Dawne Gee grew up dreaming of working in communications.
In August 1994, Gee joined WAVE 3 News, where she had applied nine times before they hired her as a writer in the promotions department. Eventually, Gee filled in for an anchor on “WAVE Listens,” a television talk show. Four years later, she was named the morning anchor of WAVE 3 News.
Gee now co-anchors the 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. newscasts and hosts “WAVE Country with Dawne Gee,” which profiles people making a difference in our community and highlights events of interest in the area.
Gee is involved in many charitable organizations and serves on the board of the Kentucky Brain Injury Association. She frequently donates her time to serve groups that need help, and is especially active lending her time to local healthcare not-for- profits. In 2010, she was selected Louisvillian of the Year by Leo magazine. Her extensive speaking engagements on behalf of the community are upwards to 200 a year.
A Louisville-native, Gee earned a B.A. in communications and a B.A. in biology from the University of Louisville. Her faith and family keep her grounded. She has two sons and a daughter.
Challenge motivates Ed Hart, and business turnarounds meet that need for him.
Hart has a long and distinguished history of entrepreneurial undertakings, with a particular focus on the successful turnaround of high profile, previously failed projects. Hart successfully rescued two real estate buildings in the historic Highlands neighborhood and two theme parks, both of which he and his team brought from bankruptcy and neglect back to vibrant success.
Hart is now, again, deeply engaged in the redevelopment and reopening of the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, which has been dormant for five years. The original Kentucky Kingdom, which had previously closed after only one season in 1987, developed into the number one paid tourist attraction in Kentucky during the eight years this team owned and operated the theme park.
Hart began at the NYC headquarters of J.C. Penney Company and developed a chain of hair styling salons in Puerto Rico before becoming involved in the amusement industry. He has also produced independent films and was instrumental in funding and establishing Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. In 1995, Hart received Louisville’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
He and his wife reside in Louisville, Ky.
Dr. James Calleroz White wakes up every morning excited about how education constantly changes to stay relevant to a student’s future.
He is the head of school at the Louisville Collegiate School, a Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 co-ed school with over 700 students in Louisville, Ky. He is a change agent and sees his role as continually improving the education experience. Since arriving in Louisville, White has served as a guest columnist in Business First, has a regular column in the Voice-Tribune, and has served on many leadership and educational organizations and boards. White was also a speaker at the Leadership Louisville Best of Louisville Summit.
Prior to coming to Louisville, he was the assistant head of school at Phoenix Country Day School in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he also served as director of institutional advancement and director of the office of community engagement. This followed a stint as the director of college counseling at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, MA, and admissions officer in the Harvard College undergraduate admissions office.
White was born and raised in Hopkinsville, Ky. He received his bachelor’s in government and a master’s in education from Harvard University. White also earned a doctorate in education leadership, teaching, and administration from Arizona State University.
He lives in Louisville with his wife and three children.
Dan Rivers sees each day as an opportunity to “do better” and make a contribution.
From a near drowning incident at age ten, and teachings from his parents, Rivers has learned to see each day as an opportunity to achieve and contribute to the world.
In 2005, Rivers moved to the area to oversee the merger of a number of offices in Kentucky and Sothern Indiana and to create the managing team for the newly created Northwestern Mutual of Louisville. He is currently its managing partner and president.
He began with Northwestern Mutual as a college intern in South Carolina. After his graduation in 1988, Rivers became a full-time financial representative and earned a lifetime membership of the Million Dollar Roundtable. By 1993, he became the Columbia, S.C. office’s managing director. During this time, he led his office to be one of the leaders in the district.
In 2003, The State newspaper named Rivers one of their Top 20 Under 40. He holds many professional designations and has served on numerous local charitable and leadership boards in both South Carolina and Kentucky.
Ed Webb thrives on the challenges of business, change, and growth.
Webb became president and CEO of the World Trade Center Kentucky in 2008. He oversees the operations and strategic direction for global trade and international trade organization. Webb is responsible for strengthening businesses in Kentucky and supports economic development by facilitating import and export opportunities.
