You’ve seen their faces before-10 years ago in the pages of InterBusiness Issues dedicated to the first class of 40 Leaders Under 40 and also in the news as community leaders. This year, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of 40 Leaders Under Forty, we decided to catch up with 10 outstanding alumni from the inaugural class.
Mary Ardapple, who 10 years ago was owner/operator of Apple’s Bakery and O’Leary’s, currently concentrates on ownership of Apples Bakery Northside Market. "I’m now in my third format of feeding the public, and it’s just great," she said. "In 1998 I had the opportunity to become a property owner for my business and no longer a tenant. My concept afforded me an opportunity to experiment and present new concepts to the Peoria market. This year celebrates my 19th year of self-employment, and I wouldn’t change it. My career opportunity has allowed me to grow as a stronger professional and flourish with the mission of taking care of the public through a basic approach to quality food and beverage."
Over the past decade, she’s received the 25 Women in Leadership Award and taken on leadership roles such as the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Workman Compensation Trust chair, chair of the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, member of the Facilities Study Taskforce for District 150, and a member of the Strategic Plan Taskforce for District 150.
Ardapple said she’s continued to live and work in Peoria because it’s her home. "A person can always travel, but not every place can be a home. This is a wonderful place to own a business and raise a family."
She advised young professionals who hope to follow in her footsteps as a leader to get involved. "Surround yourself with individuals who know more than you do on a given topic and learn. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion or input that may not be on the main path. We all grow from involvement, so be proud and recognize that any involvement makes a different. And have a good time at what you do."
Though he’s working with a different organization, John Butler has stayed true to his sports roots. Formerly assistant athletic director for development at Bradley University, Butler is now president of the Peoria Rivermen Hockey Club.
During his five-year tenure with the Rivermen, he’s received the ECHL Executive of the Year for the 2002-2003 season, and the Rivermen were the ECHL League Champions in the 1999-2000 season. He said the winning season is one he’ll never forget. "I’ve been in this business for more than 15 years, and been part of only one championship in that time. You can’t take those very lightly."
Butler has devoted his time to community organizations such as the Illinois High School Association Boys Basketball State Tournament, Holders Inc. Farm Corporation, Central Illinois Arena Management, and is a past board member of the PACVB.
A Bloomington native, he said he intends to make central Illinois his home for the rest of his life. "I enjoy working and raising my family in central Illinois."
Butler said he’s learned over the years that success builds confidence, and that you also need a winning attitude and a solid foundation. "I’ve been fortunate enough to work for two successful organizations prior to the Rivermen (Peoria Chiefs and Bradley University). I’ve gained tremendous business and leadership skills from my mentors, Pete Vonachen of the Peoria Chiefs and Ron Ferguson of Bradley. My advice is to gain practical experience with a successful organization. Learn how to sell effectively, be aggressive, and live outside your comfort zone."
Diane Cullinan Oberhelman
As president of Cullinan Properties, Ltd., Diane Cullinan Oberhelman continues her role as a leader in real estate and development, but she said her professional life has changed drastically in the last 10 years. "We’ve sold all of our service companies to focus strictly on development and acquisition of real estate. That’s assisted us in getting successful developments accomplished such as The Shoppes at Grand Prairie and One Technology Plaza. Additionally, it’s allowed us to pursue some redevelopment such as the Pekin Mall and open a Chicago office."
Her efforts have been recognized with awards such as Top Ten Business Leaders in Central Illinois, 25 Women in Leadership, and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Athena Award. Her community involvement has included chairing the Illinois Development Finance Authority and the Illinois First program; and membership on the Illinois Economic Development Board, Peoria Civic Center Authority Board, Peoria Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and Kids Konnected Board of Directors.
Oberhelman said she’s chosen to remain in central Illinois because she and her family love it. "We think the amenities are fabulous and the people are second to none in the country."
The key to her success and that of her company, she said, is the strong team atmosphere. I like to follow the old adage that hiring people smarter than you are will always make you more successful."
Another key has been choosing a field she loves. "Get involved with something you’re passionate about," she advised. "Choose one that’s going to make a difference not only in your life, but in others’. Also, it’s true the harder you work, the luckier you are. A positive mental attitude is the key; never give up when you have difficult hurdles to overcome."
Jeffrey Giebelhausen, former mayor of East Peoria and resource development director for the Heart of Illinois United Way, is now a managing member of Cullinan Properties, Ltd. He said over the last 10 years, his career has evolved from the public sector to the private sector. "While having less public visibility, I’ve learned how to work behind the scenes and accomplish objectives. I’ve also learned there’s significant overlap between the public and private sectors in many ways, and while very different, they actually face many of the same challenges."
