Thanks to all who joined us for the 2020 series, also the first-ever virtual 100 Wise Women series. We hope you were inspired by the messages from these courageous women speakers, and from those you connected with.
The 2021 100 Wise Women Series
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Past keynote speakers
October 29, 2020
Erica Lee Williams, Jefferson District Court Judge
Judge Erica Lee Williams has served as a presiding judge in Jefferson District Court since 2009. She is known for being no-nonsense and decisive, hearing up to 200 criminal and civil cases a day in court. Elected to serve in this role, her words spoken and decisions made from the bench can alter the course of a teenager’s path, help a family in distress and, when necessary, remove a menace from the streets of our society.
She has been recognized in Louisville Magazine as one of the 50 most powerful people in Louisville, and one of the 40 most influential women in the community by Business First, and is a graduate of the Leadership Louisville Class of 2014. Erica serves on the Board of Directors for the Governor’s Scholars Program, Fund for the Arts, and the Louisville Bar Association.
September 10, 2020
Mason Rummel, President and CEO, James Graham Brown Foundation
A regional and national philanthropy leader, Mason Rummel serves as President and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation, the largest private foundation focused on Louisville and Kentucky. Since 1989, she has been dedicated to making investments to elevate our quality of life and create a flourishing, vibrant commonwealth.
Her leadership journey includes serving in the Reagan Administration as Public Affairs Specialist for Domestic Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget. She is also a founding member of Grantmakers of Kentucky and serves on boards including the Council of Foundations, Greater Louisville Project, Louisville Promise, and the Kentucky Derby Museum.
July 30, 2020
Olivia Kirtley, Corporate Director and Consultant
What does it take for women to break into top leadership roles? This Kentucky native knows from experience. Women hold only one out of every five seats on corporate boards in America’s top companies. Olivia Kirtley, CPA, CGMA, has served in these highly influential and sought-after roles for over 20 years. She’s held director positions on boards including U.S. Bancorp, Papa John’s, ResCare/BrightSpring Health, Delta Dental, and many others. She’s long been an advocate for increased diversity in the accounting profession.
June 24, 2020
Ingrid Hernandez, President, INgrid Design
Coming from a family of designers and entrepreneurs with roots in Cuba and Puerto Rico, Ingrid Hernandez founded her bilingual communications agency in 2002. Today, 18 years later, she has grown her company to a team of 22 professionals. Her agency specializes in branding, strategy, national marketing campaigns, advertising, and graphic design services. Ingrid is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and is the first winner of the NAWBO EPIC Lifetime Achievement Award.
October 22, 2019
Victoria Russell, Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Papa John’s International
As Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Victoria Russell is the first African American female to sit on the Executive Leadership Team at Papa John’s International. She believes the challenges and opportunities of her role are one and the same. She is committed to ensuring that Diversity Equity & Inclusion are woven into the fabric of Papa John’s DNA, and she’s excited to be part of the very beginning of something extremely important to the lives and careers of the company’s 120,000 team members. As she said in a recent interview, “Diversity is not about counting people, it’s about making people count. All People.”
Prior to joining Papa John’s 12 years ago, Victoria held positions at Brown-Forman, Humana Inc., and Lexmark. Join us to hear Victoria’s unique leadership story.
Wendy Lea, Chief Entrepreneurial Advisor, Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership
CEO, board leader, investor, mentor, and community steward, Wendy Lea is a Mississippi-born former Silicon Valley CEO, who was tapped to help build and be the “chief entrepreneur” for the Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership (LEAP), a new collaboration that includes University of Louisville, Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, XLerateHealth LLC and Greater Louisville Inc.’s EnterpriseCorp.
Her goal was to help get the public-private effort off the ground and kick Louisville’s startup ecosystem into high gear. Wendy is recognized for her work in digital innovation across industry, named a “Woman of Influence” in both Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Her success is marked by her ability to build and support startup communities, cultivate relationships with venture capitalists, and lean into networks of high-growth talent. Having delivered business solutions in 30 countries, Wendy brings a multi-faceted point of view to innovation and a strategic edge to her entrepreneurial pursuits. With her warm approach and dedication to innovative business building, Wendy fully embraces that “good relationships make good business.”
