The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan - 2016

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PUBLISHER John H. Zwarensteyn: EDITOR Carole Valade: MANAGING EDITOR Tim Gortsema: COPY EDITOR Donna Ferraro: ONLINE EDITOR Chris Ehrlich: STAFF REPORTERS Charlsie Dewey: Pat Evans: Mike Nichols: Rachel Weick: STAFF RESEARCHER/REPORTER Jesse O’Brien: STATE LEGISLATIVE REPORTER Capital News Service: CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jeffrey Gitomer, Paul A. Hense, Brian Long, Bill Rohn, Bill Roth, Ardon Schambers NEW MEDIA, DESIGN & PRODUCTION MANAGER Scott Sommerfeld: ART COORDINATOR Kelly J. Nugent: DESIGNERS/PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Melissa Brooks: Chris Pastotnik: Kristen VanOostenbrugge: Robin Vargo: CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Michael Buck, Jim Gebben, Johnny Quirin GENERAL SALES MANAGER Randy D. Prichard: ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER Jenn Maksimowski: ADVERTISING SALES CONSULTANTS Jennifer Collins: Nooreen Faridi: Christina McDonald Meister: Craig R. Rich: ADVER. SALES ASSISTANT/ COORDINATOR Karla Jeltema: CIRCULATION & MARKETING MANAGER Scott T. Miller: CIRCULATION & MARKETING COORDINATOR Madison Mabin: CIRCULATION & MARKETING ASSISTANT Katrina Peshka: FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Pamela Brocato, CPA: ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Tina Gillman: RECEPTION/CLERICAL SERVICES General Inquiries: Addie Donley: TO ORDER REPRINTS Karla Jeltema:, (616) 459-4545


Influential — and change agents


RAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL continues a bi-annual tradition that began in 1997 when the first of GRBJ Most Influential Women in West Michigan was published. In that year, fewer than 50 were nominated. This year the Business Journal received a record 138 nominations of women leading businesses and communities in West Michigan. In the first several years of the recognition, those profiled were women who shattered glass ceilings with advancement to the C-suites and who sat on the benches of semi-pro and professional sports as well as the courts of justice. They have always represented “nontraditional” business sectors such as technology, medicine and construction. They still do. In recent years the Business Journal has noted that women with such leadership skills also advance the communities in which they live. The panel of judges reviewing the nominees considers accomplishments in various business sectors and the community. The panel also notes each nominee’s involvement in assisting other women. This year the judges also took special note of those who are change agents, inspiring wholly new pathways to success. The Business Journal elects to request the assistance of judges from outside this region — individuals who are influential from east Michigan: — Michelle Richards was a founding board member of the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council (formerly known as the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development) and continues to serve as executive director. She also is a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She has been honored with the Michigan Small Business Administration Women’s Business Advocate of the Year Award, and was a participant in the Women’s Economic Summit at the White House. The city of Ypsilanti and the Women’s Council of Washtenaw County selected Richards as its 2010 ATHENA Award recipient. — Bob Thomas is senior director of operations of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which includes Leadership Michigan. — Paula Tutman is a multi-Emmy-nominated and Emmy-winning broadcast journalist at WDIV in Detroit, and leads several nonprofit organizations. She is the founder and chair emeritus of the nonprofit organization Children’s ToothFairy Foundation, which provides dental care and oral health education to uninsured children in Southeastern Michigan. The Business Journal is grateful for the judges’ extensive time commitment and expertise in reviewing each nominee. The profiles provided in this supplement exemplify the leadership of GRBJ 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The group will be honored during a luncheon on International Women’s Day, Tuesday, March 8, at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. The keynote speaker is ground-breaking actress and author Sonia Manzano, best known for her role as Maria on “Sesame Street.” She also has been recognized as one of the most influential Latina women in the United States. Congratulations to all the nominees and to the GRBJ 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. Carole Valade

Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal



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50 Most Influential Women In West Michigan Becky Renner Anderson Christina Arnold Patricia Barker Carole Bos (NOT PICTURED) Meredith Bronk Mary Brown Candace Cowling Kathy Crosby Jennifer Crowley Jenelle Davis Jeanne Englehart Pam Enslen Christina Freese-Decker Floriza Genautis Jane Gietzen Meg Goebel Carla Grant Vicki Harris Denise Kolesar Rhoda Kreuzer Marcie Lewis Peaches McCahill Mary McLoughlin Kerri Miller Brenda Moore Rachel Mraz Bonnie Nawara Audrey Nevins-Weiss Kay Olthoff Kay Palan Jo-Anne Perkins Michelle Rabideau Ana Ramirez-Saenz Kristin Revere Kimberly Ridings Monique Salinas Cheryl Schuch Amna Seibold Sharon E. Smith Kris Spaulding Tami VandenBerg Sheila VanZile Linda Vos-Graham Beverly Wall Dawn Garcia Ward Wendy Wassink Shana Welch Bridget Clark Whitney Shannon Wilson Kimberly Wolting 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 7

BECKY RENNER ANDERSON Financial Advisor Edward Jones

BECKY RENNER ANDERSON joined Edward Jones as a financial advisor in 2000. After moving to Michigan from Illinois in 2009 to assume responsibilities for the downtown Grand Rapids office, in just three years she became Edward Jones’ first female milliondollar advisor in the state. Anderson has a passion for helping clients achieve financial freedom. She views investing in the community as an important core value and said she was truly humbled by the recent achievement of being ranked in the top 1 percent for client satisfaction. She serves as co-chair of Gilda’s Club’s LaughFest, is on the board for Holland Home, and is a committee member of the Women’s Council. She has served on the marketing committee for ArtPrize and facilitated the first premier sponsorship of a Fortune 500

company. She was instrumental in developing the West Michigan Save for Education Day in partnership with John Ball Zoo in 2014. “I am passionate about developing strong relationships to contribute to the economic development of Grand Rapids,” said Anderson. “Giving back is a way of life for me.” Anderson has mentored women at Grand Valley State University and at Hope College, and has shared best practices and business management strategies with women financial advisors across the country. She has been invited to Barron’s Top 100 Women’s Summit for three consecutive years, and is a founding member of the Women’s Initiative for New Growth Strategies, which is focused on educating and empowering women on career opportunities in the financial services industry.


Director, Bob and Alecia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center Grand Rapids Community College

CHRISTINA ARNOLD is proud of the work and vision of the Bob and Alecia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center. The center provides an integrated and cross-cultural approach to diversity inclusion, an effort about which she is passionate. Arnold has been an active member of the Convention and Arena Authority’s Inclusion Council for years, helping to not only establish a community inclusion group, governance task force and action plan, but also increase diverse events and entertainment at DeVos Place, DeVos Performance Hall and Van Andel Arena. She also serves as a member of Varnum’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, and as an advisory member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Michigan Advisory Council. “I believe it is important for us to have


mentors and role models to learn from,” said Arnold. “As a Latina in West Michigan, I have been able to serve as a role model not only for my daughter, but also for many other young Latinas in our community.” In 2015, she was recognized with a YWCA Tribute Advocacy Award for her leadership at the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center, and for her efforts to eliminate racism, empower women and girls, and integrate diversity and inclusion training in the region. Arnold served as chair of the 211 Committee and Chair Inclusion Council for Heart of West Michigan United Way. She was a member of the Women of Color Initiatives with the American Council of Education State Board, and served on the City of Grand Rapids Human Relations Commission.

PATRICIA BARKER Artistic Director Grand Rapids Ballet

SINCE 2010, Patricia Barker has had a role in transforming the arts and cultural landscape in Grand Rapids as the artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet. In her leadership role, Barker oversees a nearly $2 million budget, a staff of more than 50 individuals, and is involved in capital campaigns, endowments and scholarship fundraising efforts. “My work with Grand Rapids Ballet helps to create a place where people not only want to work, but live and thrive,” said Barker. “Everywhere we travel, from Seattle to St. Louis, all the way to Vietnam and Japan, we are cultural ambassadors for Grand Rapids, and the money we make comes back to fuel the West Michigan economy.” In addition to her work at Grand Rapids Ballet, Barker is on the fundraising committee for the Tateuchi Center in Bellevue, Washington, where she helped raise $85 million; and on the advisory board for Pointe Magazine, a leading ballet journal. While serving as a board member of the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall from 2002 to 2004, the advisory committee raised $130 million to renovate the Seattle-based performance hall. Barker also worked as artistic adviser for Slovak National Ballet and Hungarian National Ballet, where she oversaw the development of funding sources and touring opportunities. She continues to judge international ballet competitions and instruct at nationally recognized ballet schools. As the former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Barker performed throughout the world and appeared as a guest artist at a number of international galas and festivals.