Webb reports to a 35-member board of directors, which includes the governor of Kentucky, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, and other high-level business leadership from across Kentucky. Webb has spoken on numerous panel discussions on trade and serves on many board positions.
Webb was the founding executive director of the Frasier Museum and traveled frequently to the U.K., negotiating a historic agreement with the British Royal Armouries to form a long-term collections loan agreement with the Frasier. This was the first international collection of its kind outside of the United Kingdom.
Webb enjoys running, reading and travel. He and his wife, Jill, have three grown children.
Marty Storch’s competitive nature and commitment to continual improvement shape his contributions at the Louisville Metro Parks department.
As department director of Louisville Metro Parks, Storch oversees 120 parks in the greater Louisville area. These parks include 14 miles of parkways, 12 community centers, two amphitheaters, nine golf courses, 135 athletic fields, and 179 playgrounds. He also oversees a huge staff and a $24 million annual budget.
Storch serves in numerous activities throughout the community and on several boards of leadership. In 2013, Storch received the Jude Clark Memorial Trophy for serving on the Host and Championship Committee for the Cyclo-cross World Championships.
Storch serves on the Kentucky Derby Festival Board, the Louisville Sports Commission Board of Directors and the Kentucky Junior Golf Foundation Board, among others. He also volunteers for Bellarmine University’s scores table for men’s and women’s basketball.
Storch graduated from the University of Louisville as a student-athlete. He started all four years on the University of Louisville Cardinals golf team and served as team captain for two years. Storch won numerous awards for his contributions to the game of golf and also for cycling.
Jennifer Adrio desires to do meaningful work and make a positive impact on her community.
Adrio began her non-profit career at the American Red Cross and then moved over to Metro United Way as United Way’s executive vice president. During her tenure at United Way, the organization received several national awards for initiatives in increasing revenues in planned giving and major gift programs.
In 2013, Adrio rejoined the American Red Cross of Louisville after working with Metro United Way for over 23 years. Having worked closely with the Red Cross during her tenure at United Way, she has long held an appreciation for the importance of Red Cross services. She oversees 55 counties in Kentucky and southern Indiana.
Adrio is an experienced leader and well regarded throughout the Louisville area for her fundraising ability. She has two sons and resides in Louisville.
Saul Garcia followed his dream of seeing people enjoying themselves while sharing a meal at his own restaurant.
Garcia is the co-founder of Los Aztecas and Sol Aztecas restaurants in Louisville, Ky. Originally from Mexico, Garcia spent his early years without most modern amenities and began working at an early age to help his family. At age 11, he learned he had Leukemia, began chemotherapy, and pulled through with a new motivation in life.
As a teen, he worked in a restaurant and became fascinated with the restaurant experience. He especially enjoyed seeing how customers left so happy after sharing a meal together.
Garcia began studies at a local university, earning a law degree. At one point, the university shut down from a student strike, and he made plans to come to America with intentions to earn enough money to complete his education. He walked, alone, six days across the desert to get work in Fresno, Calif. as a migrant farm worker.
Garcia fell in love with the country and decided to stay. In 1997, with his brother and two friends, he opened the first Los Aztecas in Louisville. Since then, Garcia has opened 14 more locations of Los Aztecas and Sol Aztecas restaurants.
Chef Edward Lee wakes every morning with a passion for his work, and for learning and discovering new things.
Lee is a Korean-American chef from Brooklyn, trained in the kitchens of New York. He is the owner of 610 Magnolia and Milkwood restaurants.
In 2001, a Kentucky Derby road trip brought him to discover 610 Magnolia, where he fell in love with his surroundings. Within a year, Lee relocated to Louisville and the growing new southern food scene.
Lee’s culinary style draws from his Asian heritage, his New York training, and his embracing of the American south, combined with the best ingredients from local farms. He has been featured in many publications, was the winner on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” and was a season favorite on the Cooking Channel’s “Top Chef.”
He has twice been named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award, Best Chef Southeast. Lee has been on major news shows and has had several articles published in various journals. Lee’s cookbook, “Smoke and Pickles,” shares recipes and stories of his life.
