A transparent cohort of distinguished peers


These community leaders emulate the qualities we’re looking for in our "50 Over 50" honorees. They inspire others with their work, they challenge outdated beliefs, and they’ve made an impact on their community and the people who live there. We are grateful for the time and energy these distinguished leaders are investing to help us celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions of 50+ Minnesotans.


Dr. Kathleen Annette


A lifelong resident of rural Minnesota, Dr. Kathleen Annette is a recognized leader at local, regional and national levels. Kathy grew up on the Red Lake Indian Reservation and is enrolled with White Earth Band of Ojibwe. She is a graduate of University of Minnesota, where she received both her medical and undergraduate degrees. She is the first woman in the Minnesota Ojibwe Nation to become a physician. Kathy’s many honors and awards include Presidential Meritorious Awards and a Presidential Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Government, the national American Indian Physician of the Year award, Quality of Place Award issued by Northwest Minnesota Foundation, and the Jake White Crow National Award, presented by the National Indian Health Board—the only federal employee to be so recognized. She was inducted into the Northwest Minnesota Women’s Hall of Fame at Bemidji State University in 2006 and into the Academy of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 2005 (the first woman so honored). She also sits on the Bush Foundation board of trustees. Kathy is a long-time partner of the Blandin Foundation, having served as a board member for 12 years (1991-2003) and chaired and participated in the Foundation’s American Indian Advisory Committee (2004-2011).


John Davis

John Davis is the founder and Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts. His work with the Lanesboro Arts Campus initiative resulted in its selection as one of the top 12 Small Town Artplaces in America for 2013 as well as a 2014 Bush Prize for Community Innovation Award winner. In September of 2014, the City Council of Lanesboro, MN passed a unanimous resolution proclaiming “That the entire community be designated as an Arts Campus”, becoming the first small town in America to make such a proclamation.

John has over 25 years of experience with small town and rural creative social change work. He is a national speaker on rural arts issues, risk and innovation. His work has been featured on National Public Radio and broadcast on C-Span; it has also been featured in Corporate Report Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, and the NBC Today Show.


Chris Farrell

Chris is senior economics contributor at Marketplace, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio business and economic programs. He is economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and host of its series, Conversations on the Creative Economy. An award winning journalist, Chris is a columnist for Next Avenue, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a contributor to the New York Times. His most recent book is Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life.






Carolyn Holbrook


Carolyn Holbrook was a 2015 recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant. She was named a 2015 Change Maker by the MN Women’s Press for “More Than A Single Story,” her series of panel discussions on black women writers of the African Diaspora living in Minnesota held at the Loft Literary Center. Her personal essays have been published widely, most recently in A Good Time For The Truth: Race in Minnesota (MHS Press) and Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota (MHS Press). Her book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Journeys: How the St. Paul Companies Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods Program Changed Lives and Communities was published in 2013 & 2015. She founded SASE: The Write Place in 1993 and served as its executive/artistic director until 2006, when she spearheaded its merger with Intermedia Arts. She teaches creative writing at Hamline University where she won the Exemplary Teacher award in 2013, and at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. She was a 2015-16 mentor for the Loft Mentor Series and was the 2010 recipient of the MN Book Awards Kay Sexton Award. Carolyn was recently recognized as one of 50 Minnesotans over the age of 50 who have made significant contributions and achievements in their communities.

Eric Schnell


Eric Schnell easily pivots across stereotypical dichotomies: techie and humanist, big picture thinker and get-in-the-trenches doer, savvy business mind, and warm nonprofit heart. He is just as comfortable analyzing data as he is lending an ear to those in need. And as a 2016 50 Over 50 honoree in the Disruption category, he courageously takes on new roles and challenges, embracing opportunities to reinvent not only himself, but also our society—especially when it comes to keeping people independent. Driven by a desire to help his oldest son, a young man with an amazing array of talents and unlimited potential whose autism prevents him from getting a driver’s license, Eric is working to expand access and inclusion by bringing accessible, affordable, and reliable transportation freedom to people with disabilities. He is also engaged in finding ways for virtual reality to provide relief for older adults experiencing social isolation.

Bill Blazar

Bill is senior vice president of public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. In that capacity, he is responsible for the the Chamber’s policy and political programs. He also directs Grow Minnesota!, the Chamber’s statewide business retention and assistance program. Most recently, Bill served as interim president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, appointed in July 2014 after the passing of the Chamber’s longstanding president, David Olson. Bill represents the Minnesota business community on several boards including Generation Next Leadership Council, the Metropolitan Economic Development Association and the U.S. Chamber Labor Relations Policy Committee. He is president of the Loppet Foundation Board of Directors. Bill has a B.A. in political science from Northwestern University and an M.A. in public affairs from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.




Mayor Ardell Brede

Mayor Ardell Brede became Mayor of Rochester Minnesota on January 6, 2003. Prior to being elected, Mayor Brede held numerous positions at the Rochester Methodist Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic of Rochester.

He received an associate degree in commerce from the Austin Junior College in 1959 and took several graduate courses in the University of Minnesota Extension Division program. Mayor Brede has also attended management classes and seminars at Brigham Young University and the Rochester Methodist Hospital/Mayo Clinic Rochester. 



Rodolfo Gutierrez


Rodolfo has been serving as executive director of HACER (Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research) since 2007, with extensive professional experience in quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation. He has been invited as a speaker in several forums and brings what he has been learning about to diverse boards on which he sits. His research interests focus on education, immigration, health care access, and housing. Rodolfo enjoys working in a team setting, promotes entire collaboration with partners, and is committed to building capacity among community-based organizations that HACER works with. Originally from Mexico, Rodolfo carries previous experience in research in Mexico and the U.S., which has been extremely useful while working with different communities. His formal education includes history (bachelor's degree and PhD), with extensive experience in research on demographic change. He brings a strong background in quantitative and qualitative research with an emphasis on the Mexican women's labor force, elderly populations, human rights, and demographic change.



Philomena Morrissey Satre


Philomena is the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Wells Fargo, and the lead consultant for advocacy and marketplace work. She has worked with 72 diversity and inclusion networks and five diversity councils in 15 states, focusing on recruitment, retention and reputation, and ROI. In partnership with Hamline University and the U.S. State Department, she led a Middle East Fellows peace and economic development project.

Philomena holds a degree in public administration and political science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master of arts degree in organizational leadership from St. Catherine University. She has been recognized by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal as a Woman Change Maker and Minority Advocate. She was also named as one of the Minnesota Business "Real Power 50" and received The Lifetrack Shining Star award for her efforts championing work life and wellness education at Wells Fargo.




Lucy Swift

Lucy is the former vice president of Minnesota productions and partnerships for Twin Cities PBS (TPT). In that capacity, she oversaw all broadcast and multi-media initiatives created in partnership with local "mission-centered" organizations that educated and engaged Minnesotans across a wide range of social issues. Lucy is currently "on sabbatical" and participates in multiple statewide collective impact endeavors including Graduation Minnesota, focused on eliminating the graduation rate disparities gap and Hunger Impact Partners, focused on nourishing children so they get a healthy start to life to support their academic performance and health outcomes. In addition, Lucy serves on the board of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging and mentors emerging non profit leaders.

Prior to joining TPT in 2005, Lucy spent over 20 years in marketing in the banking, consumer products, and health care industries. She has an undergraduate degree in East Asian studies from Princeton University and a MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She was selected to be in the first annual “Real Power 50” by Minnesota Business magazine.