Co-founder and President/Founder and Chief Creative Officer Bos & Glazier PLC/AwesomeStories Internet Productions Inc.


CAROLE BOS IS a pioneer in both the courtroom and the classroom. Since launching her career as one of the few female trial lawyers in West Michigan in 1981, Bos served as Special Attorney to the U.S. Attorney General from 1997 to 1999, co-founded two successful law firms based in Grand Rapids, is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and launched an interactive online learning tool for teachers and students. Bos currently serves as president and co-founder of Bos & Glazier, which was established in 1995 and has a $1 million budget and eight employees. She has spent her career working to open doors and mentor young women and men interested in pursuing a career in the legal field. In 1999, she launched the web-based education and technology business AwesomeStories, which provides teachers and students access to more than 100,000 sources, documents and multimedia content to enhance critical thinking and engagement in the humanities. Bos also serves as vice chair of Cornerstone University’s board of trustees, is a member of the Directions Committee at Bethany Christian Services, and has a number of roles with the Dean’s Advisory Board at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business. She has spoken at national and international conferences and delivered lectures as a faculty member of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education at the University of Michigan Law School, Hillman Advocacy Program and the ICLE Advocacy Program. In 2015, Bos presented during the Global Conference of Lawyers in Amsterdam.


MEREDITH BRONK CEO and President Open Systems Technologies Inc.

AS CEO AND PRESIDENT of Open Systems Technologies Inc., Meredith Bronk not only leads a $180 million organization with 180 employees, but also has responsibilities for sales, business development, marketing, service delivery, finance and operations. “As a woman in technology, it is my opportunity, responsibility and honor to model leadership in our industry,” said Bronk. “Helping others identify their strengths and own them is my passion.” Bronk has worked with OST since 1998 and served as chief operating officer before being promoted to president in 2014 and then to CEO in 2015. She has helped support OST’s growth in the technology industry and its ongoing commitment to its employees, which has resulted in an employee satisfaction rating of 94 percent during its 10-year growth period. In 2015, OST was recognized as one of the top 50 Women-Run Organizations in the country by Inc. Magazine, and was named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in both the West Michigan and national competitions. “Being recognized as an ‘Influential Woman’ carries a responsibility to authenticity. In order to be impactful, it is important — especially for women — to be confident in what we have to offer,” said Bronk. “Understanding that I am who I am, whether I’m in the board room or in my daughters’ classroom, is liberating.” Bronk serves on the board of directors for United Bank of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.


Consultant/Adjunct Professor leeAlexander Consulting/Grand Rapids Community College

AS AN ORGANIZATIONAL development consultant, Mary Brown has more than 12 years of experience helping organizations in the business, nonprofit and education sectors to apply design thinking models and organizational development to enhance their efficacy. Brown has helped to design and implement strategies and programs to increase organizational learning, cultural competency and change management, as well as develop new talent acquisition and training initiatives. She has instructed at Grand Rapids Community College for nearly 20 years in the business and psychology departments, and is a doctoral student at Pepperdine University. “My greatest career achievement was taking a risk and branching out to explore my many interests when it seemed everyone was encouraging me to fit into a set mold,” said Brown. She is a former board member of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women and Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, and served on an advisory board for West Michigan AIGA where she supported diversity and inclusion initiatives. “My mission or goal for this second half of my life is to dedicate myself even more to opening doors and looking at diversity and inclusion in a different manner than normal,” said Brown. “I want to see women and those marginalized having access and building business and community with the use of technology.” She has been a member of the World Future Society, Society for Human Resource Management, Interaction Design Foundation and International Institute of Business Analysis and was the West Michigan chapter president of the Association for Talent Development.



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CANDACE COWLING Executive Director Family Futures

CANDACE COWLING has served as executive director of Family Futures for more than 18 years, leading a $1.9 million organization as it provides advocacy, prevention-based programming and education to shape a community that protects children from abuse and neglect. Under her leadership, Family Futures launched a program intended as a small pilot program to gauge Kent County parent interest for ongoing development screenings and in-time education to young children. Now 13 years later, the Connections program has evolved into a service reaching more than 24,000 children and conducting more than 100,000 development screenings. Considered her most significant achievement, Cowling has helped expand Connections into Ionia and Montcalm counties and launched a child care partnership serving more than 25 child care centers. “The changes I am able to make are because of my remarkable team and the impeccable leaders I walk alongside in our community,” said Cowling. “I set out to shape a community where the wellbeing of children is our highest priority.” Cowling serves as a member on the Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council, as part of the leadership team for Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network, and as the founding chair of Health Kent 2020’s Home Visitor Provider Network, which she helped co-found. She has served as a co-presenter for four years at the Society for Research on Child Development, as chair of the United Way Steering Committee of 60 United Way funded agencies, and as chair and founder of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire workgroup.


President and CEO Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids

UNDER KATHY CROSBY’S leadership since 2007, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids’ revenue has grown from $20.5 million to nearly $34.4 million; the number of stores has increased from 13 retail locations and one attended donation center to 20 retail locations and six attended donation centers; and online sales for ShopGoodwill grew to $1.23 million in 2014. “Goodwill’s strategic plan is driven by our community. It is focused on talent development, business engagement and organizational sustainability,” said Crosby. “We use our business model to fund services and create the first job opportunity for many.” Crosby serves on a number of boards and also dedicates her time as a mentor with Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring and as a guest speaker at local colleges and universities. She currently serves as board chair of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, as vice chair and board chair-elect of the Better Business Bureau, and on the board of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. She is involved with Talent2025 as a CEO Council member and is co-chair of the Veterans Committee. She is on the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Issues Council, Grand Valley State University’s Health Advisory Board and the board of directors for Regional Air Alliance. In 2015, Crosby was recognized by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce with a Diversity Visionary Award and as a finalist for the Dorothy A. Johnson Excellence and Achievement Award. Other accolades include the Toastmasters International Leadership and Communication Award and Goodwill Industries International P.J. Trevethan Award.


JENNIFER CROWLEY Partner and Co-Owner Highland Group

JENNIFER CROWLEY not only helped grow Highland Group, the marketing firm she launched with her husband in 2001, into a more than $2 million company; she also has a passion for connecting people, libraries and learning. “The achievements come day-by-day … as we help our clients grow; as we lead our talented, thoughtful, creative team; as we cultivate a workplace that’s inspiring for clients and employees alike,” she said. Celebrating the company’s 15th anniversary this year, Crowley said, is an even bigger milestone after her battle with breast cancer nearly two years ago. “After that experience, it would have been easy to walk away from the day-to-day stress of owning a business, but I believe in living from a place of abundance, not scarcity, and I was motivated to re-commit to the things that were most important in my life.” Crowley serves as council chair of the Center for Community Leadership, and vice chair of the board of trustees for the Library of Michigan. Crowley has been a speaker at the ATHENA luncheon, AAF West Michigan, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Local First Annual Conference. She was recognized by GRACC’s Center for Community Leadership with the Community Connections Champion award. In 2011, she was selected for an Up Next class by Saint Mary’s Foundation. She also was chosen as a Women of East Hills honoree by the East Hills Council of Neighbors and an ATHENA Young Professional finalist.


Founder and Executive Director The STD Project

JENELLE DAVIS DEVELOPED a website and progressive movement to eliminate the stigma associated with STDs by providing a safe place for individuals to share their stories, offering educational references and encouraging awareness. Since launching in 2012, has had more than 4.7 million views from 2.2 million unique visitors in 200 countries, and has grown to be a self-sustaining project with a budget of approximately $50,000. “What I do now is incredibly rewarding, figuratively and literally, but it has not been without its challenges,” said Davis. “Overcoming immense social stigmas and creating a paradigm shift is what I believe is worthwhile.” Davis currently serves as the tri-chair for the Communications Action Group with the National Coalition for Sexual Health and is a member of The International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections and of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association. She also is part of the National Coalition of STD Directors and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. Her multi-media work has been recognized as Best STD & HIV Blogs by since 2012. She was also named to the list of Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes in 2014 by, and as a Top HIV Voice of 2014 by Davis is a freelance writer for,, American Sexual Health Association and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. She has spoken about sexual health topics on Michigan State University’s monthly “Sexposure” radio show, for the Red Project in Grand Rapids and for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.



