Gina Schaeffer

“The ability to become bigger and better than who you are is something Wittenberg gave me.”

Gina Schaefer ’93

Entrepreneur; Co-Founder and CEO of 13 Ace Hardware stores located in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Alexandria, Virginia

“When I got to Wittenberg, I wanted a bigger life. I grew up in a town of 7,000. My dad worked two blue-collar jobs and my mom, who had a huge entrepreneurial spirit, ran a ‘beauty shop in the basement.’ One of the coolest parts of my childhood was that we always had exchange students living with us. They fed my aspirations of having a bigger world in general. I went to Wittenberg because the campus seemed so grand to me. I fell in love with it. Wittenberg was a great stepping stone to a bigger city.

Deborah Dillon, the first director of the Community Workshop (which evolved into the Hagen Center), was by far — by far — the most influential person in my life. She hired me as one of the program’s first student directors the first year that students had to take a community service course to graduate. She would say things like, ‘You never know whose life you’re going to affect in the smallest way when you leave your dorm room in the morning!’ She had me lecture the football team on the value of service, and then take them out to do it — which was awesome to watch. She gave me those experiences, and along with them my ability to persuade, my deep interest in service and helping, and my empathy for people.

The ability to become bigger and better than who you are is something Wittenberg gave me. Now I run a mid-size retail business with 250 employees in and around Washington, D.C. We’ve opened so many stores because I can’t promote leaders unless I have a place to promote them to!”

Gina Schaefer ’93 majored in political science, minored in Spanish, and belonged to Gamma Phi Beta sorority at Wittenberg. More recently, she has been advocating on Capitol Hill to raise the minimum wage and offering business insight to current Witt students at events such as “Tiger Tank,” a competition that awards the winning student business development assistance valued at $20,000 to start a new venture.

Gina Schaefer is a member of the Campaign Steering Committee.

Wittenberg thrives as we strengthen our alumni efforts to connect, engage, and celebrate our Wittenberg community. Here are five ways you can get involved with the Campaign today:

With your support, Having Light: The Campaign for Wittenberg University will carry us toward our third century, secure in all we possess and assured of our ability to pass it on to future generations. Thank you for engaging and participating!