June 26, 2019
Jody Bilney, Chief Consumer Officer, Humana Inc.
Jody Bilney has championed consumers across six different industries – consumer packaged goods, telecommunications, financial services, technology, food service, and health care. When she joined Humana as the organization’s first Chief Consumer Officer in 2013, she expertly steered Humana’s transformation into a consumer-driven enterprise.
Prior to joining Humana, she was an executive VP with Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., an upscale-casual restaurant company, which includes Outback Steakhouse. Jody has also held senior executive positions at Charles Schwab and Verizon. Jody’s passion and determination are rooted in her experience as a Division 1 collegiate athlete; she played tennis at Clemson University. A high-energy leader, Jody’s sources of joy and inspiration are her family. Join us to hear Jody’s remarkable leadership story.
May 15, 2019
Linda Cash, Global Quality and New Model Programs, Ford Motor Company
Linda Cash loves jazz, lives life to the fullest, and happens to also be a leading woman in the automotive industry. She is VP, Quality and New Model Launch, at Ford. She drives quality processes throughout the design and production of Ford vehicles and for new model launches globally. She has been a Ford Motor Company officer since 2016.
An industrial engineer as well as an MBA, she was VP of Manufacturing, Ford of Europe, and has extensive experience in lean manufacturing. She was recognized in Black Enterprise’s 2017 Most Powerful Executive in Corporate America and 2019 Most Powerful Women. All that and she has fun doing it!
November 27, 2018
Carolyn Tandy, Diversity Director, Texas Roadhouse
Joining Texas Roadhouse last summer, Carolyn oversees diversity and inclusion programs. She formerly served as District Director for U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth since his election in 2006. She is a seasoned political strategist, having managed projects all over the country for such notables as President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the Congressional Black Caucus and the late Rosa Parks.
September 13, 2018
Shannon Cogan, News Anchor, WAVE 3
Multi-emmy winner Shannon Cogan anchors WAVE 3 News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. She has anchored the news in Miami and Dallas, and worked at the NBC affiliate in Orlando where she covered the Columbia space shuttle disaster, the 2000 presidential election recount and the Super Bowl. Shannon became an advocate for congenital heart defect awareness after one of her twin sons (now active 6-year-olds) was born with a life-threatening heart defect. She also serves on the board of Heuser Hearing & Language Academy, and contributes to events for Norton Children’s Hospital and the American Heart Association.
June 27, 2018
Damaris Phillips, Celebrity Chef, Food Network
Damaris is co-host of Southern & Hungry with Rutledge Wood and The Bobby and Damaris Show with Bobby Flay, a show nominated for a 2018 James Beard award.
From Louisville, she is also the 2013 winner of Food Network Star, where she impressed judges with her fresh take on Southern cuisine. She then went on to host her own show, Southern at Heart, for five seasons. Her first cookbook, Southern Girl Meets Vegetarian Boy: Down Home Classics for Vegetarians (and the meat-eaters who love them) was released in October 2017.
May 16, 2018
Amy Hess, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Amy’s 25+ year career with the FBI started with investigating violent crimes, gangs, and drug trafficking in Kansas City. She served six years in Louisville doing counterterrorism investigations, and was temporarily deployed as a leader of FBI counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. Originally from Jeffersonville, Indiana, Amy has served in leadership roles at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC., Phoenix, Memphis, and Quantico, Virginia, and now is Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville Division, with responsibility for all FBI personnel and operations in Kentucky.
November 28, 2017
Tammy York Day, President, York Group Consulting
Tonya York Dees, President, York Management, Inc.