JEANNE ENGLEHART is an accomplished woman who has had success in business, public policy and nonprofit work. Currently, she is the owner of ETC Consulting, where she provides business consulting in the area of strategic planning for small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofits. She serves as a member of the capital campaign that helped secure $66.4 million for the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital expansion. She is a member of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s LGBT Advisory Committee and a founding leader and West Michigan Honorary Council member for Inforum. Englehart has served on numerous boards, including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Eco-

nomic Club and Downtown Rotary. She has been honored with the West Michigan Academy of Music for Girls’ Voice Award, and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s ATHENA Award. Englehart said she is most proud of starting Englehart Training Centers in 1984 with $5,000 and later selling it for a sizeable profit, and for her role as CEO of the GRACC from 2004 to 2011, where she led the formation of the first West Michigan Policy Conference. She also served as president and CEO of Productivity Point International, community services director for U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, executive director of Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center and vice president of client management for The Charter Group.

PAM ENSLEN Partner Warner Norcross & Judd

PAM ENSLEN IS one of only seven members that make up the executive committee of the 36-member board of governors of the American Bar Association. “My current leadership role in the American Bar Association is not only a huge honor, it has also put me in a position to influence policy and practice in an organization that affects the administration of justice, the development and implementation of human rights initiatives, and the Rule of Law in the United States and around the world,” Enslen said. As a member of the ABA’s leadership, Enslen was selected to serve as an official observer at portions of the trial proceedings against alleged 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Enslen is committed to making a differ-

ence in the area of diversity and inclusion, particularly related to women and girls. She holds the positions of board vice chair and board executive committee member for the Michigan Women’s Foundation, which works to enhance education and opportunities for women and girls in Michigan. One of its recent accomplishments was raising awareness and money for testing of thousands of untested rape kits found in Wayne County. At Warner Norcross, Enslen is chair of the Higher Education Practice Group. She supervises associate attorneys and paralegals in her day-to-day practice. Prior to joining the firm, Enslen was managing partner of a 40-attorney law office in Kalamazoo. She has been recognized throughout her career, including as one of the Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers five years in a row.

CHRISTINA FREESE-DECKER President Spectrum Health Hospital Group

CHRISTINA FREESE-DECKER is helping to shape the future of health care in West Michigan. As president of Spectrum Health Hospital Group, she oversees more than 21,000 employees and revenues of more than $2.3 billion. She is also tasked with leading the organization toward its goal of becoming the national leader for health by 2020. “With my team, I am leading a care transformation initiative at Spectrum Health, grounded in culture change, improved decision-making and patient-centric care coordination for today and the future,” she said. Freese-Decker has been with the hospital group for 13 years. Several initiatives have been put in motion under her leadership, including a tele-health program, plans to consolidate medical bills into one patient 14 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

statement, and improving wait times for appointments. “We are trying to innovate and serve patients and families in new and better ways,” she said. Freese-Decker has been recognized with the 2015 Modern Healthcare Up and Comer Award and the 2013 Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Outstanding Young Healthcare Executive. She currently sits on the boards of YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, Fifth Third Bank of Western Michigan and Michigan Health and Hospital Association. She formerly served on the boards of David D. Huntington YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, University of Iowa Department of Health Management and Policy Alumni, and Great Lakes American College of Healthcare Executives.

Congratulations! Kathy Crosby 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

Changing lives and communities through the power of work.


FLORIZA GENAUTIS CEO Management Business Solutions

MANAGEMENT BUSINESS SOLUTIONS is unique in that it is Women Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise certified, and 100 percent of its employees are women or minorities. Since founding the company in 2006, Floriza Genautis has grown her business to 10 employees and has made sure to “hire not just employees, but future owners of the company.” She has realized an ownership plan for two employees, with another set to become an owner soon. Genautis was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, coming to the United States in 1990 after graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a specialization in computer application. She said, despite growing up in a patriarchal culture where men are the “decision makers and hold positions of power and prestige,” her mother taught her and her sister that they, too, had a voice. She said her mother was an entrepreneur who made great sacrifices to bring her family to America. “Seeing the struggles that my mother endured influenced my approach to life and to business,” she said. It taught her to be independent and helped her develop a business philosophy rooted in building relationships. She credits the success of her business to having a dedicated and empowered team. Genautis’ commitment to developing women and minority business leaders extends beyond Management Business Solutions. She is a co-founder of Women in Successful Enterprises, and chair of the Women Certification Council of the Women Business Enterprise Council-Great Lakes.


Director, Information Services Spectrum Health

IN EVERYTHING SHE takes on, Jane Gietzen is driven by her passion for social justice. As director of information services at Spectrum Health, she said she is most proud of overseeing an internship program of more than 40 paid interns from colleges throughout the state. Gietzen said the program has a solid track record of job placement and also is focused on creating a diverse pipeline in the profession. “We are working very hard to attract women and under-represented minorities to our internship programs,” she said. Gietzen’s commitment to social justice can be seen in her board memberships. She is a member of the Downtown Development Authority and North Monroe TIFA board, where she works to create a more “community engaged” DDA for all citizens of Grand Rapids. She is a member of the Kent Schools Services Network, which provides needed wrap-around services to schools in the county. She is a founding member of West Michigan Tech Talent, which works with technology employers to improve the tech talent pipeline in the region. Previously, she sat on the Grand Rapids Public Schools board, serving on the finance, education, city school liaison and executive committees, and held the positions of vice president and secretary. She played a key role in the selection process that brought Teresa Weatherall Neal to the helm of GRPS. “Nothing motivates me more to be the change in the world than the fact that a child’s opportunity for a good public education is determined by their ZIP code,” Gietzen said.



President Acrisure LLC, dba Paul Goebel Group

MEG GOEBEL’S COMMITMENT to the Greater Grand Rapids community spans pages. “I have devoted a considerable amount of time, resources and money to volunteer for various organizations in West Michigan that, I believe, help to make this community an incredible place to live,” Goebel said. She has held positions on boards for Leadership Michigan, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Economic Club of Grand Rapids, YWCA Center for Women, Historical Society for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Huntington Bank’s Women’s Advisory Board and Michigan Women’s Foundation, among many others. Currently, Goebel is chairperson of the Broadway Grand Rapids board. She is the immediate past board chairperson for Planned Parenthood Centers of West and Northern Michigan. During her time on the board she was part of a consolidation committee to explore a merger with Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan to form a statewide affiliate. She is also a Grand Rapids Art Museum Foundation trustee, a position she’s held for two years. Goebel is committed to her company, which employs 16 people and earns $2.2 billion in revenue. As president of Paul Goebel Group, she said her most significant achievement was transitioning the agency to become an Acrisure LLC agency partner last year. “This merger/acquisition provides a succession plan for my insurance agency,” she said. “This partnership allows us the ability to access resources to grow the agency and creates a strong business foundation for my personnel and clients.”


CPA, Shareholder Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors

CARLA GRANT IS a rarity in the CPA field. She is one of only 10 percent of women who rise to the shareholder or partner level in the industry. To reach that level she blazed her own trail multiple times, first by helping to implement family-friendly policies at Hungerford Nichols. “I sought to be a partner someday, but not at the expense of my family,” she said. She was instrumental in shaping the work-life balance at the firm, which allowed her, when she started her own family, to continue on her path to shareholder. Even as she reduced her role to part time, she remained on the shareholder track by developing a highly specialized practice. “I developed the employee benefit plan audit practice, and am considered an expert in this field and have become a sought-after presenter, locally and nationally,” she said. The EBP team Grant leads audits more than 70 plans annually, covering 200,000 plan participants and including over $6 billion in assets. Grant has volunteered for more than five years with the United Way Schools of Hope program as a reading tutor for Grand Rapids Public Schools and has been a music volunteer for more than 25 years, singing and playing piano at local senior living centers and churches. Last spring, she spent a week volunteering in Nicaragua, digging latrines and helping to train village elders in the use of chlorine-producing units for sanitization of the water supply.



