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Board of Directors



Jennifer Axsom-Adler, Board Chair

Title: Assistant Director, Roan Scholars Leadership Program, ETSU; Alderman, City of Kingsport
Previous: Adjunct Faculty, Religious Studies, ETSU, Paralegal, Investment Banking, Bear Stearns & Company
Education: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Political Science and Government, Harvard University; Doctor of Philosophy (PH.D.), Religion/Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University
Community Involvement: Officer, Vice Chair, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, Board Member, The Inventor Center, Leadership Committee Member, Healthy Kingsport, Council Member, Keep Kingsport Beautiful, Board Liaison, Neighborhood Advisory Commission (Kingsport, TN)
Region: Appalachian Highlands 

Cecilia Petersen, Vice Chair

Title: Central Region Finance Manager, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions 
Previous: Financial and Operating Consulting, Financial Management Consultant, Chief Financial Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer, RIVR Media, Vice President Finance & Operations, Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership.
Education: Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction, Economics and Spanish
Community Involvement: Board of Directors, Treasurer and Audit Committee Chair, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, President Board of Directors, Mental Health Association of East Tennessee, Board of Directors, Secretary & Finance Committee, Legacy Parks Foundation, President Board of Directors, Bluff Point Homeowners Association, Class of 2012 Leadership Knoxville, Inc. Career Transition Program Mentor, University of Tennessee, Outcome Based Investment Committee Chair, United Way of Greater Knoxville.
Region : East Tennessee 

Karen Rowell, Secretary

Title: Principle at Rowell Consulting
Previous: Chief Improvement Officer at Holston Medical Group, Health, Safety, Environment, Security and Global Quality at Eastman Chemical Company’s flagship location in Kingsport, TN.
Education: BS in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University. While at Eastman she completed extensive MBA level continuing education coursework.
Community Involvement: Senior member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. She has served as the leader of the local Workforce Investment Board Youth Council, Junior Achievement and Goodwill Industries. She serves on the Northeast State Community College Foundation Board and the Auburn University College of Engineering Alumni Advisory Council. Karen is a Master Gardner and leads the local Master Gardener organization.
Region: Appalachian Highlands

Julia Bentley, Treasurer

Title: VP Investor Relations/Communications Vera Bradley
Previous: Senior VP of Investor Relations and Communications for Saks Fifth Ave, Senior VP and CFO of Proffitt’s and Audit Manager of public accounting firm, Ernst & Youn.
Education: B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee.
Community Involvement: President, Board of Directors, YWCA Knoxville, Board of Directors, Arts & Culture Alliance, Former President, Board of Directors, Botanical Gardens of Knoxville, Graduate of Leadership Knox, Board of Directors, Urban League, Board of Directors Friends of Literacy.
Region : East Tennessee 



Heather G. Anderson

Title: Partner at Bernstein, Stair & McAdams LLP

Education: Bachelor of Political Science, Business, The University of Tennessee; J.D. Law, The University of Memphis-Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Community Involvement:  Tennessee Bar Association, Knoxville Bar Association, East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, Board of Directors for the Public Building Authority of Knox County, former President of the Sertoma Center’s Foundation Board, and Former member of the Board of the YWCA Knoxville

Region:  East Tennessee

Tamara Boyer

Title: Adjunct Professor, The University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business 
Previous: Wealth Management Director, U.S. Bank, NA; Senior Vice President of Operations & Legal Director, Citi Group; General Counsel, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance/Clayton Homes; General Counsel and Vice President for Advancement, East Tennessee Foundation
Education: Juris Doctorate, Samford University, Cumberland School of Law; Bachelor of Arts & Sciences, Florida State University; Lean Management Certification; Human Resources Certification; Rule 31 Mediator
Community Involvement: Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians, Board Chair, Executive Board & Chair Board Development; Junior Achievement of Tennessee, Executive Board & Chair Miss Business; Webb School of Knoxville Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, Presidential Search Committee, Chairman Facilities Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Co-Chair Senior Class PAC Committee; Junior League of Knoxville Sustainer Advisor, Education/Training Chair, Membership Pilot Committee, Sustainer Council Director, Strategic Planning Director, Community Council Director, Parliamentarian, TALA Chair, Ways & Means Chair; McClung Museum, Board of Directors; Second Harvest Food Bank, Volunteer; East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Childhood Advocacy Chair, Volunteer; City of Knoxville/Knox County Planning Commission Commissioner, Executive Board; Knox County Industrial Development Board Member & Secretary; Knox County Health, Education, & Housing Facility Board Member & Secretary; East Tennessee Regional Leadership Association Class of 2021; Leadership Knoxville Class of 2016 Graduate & Curriculum Committee Member; University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Associate; University of Tennessee Parents’ Council; University of Tennessee Office of Engagement External Advisory Board.
Professional Member: Knoxville Bar Association; Tennessee Bar Association, Corporate Counsel Section, Elder Law Section, Estate Planning Section; East Tennessee Lawyers Association of Women; Knoxville Estate Planning Council; National Association of Charitable Gift Planners; Association of Fundraising Professionals; Smokey Mountain Planned Giving Council.
Region : East Tennessee