The most significant awards, honors, and recognitions he’s received in the last decade have come in the form of changes in the community of which he’s been involved, he said. "Most significantly, being in leadership positions on projects such as The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, EastSide Centre, EastPort Marina, the expansions of the Festival of Lights, and many parts of East Peoria’s economic growth. I was also honored as East Peoria’s Citizen of the Year."
In addition to completing his second term as mayor of East Peoria, some of his public service has included chairing the Tri-County Mayor’s Association, serving as a vice president of the Illinois Municipal League, and founding and serving as president of EastSide Centre.
A desire to be close to his family and the excellent professional and social opportunities have continued to keep Giebelhausen in central Illinois.
He said being surrounded by good people who are willing to give their all to the desired outcome is one secret of his success. "The willingness to be creative and flexible have also been essential elements. My advice for young professionals is to remember that change is constant. The job of today isn’t the job of tomorrow. To remain at the top of one’s game means you need to be flexible, willing to work within the limits while thinking outside the box. You can’t be hesitant to be a leader, and you don’t wake up one morning and decide it’s time to be a leader. Lead by example-and know when to follow."
Sharon Holling has continued her career with Caterpillar, advancing to the position of marketing administrator for Corporate Trade Press Relations. "My professional responsibilities have expanded to a level I would have never expected to attain when I hired on 25 years ago. While I unfortunately find I have less time to devote to my volunteer activities, I’ve been able to apply many skills which I’ve acquired through my volunteer career to my current professional life," she said.
Among the many leadership positions Holling has taken on are president of the Creve Coeur Club of Peoria; co-chair of corporate underwriting for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure; YWCA Leader Luncheon Finalist Selection Panel; chair of the Women’s Advisory Board of Women’s Health Resource Center, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center; Children’s Home Board of Directors; co-chair of the East Seals’ Tribute Dinner to Harold A. (Pete) Vonachen; Contemporary Art Center Board of Directors member; co-founder of the Women’s Lifestyle Educational Fund and Silent Auction; and Junior Achievement of Central Illinois Board of Directors member.
Over the last 10 years she’s received the Public Relations Person of the Year Award for the Publications in Construction Association and Associated Equipment Manufacturers, the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Junior League of Peoria, the Eliza Pindell Community Service Award from the YWCA, and the National Society of Fundraising Executives Volunteer Fundraiser Award.
Holling said Peoria has been-and will always be-her home. "While central Illinois has changed much during the time I’ve lived here, in many ways the area is now at an exceptionally exciting time of growth and change, and it’s rewarding to be involved in that change. Our community offers each of us many opportunities to be a change agent-personally, professionally, or by volunteering through a local organization."
Like many other leaders, her advice to future leaders is to get involved. "You don’t realize until you look back five or 10 years how chairing a committee or leading an organization provides you experiences and expertise that you tap into later and possibly in a totally unrelated area. And get others involved; you can’t do it all yourself. You also don’t realize until later how important the network is that you’re creating."
Holling attributes that network to the success she’s experienced. "Personally, my husband has always encouraged me to take risks and has supported all of my volunteer and career endeavors. Professionally, I’ve had great mentors and exceptional co-workers and business associates throughout my career."
Formerly a director of marketing for the Economic Development Council for the Peoria Area, Tucker Kennedy is now director of marketing communication for the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC). Since he was one of the youngest to receive a 40 Leader award-at only 28-Kennedy said his professional life has expanded greatly. "When I left the Economic Development Council in 1997, I was fortunate to join an organization on the ground floor. The opportunity to shape the image and direction and the success we’ve enjoyed at IMEC has been very rewarding. Being in a management role is probably the biggest change I’ve faced personally. Expectations are higher and being a manager requires a unique set of skills, many of which I have yet to master."
His leadership roles in the past 10 years have included being a part of IMEC’s senior management team, and helping to lead an organization with 50 staff members and a $7 million annual budget. "On the national level, I’ve led efforts to help manufacturing centers in other states to improve the effectiveness of their marketing communications programs. Locally, I’ve chaired the Chamber’s Area Business Connection trade show committee, and have worked hard to elevate the recognition of the important role the manufacturing sector plays in our region. I also produce the Peoria Gridiron Dinner, which I thoroughly enjoy," he said.
Kennedy said in addition to family and friends in the area, he’s able to work in a job that complements his background and interests. "I wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else. I can’t miss the Bradley games either."
He said having a strong network of business colleagues and friends has helped his career. "Plus, I’ve been fortunate to work in jobs I really enjoy and are well suited to my abilities."
Kennedy’s advice to up-and-coming leaders is to get to know as many current community leaders as possible. "It’s amazing what you can get accomplished when you’re able to draw upon your network. It’s also important to be visible in the community and knowledgeable about key issues, politics, and business."
