Kimber Perfect's path may not have been smooth, but she wouldn't let it stop her from going places
Kimber Perfect knew she needed to give up her car.
She had left her husband of 12 years-as well as a job at his family-owned business-and just moved back in with her mother. Perfect was 32, with two kids, ages 5 and 11, and no way of making money.
So she sold the 1976 hunter green Mercedes-Benz with tan leather interior and put the money toward four quarters at Ohio State and a year's worth of gymnastics and dance classes for her son and daughter.
"I loved that car," she says. "But I love my Ohio State degree and what it did for my family so much more."
Almost 30 years later, Perfect, 61, is a senior vice president at Paul Werth Associates and a Women's Fund board member. She has lived a life full of selfless acts, the kind that require tenacity and altruism.
Four days after leaving her husband, Perfect enrolled at Ohio State as a journalism student. She had some previous schooling to lean on, so she snagged her diploma in six consecutive quarters while holding down three part-time jobs.
"You do what you have to do," she says. She made the most of the lunch hour, often using it to visit her kids at school: "That might be the only time I would see them."
One of Perfect's part-time jobs was as a bicycle rental clerk at Sharon Woods Metro Park, where her son would learn to ride a two-wheeler. Melaine Mahaffey, Perfect's sister and the owner of Mary Catherine's Antiques, remembers Perfect's reaction to receiving the position.
"Well, it's because I was the only [applicant] who had transportation," Perfect told her sister. "Everyone else was 14 and had no way to get there."
And she was not the least bit embarrassed, Mahaffey says.
"She looked at everything as the golden apple, and there was nothing sour about anything," she says. "That served her well."
Optimism is what sent her to the offices of every state agency in the area, resume in hand, when she graduated. She saw a job posting for a public information officer with the Ohio Department of Development, so she applied, interviewed and started less than two months after receiving her diploma. She moved her family out of her mother's home one month later.
"It was never about her," says Perfect's son, Zeb. "Even still to this day, it's not about her. She's always got that big picture for the family in mind."
Today, Perfect's resume reflects a slew of promotions and career advancements, including vice president for marketing and development at COSI and director of communications for Limited Brands.
But it also reveals a woman committed to philanthropy.
On the day she graduated from Ohio State, the commencement speaker was Amos Lynch, founder of the Columbus Post minority newspaper. Perfect holds tight to his advice: "In your search for the BMW, don't forget where you came from, and don't forget to give back."
So now, driving a 2006 black Volvo SUV, she does just that. She's served on the executive committee at Ohio State's Critical Difference for Women, a scholarship/grant program that supports research, professional development and nontraditional reentry students. She was previously on the YWCA's board of directors-the group that presented her with a 2014 Women of Achievement Award. She's mentored many women over the years and has become especially sensitive to those who don't have family to fall back on in hard times.
"I could not have done this without the support of my parents," she says. "Not everybody has that support network, and I recognize that. That's why I'm so committed to the Women's Fund and our work for economic self-sufficiency for women-because we all deserve to have the kind of opportunity that I had."
When she's not working or working to better her community, she's skiing with her children and grandchildren (she has four, with a fifth on the way), a once-unaffordable activity they now treasure.
"I had a vision of what life would be like for my children," she says. "I could see that as long as I knew where I was going in life, my children would get to where they were going."
Apparently, they are there.