Diane’s Story: Always Leading

Diane Knupp has 40 years of firsthand experience with the progress Ohio has made providing support to those with developmental disabilities, and it is her mission to keep Ohio’s county boards moving forward.

When Diane was younger, she would babysit for her neighbor with a developmental disability. She distinctly remembers this being the turning point for her future career path, “I knew from that minute, that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.

After graduating with a degree in Vocational Rehabilitation and Special Education in 1978, Diane took a job at the Orient State Institute in Ohio, where she was a teacher and caregiver for school-age kids.

Diane recalls how terrible the conditions were at the institute. She did everything in her power to help her students have a better life, but was deeply discouraged by the environment in which they had to live.

After 18 months at the Orient State Institute, Diane needed a change and went to Franklin County to work for ARC South. While at ARC, Diane assisted with the first Community Employment Program and helped place 200 people in jobs in four years.

One of her fondest memories from this time was watching a woman she helped place open her first paycheck and start crying because it was more money than she had ever made before. “You take that stuff with you,” she says.

Diane loved her time at the employment program but knew she wanted to do more to help. She earned her master’s degree in Social Agency Counseling and moved to Shelby County shortly after. There Diane ran the Community Employment Program and became the SSA Director for the Shelby County Board of DD.

Diane retired this year as the superintendent of the Preble County Board of DD. As someone who has worked in more than one county, especially during her time as a superintendent, she realizes how great the support network is among the county boards.

“When I need something, the larger counties are more than happy to share staff and services,” she says. “Everybody is in it for the same reasons.”

Looking back on the start of her career at the Orient State Institute, despite the hardships, Diane says, “I would never trade that experience because it helped me be a better professional and it has shaped me personally.”