Pursuing a law career as a partner of Vonachen, Lawless, Trager & Slevin when he was named a 40 Leader, Stephen Kouri is now Circuit Court Judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit Court, State of Illinois. "I’ve recently moved form the private practice of law to my current position, a career goal of mine since law school," he said. "Community involvement certainly played a role in being able to achieve that goal."
Deciding to stay in central Illinois because he believes there’s no better place to raise his family, Kouri has been an active community member the past 10 years. "I’ve served on the Peoria City Council, Riverfront Commission, and a variety of not-for-profit boards. I’ve served as president of the Bradley Chiefs Club and continue to serve as co-chair of the IHSA March Madness Steering Committee."
For his efforts, he’s received awards such as PACVB Hometown Hero Award; Western Illinois Tourism Council Outstanding Tourism Person of the Year; State of Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism Friend of Tourism Award; IHSA Over and Above the Rim Award; and in 2002, the PACVB annual "Hometown Hero Award" was renamed the "Steve Kouri MVP Award."
Kouri said the success he’s enjoyed is due in large measure to tremendous support from family and friends. "Also, by surrounding myself with intelligent, motivated people who aren’t afraid to work."
He advised young professionals to leave enough room in their lives for family, friends, and community. "As long as you’re going to live in the community, you might as well be a part of it. Surround yourself with committed people, and don’t ask them to do anything you aren’t willing to do along side of them."
Formerly a drama and speech teacher at East Peoria High School, Eddie Urish is now morning show host on WMBD Morning Mix and noon weather anchor on WMBD. He said since his selection as a 40 Leader, his life has changed dramatically, both personally and professionally. "My wife, Carol, and I owned and operated Habberdashers Dinner Playhouse in downtown Peoria on the Riverfront for nearly four years. We sold the theatre four years ago because the schedule had such an impact on our ability to spend time with our children. Just before selling the theatre, I was offered and accepted my position on WMBD and have been busy for the last three years learning not to stutter in front of the camera. The major difference in my life in the last 10 years has been a stronger focus on family and less on career. While I continue to find a great deal of satisfaction in striving for excellence in my professional life, I find a deeper level of peace as a loving father and devoted husband."
Urish said the main reason he stays in central Illinois is his family. "I have two wonderful children, Wesley and Ellie, and a fabulous wife, who was also a 40 Leader Under Forty honoree 10 years ago. Nearly all of our extended family live within 20 minutes of our home, and it’s very important to both of us that our children grow up with the influence of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins."
Urish said what’s worked for him, career-wise, may not work for everybody, but there is one universal element. "It’s important that we make choices in life based on how they’ll fill our soul, rather than how they’ll fill our bank account."
Harold A. "Rocky" Vonachen III
Rocky Vonachen continues his work in the family business, working his way up to president and general manager of the Peoria Chiefs and O’Brien Field. In the past few years under his management, the team has been league champions, and Vonachen was named the 2002 Midwest League Executive of the Year. He was also named the 2002 Chicago Pitch and Hit Club Minor League Executive of the Year.
For most of the past 10 years, Vonachen has been a trustee on the Peoria Park Board and chaired various committees. "I’ve also served as a commissioner on the City of Peoria Liquor Commission for the past six years," he said.
Vonachen said central Illinois has so much to offer, making the area a great place to live and work. "The quality of life is second to none and continues to get better with the development that’s occurred and with what’s being planned. If someone wants the big city life, it’s only two and a half hours away."
Hard work and help from a very good staff has contributed to his success, he said. As for others who hope to become leaders, he said, "Work hard, and get involved early in your career both at work and in the community."
Anthony Wysinger has made a substantial career move in the past 10 years. Formerly a residential representative of Central Illinois Light Company’s Commercial Sales & Service Department, he’s currently the men’s basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Illinois Central College. "When I was first selected for the honor, I was at CILCO, and I was doing a lot more volunteer work. Now at ICC, I’m responsible for my own budget, 15 to 20 people, and the pressures of winning and graduating student-athletes," he said.
He was named NJCAA College Coach of the Year 2001, District 8 Coach of the Year 2001, Conference Coach of the Year 2001, 2001 Region Tournament Coach of the Year, was nominated to the Peoria Area Bowlers Hall of Fame in 2003, and was named the IHSA Junior College Co-Coach of the Year 2001.
Wysinger’s community involvement, in addition to his work for ICC, includes serving as president of the TNBA Bowling League and as a board member of the Peoria Area Sports Commission, Peoria Sports Museum, College Conference of Central Illinois, and Conference Basketball Chairman.
Wysinger said setting high standards and goals has allowed him to achieve the success that he has, and he advised the same for future leaders. "I’ve found those who set goals and follow them are the most successful. But first and foremost, you must be passionate about whatever field you decide to follow." IBI