Sisters Tammy York Day and Tonya York Dees shared their personal stories, and how they’ve achieved professional success and channeled philanthropic passion into amazing community impact. Together, they created “Unbridled Eve Gala” which has raised funds to feed more than 1,250 children annually. In their day jobs, Tammy now leads York Group Consulting and Tonya runs her own event and business strategy company, York Management, Inc.
September 19, 2017
Karen Williams, President and CEO, Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau
Louisville native Karen Williams embodies southern hospitality and has been a leader in the hospitality industry for 32 years. She started her career as sales manager with the Ritz Carlton Hotels in Atlanta, helping open 18 hotels worldwide under the Ritz-Carlton flag. Returning to her roots in Louisville, Karen spent the next 23 years at the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB) overseeing the bureau’s sales team. She retired from the LCVB in 2012 to found her own event design and management consulting firm. In 2014, she returned to the LCVB to become President and CEO. Karen is an amazing woman of character from whom we can all learn much about leadership and how to live a life.
June 28, 2017
Dana Allen, System Vice President of Marketing, Norton Healthcare, and
Jackie Keating, Chief Development Officer, Dare to Care Food Bank
“There are times in your life when you know you are meant to meet someone. The reason may not be clear at the time, but your heart knows it.” – Dana Allen
Dana Allen is System Vice President of Marketing for Norton Healthcare. Jackie Keating is chief development officer for Dare to Care Food Bank. The two met at a 100 Wise Women event in 2011, where Dana was a Wise Women host at Jackie’s table. After this meeting, Jackie asked Dana to mentor her, and knowing firsthand the importance of these relationships, Dana agreed and has been a mentor of Jackie’s ever since. At 100 Wise Women, we learned from these two women leaders about the rewards that come from women mentoring women.
April 18, 2017
Monica Hardin, Anchor, WLKY News
Monica Hardin anchors the weekday morning news on WLKY. A Louisville native, Monica won Miss Kentucky 2001 and during the year of service that followed, she traveled over 80,000 miles on a motivational speaking tour. In 2005, she received the Volunteer Service Award personally from President George W. Bush for her work with Creation Prison Music Ministry and Kentucky Harvest. Monica Hardin shared her inspiring life and leadership story at 100 Wise Women.
October 25, 2016
Jeanne James, Retired Federal Air Marshal Supervisor and FBI Agent
Jeanne James started her career as police officer in Florida, then spent 16 years with the FBI in a variety of undercover and leadership roles. After 9/11, Ms. James joined the Federal Air Marshal program. Now retired, she is currently enrolled in Spalding University’s Masters program in creative writing, and is working on a novel based on her work in the FBI. Her adventures have also included a 700-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Jeanne James’ shared her intriguing career stories and insights at 100 Wise Women.
September 20, 2016
Dana Bowers, Founder, Venminder
Dana Bowers has been an entrepreneur and leader in the financial industry for more than 30 years. Through Venminder, Ms. Bowers created a state-of-the-art vendor management software solution. Prior to Venminder, she founded and served as CEO of iPay Technologies which she grew from a start-up to one of the largest, independent bill pay providers in the U.S. In 2009, she was awarded an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the South Central Ohio/Kentucky region. At 100 Wise Women, we gained insights from a high profile/high risk entrepreneur with proven leadership and talent.
July 28, 2016
Nikki Jackson, VP & Regional Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Nikki Jackson leads the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The Louisville Branch is focused on community development and education, as well as regional economic research and policy input. The branch covers western Kentucky, metro Louisville and southern Indiana. Formerly, Ms. Jackson was personnel cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and chief human resources officer for Charter Schools USA. It was refreshing to hear from a woman leading her organization in a role that “taps more into who she is versus what she’s been trained to do.”
June 14, 2016
Laura J. Lane, President, Global Public Affairs, UPS
Laura Lane is responsible for all of UPS’ worldwide government affairs activities in more than 200 countries and territories. Prior to her corporate career, Ms. Lane served in the U.S. Foreign Service and led the evacuation effort of American citizens from Rwanda in 1994, later returning as political advisor to U.S. forces providing humanitarian relief to refugees. She was a political commentator for the PBS/Frontline documentary on the Rwandan genocide. Laura Lane had a fascinating story of leadership, courage and compassion.
