Robert D. Ray
Robert D. Ray served as Governor of Iowa for five terms, from 1969-1983. He is the recipient of the Iowa Award, the state’s highest citizen award. He also received the Des Moines Register’s first Iowa Star Award in recognition of outstanding community involvement; was named Most Influential Iowan at the turn of the century, is the recipient of the National Volunteer Award and recently was presented a Lifetime Humanitarian Award from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association. He was Chairman of the National Governors’ Association, Midwestern Governors’ Association, Republican Governors’ Association, President of the Council of State Governments, Chairman of the Educational Commission of the States, and a number of other organizations. Ray also served an interim term as Mayor of Des Moines.
In addition, he has been a U.S. Representative to the United Nations. Following his career as Governor, Ray became CEO of Life Investors, Inc., now known as AEGON, Inc., a major insurance and financial services company. He next joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, aka Wellmark, as CEO.
Drake University is a place that holds special meaning for Bob Ray. He is one of Drake’s most noted graduates and remains a loyal supporter and booster. He entered Drake after serving in the military overseas and earned his B.A. in Business in 1952 and his Law Degree in 1954. Ray held numerous leadership positions at Drake including student faculty council president, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Psi. He also served as the Chairman of the Drake Board of Trustees and President of Drake University.
Ray practiced law in the firm of Lawyer, Lawyer, Ray and Crouch until elected Governor. He has received numerous awards for charitable and civic activities.
Bob Ray and his wife, Billie, live in Des Moines. They have three daughters and eight grandchildren.
Jim Aipperspach is a senior advisor at Bearence Management Group, a West Des Moines risk management company serving customers primarily in Iowa and Minnesota. He was previously for five and one half years the director of operations at Great Ape Trust, a scientific research facility in Des Moines dedicated to the study of ape intelligence, language and culture. Aipperspach coordinates and supervises all non-scientific responsibilities at Great Ape Trust including accounting, administration, communications, fund-raising, grounds and maintenance, human resources and public safety. Prior to joining Great Ape Trust, Aipperspach served as president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) for nearly ten years.
Before his position at ABI, he was president of the United Way of Central Iowa from 1993-95. For 18 years, Aipperspach, a native of Bismark, ND, worked in the telecommunications industry with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company and U.S. West, serving for seven years as vice president and CEO for U.S. West operations in Iowa. As a community leader, Aipperspach is a past-president of the West Des Moines Community School Board, where he served for nine years, former president of the Greater Des Moines Committee and former secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Business Council. He has served on the board of directors for Mercy Hospital, Bankers Trust and the Iowa Telephone Association. Aipperspach currently also serves on the board of the Iowa College Foundation, and the Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa Council.
Emily Abbas is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Bankers Trust. Des Moines native and advocate Emily Abbas joined Bankers Trust in 2014 as the Bank’s first Chief of Staff. About six months later, she also agreed to serve as Chief Marketing Officer, leading all marketing and communications efforts for the Bank. Emily currently serves as President of Drake University’s National Alumni Board, Chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Communications Board, on the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, and on the board of directors at the Des Moines Community Playhouse.
Don Adams, Ph. D.
On July 1, 1969, Donald Adams was appointed vice president for student life at Drake University. In 1985, the title vice president for enrollment management was added, and in January 1995, Dr. Adams assumed the position of executive assistant to the president, Secretary to the University and Legislative liaison. Prior to coming to Drake University, Dr. Adams served ten years at Michigan State University where he was a member of the vice president for student affairs staff as director of residence hall programs. Dr. Adams did his undergraduate work at the University of Northern Iowa and received his masters and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University. He has served as regional vice president and president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Dr. Adams has also received the outstanding alumnus award from the University of Northern Iowa, the Fred Turner Award for outstanding service to NASPA and was selected for the Scott Goonight Award from NASAP as the outstanding student affairs administrator in the United States. In addition, he has served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association since 1976. He has also been a consultant for colleges and universities and continues as an active member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
In the fall of 2000, Kathe Breheny made a career move from the advertising and public relations field to work in the electric utility industry. As Vice President of Corporate Communications, Kathe is able to use the skills and relationships that she developed over the 12 years of working in the advertising arena to help the cooperatives make a difference in the lives in the communities they serve. Concern for Community is one of the Cooperative Guiding Principles that Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) does business by. Working closely with KCCI-TV 8 meteorologists, CIPCO helped bring the SchoolNet program to the Des Moines television viewing area. Involving the schools in the program has been a home run for the local communities, educators, rural electric cooperatives as well as KCCI-TV. Working with Character Counts In Iowa is just another commitment that Kathe believes strongly in and has helped bring the training to the educators and the youth of Iowa. “Working with the communities on a variety of different programs that we can really see a difference being made has been a highlight of my career,” says Kathe. “I am always taken back when I see the true gratification of community leaders, educators and students in the programs that we support.” Kathe is married to Mark and they have one son Chad. When she is not spending time with her “pride and joy” three grandchildren, traveling is her true relaxation.