In addition to 610 Magnolia, Lee operates The Wine Studio, a special event dining room, and Milkwood, a downtown restaurant serving southern bar food with an Asian pantry. He also collaborates on new product developments, including a luxury bourbon.
Vincenzo Gabriele and his brothers grew up with a love for fine dining, inspired by their father, a captain in the Merchant Marine.
In 1969, Gabriele came from Italy to work with his brother Giovanni in St. Louis. In 1975, Don and Michael Grisanti approached Gabriele to come to Louisville as maître d’ of their family restaurant. With his great people skills and an incredible knowledge of the art of hospitality, Gabriele eventually became the restaurant’s co-owner. In 1981, Gabriele was awarded the Ivy Award, an award given by his peers.
In 1986, Humana approached Gabriele to take over its downtown dining facilities. With the help of his brother, world-renowned chef Agostino Gabriele, Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant was born. Vincenzo’s is an upscale, fine-dining establishment that has been honored with numerous industry awards and is a favorite stop for famous guests to Louisville.
The Gabriele brothers have donated financial support and food to a wide variety of charitable organizations and Vincenzo has received much recognition for his dedication to community service.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz experienced the calling and desire to serve others through the clergy while in high school.
Kurtz is the 4th archbishop, the 9th bishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville, and Benedict XVI appointed him Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. He served from 1972 – 1999 in the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., receiving the distinguished title of monsignor in 1986. He moved on to be the bishop of Knoxville, Tenn. until 2007.
The Archdiocese of Louisville is the oldest Roman Catholic Archdiocese west of the Appalachians, covering 24 counties and hosting a Catholic population of greater than 200,000 individuals. In 2010, Kurtz was elected to a 3-year term as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving on the executive and administrative committees.
Among his numerous roles and titles, Kurtz is the vice chancellor of the Board of the Catholic Extension Society and the Episcopal advisor to the Catholic Social Workers National Association.
Theatre director Les Waters’ interest in contemporary art and new plays drives him in his career.
Born to a working class family in rural England, Waters is an award-winning, British theatre director. He has numerous theatre credits in New York and around the U.S., including winning an Obie for the premier of “Big Love” at the Humana Festival.
Waters headed the M.F.A. directing program at UC San Diego from 1995 to 2003. He also served as the associate artistic director with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre from 2003 to 2011.
In 2000, and again in 2004, Waters came to Louisville to direct shows for the Humana Festival. In 2012, he was hired as artistic director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL) and took charge of the Humana Festival, succeeding Mark Masterson.
In its previous 50 years, ATL only had three artistic directors. ATL is considered one of the most prestigious professional theatre companies in the United States. It has introduced over 400 plays and earned many awards, including a Tony award.
Waters is married to set designer, Annie Smart; They have two daughters and one son.
Mark Hogg seeks to end the global water crisis.
Seeing people using poor quality water while on a college trip to West Africa and how water borne diseases affected their health, then seeing how a chlorinator could help, served as the genesis for Mark Hogg’s passion for making clean water accessible throughout the world.
In 1995, Hogg launched the non-profit organization Edge Outreach, recently renamed WaterStep. He works every day to put an end to the global water crisis by bringing clean drinking water to developing communities and disaster environments.
Hogg, along with WaterStep, trains and empowers ordinary people to provide safe and sustainable water, sanitation, health and hygiene solutions in their own communities. In 2012, WaterStep began manufacturing its own chlorine generator, a simple water purification system. WaterStep has impacted the quality of life for people all over the world.
WaterStep also added beehives to the rooftop of their building as a way to support the local urban gardening movement. Hogg established a profitable shoe export business to help fund his non-profit initiative.
Hogg has received a Social Entrepreneur award and was among 128 people chosen for Leadership Louisville’s Connector Project.
The mantra “You are pure potential,” from his improv mentor, Dr. Martin de Maat, motivates Chris Hartman in his work against discrimination.
Hartman’s work as an activist in the LGBT community has helped stop anti-fairness legislation, and change the conversation.