Vice President of Global Human Resources Our Daily Bread Ministries

VICKI HARRIS HAS trained more than 200 leaders, future leaders and employees over the past 25 years. Her commitment to mentoring and training others is shown in her role as vice president of global human resources at Our Daily Bread Ministries. The organization has nearly 40 offices around the world, and Harris works with all of them in the areas of HR, training, and developing leaders and teams. “I love being involved with and developing others, and learning all of the different cultures around the world,” Harris said. She was recognized with an honorary doctorate in humanities in 2013 for the work she has done in Africa, Guatemala and other foreign nations. In 2014, she received a Global Exemplary Leadership Award. In 2015, she was selected to serve as a United Nations Worldwide Peace and Goodwill Ambassador. Harris currently sits on the executive board for Methodist Community House, where she has focused on re-establishing greater organization and fundraising for the development of more programs to help women, children and seniors. She also sits on the Jubilee Jobs board, where she helped realign services offered to the disenfranchised and people with criminal records to find employment and learn life skills. She is an executive board member for The Revolution, where she focuses on developing leaders and teens to impact the community. She was nominated by one of her mentees, who said, “She pours out in this community and continues to give back with her love, time, resources and dedication.”

DENISE KOLESAR President Kohler Expos Inc.

THROUGH HER CONSUMER products expos, Denise Kolesar has not only become a successful businesswoman, she’s helped other women entrepreneurs gain success, as well. Kolesar operates in an ever-changing market with increasing competition, which means she has to continually respond with new and fresh ideas. She produces the annual West Michigan Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids and Lansing, as well as two to three bridal expos in Grand Rapids each year. She recently began producing the Kids & Family Expo in Grand Rapids and the twice yearly West Michigan Mom’s Sale, a charity event benefiting The Salvation Army and Safe Haven Ministries. “Our goal is to represent the underserved market of women and families, in general,” she said. West Michigan Women’s Expo attracts more than 17,000 women to downtown Grand Rapids for the weekend and provides a great opportunity for fledgling business owners, particularly women, to show off their products. “We provide a safe and tested venue for entrepreneurs to introduce new products and services into the market, meet face-to-face with potential clients and fine tune their messages,” Kolesar said. She said dozens of the products have gone on to great success in the state or national marketplace. Kolesar also is committed to mentoring young women and womenowned business startups. In 2015, she served as a mentor in the Michigan Women’s Foundation Dolphin Tank and Pitch Competition. Her startup entrepreneur won $2,500 and is expected to host a booth at the 2016 Women’s Expo with prototypes of her product on display.





RHODA KREUZER President Partners In Action Inc.

RHODA KREUZER RECENTLY added national and international clients to her growing consulting and human resources business, which provides personal coaching, custom-tailored training programs, business analysis and custom recruitment. As a member of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Kreuzer helped to create the Established Division, which focuses on larger women-owned businesses. “The Established Division provides educational and other key resources to over 120 women-owned businesses in West Michigan,” Kreuzer said. Through the WGVU program “Good News & Success,” which Kreuzer initiated and co-hosts, she helps spread positive stories she hopes will inspire others. “The show highlights stories of expanding companies and their services, successes and strategies,” she said. One of her goals for the show has been to educate community leaders about how other organizations and leaders are succeeding. In everything she does, Kreuzer is driven by the importance of diversity. She particularly advocates for women, minorities and small business owners, believing “we all benefit when each person is respected and provided opportunities to succeed.” Kreuzer said she intentionally chooses to work with organizations that include eliminating racism and empowering women as a part of their vision. She worked with GROW to bring the Count Me In program to Grand Rapids, a program that works with small women-owned businesses to help them increase their revenues. The program specifically reaches out to minority-owned and urban-situated businesses.


Executive Director Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan

MARCIE LEWIS HAS nearly three decades of operational and management experience in which she’s developed a sharp eye for how to run a business that is efficient, purpose driven, and has a culture of open communication and collaboration. Lewis said the accomplishment she’s most proud of is having led the Grand Rapids Library Foundation from its inception in 1991 until 2011, raising more than $15.5 million in support of the Grand Rapids Public Library. “Included in this was raising $8.5 million toward the library’s $31.5 million building improvement project, which renovated four branches, built three new branches and renovated the Main Library downtown, including the re-opening of the historic Ryerson building and $3.3 million for the endowment, which continues to fund the library’s programming today,” she said. Lewis said the work she has done in a leadership role for four vital nonprofits — American Red Cross, Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation, Metro Health Hospital Foundation and now Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan — made significant impacts not only on the organizations and the people they serve, but on her, personally. Her work at Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan has been described as “servant leadership,” by her coworker Connie Frazier, development director. “She has increased collaboration among the five Grand Rapids hospitality houses so that jointly we can work together to serve as many families as possible whose critically ill or injured children are receiving medical and mental health treatment in our community,” Frazier said.


PEACHES MCCAHILL President The McCahill Group

PEACHES MCCAHILL has received recognition for her role as a business leader in Grand Rapids, but it is her continuing influence on improving the lives of the area’s employees that is most remarkable. McCahill can be considered a pioneer in the health and wellness industry. She built her company, The McCahill Group, with a mission to inspire and empower individuals to live more healthy and meaningful lives, and works with small and large corporations to develop customized employee wellness programs. “While the topic of wellness in the workplace is nothing new, the approach taken and passion that Peaches has in promoting it is different than others in the field. She truly believes in the mission of her organization and works tirelessly to connect with others of influence to find new strategies of how she can impact the health of others in a positive way,” said Ryan McCahill, vice president of The McCahill Group and Peaches’ son. In the past year, she has grown the company by adding several new clients. She also recently designed, built and launched the M Power Wellness Center in East Grand Rapids, a personal training, weight loss, massage and nutrition venue. McCahill also gives her time and energy to numerous organizations. She currently serves as the first female board chair of the Michigan Fitness Foundation, and was recently appointed chair of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. The McCahill Group was a category award recipient of the 2015 Top Women Owned Business Awards.


Owner and Principal McLoughlin Communications and Public Relations

THE BEST CAREER move Mary McLoughlin ever made was to take a risk by quitting her job as an account executive in order to become the successful business leader she is today. McLoughlin has successfully run McLoughlin Communications and Public Relations for 23 years. To her, making a difference for the better “means influence.” “Through my work as a sole practitioner, communication/public relations/fund development consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with the major health care providers, insurers, retirement communities and service providers for older adults, plus dozens of nonprofit organizations throughout West Michigan,” she said. She has served on nonprofit boards in leadership roles, often in turbulent times for the organizations, and helped steer them along a path that resulted in a stronger, more viable, more financially secure entity. Previously, she served as a member and as president of both the Grand Rapids Art Museum and YWCA of Grand Rapids board of directors. She was a member of the executive committee of the Michigan Women’s Foundation and played a lead role in the search process for a new executive director. Currently, McLoughlin is president of the board of directors for the Children’s Assessment Center, which provides services to children who have been sexually abused. She also serves on the executive committee of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and is co-chair of its Great Gardens Party. As a licensed fundraiser, McLoughlin has helped local nonprofits create a fund development function and achieve stability.



Senior VP, Principal, Senior Civil Engineer Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber

WEST MICHIGAN’S FUTURE generations of women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math may have Kerri Miller to thank for helping pave the way. With an almost 20-year career in the engineering industry, Miller actively works to bring young women into STEM fields. The business world needs more talent within these professions, especially women and minorities, Miller said. “I have spent many years working with colleges and high schools, such as GRPS’s Innovation High, to mentor young students,” she said. “I see my responsibilities in two ways: I need to show students the opportunities that exist in a career in engineering, and I need

to mentor young engineers in maximizing their career potential. While workforce development is a passion of mine and extremely necessary to the health and growth of Grand Rapids, I spend much of my time working with the young female engineers in the firm.” Miller, who is the first female principal at Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber, has been involved in some of the city’s most complex projects, including the Kindschi Hall of Science for Grand Valley State University, said Jenny Waugh, marketing director for FTCH. “Kerri is driving change within the company itself but also within the profession at large, of how female engineers are to be cultivated and mentored and what role engineers play within a project.”