November 4, 2015
Jill is Executive Vice President, President of North America, Latin America, India, Middle East & Africa, and Global Travel Retail regions. Since joining the company in 2000, Jones has progressed through a series of increasingly responsible roles, including several key financial and strategic business planning roles within the former Spirits organization.
Jill shared her leadership story, from her teen years pumping gas at her family’s filling station, to now serving on Brown-Forman’s Executive Leadership Team.
September 16, 2015
When Lara MacGregor was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30, 7 months pregnant, a woman with whom she shared a mutual friend sent her a package. Inside were beautiful scarves she wore during her battle with cancer and a note saying, “You can do this.” The scarves were practical and inspiring. And, knowing someone else had worn the scarves and beat cancer helped Lara believe she could do it too.
Lara created Hope Scarves to capture the stories of courageous women and encourage others by passing along scarves and stories of hope. Lara shared her courageous story as she leads Hope Scarves, even as her own battle with cancer continues.
July 22, 2015
Jane Beshear, First Lady, Commonwealth of Kentucky
As a life-long equine enthusiast Jane Beshear was a member of the World Equestrian Games Foundation Board, which in 2013 successfully hosted the first ever FEI World Games outside of Europe, an event that attracted more than half-a-million attendees from around the globe. As a former teacher, Mrs. Beshear organized “Graduate Kentucky” an initiative to address the state’s troublesome high-school dropout rates.
At 100 Wise Women, Jane Beshear shared how she’s shaped her role as First Lady of Kentucky.
May 20, 2015
Sadiqa Reynolds, Chief for Community Building, Louisville Metro Government
In her current role which includes overseeing the Department of Health & Wellness and Housing & Family Services, Sadiqa Reynolds sees firsthand the benefits of compassion and of fixing problems at their source. A favorite Frederick Douglass quote is her daily inspiration, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Sadiqa shared her life and career story with honesty and sincerity. Great quote from Sadiqa – “You are not Super Woman. You are Super YOU. Be okay with saying no and focusing on what is important.”
November 5, 2014
Eleanor Jordan, Executive Director, Kentucky Commission on Women
A former elected Kentucky state representative, Jordan now advises Governor Stephen Beshear on women’s issues and recommends strategies for improvement. Prior to her legislative service, Jordan was active in the Louisville community advocating for quality child care for the poor.
August 19, 2014
Martha Layne Collins, former Kentucky Governor and Ambassador-at-Large for International Trade, Kentucky Chamber
Originally a schoolteacher, Collins was not only Kentucky’s first and only woman governor, she held high-ranking posts at St. Catherine College, the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and is a Harvard University Fellow. Collins shared some priceless pearls of wisdom: “I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England, but still have to prove myself every day,” and “Speak plainly, don’t worry about taking credit, follow your gut”
June 25, 2014
Suzanne Bergmeister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, University of Louisville
An electrical engineer with an MBA from Cornell University, as well as an Air Force reservist, Suzanne Bergmeister shared her personal story of when to “lean in” when to leave and when to leap, in your career as well as relationships.
May 7, 2014
Marta Miranda, President and CEO of The Center for Women and Families
In addition to her professional credentials, Marta has been a dedicated activist and community organizer on social and economic justice issues for over three decades. See the video of Marta’s talk to learn, as only Marta can tell it, about her authentic leadership style and her personal mission to eradicate violence, particularly against women and children.
October 2, 2013
Jean West, Anchor, WAVE-TV
Now the producer and host of “Jean West’s Medical Digest” at WAVE-TV, Jean started her career in broadcasting with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in Japan. Based on that experience, and her mother’s advice to “take the opportunities presented to you,” she became Louisiana’s first African-American, prime-time co-anchor. That job led to many interesting stories and some potentially dangerous situations. Attendees learned where saying “yes” to opportunities has taken Jean West during her career.
