For most of his life, Rick Pender has been all about writing. He began reading at age 4; and within a few years created and published a newsletter for his family’s neighbors, using a kid’s tiny offset press.


For most of his life, Rick Pender has been all about writing. He began reading at age 4, and within a few years created and published a newsletter for his family’s neighbors, using a kid’s tiny offset press. At 11, he began a seven-year stint delivering a morning newspaper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He read the “PD” voraciously, especially arts and sports coverage.


At Chardon High School he wrote for the school paper and was co-editor of the yearbook. He performed in plays and musicals and was a sports announcer. He majored in English at Oberlin College, graduated with high honors and went directly to graduate school, earning a master’s degree in English literature at Case Western Reserve University. He spent a year in the Medieval Studies Institute at SUNY-Binghamton, before returning to CWRU to complete his Ph.D., writing a dissertation on Sir Thomas Malory, the 15th-century writer whose retelling of the legends of King Arthur, the Morte D’Arthur, was the first work published by William Caxton, England’s first printer. (Note: His affection for retelling legends and historic facts and artifacts has stayed with him his entire career!)


In 1980 Rick relocated to southwest Ohio to promote WGUC-FM, Cincinnati’s classical music station. He edited and published WGUC In Print, a monthly program guide that also reported on Greater Cincinnati’s arts scene. In 1984 he was hired by Northern Kentucky University to launch and manage its newly licensed National Public Radio station. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he hosted weekly programs and provided overnight theater reviews for listeners.



Rick was a public relations professional for many years — including colleges, radio stations, and a major health maintenance organization (HMO) where he handled media relations and produced an array of newsletters. He also served as a freelance writer for several alt-newsweeklies, providing a column and theater reviews for EveryBody’s News (1991-1994) and an array of arts coverage for CityBeat (1994-present). He became CityBeat’s arts and culture editor in 1998, a role he continued for eight years. During that time he joined the American Theatre Critics Association and served as its chair in 2005-2006. He also was the author of The Big Pig Gig: Celebrating Pigs in the City, a 2000 photo book about Cincinnati’s wildly successful public art event featuring fanciful pig statues. (This is the first of five books to date.)


Rick began to contribute interviews, reviews and features to The Sondheim Review in 1998 and joined its editorial board in 2002. In 2004 he became the managing editor of the quarterly magazine about the legendary musical theater composer and lyricist. When TSR ceased publication in 2016, he endeavored to sustain coverage of Sondheim’s shows and related matters via a website, EverythingSondheim.org. After 18 months, Rick sold the site to Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, where it has been sustained on the website of one of America’s foremost presenters of Sondheim’s shows.


He left his editing position at CityBeat in 2006 to spend six seasons (2006-2011) as the director of development and advancement for Cincinnati Opera, America’s second oldest opera company. Before retiring in 2014, he was vice president for development and communications with Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio.

BOOK #2 AND #3

In retirement, Rick has taken on numerous freelance writing assignments, largely focused on arts, especially theater. His longtime interest in local history, arts, and culture led to 100 Things To Do in Cincinnati Before You Die (2016), a popular title with enough sales to warrant an updated second edition in 2019. That book opened the door to becoming a popular local history tour guide and led to a second title, Oldest Cincinnati, published in 2021.


In 2018, Rick was invited by the independent publisher Rowman & Littlefield to assemble The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. He spent two years writing about the legendary musical theater composer and lyricist — 131 entries, 600+ pages — as a comprehensive reference volume, published in 2021.


Collaborating with another veteran Cincinnati historian and journalist, Rick has co-authored The Cincinnati Bengals: An Illustrated Timeline. Going back to the franchise’s early days in the late 1960s when Paul Brown established a new NFL team in the Queen City, tracing the history of the team through a pair of Super Bowls in the 1980s and bringing the story right up to with the January 2022 Super Bowl, this beautifully illustrated 166-page coffee table-sized book chronicles the biggest games and the greatest players who have made fans cheer (and weep) over the past half-century.

Rick continues to write about theater and the arts (and even occasionally about sports). He often lends his editing expertise to other writers who need proofreading and copyediting. In 2021, he was invited to join Cincinnati’s Literary Club, America’s oldest such organization, founded in 1849. He’ll write and present occasional papers to the club’s erudite membership.

It’s been a life full of words.