BRENDA MOORE Vice President and COO Grand Rapids Urban League

EVERY DAY BRENDA Moore finds reasons to celebrate the work of the Grand Rapids Urban League. Moore’s service to the community through supporting the development and success of Grand Rapids’ minority youth has made her the winner of the Dorothy Woods Staff Excellence Award, Grand Rapids Urban League Leadership Award and the Michigan Cities in Schools Volunteer Award. Moore is a 30-plus-year employee of Grand Rapids Urban League, the agency’s longest tenured employee, having served four of the seven presidents and serving three times as interim CEO. She is credited with historymaking programming. “Being the creator of the League’s all-male program, Urban Fellows, and the girls program, Our Girls Rock, makes me extremely

proud to know that I indeed have some influence on the next generation and those to come,” Moore said. “Touching a young life now pays off later in a major way. If I have the opportunity to influence at least one life, my life is enriched for it.” Lynne Jarman-Johnson, chief marketing officer at Consumers Credit Union, has sat on the board of directors of the GRUL with Moore. She called Moore an “inspirational leader” and “a true angel in our community.” “She single-handedly took on the redesign and renovation of the Grand Rapids Urban League. Her role in taking her locally created program designed to keep children away from secondhand smoke has been recognized nationally. She is an amazing support to CEO and staff at the Urban League,” Jarman-Johnson she said.


Wealth Management Advisor Merrill Lynch

FEW WOMEN IN THIS city have earned as much respect and accolades as Rachel Mraz. Recognized seven times in the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty event and four times as one of its 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, Mraz also was the recipient of the 2010 Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award and the 2012 Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding’s inaugural Many Hands One Vision award. As a wealth management advisor, she aids clients in reaching their financial goals, having earned the professional designations of CFP, CIMA, CAP and CRPC. “My most significant professional achievement thus far is fulfilling a family legacy to serve the individuals I work for. Joining a team with over 70 years of experience, I have 22 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

the opportunity to perpetuate our business relationships into the future,” she said. Mraz said she loves this community and being an engaged member in the business, philanthropic and social elements it offers. She sits on the boards of Van Andel Institute, John Ball Zoo, Family Business Alliance and Davenport University Foundation. In 2010, she and her husband completed an independent fundraising project for an orphanage in Zimbabwe. “The process that these already impoverished communities have to go through to disseminate the money without intervention or interruption by the local authorities is incredibly different than what we deal with in the U.S.,” she said. “It gives me great pride to be a part of such a philanthropic community in West Michigan.”


Kay Olthoff on being one of The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, and thank you for your inspiring leadership and dedication to our community.

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CEO Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women

BONNIE NAWARA’S career is a testament to the importance of selfempowerment, especially for women. “I have had many accomplishments in my business career, including being a business owner, being the first in the nation to be the parts manager for a Freightliner franchise, and surpassing all my goals and objectives as the planned giving director of the American Cancer Society,” she said. “The most significant career achievement is what I’ve been doing these past six years for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women. When I took the helm of this 26-year-old organization, it had lost it synergy. I have spent the past six years rebuilding and adding new programs to make it one of our community’s premier resources for our womenowned businesses.” Nawara currently serves as program chair for the Association of Women Business Centers and is a board member of Grand Rapids Economic Club. She previously was CEO of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs. In 2014, she received the John H. Logie Neighborhood Business Champion award from Neighborhood Business Ventures. GROW board member Rebecca Dutcher, director of the web division at 834 Design and Marketing, said Nawara’s work to help women on a local and national level has made her an icon for women’s business empowerment. “As a woman in business here in West Michigan, I see Bonnie as one of the integral women here making a difference for women in business, by developing and providing resources for them right here in Grand Rapids,” Dutcher said.

AUDREY NEVINS-WEISS Township Supervisor Byron Township

AUDREY NEVINS-WEISS began her career taking care of children as a pediatric nurse. She’s now taking care of Byron Township as its respected township supervisor, overseeing more than 100 employees. Starting out as township clerk, Nevins-Weiss has spent more than 25 years in elected office. She said it’s an honor to have been re-elected so many times in a male-dominated profession. “By re-electing me over the past many years, the people of my community have trusted me to lead and represent them and serve our greater community in a variety of ways,” she said. That includes founding or serving on many organizations such as the Community Wellness Foundation, Bryon Chamber of Commerce, 84th Street Improvement Authority, Division Avenue Improvement Authority and building the only township-owned senior community recreation center in West Michigan. She has been a board member of the Grand Valley Metro Council for the last 11 years. Nevins-Weiss’ contributions to her community have included being directly involved in the negotiations to keep SpartanNash in the area, to bring manufacturer Inglass to a site on 74th Street, and as the lead local official attracting Tanger Outlets to Byron Township, said Tim Dye, vice president at Truscott Rossman. Dye also noted that Nevins-Weiss is often the only female member on the many boards on which she sits. “No influential leader can simply be measured by their professional work. Great leaders must also give of their time and talents to enhance our overall community,” he said. “In this way, Audrey stands tall.”




to The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan With sincere appreciation for your leadership and for all of your contributions to the community, thank you!






Board Chair/Corporate Board Trustee Mona Shores Public Schools/Nichols

KAY OLTHOFF HAS BEEN and continues to be an essential part of the Muskegon-area community. Olthoff, who chairs the Board of Education of Mona Shores Public Schools and is an executive committee member for Community Foundation for Muskegon County as well as a corporate board trustee for Nichols, said she’s most proud of her role in helping raise well-educated children in the Muskegon-area community. “I co-chaired the successful $40-million-plus bond issue for the schools, which ensured necessary facilities upgrades for the district’s six buildings. The members of the Board of Education are elected by residents in the district and are charged with setting policy, overseeing the superintendent and the budget, approving all staff changes, expenditures and educational programs and curricula,” she said. She helped create the West Shore Symphony’s LinkedUP program, which each year introduces 5,000 fourth-graders from 50 West Michigan schools to the world of music by playing recorders with the symphony. She also is co-founder of the Tempting Tables fundraiser, which has raised more than $800,000 for breast cancer research in Michigan. Olthoff, who previously served on the boards of the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County and the Muskegon Museum of Art, has made a major difference in making West Michigan a better place, said Paul Jackson, partner at Warner Norcross and Judd. “Kay is a highly visible and effective leader in the Muskegon community. She is chairing the major gifts campaign for the new Mercy Hospital,” he said. “Her influence has helped strengthen the West Michigan community.”


Dean Haworth College of Business/WMU

WHEN IT COMES TO higher education in West Michigan, Kay Palan heads the largest and most nationally recognized business school. Thanks to Palan’s leadership, between 900 and 1,000 business students graduate from Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business annually, about 91 percent of whom are actively engaged in the business world within three months of graduation. “It isn’t any one thing, but it’s the combination of what I have achieved here: unifying the faculty and staff to believe in and pursue the achievement of the mission of the college, significantly improved relationships with alumni, development of entrepreneurship programs, increased agreements with global education partners, increased enrollments, college facility upgrades, and managing strong niche programs that are nationally ranked,” she said. “In business, my most significant achievement was starting a forprofit home health corporation and building it to 100 employees and running it profitably.” Palan sits on the board of directors of Greenleaf Trust and Southwest Michigan First, as well as on the Groves Campus Kalamazoo Valley Community College Advisory Board As the first female dean of Haworth, Palan has spent her five-year tenure distinguishing herself as a strategic leader, said Stacey Markin, director of marketing and communications for Haworth. “The vital work that she has done at the college in fostering an environment for exploration and superior business education has a significant impact in West Michigan and beyond as students enter the world of work and put their skills to use,” Markin said.