July 31, 2013
Charlotte Ipsan, (left) President, Norton Women’s Hospital/Kosair Children’s Hospital – St. Matthews
Lynnie Meyer (BF ’03, LN ’01, LL ’00) (right) System Vice President, Women’s and Children’s Community Partnerships; System Vice President and Chief Development Officer, Norton Healthcare
Charlotte brings 28-year’s experience in maternal, child and pediatric health care to her newest role leading the creation of the first women’s and children’s facility within the Louisville area. As the leader of philanthropy efforts for Norton Healthcare and Children’s Hospital Foundations, Lynnie’s team raised over $17 million for Norton Healthcare and Children’s Hospital Foundations in 2012. Lynnie is the former president and CEO of Louisville’s Center for Women and Families. See photos of the event
June 12, 2013
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness
Dr. Nesbitt, spoke about her influences as a youth, her own mentors and her career path to public health, which is one of her passions. She also shared her guiding principles and how “she learned everything she needed to know to be successful – in Girl Scouts.”
March 19, 2013
Mary Lou Quesnell, Marketing Director, Ford Customer Service Division
Joining us from Troy, Michigan, Mary Lou brought high energy and a fascinating career story with one of Louisville’s major employers. She has been with Ford since 1985, holding positions in marketing and sales, both in the U.S. and Europe, as well as car product development.
See photos of the event Watch video highlights of Mary Lou’s keynote presentation
October 30, 2012
Ruth Brinkley, president and chief executive officer of KentuckyOne Health.
Ruth wrapped up the 2012 100 Wise Women series by sharing her personal story and her philosophy that it takes competence, confidence and courage to be successful as a leader. She shared her belief in going with your gut instinct and doing what you believe is right regardless of the consequences.
September 12, 2012
Heather Howell (BF ’09) chief tea officer, Rooibee Red Tea.
A young entrepreneur, Heather Howell brought fun energy to the September 100 Wise Women event. She described her transition from a successful 15-year corporate career to an entrepreneurial path and the lessons she’s learned about embracing risk, following your passion and what it’s like to lead a small, rapidly growing business.
June 13, 2012
Tierra shared her career story, including holding true to values and navigating circumstances that seemed like roadblocks and turned out to be opportunities. She brought a fresh perspective from her experience in the public and private sectors in the area of minority empowerment and also discussed how her strong commitment to family has impacted her career.
March 29, 2012
Brigadier General Margarett Barnes’ leadership story covered her service in the Army for more than 27 years commanding Soldiers at every level commensurate with her rank. Attendees gained inspiration from the principled way she’s found to balance family life and gender roles throughout her service to our country.
November 9, 2011
Sandra Frazier (LL ’05), owner, Tandem Public Relations.
Attendees enjoyed Sandra’s candid insights on being part of a well-known Louisville family and experiences in her career that got her where she is today.
September 14, 2011
Lynda shared her story of balancing life in the public eye while dealing with personal hardships. She emphasized the importance of having a mentor and finding a career that you are passionate about.
June 22, 2011
Thelma Ferguson (BF ’01, LL ’00), president northeast middle market commercial bank JPMorgan Chase, New York
Thelma discussed the opportunities and challenges that came with making a substantial career change for her and her family. She also shared some of the “unwritten rules” of moving up in one’s career.
March 9, 2011
Sue Stout Tamme (LL ’98), president of the Louisville market, Baptist Healthcare System and Brittney Stout, clinic manager, Baptistworx Physical Therapy
The mother-daughter team shared career stories, strategies for managing life-work balance and insights from two different generations.
November 10, 2010
Denise Vazquez Troutman (LL ‘07, FL ‘04), president and chief executive officer of The Center for Women and Families
Denise’s message was one of self-empowerment: to define yourself before someone else does it for you, get acquainted with your own charisma and to do our individual parts to make the world a better place for others.
