingham-Southern. Both Ronne and Donald served as President of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, while Ronne assumed leadership positions with the Jewish Outreach National Board, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the International Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. She has also held numerous positions on local boards, including service on the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and Collat Jewish Family Services. She was also the President of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham. Donald's community engagement has included service as the Chair of United Way of Central Alabama, Chair of Indian Springs School and tenure as a Trustee of Birmingham-Southern, the McWane Center, and many other organizations. Along with their successes in the nonprofit, faith-based, and corporate spheres, Ronne and Donald enjoy spending time with their six children and fourteen grandchildren.