Vice President, Environmental Systems and Services, and General Manager Cascade Cart Solutions, Cascade Engineering

JO-ANNE PERKINS was born in Montreal, moving to Toronto at the age of 5. Her father owned a manufacturing business that designed and manufactured heating equipment. At 14, she learned to weld in exchange for teaching English to the company’s Yugoslavian employees. For the next 10 years, Perkins moved through each department of the business, before being inspired to start her own company in 1985, KCI Mechanical. A hospital was looking for a system to contain bio-medical waste and Perkins realized there was a need for ancillary products for the solid waste industry. KCI Mechanical grew to have a solid reputation across Canada. In 2000, Cascade Engineering recruited Perkins to be its regional sales manager for the Canadian and northeast U.S. territories. Within five years she was promoted to general manager, which required her move to West Michigan at the age of 47. Since joining Cascade Engineering, Perkins has focused her energy on how communities can improve their recycling efforts. In 2009, she developed The Pink Cart initiative in honor of her mother who died of breast cancer at 51. Cascade donates $5 for every pink cart purchased to the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer awareness fund. Since its launch, more than 100,000 pink carts have been purchased and $500,000 has been donated. In 2015, Perkins won the Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Award, given to the top 100 women demonstrating excellence and leadership in manufacturing.

MICHELLE RABIDEAU President Saint Mary’s Foundation

RAISING $75 MILLION in her time with Saint Mary’s Foundation was enough to put Michelle Rabideau on Gov. Rick Snyder’s radar. In October 2015, Snyder appointed Rabideau to serve on the Michigan Community Service Commission, which uses service and volunteerism as strategies to address some of the state’s most pressing issues. Rabideau said it’s an extension of what she has been working toward at the helm of Saint Mary’s Foundation. “Seeing first hand that the work we enjoy every day together is making a significant impact on the lives of those in our community is extraordinarily rewarding,” she said. “With the ever-changing landscape of health care, the role of philanthropy will be increasingly important in impacting the overall health of our community.” Rabideau also serves the West Michigan community through a variety of boards, including as president and treasurer of the East Grand Rapids Schools Board of Education where she helped negotiate a threeyear contract with the teaching and support staff. She also serves on the board of the Michigan Women’s Foundation and the National Kappa Delta Foundation. Previously, Rabideau served as the chair of the marketing committee for the Center for Community Leadership, where she led rebranding efforts, and as chair of the Catholic Charities of West Michigan. In 2013, Rabideau, who was a member of the Leadership Grand Rapids Class of 2002, was named the Benjamin Franklin Outstanding Fundraising Professional. She was a 50 Most Influential Women honoree in 2014.


ANA RAMIREZ-SAENZ President La Fuente Consulting

ANA RAMIREZ-SAENZ is doing great things for inclusion efforts. Ramirez-Saenz is the president of La Fuente Consulting in Rockford, a management consulting firm. She recently helped provide cultural intelligence training to executive teams from the United States and Mexico for her largest client, to increase cultural understanding and improve communication. “At the end of the conference, both teams were engaged, collaborating and working toward common objectives — in spite of time, cultural and communication differences,” she said. Her passion lies within the building of cultural understanding, in both the workplace and community. “My mission is to engage people in genuine communication to create respectful relationships that will bridge cultures and simplify communication,” she said. “The human potential is extraordinary; thus, we must break through and eliminate the biases that impede our progress.” She currently helps accomplish that mission through the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at the YMCA. She also serves as board secretary of Clark Retirement Home and events chair for the Ellington Academy for Performing Arts. She further serves as a board member of Grand Rapids Community College Foundation and as a trustee of Ferris State University. “Ana has worked in the field of diversity and inclusion before it was fashionable,” said Carlos Sanchez, director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State. “She is an asset to the Latino community as well as the West Michigan community at large.”


Co-Owner/Vice President Gold Coast Doulas/Vanguard Public Affairs

HELPING SUPPORT WOMEN and families is at the top of Kristin Revere’s priorities. In fall 2015, Revere helped launch Gold Coast Doulas, the first doula agency in West Michigan, offering families everything they might need during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. She calls the business “a labor of love.” Her interest began when her daughter was born in 2011 and she and her husband took Lamaze classes and read every book on pregnancy and birth they could find. For the birth of her second child in 2012, she hired doulas and was so taken by their services, she set on the path to become one. Gold Coast Doulas was launched while Revere worked full time as vice president of Vanguard Public Affairs in Lansing, where she is active in political campaigns, fundraising and event planning. “Kristin is incredibly motivated and passionate about helping families and staying active in her community,” said Karlye McNeely, Revere’s partner in Gold Coast. “She holds herself to the highest standards, displaying the utmost integrity and professionalism in all she does.” Last year, Revere led the fundraising campaign for Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. She sits on the Candidate Committee for the Progressive Women’s Alliance PAC and the Steering Committee for the Michigan Political Leadership Program. She is also a longtime mentor for the Grand Valley State University Cook Leadership Program. Revere was a Business Journal 40 Under Forty honoree in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. She was also a Young ATHENA Award Nominee in 2010, 2011 and 2012.


Well done. Well deserved. As the proud employer of more than 10,000 West Michigan women who positively influence lives every day, Spectrum Health congratulates Tina, Jane and Mary for being 2016 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan honorees. Spectrum Health is proud to have people like you who are dedicated to the health and well-being of our communities.

Mary Brown Consultant, Inclusion & Diversity Christina Freese-Decker President, Spectrum Health Hospital Group Jane Gietzen Director, Information Services


Property Manager/President Eagle Management Co./Mary Free Bed Guild

IN 1993, Kimberly Ridings became the third female graduate of Ferris State University’s construction management program. Since then, she has advocated for women in nontraditional roles in the construction industry. In fact, her interest in the industry dates back to 1980 when she received her degree in architectural drafting technologies from Ferris State. She also has a Master of Management from Aquinas College. With 35 years of construction industry experience, she helps manage more than 500,000 square feet of office space in Greater Grand Rapids as Eagle Management’s property manager. Her experience has culminated in supporting the Mary Free Bed organization on a

volunteer basis through the design and construction of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital campus, partnership with the Mary Free Bed YMCA and the expansion of the Mary Free Bed Network in West Michigan. The past 10 years, Ridings has served on the Mary Free Bed Guild. “Kim has shown strong leadership skills as the president of the Guild and with her work on the board of ACT,” said Kent Riddle, Mary Free Bed CEO. “She is a great listener, has very inclusive solutions and has the ability to engage others in problem solving.” She also serves on the Mary Free Bed Hospital board of trustees. In 2010, she was named the YWCA Woman of Achievement.

MONIQUE SALINAS Founder and Executive Director Mind Meets Music

MONIQUE SALINAS finds power in music. Salinas started Mind Meets Music to help improve literacy, skills and brain development through the use of music. The nonprofit has helped serve more than 4,000 children in 20 schools in West Michigan. Mind Meets Music was founded with a $170,000 budget in 2013, but with the help of a four-year, $2 million grant she wrote to the U.S. Department of Education, that budget jumped to $930,000 this year. “I believe in the power of music to make the world a better place for children,” Salinas said. “I have mentored over 1,800 girls, showing them by example to not only dream it, but to do it.” Salinas is president-elect of the Ebony Road Players, a trustee of Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and an advisor on the

Aquinas College Music Advisory Committee. In 2012, Salinas was selected as the Aquinas College Distinguished Alumni of the Year. She was a top 10 finalist for an ATHENA Award in 2013 and 2015, and a top five finalist for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network’s Dorothy Johnson Excellence in Leadership Award in 2015. Above all else, working with at-risk preschool through second grade students is where Salinas wants to be. “As the proud daughter of a migrant farm worker, I have overcome many obstacles to be where I am today,” she said. “I am the first college graduate in my father’s extended family. I know with hard work and belief in one’s self, anything is possible. I am living proof.”

CHERYL SCHUCH Executive Director Family Promise of Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS CAN BE one of the transformational communities in the nation. But to do that, Cheryl Schuch knows the transformation needs to be for the good of the entire community. “To make that happen, we need the children — our future generation — represented in the decisions we are making today,” said Schuch. “The conversations we are having today will dictate what tomorrow looks like for our kids, and we need to make sure that the voice of our children is heard.” In her role at Family Promise, Schuch ensures hundreds of vulnerable families meet basic needs to be stable and healthy and successfully engage with the community. She successfully ran a $2 million capitaland capacity-building campaign; purchased 30 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN

and renovated a new facility; and doubled the size of the program’s capacity in six years. In 2014, Schuch won the WGVU Engage “I have made a difference” Individual Health Award. She has served on the Habitat Women Build board, on the Community Outreach Committee for Kids’ Food Basket, was an executive board member of the Grand Rapids Area Soccer Association, and was a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. “Cheryl Schuch is a fearless leader who has been a strong voice in our community to end homelessness, one family at a time,” Family Promise coordinator Kelsy Vining said. “She is a strong driving force and motivates women everywhere to be the best they can be.”