Rachel Trump Buchanan

Title: President and CEO at Ardour Enterprises, LLC

Previous: Director of Economic Development, Blount Partnership, VP Business Development/industrial Engineer Massey Group, Industrial Engineer, Cherokee Millwright and Mechanical.

Education: BS, University of Tennessee

Community Involvement: Candidate, Leukemia and Lymphoma man and woman of the year campaign. Chair, 2015 Blount County United Way Campaign-Industrial Committee. Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians Board of Directors.

Region: East Tennessee

Margaret Butler

Title: Principal of McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects

Education: The University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design

Community Involvement: The University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design Dean’s Board of Advisors (past Bronze Medal Juror), Executive Women’s Association (past Membership Chair, Program Chair, and President); Former – AIA TN Board of Directors, AIA East TN Board (President and Design Awards Chair), NAAB Accreditation Team for the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, Tennessee Foundation of Architecture Board, City Board of Appeals Gatlinburg TN, Class Of 2007 Leadership, YWCA Knoxville Board of Directors (President, Long Range Planning Co-Chair, and Facilities Chair), The Cancer Support Community Board of Directors (and President), United Way of East TN Allocation Panel, Knoxville Chamber Economic Development Committee, and City of Knoxville Business Advisory Committee

Region: East Tennessee 

Dianna Cantler

Title: President, Echoes Create + Connect (public relations agency)

Previous: Executive Director, Johnson City Development and Director of Downtown Development, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, Director of Connections Ministries, Munsey Church, Public Relations Director, American Cancer Society of Davidson County TN, and Community Relations, Emory University Hospital

Education: Bachelor of Mass Communications with Public Relations emphasis, East Tennessee State University

Community Involvement: Board of Directors, Blue Plum Organization, Former Chair, The Mountain States Spirit Gala; served as Vice President of the Kappa Delta Sorority Chapter Advisory Board; Former Board Member of Visit Johnson City and Johnson City Public Art; Advisor, Main Street Elizabethton, and Facilitator for CO. STARERS

Region: Appalachian Highlands

Denise Douglas

Title: Denise Douglas Realty

Previous: President and CEO, Maxwell Reed & Ryne Inc., DBA the Ups Store Hardin Valley, Real Estate Specialist, Realty Executives International, Real estate Listing Professional, Keller Williams Realty, Inc., Manager of Business Development, American Express, Channel Marketing Manager, Sales Manager, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Sales Manager, MCI Corporation, Sales Representative, BellSouth Mobility, Astute Real Estate, LLC

Education: BA, Communications and Media Studies, University of Kentucky

Community Involvement: Board Member, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, Board President, The Susannah’s House, Secretary of the Board, The AD Foundation, Gals and Glamour Committee, Second Harvest Food /bank of East Tennessee, Board Member, East Tennessee Technology Access Center, Committee Chair A night in Old Havana and ETTAC Annual Golf Tournament, East Tennessee Technology Access Center, Board Member, Knoxville Volunteer Rescue, Fundraising Volunteer (Knoxville Heart Gala 2019) American Heart Association, Knoxville Heart Gala Planning Committee, American Heart Association, Mento, Tn Achieves, Volunteer, Junior Achievement USA, Board Member, Girlfriends Giving Back, Board Member, Koinonia Foundation

