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Spheres of influence: 2015 most influential people in Greater Madison

(page 5 of 6)

Mike Koval: Mr. “Kool”

It’s a good thing for law and order that Madison Police Chief Mike Koval has uncommon poise under pressure. Koval’s composure was a key element in preventing protests over the tragic March 6 shooting of unarmed Tony Robinson by police officer Matt Kenny from becoming Ferguson-like in their destructive intensity.

When Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition leader Brandi Grayson unleashed a threatening diatribe during a meeting of the Madison City Council, he allowed her and others to vent without responding. His measured response and defense of his department came the next day in an email to Madison alders, whom he chastised for sitting in silence as Grayson promised the city would erupt when the facts came out. Well, the facts came out in subsequent investigations, and while Robinson’s death was no less tragic, the events of that evening showed that Kenny did not fire his gun without cause.

That certainly wasn’t the only occasion in which Koval kept his composure, and his ability to project a calm presence amid community frustration helped prevent more tragic deaths from occurring. It also helped Madison stand out as a community where civility rules over nihilism.

Juan José López: Latino Leader

To say that Juan José López is a leader in the Latino community is an understatement. As director of the bureau of program management and special populations for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, López been instrumental in starting and growing both the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Professionals Association.

With the Latino Chamber of Commerce, he has developed various partnerships with corporate organizations that have increased the chamber’s ability to help Latinos start their own business ventures. For the Latino Professionals Association, he’s helped build an organization that offers networking opportunities and programming on dressing for success, resume writing, and workplace diversity and inclusion.

López always has been willing to step up and find answers, participating in the City of Madison’s “Disparity Study,” a research effort to assess the magnitude of discrimination against minorities, women, and disadvantaged business enterprises associated with Madison’s public works construction contracts.

He also remains active with a variety of organizations, serving as a board member for the Downtown Rotary, the Rotary Foundation, the Capital Times Kids Fund, and United Migrant Opportunity Services.

John & Tashia Morgridge: Dedicated Donors

In giving the largest single donation ever to the UW–Madison, John and Tashia Morgridge topped even themselves when it comes to philanthropy. The Morgridges’ generosity has already made possible countless endeavors, including the Morgridge Institute for Research and the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, an endowment that provides grants to low-income students attending a Wisconsin public college or university.

Their latest gift of $100 million was labeled “transformative” by Chancellor Rebecca Blank because it will match other donors who fund an endowed professor, a chair, or a faculty chair. It is the lead gift for UW–Madison’s capital fundraising campaign, and it will help the all-important mission of retaining and recruiting faculty.

Moreover, it demonstrates the value of having UW alums lead in the business world. When UW–Madison touts the number of graduates who lead Fortune 500 companies, John Morgridge, the former CEO and now chairman emeritus of Cisco, is one of the people it’s talking about. Morgridge joined Cisco in 1988, when it was a 4-year-old company with 34 employees. The maker of computer networking equipment now ranks 60th on the Fortune 500, with more than $47 billion in annual sales.

Lynne Myers: Caring Care Provider

Thanks in large measure to the leadership of CEO Lynne Myers, Agrace (formerly Agrace HospiceCare) has achieved far-reaching improvements to health care quality and access, as well as education to providers. However, enhanced end-of-life and palliative-care services throughout Wisconsin’s south central region is only the beginning of her contributions.

Expanding Agrace’s Care for All program — which ensures access to care for everyone in the community, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status —  was Myers’ idea. She accelerated its development after learning of misconceptions that Agrace is an organization only for upper-middle-class whites. Earlier this year, she directed the creation of a $15-million endowment campaign to ensure Agrace’s ability to provide end-of-life care for those who are unable to pay.

Also under her leadership, Agrace set agency-wide goals to increase diversity, not only among the patients it serves but also among employees and volunteers. Toward that end, she championed the organization’s minority certified nursing assistant scholarship program to offer education, employment, and continuing tuition reimbursement to people of color. Myers also commissioned the development of the Agrace Educational Institute, which prepares future hospice and palliative medicine clinicians through hands-on training.

Ismael Ozanne: Nonviolent Disciple

When he made his ruling that Officer Matt Kenny would not face criminal charges in the March 6 shooting death of Tony Robinson, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was wise to note his mother’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

Knowing that similar findings had caused violent unrest and additional loss of life in Ferguson, Mo., and other cities, Ozanne’s statement helped remind people that civil rights leaders achieved historic change through nonviolent protest.

It was extremely important that Ozanne not only spell out the facts in great detail, but also that he express sorrow for the loss of life and acknowledge weaknesses in the justice system, which he did. In handling a tense situation in a “teachable moment” manner, Ozanne, who is Wisconsin’s first black district attorney, also reminded the community that peaceful protest is not only a Constitutional right, it’s also the smartest and most effective way to affect change.

It wasn’t a comfortable situation to be thrust in the national spotlight, but thanks to the way Ozanne handled a difficult situation, Madison is in a much better position to address the racial disparities that tear at its social fabric.


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