September 8, 2010
Julie Hermann, executive senior associate athletic director at University of Louisville
Julie gave an inspiring, anecdotal speech regarding P.O.O. – Pride of Ownership. She shared lessons learned as a child and young adult about the value of struggling, problem-solving and developing empathy, that led to her success.
June 9, 2010
Laura Douglas, (BF ’93, LL ’92) vice president of corporate responsibility and community affairs at E.ON U.S.
Laura gave interesting advice to the sold-out gathering – essentially she said, “Don’t be too careful!” She talked about strategic risks she’s taken in her career that paid big dividends personally and professionally.
March 10, 2010
Madeline Abramson, former first lady of Louisville
Madeline shared stories of learning to balance public and private life as first lady. She offered insights on how leadership roles influence family life and how to keep a sense of humor in challenging times.
November 18, 2009
Maria Hampton (BF ’07, ’98, LN ’02, LL ’90) and Gretchen Gerwing
The mother and daughter team of Maria Hampton, Louisville Branch, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Gretchen Gerwing, Draftfcb in Chicago, came together to discuss the generation gap along with other changes for women in the workplace.
September 23, 2009
Dr. Judy Green (BF ’94, LL ’94), Councilwoman
Judy shared her childhood in rural Kentucky, the strong role models in her own family, the struggle to go away to college and then become a dentist, in addition to her eventual election to Metro Council.
May 20, 2009
Karen Lee, director of airline safety, UPS Airlines
Karen shared her career story then these words of wisdom: “Concentrate on performance, never let them see you sweat, be generous in your heart, trust until given a reason not to, pick your battles carefully and embrace every new challenge as a development opportunity.”
March 18, 2009
Debbie Scoppechio (LL ’97), chairman and chief executive officer, Creative Alliance
Debbie shared her personal and career story and “Debbie’s Baker’s Dozen, which is: “have a vision, be honest, believe in yourself, be willing to take risks and make sacrifices, be passionate about your work, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, believe in your team, work harder than anyone else, always be yourself, never give up, never say no, do whatever it takes, be flexible, motivate and lead by example.
November 12, 2008
Janice Martin, judge, Jefferson County District Court
Janice spoke about her path to a career as a district court judge and why we need to strive for diversity in the court system.
September 24, 2008
Joan Coleman (FL ’01), president, AT&T Kentucky
Joan talked about the wise women in her life and the challenge of making it all work successfully – family, career, life in general. Joan shared that thriving on change has been a big factor in her career satisfaction.
May 7, 2008
Jackie Hays, anchor, WAVE-TV
Jackie talked about growing up in a small town with a big dream of “doing the news on TV.” She told the audience some of the highlights of 30 years spent at her dream job.
March 12, 2008
Alice Houston, president and chief executive officer, Houston-Johnson, Inc.
Alice shared reflections on her business career and her many roles as a community leader. She encouraged more women to step up to take on leadership roles.
November 14, 2007
Lynn Pendergrass, president and chief executive officer of GE Consumer and
Lynn shared insightful perspectives from her professional and personal life, of the most significant changes in today’s global marketplace, and how these changes impact the ever-changing roles of women.
September 26, 2007
Phoebe Wood (LL ’05), vice chairman and chief financial officer, Brown- Forman Corporation
Phoebe’s talked about the fact that our personal stories all take shape in the context of three factors: geography (the place in which we are born), time (the era in which we are born), our DNA (the traits we inherited) and the family environment in which we were raised.
May 9, 2007
Crit Luallen (LL ’91), auditor of public accounts, Commonwealth of Kentucky
Crit shared highlights of her career in state government and how she’s seen opportunities for women grow since she began her career.
March 7, 2007
Deb Moessner (LL ’08), president and general manager, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
In the inaugural 100 Wise Women event, Deb told the audience that to be a leader you first have to know yourself, your own strengths and passions, then use them to your advantage in your career and personal life. She encouraged the women in the room to be willing to accept help from others along the way.