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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Principal Expresses Gratitude to Those Who Saved His Life

Principal Ron Dawn in the lobby of Newport Catholic High School

Ron Dawn can’t thank the Fort Thomas emergency response teams enough. “They were great,” he says. “They saved me. I was dead.” 

Dawn is the principal of Newport Central Catholic High School and is a lifelong Fort Thomas resident. “That was the first time we ever called 911,” he says. Then he and his wife chuckled. They can chuckle now but at the time it was not funny. It was deadly serious. Dawn had suffered a major heart attack at work, the one they call “the widow maker.” But he survived. In fact, he survived death a couple of times. And that’s the story.

Dawn, 60, is the only person to have coached boys (three times) and girls (one time) basketball teams to state titles. Impressive. He is a NewCath and Thomas More College graduate and has been teaching and coaching well over 30 years now.
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In the spring of 2016, when there was a vacancy in school leadership, he told school leaders, “If you get into a bind I will fill in [as principal]”. That low key offer to “fill in” is now permanent. And why not? He has great rapport with students and as an accountant he understands the numbers. But more importantly, he cares more about others than he does himself. He assessed his time so far as, “Except for September, it has been good.” That’s when he had the heart attack. He’s the guy you want on your side—as supporter, leader, and friend.

Back in early September of 2016, he was interviewing someone to fill a position that had unexpectedly opened. “I was sitting in my office when all of a sudden it hit me,” he says. “It was killing me. Sweat pouring out of me.” He knew what it was. “Call 911,” he said to a staff member. “This is a heart attack.”  The ambulance took him to The Christ Hospital. “They were amazing,” he says. “They had a team waiting for me. In 19 minutes they cleared the blockage.” One doctor told him that he probably would have died in 20 minutes. This was the first one.

He subsequently suffered a couple of episodes of arrhythmia that could have killed him. One was in the middle of the night at home. He got up, walked into another room, and collapsed. His wife called 911. Police and EMT’s responded within minutes. Officers Sean Donelan and Adam Brown arrived first.

Patty says that as the EMTs turned the dining room into a triage, police officer Sean Donelan kept her distracted with organizing necessary pieces of information.  Donelan says, “I made sure she took house keys with her, called one of the kids, and grabbed her phone and charger because it may be a long day. I walked her to the ambulance and belted her in. Knowing that we were both Catholic, we said a Hail Mary together and then told her that he was in the best hands with the best medics around.” Not knowing what the outcome would be, the officers cleaned up the medical waste in the dining room, placed the furniture back, and then locked the doors.  That kind of care touched the Dawns deeply.

Patty, Dawn’s wife, says that after being shocked back to life at one point, “He said he was in another place and his dad told him that he had to go back.” Dawn replies, “But I don’t remember any of that.” 

Dawn eventually had a defibrillator implanted and he improved. At one point he was told that he couldn’t drive for six months so Patty said, “I had to drive him around because the doctor wouldn’t let him drive.” To which Ron quickly added, “To be honest, that gave me more heart trouble than anything.” They both laughed in that knowing way that married people do. The good news was that the tests indicated there was no permanent heart damage. But he was changed. After all, he died a couple of times.
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We often hear stories about seeming miraculous recoveries from life-threatening incidents. But what is fascinating about the Dawns is the amount of gratitude they exhibit. They really do not want to be in the spotlight, but rather would prefer to highlight those who were their guardian angels because they were the heroic and compassionate ones. “I can’t thank the guys enough especially the ambulance crew for what they did,” Dawn says. “They were great. They saved me. I was dead.”

And truth be told, he shines a light on his students, his teams, and family. People are important. “I want the kids to do well,” he says. Over the course of his career he has influenced the lives of thousands and now they have shown their gratitude to him through their support and encouragement.

Dawn says that since his heart attack, “I appreciate things more. Make the most of every minute of every day. I was very fortunate. More sentimental about things.” He pauses. “My biggest thing is with the people who helped me.” In fact, he and Patty took everyone involved in his care little gifts to express their gratitude. This episode has confirmed his belief that people are good. “We just don’t hear enough about it,” he says.

We don’t often realize it as we experience hardship, but there is often a hidden blessing in there. Only in retrospection do we discover it. We know that the heart is the classic symbol of so many things—love, care, giving, sacrifice, bravery, courage, emotion, generosity, and gratitude. John Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Now we know why some hearts are bigger than they appear and that is true of Ron Dawn.
Ron Dawn with students.


  1. Mary hager Brandon's momJanuary 10, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    So thankful you are doing ok God bless you and NCC

  2. Ron is a great man. As a former student and employee, he has given so much of himself to NCC. It's great to see he has recovered well.

  3. Mr. Dawn was not only a great coach to me but more importantly - a tremendous teacher and influence on my life. I am proud he was my coach and teacher and I am grateful he is my 2 sons' principal. We are truly blessed to have him at NCC.

  4. The Dawn's are amazing people. What a great story!

  5. I had the widow maker heart attack in Nov. 2015. This story echoed my situation and I can't tell you how much you appreciate the Dr. and the whole treatment team that saves your life.

  6. Mr.Dawn played basketball and went to school with my uncles. He then was my teacher and a great man to have up at NCC. His compassion to always push others and himself are a true testament to why he is needed a little longer here on earth. Thank you Mr.Dawn for always going the extra mile. :) Carla Meyer Herre Class of 1987

  7. Mr. Dawn so glad to see you are doing better, I know we all have been praying for you. Geil 2002

  8. Mr. Dawn so glad to see you are doing better, I know we all have been praying for you. Geil 2002body scan meditation script