Jared grew up in Clive, Iowa and attended Valley High School. Later, he went on to attend the University of Iowa under Coach Kirk Ferentz in his first class. Jared graduated in 2003, while at University of Iowa he was an Academic All American and All conference player, a four year letterman, a 5-year member of leadership committee, game captain and Coaches Appreciation Award winner in 2002 and 2003, part of Iowa’s Big Ten Championship in 2002, an East West Shrine Game Participant in 2003, on the Academic All District team, and the Forest Evashevski Scholastic Achievement Award winner. He was part of the Alamo Bowl team in 2001, the Orange Bowl team in 2003, and the Outback Bowl team in 2004. After college, Jared was drafted in the 7th Round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. He was credited with 4 seasons in NFL under the Titans, Redskins and Raiders.
Jared’s community work has involved: the Titans player Caravan, Nashville Baptist Hospital visits, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center visits, Nashville Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, Walter Reed Medical Center visits, Polk County I-Club, United Way office campaign organizer for 2008, the Mid Iowa Estate and Financial Planners, and church sponsored holiday gift and meal programs. He was also accepted into the 2009 class of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. He currently serves as a financial advisor at UBS Financial Services Inc. in West Des Moines. He works with individuals and businesses to help them implement strategies to help them meet their long term financial goals. He enjoys traveling, all things outdoors, and an active lifestyle.
After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, Mary moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for Gordon C. James Public Relations.
In 2004, Mary served on the Busch-Cheney campaign and after the November election, she worked on the Presidential Inauguration. Following the inauguration, she worked at The White House in the Office of Presidential Advance which allowed her to travel domestically and internationally planning and organizing all logistics for Presidential visits. After two and a half years, it was time to move back to Des Moines.
Back in Iowa, Mary began working at the Republican Party of Iowa as Communications Director during the Iowa Caucuses before spending two years in the Community Relations Department at Prairie Meadows. In January of 2010, Mary started Goldfinch Strategies which had a focus on community, media and public relations; special event, project and campaign management; and creative concept and strategy execution.
In January 2011, Mary was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad to serve as Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
She currently lives with her husband, Peter, in West Des Moines. Peter is President of Junior Achievement of Central Iowa and serves in the Iowa House of Representatives. They have a son named John Henry.
Randy Edeker is chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee, Inc., a position he has held since 2009.
A 30-year veteran of Hy-Vee, Edeker began his Hy-Vee career in 1981 as a part-time employee at the Hy-Vee store in Chariton, Iowa. He quickly moved up through the ranks at Hy-Vee, working at stores in Lincoln, Nebraska; Davenport, Iowa; Milan, Illinois; and Kirksville, Missouri before getting his first store director assignment at Columbus, Nebraska in 1993. After just a year at the helm, he was selected by his peers for induction into the Hy-Vee Hall of Fame as “Store Manager of the Year.”
In 1995 Edeker joined Hy-Vee’s corporate staff, serving as a director of operations overseeing stores in the company’s Northwest region. Once again, his peers recognized his accomplishments by voting him into the Hall of Fame as “Department Director of the Year” in 1998. That same year, he was elected to serve a one-year term on Hy-Vee’s board of directors. In 1999, he transferred to Hy-Vee’s Southern Region as director of operations, and later, assistant vice president, operations, overseeing the company’s growing Kansas City market.
Edeker was elected vice president, Marketing for Hy-Vee in 2004. A year later, Hy-Vee staff and store directors presented him with his third Hy-Vee Hall of Fame award, this time as “Officer of the Year.” In 2006 Edeker moved up to senior vice president, retail operations, and in 2008 he became executive vice president and chief operating officer. Stockholders elected him to his current position as president in 2009.