Region: East Tennessee


Leslie Elmore

Title: Office and Finance Manager at Elmore Stone& Caffey PLLC

Education: Business Administration and Management, HR Concentration, University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Community Involvement: Akima member, Founder/Treasurer, Girlfriends Inc., Giving Back, Tutor-hope Central, Mobile Meals Volunteer, Daughters of the American Revolution, Past President, Board Member, Active, Sustainer, Junior League of Knoxville, Southeast Newfoundland Club member,  Past Board Member, James White’s Fort, Past Board Member, Team Manager, Volunteer, Knoxville football Club, Past Board Member, Volunteer, Team Treasurer, Alliance FC Inc., Past PTSO President, Board Member, Volunteer, Bearden High School, Past Booster Club President, Vice President, Board Member, Volunteer, Bearden High School Men’s Soccer

Region: East Tennessee 

Joy Fulkerson

Title: Director of Leadership and Civic Engagement in the Division of Student Life and Enrollment at East Tennessee State University

Education: Mass Communications, Public Relations at East Tennessee State University; Graduate of the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2020 program

Community Involvement: President of the League of Women Voters of Northeast Tennessee, Advisory Council of the Langston Education and Arts Development Inc, United Way of Johnson City/Washington County Allocations Team, member of Johnson City Sesquicentennial Commission, co-leader of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration Coalition of Johnson City, National Conference of Citizenship, executive committee for the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition; Former – past President of the Johnson City Public Library Board of Directors, Junior League of Johnson City

Region: Appalachian Highlands

Keely Goodwin

Title: Director of Corporate Strategy, Eastman Chemical Company

Previous: Global Business Manager, Product Manager, Hydrocarbon Resins, Account Manager and Marketing &Innovation Manager at Eastman Chemical Company

Education: MBA, Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management, BBA, Marketing, East Tennessee State University

Community Involvement: Board Member, Girls on the Run International, Selection Committee, Roan Scholars Leadership Program, Member Board of Directors, Pine Chemicals Association

Region: Appalachian Highlands

Kathi Grant-Willis

Title: Retired Community Volunteer

Previous: General Counsel, Community Health Alliance and Consumers Choice Health plan, General Counsel, Community Health Alliance, Director of Employment Law and Employee Relations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Director of Employee Relations and Employment Law, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Senior Counsel, Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co

Education: J.D., University of Tennessee College of Law, Bachelor of Arts, Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia

Community Involvement: Board Member, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians

Region: Tennessee Valley & North Georgia

Leslye T. Hartsell

Title: Manager of Communications and Environmental Stewardship, KUB

Previous: Director of Community Relations, Director of External Relations, KUB, Health educator, Knox County Health Department.

Education: Master of Science- MBA, Business Management and Leadership Development, Bachelor of Science, Public Health, University of Tennessee- Knoxville

Community Involvement: Board Member, Girl Scout of southern Appalachians, Current Board Member of, Leadership of Knoxville, SCHAS (Senior Citizens Home Assistance), United Way Allocations Panel (Co-Chair of Income & Basic Needs Committee), Knoxville Chapter Links, Incorporated (Past Secretary), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority – Knoxville Alumnae Chapter, (Assistant financial Secretary), Federal Bureau of Investigations Citizens Advisory Board.  Past Board Member, University of TN Knoxville Chancellor’s Associates, City of Knoxville Energy and Sustainability Task Force, Knox Count Schools Partners in Education (Past President) United Way Loaned Executive, Leadership Knoxville (Class of 2009), Community Action Committee Community Leadership, Leadership Knoxville Curriculum Committee, Project Help Board, Boys and Girls Club TN Valley Advisory Board (Past Chair), YWCA Board Member, Second Harvest Food Bank Board Member, Knox Area Urban League – shoes for school, YWCA Tribute to Women Finalist

Region: East Tennessee

Randy Jenkins

Title: Chief Financial Officer at Partners Development

Previous: Controller, Providers, Inc., Assistant Controller, US Foodservice

Education: Associates Degree in Applied Science, Accounting, Central Piedmont Community College, BBA, University of Carolina at Charlotte, BS Finance, University of Tennessee- Knoxville

Community Involvement: Introduction Knoxville, Leadership Knoxville, 2014, Board Member and Chair-elect, University of Tennessee-Knoxville College of Nursing, Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, Knoxville Chamber, Volunteer Basketball Coach, and a full-time Girl Dad