Hartman served as the Philadelphia director of the Democratic National Committee’s open-air grassroots fundraising effort for the 2004 Presidential Election. In 2008, he served as campaign press secretary to Congressman John Yarmuth. Hartman also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Hartman is the first director of Louisville’s 20-year-old Fairness Campaign and a steering committee member of the Kentucky statewide Fairness Coalition. He also founded and produced Project Improv, improvisational theatre troupes located in both St. Louis and Louisville.
Gill Holland’s curiosity has led to careers as an independent film producer, building developer, and former lawyer.
Holland is changing the landscape of Louisville’s East Market District. He coined the term New Lou for the formerly economically depressed area, turning it into a thriving and sustainable arts district. This is where he opened the Green Building, certified LEED Platinum, which is recognized as the greenest commercial building in Kentucky.
Holland is also the founder of the group Entertainment LLC, which includes a film production company, talent management division, music company, and art gallery. He has produced more than 70 feature films, including “Hurricane Streets,” the first film to win three Sundance Film Festival awards.
Holland founded sonaBLAST! Records featuring CDs made from recycled plastics with cardboard cases. He has also authored two fundraising books for children and serves on many local cultural boards. Louisville magazine named Gill Holland the 2009 Person of the Year.
Robert A. Davenport is passionate about helping his clients with their financial needs.
Davenport was born and raised in Kansas, but spent his childhood summer weekends traveling the U.S. to attend his father’s races. His father, Dick Davenport, was a four-time Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) national champion.
After Davenport received his bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, he began working for the Equitable Insurance Company, which was purchased by AXA Financial. Davenport built a nationally recognized sales organization and earned numerous company management awards.
In 2005, he opened his own firm, Kentucky Planning Partners. KPP has become one of the top financial planning and wealth management firms in Louisville.
Davenport’s best-known contribution to the community is the creation of the Louisville Concours d’Elegance, a vintage car show benefiting children and family organizations. He also founded the annual Anchorage dog show, benefitting Bellewood Children’s Home. Davenport and his wife Lori enjoy giving back to the community.
Mark Johnson has a deep passion for the sport and spectacle of horse racing; He calls it the greatest theatre on earth.
Johnson is only the 6th track announcer in the history of Churchill Downs and the first non-American to hold the position to call America’s greatest thoroughbred horse race, the Kentucky Derby. He has become one of Britain’s senior track announcers, having called many of Britain’s most important races including five Epsom Derbies, a British classic for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds first run in 1780. The Epsom Derby serves as a model for our very own Kentucky Derby. Calling the Epsom Derby was a realization of a dream Johnson has held since the age of four.
On British television, Johnson is a host of the dedicated horse racing channel, “Racing UK,” where he fronts much of the channel’s international racing coverage, including the Arc de Triomphe from France.
In January 2009, following the unexpected and sudden death of Churchill Downs’ announcer, Luke Kruytbosch, at age 47, Johnson became the track’s official announcer calling his first and the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby later that year. He made racing/broadcasting history by becoming the first track announcer to call both the Kentucky Derby and the English Derby at Epsom.
Lynnie Meyer, a well-known civic leader and fundraising executive in Louisville, is fueled by her commitment to the community.
Meyer previously worked for Caritas Health, University of Louisville Hospital, Caretenders, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Kosair Children’s Hospital. In 1998, she was selected president and CEO for the Center for Women and Families.
In 2004, Meyer became system vice president and chief development officer at Norton Healthcare. She is the system vice president of Women’s and Children’s Community Partnerships and executive director of the Children’s Hospital and Norton Healthcare Foundations.
Meyer was selected as one of twenty nurses nationally to join the 2008 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Executive Nurse Fellows Program. She was also named a Bellarmine Distinguished Graduate and one of the 40 under 40 from Business First magazine.
JK McKnight is the founder and captain of the Forecastle Festival, a gathering of musicians, artists, and activists.
McKnight is a talented songwriter, musician, and environmental activist. With Forecastle, he pioneered combining art, event and environmental sustainability. This small community event has grown into a 3-day gathering of music, art and environmental activism, which now attracts well over 30,000 attendees – one of the largest outdoor gatherings in the Midwest.
