Speaker Series: Diverse Paths of Leadership & Innovation

More than 20 alumni innovators will return to Grinnell College this fall as part of the “Diverse Paths of Leadership and Innovation Speaker Series,” sponsored by the Grinnell College Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership.

The series is part of a four-credit course, Leading Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which takes a case-study approach to understanding leadership and management of innovations, or generating solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems, using case studies by alumni innovators. Doug Caulkins, emeritus professor of anthropology and former director of the Wilson Program, will teach the course.

All events are free and open to the public. Starting Friday, Sept. 8, every lecture will begin at 2 p.m. in the Harris Center Cinema, 1114 10th Ave., Grinnell.


  • Nancy Radermecher ’83, and Jay Dick ’93, will both speak on Friday, Sept. 8. Radermecher is president of JohnRyan, a Minneapolis company, which is a leader in Total Store Messaging solutions for leading retailers and banks. Dick is senior director of state and local government affairs at Americans for the Arts, where he works to educate and inform elected officials about the value of the arts and culture.
  • Steven A. Elkes ’83, will speak on Wednesday, Sept. 13. He is an entrepreneur, deal-maker, financial executive and turnaround specialist for preparing internet companies for sale. He is president of a Surface Travel, a startup in the travel space.
  • Ellen McDonald ’81, will speak on Friday, Sept. 15. She is co-founder of Mershon & McDonald, which was created to serve a philanthropic cross-section of corporate, foundation and nonprofit clients. Its services include capacity-building development and training, project planning and outcome management, and strategic and communications planning and implementation.
  • Cullen Davis ’94, will speak on Wednesday, Sept. 20. He is an expert in the urban real estate market in Chicago, and has long been dedicated to preserving and rebuilding his hometown. He has expanded his portfolio to include projects throughout Illinois and the Midwest – he has a personal portfolio in excess of 1,000 multifamily units and his management companies operate over 4,500 units in the State of Illinois.
  • Kathy Clemons-Beasley ’95, will speak on Friday, Sept. 22. She is an executive director within Morgan Stanley’s Global Sustainable Finance group. She drives strategic projects for the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, including managing the institute’s external Advisory Board, stakeholder engagement, sustainability reporting and strategic communications.
  • Robert Gehorsam ’76, also will speak on Friday, Sept. 22. He consults on ed-tech projects and advises start-ups that range from toys to biofabrication. He also serves on the advisory board of the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s research arm.
  • Jonathan Daen ’78, will speak on Wednesday, Sept. 27. He is chief financial officer of Australis Holdings Inc., a privately held high-growth company that is an international leader in sustainable aquaculture.
  • Jason Chen ’07, will speak on Friday, Sept. 29 via Skype. He is CEO and founder of MSW Media in Shanghai, China. He started the internet media company in 2009. MSW Media has 2.3 million subscribers and has accumulated over 2 billion views for its video/audio content production as of May 2017.
  • Mitchell D. Erickson ’72, will speak on Wednesday, Oct. 4. He facilitates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's science and technology activities with other federal, state, tribal and territorial agencies from New Jersey to Maine, and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He works with organizations in the Northeast to integrate vertically among the various organizations and horizontally across all threats. Erickson also provides a conduit to subject matter experts for government homeland security agencies and first responders.
  • Frank Douma ’92, will speak on Friday, Oct. 6. He is a director of the State and Local Policy Program of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. His current projects include examining inter-relationship between traffic laws, speeding and safety, as well as the possible role of pricing in an environment with an increasing number of self-driving cars.
  • Peter Ferrell III ’74, will speak on Wednesday, Oct. 11. He has worked in ranch operations all his life, from co-founding and serving as president of the Tallgrass Prairie Producers Cooperative, assisting in the formation of the Tallgrass Beef Co. LLC and, most recently, serving as a project development consultant for Energy for Generations LLC, a wind power development company.
  • Kenji Yoshino ’11, will speak on Wednesday, Oct. 25. In the fall of 2013, while he was working for Grinnell College’s Science Learning Center, Yoshino invented and released the plans to create the first Smartphone Microscope. The instructions went viral with over 2.5 million views, and the scope is now being used in classrooms around the world.
  • Rhonda Stuart ’86, will speak on Friday, Oct. 27. She is owner and principal of the Stuart Law Office in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The firm offers legal services in a variety of areas, including all aspects of domestic relations law, employment discrimination, real estate, collections, contracts and general business litigation, health care, risk management and human resources consulting.
  • Maia Olsen ’11, will speak on Wednesday, Nov. 1. She is program manager of the non-communicable disease program at Partners In Health, a global health nongovernmental organization that works with local government officials and the world's leading medical and academic institutions to build capacity and strengthen health systems in some of the poorest areas of the world.
  • Marcus Eagen ’12, will speak on Friday, Nov. 3. After founding and selling his own company, Nodal Security, he moved to Ford Motor Company, where he leads a team of software engineers at Ford Motor Company, where he works on a global software platform with team members in the US, Europe, and Asia.
  • Jeanne Myerson ’75, will speak on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Myerson reinvented her career for the fourth time in her adult life in January, 2015 and now focuses on a mix of independent consulting, corporate board directorships and nonprofit activities.
  • Brian Hanson ’85, will speak on Friday, Nov. 10. He is vice president of research at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which he is responsible for building into a leading premier global think tank. He overseas research teams on a broad range of global issues, with the goal of producing innovative approaches to addressing crucial global challenges.
  • Karissa Kovner ’93, will speak on Wednesday, Nov. 15. She is a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she has worked since 2003. Prior to that, she was director for international environmental policy in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
  • Jeff Dickey-Chasins ’81 and Will Schnabel 89, will speak on Friday, Nov. 17.  Dickey-Chasins spent a decade in magazine publishing, launching several magazines for programmers as well as a book division, CDs, a seminar series and trade shows. He then became the first marketing director for Dice.com, the world's largest IT job site, growing its revenues from $7 million to $65 million in three years. Schnabel is an experienced marketing and technology executive, having lived and worked across the world as part of technology start-ups and global technology organizations. In 2002, he founded a marketing technology start-up providing a cloud-based offering, and lived and worked through 10 years of growth, before selling the company to IBM in 2014.

Endowed by Grinnell alumni Donald ’25 and Winifred ’27 Wilson, the Wilson Center is the hub of innovation and leadership at Grinnell College. The center seeks to engage students from different areas of study and diverse backgrounds for one common purpose: to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders.

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