Region: East Tennessee

Cammy Kromer

Title: Vice President, Sales-Small Format/Club/Foodservice, Ferrara

Previous: Sr. Director Sales-Dollar, Vend, Foodservice& Theater, Director of Sales-Value & Vend, Sales Team Lead supporting Dollar General, Fred’s Pharmacy & 99 Cent Only, Area Sales Manger supporting C-Store, Ferrara, President, Junior League of Knoxville, director of Category Strategy and Insights (Senior Manager), Team Lead/Account Executive for Dollar General, The Hershey Company 

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Business Administration, Furman University

Community Involvement: Board Member, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, Board of Directors, Girl Talk, Inc. Knoxville, Advisory Board, Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, Sustainer Advisor, Board of Directors and Member, Junior League of Knoxville, Fundraising, Farragut School, Foster, Adopt a Golden Knoxville

Region: East Tennessee

Kim Leffew

Title: Director of Auxiliary Programs at Girls Preparatory School

Previous: Summer Camp Director, Girls Preparatory School, Physical Education Teacher, Girls Preparatory School,

Education: Tusculum College, University of Tennessee Chattanooga

Community Involvement: Heart Ball Auction Committee Member, American Heart Association, Style-Works Co-chair 2018, Siskin Children’s Institute. Board Member, Downside up Inc., President, Alpha Delta Kappa, Tennessee Chapter, Co-chair of WAMS Luncheon, National MS Society, Mid-South Chapter, Co-chair of Witches and Wine for MS, National MS Society, Mid-South Chapter, Run Aid Station Captain, IRONMAN, President-Elect, Alpha Delta Kappa, Sorority, Zeta Chapter

Region: Tennessee Valley & North Georgia 

Emily Mack

Title: President and CEO of River City Company

Previous: Director- Department of Metropolitan Development City of Indianapolis, Project Leaders/Business Development Director, CORE planning Strategies, LLC, Deputy Director-Department of Code Enforcements, City of Indianapolis, Real Estate Development Manager, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., Mayor’s Neighborhood Liaison, City of Indianapolis, Preservation Planner, City of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

Education: Master of Science in Historic Preservation, Architecture, Urban Planning, Ball State University, Bachelor of Science, History, Bradley University

Community Involvement: Board Member, Chattanooga Tourism Company, The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Center, Board Member and Chair-Community Building & Training Committee, President, Friends of Ellenberger Park, member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Chapter Advisor, Chi Omega (Upsilon Lamda Chapter) Hanover College

Region: Tennessee Valley & North Georgia  

Paula Masters

Title: Vice President for Health Programs in the Department of Population Health for Ballad Health

Previous: Assistant Dean of Student Services and Director of the Tennessee Public Health Training Center-LIFEPATH at East Tennessee State University for seven years. She is also Co-founder of the Center for Rural and Appalachian Health at ETSU, former employee Tennessee Department of Health.

Education: Doctorate in Community and Behavioral Health, Masters of Public Health in Health Services Management and Policy, graduate certification in Health Care Management

Community Involvement: Active member of the Tennessee Public Health Association, where for the past 16 years she has served as both a member and chair of many committees and served as President in 2014. She currently serves on the board of the Virginia Health Catalyst and Appalachian Mountain Project Access

Region: Appalachian Highlands 

Sybil McLain-Topel

Title: Author and Marketing & Communications VP, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Previous: Writer in Residence, Lillian E. Smith Center, Piedmont College, Marketing Director, Street Dixon Rick Architecture, PLC, VP, Spaeth Communications, Corporate and External Affairs Manager, AT&T, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, American General Life and Accident Insurance Company, Editor and Reporter, United Press International

Education: Masters of Fine Arts- MFA, Writing, Graduate Studies, Savanna College of Art and Design, Atlanta, International Relations, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Bachelors of Science, Communications, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Political Science and Government, Middle Tennessee State University, French Language and Literature, Tennessee State University, IOM, Non-Profit/Public/Organizational Management, Institute for Organization Management, Master of Fine Arts -MFA, Savannah College of Art and Design