In this role, Edeker oversees retail operations, store design, marketing, advertising, distribution procurement and communications for Hy-Vee, which operates 233 supermarkets and drug stores in eight Midwestern states. He serves on Hy-Vee’s board of directors and executive committee and is active within the industry as well, serving on the Pepsico Retail Advisory Council, Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council and as Co-Chair of the Associate Member Board of the Food Marketing Institute, the industry’s largest trade group.
Randy and his wife, Dawn, have two children and one granddaughter and reside in Urbandale.
Mike C. Gartner
Mike C. Gartner is the newest stockholder and director of Raccoon Baseball Inc. Mike is a native of Des Moines and a graduate of Dowling High School and attended Simpson College. He worked for several years at Orchard Place, a home for troubled youth, and this season has joined the staff of the Iowa Cubs. Mike is also president of the Gartner Family Foundation, which supports education, cultural and youth organizations in the Des Moines area.
Mike C. Gartner, who by coincidence has almost the same name as the team’s majority owner (they have different middle names), is married to the former Michelle Sutton. They live in Des Moines
Jim recently retired from the position of Executive Director for the Iowa Sports Foundation. During his time with the Iowa Sports Foundation, Hallihan spent a great deal of his time traveling the state of Iowa promoting the Iowa Games and the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. His travels included a 100-stop media tour, as well as speaking engagements at sport clinics, schools, civic organizations, church groups and corporations. For 8 1/2 years, Hallihan hosted a radio show, “Sports for the Right Reasons,” in which sportsmanship and character-building are the focus for youth, parents and coaches. In October 2006 at the National Congress of State Games Symposium, Hallihan was awarded the first ever Executive Director of the Year award. He received this award from his fellow colleagues from state games organizations all around the country. In March 2009, Hallihan was a recipient of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Sportsmanship Award at the Girls’ State Basketball Tournament which was played at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
A native of Decatur, Ill., Hallihan enjoyed a successful basketball playing career at Miami (Ohio) University, where he was a two-year starter and team captain on the Redskins’ NCAA Tournament team. After a short stint as a head coach at Casey (Ill.) High School and a tour of duty in the Army, Hallihan joined the coaching staff at Virginia Tech. In 1973, Virginia Tech won the N.I.T., and the 1974-75 Virginia Tech coaching staff was named one of the Top Ten College Coaching Staffs of all time by Mike Douchant of the College Sports Xchange. Hallihan joined Johnny Orr’s basketball staff at Iowa State University in August of 1982 after serving as head coach at East Tennessee State from 1979-1982, guiding the Bucs to a 57-53 record. He served as Johnny Orr’s top assistant at ISU for twelve years. During that time, the Cyclones made six NCAA appearances and three N.I.T appearances.
Hallihan holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami of Ohio in physical education and administration. In 2009 Jim was presented with the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award to honor his remarkable character and dedication to our organization. He and wife Trish have two daughters, Jennifer and Kelly; one son, Danny; and one granddaughter, Rosie.
Matthew Harris was appointed Administrator of the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, in March 2011. Through his role at the Iowa Arts Council, Harris is charged with leading the state arts agency’s staff, grant-making initiatives and programming while helping steward the agency’s mission of enriching the quality of life in Iowa through support of the arts.
A Cedar Falls, Iowa native, Harris earned a degree in Public Relations from the University of Northern Iowa and worked for the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center before serving as development coordinator for Des Moines Performing Arts for more than six years.
Harris is a 2013 Des Moines Business Record ‘Forty Under 40’ honoree, a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and serves on the boards of directors of Arts Midwest, The Ray Center the Les Hale Endowment Fund and is a past board member of Cedar Falls Community Main Street, Inc. Harris is also an active volunteer for the University of Northern Iowa and the Panther Scholarship Club. He resides in Des Moines.
Sandy Hatfield Clubb
A new era in Drake University Athletics began May 30, 2006, when Hatfield Clubb was named the school’s 16th athletics director. Hatfield Clubb is the first woman in the state of Iowa and only the third in the Missouri Valley Conference history to serve as an NCAA Division I athletics director. Since her arrival to Des Moines, she has immersed herself in the community. In addition to The Ray Center, she serves on the board of directors for the United Way, Iowa Sports Foundation, Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Community Foundation. Additionally, she is a member of the Downtown Rotary and NEXUS Executive Women’s Alliance.
Hatfield Clubb grew up in Bethesda, Md., and her husband, Jeffrey Clubb, is a native of Sigourney, Iowa. They are the parents of two children – a son, Tristan, and a daughter, Skyelar. Hatfield Clubb earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas-El Paso. Upon graduation, she was assistant aquatics coach at Washington and Lee University and later moved to Arizona State University where she served in various roles over 16 years before becoming athletics director at Drake University.
