Two Otterbein University leaders were winners of the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual awards, a distinction they believe has a lot to do with the realization of The Point, the university's science, technology, engineering, arts and math facility.

Otterbein President Kathy Krendl was named 2017 Business Person of the Year and Erin Bender, The Point's executive director, was named 2017 Young Professional of the Year by the chamber in December, giving Otterbein a sweep of the two individual awards.

The Point is a 61,000-square-foot facility at 60 Collegeview Ave. that serves as the new home of the university's STEAM programs.

Both Krendl and Bender felt The Point was a major part of their recognition. The center opened in late 2016 and flourished last year, beginning the plan of integrating business, technology and the university that Otterbein leaders laid out before its construction.

"For me, it's a recognition that this is different and unique from what you traditionally find in higher education," Bender said of the awards.

"We are operating this as a startup, really, and we're flying by the seat of our pants like most startups do in some instances, but being very strategic with a goal in mind," she said.

Krendl said she was "struck" when she received the phone call about her award, and wasn't accustomed to business-related recognition.

But realistically, she said, it made sense.

"I think most people don't think of Otterbein as a business, but in fact, it is a business," she said. "The business of higher education is a real business, especially in a place like central Ohio where we have so many institutions of education."

Bender said the business nature of the award gave it a bit of extra meaning, given The Point's mission of "bringing together" a variety of businesses and fields.

"I appreciate that we were able to be recognized in that world, because I think it's important that we begin to recognize the importance of business and entrepreneurship in that world," she said.

Krendl announced her retirement last year, and will leave the university in June. She said she felt her retirement "had something to do with being recognized," but chamber president and CEO Janet Tressler-Davis said she didn't believe that was a component.

"I don't think it has anything to do with her retirement," she said. "I think it has everything to do with her leadership skills and her ability to keep the enthusiasm on campus with as many new initiatives and involving a lot of partners throughout our region."

Krendl said she was "honored" at the recognition toward the end of her time at Otterbein.

"I think the quality of life in Westerville is enhanced by the presence of the university, so I guess I see it as something that's kind of the bookend on my presidency but also the result of the work that we've done," she said.

The chamber also named TriAd Marketing and Media its 2017 Small Business of the Year and Associated Insurance Agencies its Large Business of the Year.

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