Honorees Especially

Jenelle Davis, Alumna Meg Goebel, Foundation Board Member

Congratulations to

Marcie Lewis, Alumna


Rachel Mraz, Foundation Board Member

The team at Hungerford Nichols salutes Shareholder Carla Grant and all the amazing women who have been selected as this year’s Most Influential Women in West Michigan!

Beverly Wall, Alumna

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Director, Department of Pathology Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

DESPITE WORKING FULL TIME as a lab director at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Amna Seibold has also found time to be mayor of East Grand Rapids since 2011, having previously served as a city commissioner and planning commissioner. Until this January when Rosalynn Bliss became mayor of Grand Rapids, she was the only female mayor in Kent County. In her service in East Grand Rapids government, she has helped create and implement the City Master Plan, sustained strength in the financial bottom line, and passed a road millage to improve the city’s streets and sidewalks. At Mercy Health Saint Mary’s she is the director of the department of pathology, where she leads a group of 120 employees who run more than 2 million tests a year. For 10 years, she served on the board of Michigan Blood, where she chaired the search for and hiring of the new CEO, restructured management and helped create new partnerships. She currently serves on the board of The Rapid, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan Community Board and the State of Michigan Board of Accountancy. In 2014, she was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women of West Michigan. Seibold, however, is most proud of her ability to help mentor the “up and comers” in both of her jobs. “It is the mentoring of the young people just starting out that gives me some of my most rewarding payback,” Seibold said. “I believe preparing the next generation of leaders is key for the functioning of any industry.”


Director, Counseling, Health and Wellness Services Aquinas College

SHARON SMITH DOESN’T worry about newspaper headlines. For years she worked in rural Big Rapids, helping the under-served populations of the area better their lives, including displaced women, prisoners, dislocated workers and single parents. Smith now works as the director of Counseling, Health and Wellness Services at Aquinas College and collaborates with higher education and community arts organizations. At Aquinas she helped in the collaboration of Circle Theatre and the college to build the Aquinas Performing Arts Center that three organizations now call home: Aquinas College, Circle Theatre and the Catholic secondary schools. Despite being born in West Michigan, Smith loves the fact she’s been able to experience other cultures and countries, helping shape how she approaches community work and the way she looks at the world. She currently serves as president of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum board and as secretary of the Fair Housing West Michigan board. She served 10 years on the Center for Community Leadership board, 15 years on the Grand Rapids Circle Theatre board and is a member of The Black Women’s Study Club. She received the Norma Brink Service Award and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service award in 2003, the Community Leadership and Diversity Award in 2006, and the 25-Years Aquinas College Service Award in 2014. “Sharon is regarded as a leader among leaders,” said Robert Dean, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum executive director. “She has and is creating significant change in our organization and, I know, others.”


KRIS SPAULDING Owner, Sustainability Director Brewery Vivant

KRIS SPAULDING began her career at Herman Miller, working up to environmental project manager before she and her husband, Jason, decided to start a brewery. Sustainability immediately became one of Brewery Vivant’s three core principles. The brewery’s sustainability extends beyond environment and also focuses on customers, employees and the community. In 2014, Brewery Vivant became a certified B Corporation and in 2015 was named Sustainable Business of the Year by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. “My belief is that it is the responsibility of business leaders like me to push the expectation of those around us and to openly advocate for a better way of doing business, and I take every opportunity I can to do that,” Spaulding said. Spaulding has spoken at the Craft Brewers Conference on sustainability and is a member of the Brewers Association sustainability subcommittee. She is president of Local First and of Mayfair Plat Association, a member of the Western Michigan University/Kalamazoo Valley Community College Sustainable Brewing Program Advisory Board and of the Outdoor Discovery Center/Macatawa Greenway Partnership. “Kris constantly encourages individuals and organizations to consider the triple bottom line, ensuring a better community for future generations,” said Melissa Peraino, director of educational outreach at Grand Valley State University. “She continues to push herself, her own company and her community to ‘Beer the Change’ they want to see in the world.”


Co-owner/Executive Director The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme/Well House

IF TAMI VANDENBERG let herself become discouraged, Grand Rapids might not have one of its most popular neighborhood watering holes, or one of its most recognized homeless shelters. It took five years for VandenBerg to open The Meanwhile Bar, but she pushed on, and the pub has become a neighborhood staple. She also is the proprietor of downtown’s The Pyramid Scheme. In 2013, she took over The Well House. The organization, which seeks to provide housing to the homeless by purchasing and renovating vacant houses, was on the verge of closure, and VandenBerg worked hard to keep the struggling nonprofit open. Now, three years later, Well House is flourishing. Previously, Well House had three houses and one-and-a-half lots for growing food. Under VandenBerg’s leadership, the organization has grown to 11 houses and seven lots to grow food. She has helped to move 85 people off the street and into safe, secure housing, and nearly 90 percent of residents who have come to Well House have not returned to homelessness. VandenBerg serves on the board of Safe Places Alliance and the Art and Museum Commission. She formerly served as chairperson of the Grand Rapids Red Project. VandenBerg’s numerous accolades include six Business Journal 40 under Forty honors, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s EPIC award for Entrepreneur of the Year and the 2015 Local First Local Hero award. This is her fourth selection to the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women list.


SHEILA VANZILE Owner and Queen Watermark Insurance Services

AFTER MORE THAN 25 years of corporate leadership in the insurance industry, Sheila VanZile set out on her own, creating Watermark Insurance from scratch. In becoming her own boss, VanZile was able to give herself whatever title she wanted — she settled on “queen.” Since Watermark Insurance was founded in 2005, the company has grown to include six employees with clients in 10 states, contributing a positive economic impact on the community. The daughter of a naturalized citizen who came to America from post-World War II London, VanZile learned from her mother’s wartime experiences to appreciate the challenges faced and the importance of giving back. VanZile serves on the board and development committee for St. Cecilia Music Center, where she converted donor software to GiftWorks and provided significant donor development activities to support achieving a balanced budget each year. She has served on the Cascade Community Foundation for six years, where she moved the organization from an all-volunteer board to adding staff positions, and co-chaired the capital campaign to provide improvements to the viewing park at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. She previously served on the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts board for eight years, where she helped move the organization out of significant debt to four straight years of profitability. VanZile is a graduate of Kent State University, with a degree in economics and an emphasis on insurance.

LINDA VOS-GRAHAM President and Owner Vos Glass Inc.

THE FIRST WOMAN to be elected into the Michigan Construction Hall of Fame, Linda Vos-Graham’s more than 30 years at Vos Glass Inc. have demonstrated her ability in the field. But Vos-Graham, who has led the family-owned Vos Glass since 2002, is not only well respected for her dedication to her craft, but also for her dedication to the industry as a whole. In 2014, Vos-Graham orchestrated the collaboration of three major associations — the Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter, American Subcontractors Association of Michigan and Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids — to form the Construction Workforce Development Alliance. The new alliance is working to redefine the image of the construction industry and promote career opportunities within it. In addition to her seat on the board as founder of the CWDA, VosGraham previously served on the board of the American Subcontractors Association and was its first female president in 2013. Locally she has held seats on the boards of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan and the Michigan Glass Association, which she founded in 1991. Vos-Graham’s accolades and accomplishments speak for themselves. She has been honored by the Associated Builders and Contractors West Michigan Chapter 14 times for her work, and Vos Glass has been recognized as one of the top women-owned glazing contractors in the country. In 2013, Vos Glass was recognized by the Business Journal as the area’s Top Woman Owned Business in the $7-million-and-above revenue category.


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BEVERLY WALL CEO and President Languages International Inc.