Nate Kaeding was born and raised in Iowa City. He attended Iowa City West High School where he was a member of the National Honor Society and won a total of four State Championships, including three in one year (football, basketball, and soccer). He was named the Des Moines Registers High School Athlete of the year in 2000.
Nate attended the University of Iowa (2000-2003) and received a B.A. in History and a Secondary Social Studies certification through the College of Education. He was named two-time Academic All-American and two-time first team All-American for the Hawkeye football team. He is also the all-time leading scorer in school history. Nate was also recognized as the top college placekicker with the Lou Groza Award.
He was drafted in the 3rd round (65th pick overall) of the 2004 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers and was a two time pro bowl selection. Nate retired after the 2012 season as the second most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, having made 86.2 percent of his career attempts.
Nate received a certificate in Character Development from the University of San Diego. He is currently an Executive MBA student at the University of Iowa Tippie School of Business.
He is involved in numerous community engagements and serves as a member of the board of directors of Character Counts In Iowa. Nate is married to Samantha and they have three children, Jack, Wyatt and Tess. Their family resides in Iowa City.
R. Michael Knapp
R. Michael Knapp serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Iowa Realty Co. Inc. His title represents the culmination of a successful 28-year career in real estate services and development in which he received numerous promotions and recognitions from his peers. Mr. Knapp earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in marketing from the University of Iowa in 1972. Upon graduation, he entered the real estate profession as a sales agent with Iowa Realty. In 1977, he was promoted to manager of the company’s largest sales office. In 1984, he was named general sales manager of the residential division of Iowa Realty; and in 1991, he was promoted senior vice president. Mr. Knapp was tapped as president and CEO in 1992. During his tenure as president of Iowa Realty, Mr. Knapp has negotiated several brokerage acquisitions that served to expand and diversify Iowa Realty’s presence across the state. In 1994, he led the acquisition of Carol Jones, Realtors of Springfield, Missouri, the No. 1 real estate brokerage in Southwest Missouri. A year later, in 1995, Mr. Knapp negotiated the purchase of First Realty/Better Homes & Gardens in Des Moines, which had long been Iowa Realty’s chief rival. The transaction gave Iowa Realty an unprecedented market share among brokerage firms based in larger metropolitan areas.
Mr. Knapp’s brokering talents took on a pivotal role in 1998 when AmerUs Group, the former owner of Iowa Realty and its affiliates, determined it would exit the real estate business. Mr. Knap led the effort to identify a buyer that would best serve the needs of the company, its agents, employees, and the community. He brought buyer and seller together in a transaction valued at more than $80 million. Today, as part of HomeServices.com, Inc., an affiliate of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, Mr. Knapp serves on the real estate holding company’s board of directors. In this role he works in tandem with the company’s other real estate executives to implement best practice solutions and expand and diversify the company’s geographic scope and product offerings. Within the real estate industry, Mr. Knapp has been recognized a superior brokerage operator. He received the honor of “Realtor of the Year” in 1990 from the Des Moines Board of Realtors.
Kathryn Kunert is a native of Mason City, Iowa and graduated from UNI with a bachelor’s in public administration. In 1996 she joined MidAmerican Energy Company and currently is the vice president for economic connections and integration.
Kathryn is very involved in the community and has served as Past President and member of both Rotary DMAM and the Professional Developers of Iowa. She serves as a board member for the Iowa City Area Development Group and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance. Kathryn is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, a Forty Under 40 class member of 2002 and member of the Des Moines Symphony’s viewing committee.
Kathryn lives in the Des Moines Area with her husband, Randy.
Drew McLellan’s a 25+ year marketing agency veteran who lives for creating “a ha” moments for his clients, clients’ customers, peers and audiences across the land. Sadly, for his daughter, he attempts to do the same thing at home.
Drew’s favorite tools for creating these moments are vivid story telling, Italian heritage inspired hand gestures and the occasional tipping of a sacred cow.
Over the years, Drew has lent his expertise to clients like Nabisco, IAMS pet foods, Kraft Foods, Meredith Publishing, John Deere, Iowa Health System, Make-A-Wish, and a wide array of others.
Drew is also one of the world’s top marketing and branding bloggers. He has written the book 99.3 Random Acts of Marketing, co-editing the Age of Conversation series of books and in 1995, he launched his own firm McLellan Marketing Group.