Community Involvement: Officer, Executive Committee, Secretary, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, Board of Directors, Secretary, Arts Build, President, Nashville Cable, Member, Leadership Chattanooga, Member, Public Relations Society of America, Member, Rotary International, Committee Member, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Member, Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

Region: Tennessee Valley & North Georgia

Cayce Smith Petko

Title: President, Cope Architecture

Education: Bachelor of Architecture, Architecture, The University of Tennessee; Marketing, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

Community Involvement: Board of Electrical Examinations and Review City of Knoxville, Tennessee Economic Development Council, lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians

Region: East Tennessee

Jennifer Podhajsky

Title: CEO Yee-Haw Brewing Company

Previous: Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop, Corporate Team-Marketing Director Vice President at The Hershey Company, Sales and Marketing at Kraft Foods, Managed the Tufts Club, a non-profit, alumni organization with two club sites and 75 events annually. She was also a cook aboard Schooner American Eagle- baking and cooking for passengers and crew along the Maine coast.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in social psychology from Tufts University and MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Northwestern University)

Community Involvement: Board of Directors of King Arthur Flour, a 100% employee-owned company based in Norwich, VT. Jennifer is currently working with Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop, a local Knoxville pie shop that is in early stages of franchising.

Region: East Tennessee

Gabby Sanders

Title: Sr. Regulatory and Reporting Specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee

Previous: Business Analyst, Health Care Reform and Exchange Compliance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Director of Health and Quality of Life Programs, The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Appeals Consultant, River Trust Solutions, Inc.

Education: Doctor of Law (J.D.)/Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.), Louisiana State University, Paul M. Herbert Law Center, Master of Health Services Administration, Health Policy, The George Washington University, Bachelor of Science, Biology, General, Howard University

Community Involvement: Member, The Links, Incorporated

Region: Tennessee Valley & North Georgia

Lisa Skinner

Title: Independent Consultant/Strategic Writer Contractor, Co-owns Knoxville Animal Clinic

Previous: Director of Development, Sertoma Center Knoxville, Community Relations, Tennessee Valley Authority, subject Matter Expert/Consultant, Innovation Valley Based at Knoxville Chamber Partnership, Vice President of Market Strategy, Fee/Hedrick Entertainment, Senior Vice President, Ackermann PR, Director of Public Relations, Coordinator, Assistant Director, PR, Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, director, Marketing and Public Relations, St. Francis Medical Center, Honolulu Hawaii, Account Executive, Honolulu branch, The Nerland Agency, Marketing Manager, Aagana, Guam plant, Foremost Foods, Vice President for Marketing, NAVMAR Federal Credit Union, Public Relations Director, Elkman Advertising, Editor/Media Specialist, University of TN office of University Communications, Reporter/Education Writer, Knoxville News Sentinel Daily newspaper

Education: B.S. Communications/Journalism, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Bachelor’s Degree, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Certified Tourism Ambassador, TN Department of Tourism Development.

Community Involvement: Vice President of CityPeople, the association of downtown residents, a founding member of both the Women in Entrepreneurship Knoxville and Women in Entrepreneurship Blount. Serves Mayoral appointments on the Knoxville Downtown Design Review Board and Knoxville Animal Control Board. Former Vice Chair of the Knoxville Development Corporation’s Fairview Technology Center (entrepreneurial) Advisory Board, Trustee on the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation Board of Directors, Leadership Knoxville graduate, Class of 2015, and a mentor in the Leadership Knoxville Mentors program 

Region: East Tennessee 

Kathryn Vinson

Title: Executive Oncology Specialist, Merck

Previous: Analytical Chemist, Dry Branch Kaolin Company

Education: BS, Chemistry, Physics, Wesleyan College

Community Involvement: Officer, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, Bearden Elementary PTSO, Leadership Knoxville Class of 2013, 40 under 40 2014, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 2017 Women of the Year, American Cancer Society Hope Gala Committee, Junior League Community Advisory Board

Region: East Tennessee

Lynne Lawson Fugate, CEO (ex efficio member)

Title: CEO, Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians

Previous: Knoxville Market Executive, Smart Bank

Education: BS Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Community Involvement: Knoxville Rotary Club: Executive Women’s Association; Leadership Knoxville; East Tennessee Regional Leadership; Junior League of Knoxville, and Akima Club

Region: East Tennessee