BEVERLY WALL MAY work in Grand Rapids, but her reach extends across the globe. As CEO and president of Languages International Inc., Wall led a turnaround of the organization in a time of crisis, and powered it through the Great Recession. As the head of the Davenport University Business School Advisory Committee, she works to educate and establish the business leaders of tomorrow. She serves on the Michigan Women’s Foundation board, where she leads roundtables for women entrepreneurs with a focus on perspective rather than advice, promoting problem solving rather than explanations. She also is the Women’s Business Enterprise forum chair for the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, leading quarterly meetings for WBE business owners. She is committed to helping area women business owners power through obstacles and earn a seat at the table. Wall also serves as the board president for Community Rebuilders, where she’s been recognized for her management of the nonprofit. She has been a Grand Rapids Township planning commissioner since 2012. Prior to that, she served on the zoning board from 2005 to 2012. Currently, Wall is helping lead SurClean Inc. as board treasurer, working to bring a cutting-edge laser technology to the manufacturer and competing against the heavyweights in aviation. Wall is a winner of the 2003 ATHENA award, and this is her fifth selection to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women list.

DAWN GARCIA WARD Senior Counsel Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

DAWN GARCIA WARD is a woman who has wholly embraced and allowed herself to be shaped by her culture. As a Hispanic American who was born and raised in New Mexico, Ward relishes the opportunity to promote and serve as a role model for women lawyers, young professionals and the Hispanic community. As senior counsel at Warner Norcross & Judd, Ward also serves as the co-chair for the firm’s data solutions practice group, which she helped start. In this role, she has helped the firm’s practice earn a national reputation for its expertise in information governance while working to eliminate information overload to lower costs and reduce liability. Ward’s proficiency in the field of data record information management has led to her cultivating a strong reputation as a respected professional in the industry. She is the co-founder of the Hispanic Professional Women’s Group and currently serves on the board of directors for the West Michigan Chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators and for Holland Hospital. She previously served on the Holland Historical Trust board of trustees and spent five years on the board of directors for the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, where she helped develop the annual Hispanic Festival. Ward is active in her church, Holland Heights Christian Reformed, where she teaches the fifth grade Bible studies class. She also has a patent pending for a health care product. Ward is a scholar graduate from Notre Dame Law School.


WENDY WASSINK Principal and Strategic Director Kantorwassink

TEN YEARS AGO in the midst of an economic crisis, Wendy Wassink quit her job as a creative director and senior vice president at Leo Burnett to start her own company — Kantorwassink. In the time since, Wassink’s work and her firm have been highly successful, having been featured as a top company to watch in Michigan and as one of Fortune Magazine’s top 5,000, and having won a slew of Addy Awards. Wassink is responsible for the branding of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Downtown Market, Donkey Taqueria and What the Truck. She also has led strategy and developed award-winning creative for the University of Chicago, Bissell Corp., Steelcase Inc., Amway

Corp., Wolverine Worldwide, Perrigo Co. and Walgreens, among others. Wassink has served as the marketing committee chair for the Grand Rapids Symphony, where she helped secure the current marketing director and advised on advancing the symphony’s brand. She also helped launch the first-ever special needs hockey program in West Michigan as marketing and development advisor for West Michigan Special Hockey Association. Leading the way with a “bright and bold” personality, Wassink sets an example for young women to embrace their individuality, stay true to themselves, and not abandon personal style or mask their femininity in the pursuit of accomplishing their goals.


Regional Director of Talent Acquisition Mercy Health West Michigan

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING talent is a crucial part of any growing city, so if Grand Rapids is to continue its rapid growth and expand its reputation as one of the nation’s upcoming cities, it needs women like Shana Welch to foster it. As the regional director of talent acquisition at Mercy Health West Michigan, Welch initiated several innovative procedures that reconfigured the way the health system approached the hiring process. In doing so, Mercy Health’s diversity hiring increased from 14 percent to 26 percent. Welch recently also helped launch the first nationally registered Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program. In her three years since moving to the region, she has built a nationally recognized workforce development program that has

attracted and nurtured a strong and diverse health care workforce to West Michigan. Last November, Welch joined the workforce development board of West Michigan Works, and she has served on the board of Hello West Michigan for a year. Previously, Welch was the president of the Greater Lansing Society for Human Resource Management board, where she created and implemented the diversity chair position and secured the state SHRM conference to be held in Lansing. Welch was honored by Women’s Connect in 2015, and her more than 20 years in the human resources field has earned her a reputation as one of the nation’s top professionals in the field of talent acquisition, earning recognition for being in the top 10 percent of national recruiters.

BRIDGET CLARK WHITNEY Executive Director Kids’ Food Basket

RIGHT OUT OF COLLEGE, Bridget Clark Whitney found herself in an internship role where she could make a difference. She’s been making a difference ever since. Going on 14 years as the executive director at Kids’ Food Basket, Whitney has expanded its reach to provide sack suppers to 7,500 children each weekday; she increased the annual budget from $20,000 in 2002 to $5.175 million in 2015; and built a volunteer program that engages more than 15,000 volunteers a year. Kids’ Food Basket has expanded to now serve more than 900 children each weekday in Muskegon Heights and at an additional location in Holland that serves more than 600 children each weeknight. In addition to her work helping to feed the 30,000 children in Kent County living

below the poverty level, Whitney has worked to foster other nonprofits. She is a board member at large for the Michigan Nonprofit Association and for Indian Trails Camp and ATHENA Grand Rapids and HQ. Whitney was recognized by the Business Journal in 2010 and in 2012 through 2015 as a 40 under Forty honoree. Kids’ Food Basket was named the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit of the Year in 2014. It received the Governor’s Service Award for Michigan’s Volunteer Program of the Year in 2010. This is the third time Whitney has been selected as one of the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.



Executive Director Grand Rapids African American Health Institute

SHANNON WILSON HAS committed herself and her career to improving the health and well being of all people. In just five short years, Wilson orchestrated the turnaround of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, increasing the budget by 500 percent, improving board engagement and improving employee morale. She is a preceptor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine in the subjects of clinical epidemiology and health policy. She serves as adjunct faculty at Grand Valley State University, and also designed a health concentration for the School of Public Health in urban health studies, which will be taught in 2016. At both Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and GVSU, Wilson has developed mentorship programs to assist students in gaining social capital and valuable experience. In 2008, Wilson took her valuable experience to Botswana, where she provided oversight and support for a domestic prevention program for HIV/AIDS. Wilson currently serves on the board for Girl Scouts of America Shore to Shore and is the founding president of the Grand Rapids Urban League of Young Professionals, which launched in January with a mission of placing focus on the economic empowerment of urban communities. A lifelong learner, Wilson is working toward completing her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois Chicago. She previously was named one of the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in 2014.

KIMBERLY WOLTING Software Consultant and Designer Atomic Object

KIMBERLY WOLTING isn’t just a talented designer with a creative eye. She’s also an established leader with a passion for helping other talented people flourish. Wolting has won a number of awards honoring her graphic design work, web development work and her leadership in the industry, but her greatest honor was the praise from a member of Ladies That UX, an organization she helped bring to Grand Rapids last year. It has been one of the fastest-growing chapters in the organization’s history, expanding to more than 200 members in its first year. The words from the happy consumer, praising the Grand Rapids chapter of LTUX for its inclusiveness and accepting environment, inspired Wolting to work harder to bring quality programming to women in Grand Rapids’ user experience design community. Wolting also is the director for Design For Good, which falls under the umbrella of the American Institute of Graphic Arts of West Michigan. She co-planned the organization’s Weekend Blitz 2015, which provided local nonprofits and organizations more than $300,000 worth of donated design, strategic and development services and resources they would have otherwise been unable to afford. She is currently organizing four benchmark Design For Good events for 2016 in collaboration with other local organizations and businesses. Wolting’s drive to improve the community around her and to give time and talent to nonprofits that share in that mission position her as an influence on Grand Rapids.


Among her many accomplishments, Kim Ridings is President of the Mary Free Bed Guild. Pictured front row center.

CONGRATULATIONS TO KIM RIDINGS One of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan

The Mary Free Bed Guild story began in 1891 when a small group of women passed a little black purse, asking anyone named Mary – or anyone who knew someone named Mary – to donate 10 cents to support patients with limited resources. The group soon raised enough money to endow a bed at a local hospital. This became known as the “Mary free bed.” Today, the 120 women of the Guild govern the most comprehensive rehabilitation hospital system in the nation – Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. “Mary” has helped restore hope and independence to children and adults for 125 years. Need rehabilitation? Ask for Hope. Ask for Results. Ask for Mary.



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