Recently he has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week and Fortune’s Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.
Greg lives in the small town of Traer, Iowa. Greg is recently retired form East-Central Iowa REC after more than 20 years of service. Prior to working with the REC Greg developing 160 acres of prime ground.
Greg is a father of two-a daughter and a son. He is the proud grandfather of four-Wesley 11, Rachel 9, Madeline 7 and Zachary 6. Greg believes that while children make up about 27 of the US population but 100% of our future which way they go depend on us.
Greg looks forward to spending his retirement golfing, traveling, hunting and fishing. He enjoys gardening and just being outdoors.
Alan is co-owner and president Covenant Construction Services, a commercial general contracting company specializing in government contracting. Their care for their process takes them to the top of the energy star rating system.
Alan formerly served in the United States Army as a command sergeant major and retired in 2001. He entered the Army in October of 1981 and CSM Sprinkle’s assignments included duties as a military policeman, airborne ranger, Army recruiter, and prior to retiring was responsible for the Des Moines Recruiting Battalion covering Iowa, Nebraska, part of South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois as well as many other leadership positions before that. CSM Sprinkle holds a Bachelor of Science-Arts Degree from Excelsior College, in Albany, New York. Some of Alan’s hobbies are exercising and instructing at Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping, golf, gardening, and cooking. Alan is married to the former Ms. Laurie Witt of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. They have two sons, Benjamin and Joshua.
Julie Stewart has been an instrumental part of the Prairie Meadows corporate management team since the organization’s first year of operations in 1989. She successfully led the marketing and advertising programs during the introduction of casino gaming. She was elevated to assistant marketing director in 1996 and was eventually named marketing director. As Prairie Meadows expanded its corporate giving, Julie was chosen in 2006 to direct the newly created Community Relations department. Julie earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.
Over the past year, Julie has made significant contributions to the community as co-chair of the ALS Campaign, Variety Club of Iowa, United Way of Central Iowa, Des Moines University’s Glanton Scholarship Dinner, and the Governor’s Boy Scout/Girl Scout Luncheon.
Julie currently serves on the boards of The Ray Center, Variety-The Children’s Charity, Blank Park Zoo Foundation, Better Business Bureau, and United Way Campaign Cabinet. She is also a member of Altoona Elementary PTA, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Altoona Chamber of Commerce, and Polk County Democrats. Julie is a past board member of Greater Des Moines Leadership, Des Moines Arts Festival, Generations Inc., and the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce. She is an honorary member of 40 Under 40, and she is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s TLP\CLP programs and Leadership Iowa.
Julie and her husband Mark have three children.
Dean is national college and university segment manager at Wells Blue Bunny, and was born and raised in northwest Iowa. He has been an active board member since 2001. He graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s in Sociology. Dean has been married to Julie for 33 years, and they have two sons, Evan and Miles. Evan is a graduate of Iowa State University and Miles currently attends Iowa State University.
Jay Tyler graduated from Waukee High School and attended the University of Iowa where he graduated with a bachelor’s in inter-departmental studies with an emphasis in business. Throughout his career, Jay worked part-time for the family owned business, Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Jay has held various jobs within the organization including warehouse operations, service support, merchandising and delivery. In September of 2008, Jay moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to take part of a Management Training Program for Swire Coca-Cola Company. After eighteen months in Utah, Jay has returned to central Iowa where he is employed at Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Jay lives in West Des Moines, and enjoys golf and other outdoor activities.
Wallace was the recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 2002, he received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa, the Simonton Community Excellence Award from the Iowa CareGivers Foundation in 1998, American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Award in 1997 and several other awards.
Randi Ray Watson
The Honorable Joy C. Corning
A desire to give students the opportunity to hear and interact with leaders in their respective fields from all over the world prompted University of Northern Iowa alumna and former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, to make a generous gift to the UNI Foundation’s Students First campaign. The Joy Cole Corning Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series will bring to campus renowned leaders in such areas as the arts, business, education, government and the judiciary. Corning said her 25 years in elective offices gave her a myriad of experiences in interacting with leaders in various disciplines. She believes it is important for students to understand what makes a leader and how people become leaders. The Iowa Committee on Diversity was formed in 1993 by then Lt. Governor Joy Corning. It was originally organized to address a series of racial incidents that had occurred in Iowa. Now living in Des Moines, Corning taught school in Greenfield and Waterloo, following her graduation from UNI with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. After serving six years in the Iowa Senate, Ms. Corning was elected Lieutenant Governor, serving for eight years. In addition to serving on the ICD Board, Joy serves on the UNI Foundation board of trustees, PPGI board of directors, Plymouth Church board of trustees, advisory board of the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted and Talented Development at the University of Iowa, D.M.Symphony Foundation Board, and the Iowa Public Television Foundation Board.
