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 They inspire others with their work, they challenge outdated beliefs, and they’ve made an impact on their community and the people who live there.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.


Marcia Ballinger


Marcia Ballinger is Co-Founder and Principal at Ballinger|Leafblad, St Paul-based search firm focused on serving the nonprofit sector. Marcia has a BS in Business Administration and an MA in Speech-Communication along with a PhD in Organization and Management from Capella University where she later served as chair of the board of directors. Marcia was named one of the Real Power 50 by Minnesota Business in 2014, a Top Woman in Business by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2008, and a Luminary Award Winner by the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2006.  She was in the inaugural group of 50 Over 50 named by AARP Minnesota and Pollen Midwest in 2016. Marcia is also the author of The 20-Minute Networking Meeting and Winning the Executive Interview.

Lorena Cook

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As a former administrator at Bemidji State University (BSU) in Bemidji, MN, Lorena worked as Assistant to the President/Affirmative Action Officer for 18 years and also as Assistant Director of Financial Aid for one year. She has also worked as an Human Resources Administrator and taught business education at the secondary and post-secondary level in her professional career. Having retired from BSU in 2007, she currently serves on the board of trustees for the Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake, MN, is the current chair for the Regional Development Advisory Council of Minnesota Public Radio, and is a member of the Constitution Reform Initiative Committee for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Red Lake, MN, where she is an enrolled tribal member.

Rose McGee


Rose McGee is a sweet potato pie philanthropist and creator of the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie™ approach – a catalyst for building and strengthening community. She is a 2018 50 Over 50 Honoree, a two-time Charlie Awards Nominee, is featured in the national PBS documentary A Few Good Pie Places, and TEDx talk on The Power of Pie. Sweet Potato Comfort Pie™ has become a cornerstone service approach during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday weekend when Rose, along with dozens of volunteers, bake pies; hundreds of community members convene in tough conversations around race and equity; then among themselves, the participants distribute the pies throughout the community as a symbol of concern and celebration. Rose resides in Golden Valley where in 2017 she was named “Citizen of The Year” and in 2018 was presented the “Bill Hobbs Human Rights Award.” She is author of the play, Kumbayah the Juneteenth Story, the book, Story Circle Stories, and soon to be released children’s book, Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie like Our Mama.


Sandy Vargas


A champion of bringing people, charitable resources, and ideas together to spark positive community change, Sandra has served as President and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation since 2007. She has recently retired from that position and has been appointed as a Senior Executive Leadership Fellow with the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. In this position she will make the issues of racial, social and economic equity major themes in initiatives and projects. Sandy is active in several Twin Cities organizations and serves on the local boards of St. Catherine University, Minnesota Comeback, and Wallin Education Partnership. She also is an active member of the national boards of Independent Sector, 50CAN, and Hispanics in Philanthropy.

Terri Barreiro

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Terri Barreiro is adjunct professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of MN and a consultant to foundations and nonprofit organizations. She is co-author of Social Entrepreneurship: the Journey from Issue to Viable Venture and co-founder at Impact Hub Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Her career includes a decade as founder of the McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Central Minnesota, 20 years as Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Minneapolis Area, and five years as Program Officer and Co-Director of the national Dayton Hudson Foundation, a corporate foundation that is now Target Foundation. She earned a BA and MBA at the University of Minnesota. She is an avid volunteer, recently completing nine years on the Cargill (corporate) Foundation, has just joined the Board of Community Giving, which is dedicated to building and supporting community foundations across Central Minnesota, and continues her board role with Close Gaps by 5.



Jimmy Longoria


Jimmy Longoria is the only Chicano/Latino/Hispanic to be awarded an Archibald Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship in Fine Art, and he is the only Minnesotan to have art in the permanent collection of Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art, the largest collection of Mexican Art outside Mexico. Even though he is recognized internationally as a fine artist, he continues to practice giving back to the community by producing murals that deter gang graffiti in communities suffering gang presence. His commitment to giving back to our community led Target Corporation to label him as “Someone We’d Like You to Meet,” in a national campaign.  The McKnight Foundation has honored him with a Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service, and he received Ordway’s “Sally Award” for his artistic vision of giving back to the community through art. Jimmy is the only Latino artist to receive the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” Award from the City of Minneapolis. 

Kate Schaefers, Ph.D., LP


Kate is a psychologist, educator, and coach. She is Executive Director of the University of Minnesota Advanced Careers (UMAC) initiative, bringing people back to campus as they transition into meaningful work in the second half of life. She is also a leadership coach at The Bailey Group and has taught graduate level classes at University of MN and University of St. Thomas. Kate is the Volunteer State President for AARP-MN, and a founding board member of SHIFT, a Twin Cities nonprofit facilitating career change after age 50 and helping people connect with greater life meaning and balance. She is also the founder of Encore Life Planning, a consulting and coaching firm providing services to individuals and organizations.

Ellen Walthour

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A teacher by training and an activist by heart, Ellen Walthour is currently serving as CEO for The BrandLab, a nonprofit working to change the face and voice of the marketing industry. Ellen began her career at the YMCA building youth programs in the Pilsen Neighborhood of Chicago. She then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Education. As an educator, Ellen spent years teaching middle schoolers to be as curious as she is about the world. Today, she combines her passion for social justice and building programs from the ground up in order to break down barriers to ensure the creative industry thrives with the insights and creativity of all.