McKnight credits his basic values and willingness to persevere as the sources of his success in building the event. He works from four quotes that he keeps on his desk which embody the principles of discipline, integrity, honesty, and strength of indomitable will.
Originally from Cincinnati, McKnight now makes Louisville his home.
Pastor Joe Phelps feels a call to embody God’s justice and love in the world.
He has been the pastor at Louisville’s Highland Baptist Church since 1997.
Over the past 15 years, the church has increased its commitments to sharing its view of the Christian message, mission action, and to work for social justice in the community and beyond. Phelps drew national attention from news stations and radio shows in 2006, when he appeared in an ad campaign titled, “Wake Up Wal-Mart,” which brought to light the company’s record on child labor issues, gender discrimination, and poor healthcare plans.
Phelps is also a published author and an occasional guest columnist for the Courier-Journal newspaper and Leo Weekly magazine, as well as EthicsDaily.com, where he also serves as a board member. Phelps was the founder of an interdenominational, inter-racial group, No Murders Metro, and is a board member of Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
Sam Swope has had a historic 60 years in the automobile dealership business.
He began his company with a dealership in Elizabethtown in 1951 and expanded into Louisville in 1956. After two unfortunate incidents, causing two separate locations to burn down, Swope persevered and continued to grow his business. Today, Swope operates over 20 dealerships throughout Kentucky.
Swope has a long list of lifetime awards, including the prestigious Louisvillian of the Year Award and the University of Louisville Presidential Medal for service to the university and the Louisville community.
In 2012, Swope announced his retirement, naming his daughter Patti Swope the new chairwoman of the board, and putting his nephew to work as president and CEO.
Mandy Connell is a talk radio host who credits her competitive nature as a driver to be her best.
Connell was working as a flight attendant when her quick wit and fun personality made a stranger take notice. The stranger happened to be Dick Robinson, founder of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and it led him to offer Connell a scholarship to attend school there.
In 2010, Connell was hired to fill the WHAS Radio 84 9 a.m. to noon time slot, chosen among 130 applicants. She stood out for her energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to giving listeners an engaging program. Connell makes sure to keep up on everything from politics and news, to entertainment and more.
In 2011, Connell came in number six of America’s top ranking local radio talk show hosts. She has become a popular addition to Louisville, and has fallen in love with the city in return.
Troy Burden taps his inner drive to help others as the executive director of Highlands Community Ministries.
Burden has lead this non-profit and its multiple outreach programs since 2011. The organization currently has a board of directors from 24 local Highland churches.
Burden is from Kentucky and moved to Louisville in 1995, devoting his career to the non-profit sector. From 1995 to 2007, he worked for the Christian Care Communities where he served as director of assisted living at Friendship House. From 2008 to 2011, Burden and his family had the opportunity to live in Australia, where he served as an administrator, helping people living with HIV.
Since moving back to Louisville, Burden has become a Highland Baptist Church member where he volunteers with the children’s music program, senior adult ministry group, and hand bell choir, and has also served as the deacon.
Esslinger serves as the vice president of community relations and development for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
She brought her background of events management, accounts management, and membership development to help this local non-profit to grow and develop. The University of Louisville graduate joined the association in 2004, overseeing employees and fundraising in Louisville, Lexington and Evansville.
Esslinger leads special events, grants, and donations, and has helped raise over $2 million to fund local programs and services to more than 80,000 residents affected by some form of dementia. She received a certificate of non-profit leadership from Bellarmine University for her efforts and lives in Louisville with her family.
David Easterling is a software entrepreneur engaged in a labor of love to bring back an iconic Louisville beer brand.
He began in sales and management in the paper industry and moved on to a career in information technology consulting. As the software executive for Everest Technologies, he grew the operation and eventually bought it. Now called Prosoft, Easterling has become a leader in the Louisville area for software development consulting and staffing, with offices across the nation.
When this beer-lover learned of the expired Falls City Beer trademark (a local beer company from 1905 to 1978), he applied for and secured the trademark for himself. Easterling is bringing back the iconic beer brand that had not been distributed in over 30 years.