Billy is an Iowa high school and college football legend. He played college football at Drake where he broke five Pioneer Football League records including most points and most career field goals. Billy attended high school in Harlan, Iowa where he was a two time All-American and helped lead his team to the Iowa State Championship in 1998. He was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2002.
Billy set an NFL record for most field goals made in a game on Monday Night Football. A member of the Baltimore Ravens since 2009, Billy tied an NFL record for most touchbacks in a season and was named to the AFC Pro-Bowl Squad and NFL All-Pro in 2010.
By 21 years old, American gymnast Shawn Johnson had accomplished a lifetime of achievements that include Olympic Medals, a New York Times best-selling book, a business, and a career in broadcast.
Johnson’s love of gymnastics started when her parents, hoping to channel the energies of their rambunctious daredevil toddler, enrolled her in classes at the age of three. A few years later, she began practicing with instructor Liang Chow at his training facility in Des Moines. It wasn’t long after Chow began coaching Johnson that he knew she would be a viable Olympics competitor.
Johnson became a member of the U.S. senior team in 2007. She is the 2007 all-around World Champion and 2007 World Champion on floor exercise. As well as being the 2007 U.S. Champion on balance beam and floor exercise, the 2008 U.S. Champion on floor exercise and silver medalist on balance beam, she is a three-time U.S. all-around Champion, winning once as a junior and twice as a senior.
Hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide watched as a 16 year old Johnson won four medals including gold on the balance beam at the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place in Beijing, China.
At the age of 17, she became the youngest ever contestant, and subsequently in May of 2009 was crowned champion, of ABC’s 8thseason of “Dancing with the Stars”. Shawn was so popular with the audience that in 2012 she was invited back for “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” where she again made it to the finale.
After a two-year hiatus from competitive gymnastics, Shawn returned to training in 2010 in an effort to make the 2012 Olympic Team. Just weeks before Olympic Trials, she was forced to withdraw due to injury and retired from the sport.
In 2014, Johnson launched TheBodyDepartment.com, a site dedicated to offering an outlet where people can talk about body image, wellness, and fitness in a healthy way.
She is involved in a number of philanthropic activities such as working with animal and children’s charities, working with cancer charities, particularly those that affect women and children, and is a strong advocate of health and wellness initiatives. Shawn is also involved in programs that help build good character amongst youth across the country.
Donna is currently the public relations coordinator for McAninch Corporation. She moved to West Des Moines in 1993 after many years in the Iowa Great Lakes Region working as the Marketing Director for, at that time, the newly renovated Arnold Amusement Park. Upon her arrival to the Des Moines area, she was first employed as the Marketing Director for Embassy Suites and soon after became Marketing Director for McAninch Corporation.
Donna has been active in the Des Moines community on many levels and held various board and committee positions. She served on the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the YWCA board of directors, Drake Women’s Basketball Steering Committee and Season Ticket Sales Committee, Glen Oaks Country Club Membership Committee, Glen Oaks Ladies Golf Association Chair, Dowling Catholic High School Band Aid Fundraising Committee and works as a volunteer at St. Francis of Assisi School. Donna is married to Doug McAninch and they have two daughters, Heather and Rosie.
C.J. Niles has been an board member since its our inception in 1997, after serving as co-chair of the Iowa Sesquicentennial Commission Board of Directors. Niles is currently community relations staff for the American Cancer Society in Carroll, Iowa. Prior to this, Niles was the director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development. She served as executive director of the Carroll Area Development Corporation and Carroll Chamber of Commerce for twelve years. She is also a previous small business owner and educator. Niles received a B.A.E. degree from Wayne State College and an M.S. E. from Northwest Missouri State University. She is a current member of the City Development Board for the State of Iowa.
“It is truly a pleasure to serve on a board that is really making a difference in Iowa. Although we emphasize character education for young people, all ages have benefited from the lessons of the Six Pillars of Character. It gives me a great deal of pride to work with such a professional staff who are very enthusiastic about their jobs and the mission.”