KC's 50 Most Powerful People

Meet the 50 leaders, innovators, visionaries, philanthropists, creatives and influencers shaping the city right now.


   For our 2015 Power List, 435 Magazine started with literally hundreds of names of worthy candidates in the metro. Then, after much research, consultation and debate, we carefully and painstakingly whittled these dynamo leaders down to a core Power List of 50 individuals who truly matter right now. The luminaries who made our final list of 50 this year not only excel in their professions, but have demonstrated significant investment in bettering the quality of civic life in Kansas City — and for this we respectfully toast them. For more details of the criteria we used to create this list, please see this month’s editor’s letter but, suffice it to say, we are honored to celebrate these 50 immensely accomplished, inventive, charitable and inspiring individuals — as well as six of Kansas City’s most philanthropic and esteemed founding families. The examples these visionaries have set are a beacon to many and make Kansas City the not-so-hidden jewel that it is.


Ken Bacon

President and CEO of Shawnee Mission Health

     Big things have happened since Bacon, the 20-year health veteran, took the helm of Shawnee Mission Health in 2014. Under his leadership, Shawnee Mission Medical Center was renamed Shawnee Mission Health to reflect its expansion to various locations. Bacon also oversaw the opening of the Shawnee Mission Cancer Center and Shawnee Mission Birth Center, expanded its urgent care network by opening the first of six metro-area Centra Care center locations and broke ground on the the Shawnee Mission Health Blue Valley campus at BluHawk to open in 2016. Bacon currently serves on the Kansas City Area Hospital Council, the Overland Park Chamber Board and the Johnson County Community College Foundation Board. Shawnee Mission Medical Center was recently awarded the NCDR (National Cardiovascular Data Registry) Platinum Performance Achievement Award in 2014 for their excellence in cardiac care.


Terry Bassham

Chairman and CEO of Great Plains Energy

   Appointed in 2012 to lead Great Plains Energy, the holding company for Kansas City Power & Light, Bassham is an electric powerhouse. He was instrumental in leading KCP&L through a recent and ambitious energy plan, which included building 100 megawatts of wind power, installing environmental retrofits at several generating facilities and constructing an 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant. Bassham also helped transform KCP&L’s business through the sale of Strategic Energy and the acquisition of Aquila, which doubled the company's workforce and significantly increased its service territory. Active in the KC community, Bassham has served on several boards such as the Guadalupe Centers Inc., the Kansas City Symphony, United Way of Greater Kansas City, Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and Linda Hall Library. He will soon wield even more power when he assumes the highly visible role of chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.


Ken Block

Founder and Managing Principal of Block Real Estate Services

   Block Real Estate Services started more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of new development projects in 2014, what Block calls the company’s best year yet. They completed the year with total sales and leasing transactions in excess of $832 million. One of those projects is CityPlace, a $350 million 90-acre mixed-use project in Overland Park with luxury apartments, office buildings, retail space and senior housing. This year’s hot new development from Block is the 46 Penn Centre, a high-rise office development on the Country Club Plaza to be completed by late 2017. Past projects include the showcase headquarters for Teva Pharmaceuticals in Overland Park.

     Block and his company sponsored more than 25 charitable events in 2014, including Pawtini for Great Plains SPCA, Red Hot Night for Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Royals Charities’ Diamond of Dreams. The company is ranked on lists from the likes of Midwest Real Estate News, Ingram’s and National Real Estate Investor. This year Block Real Estate Services won a 2015 Capstone Award from the Kansas City Business Journal for outstanding real estate developments. In addition, Ken Block received the 2011 Jim Davis Award, part of the Capstone Awards program, that recognizes those who “help shape the development of the greater Kansas City area.”


Ronnie Burt

President and CEO of Visit KC

     Attracting convention, leisure and business travelers to Kansas City is Ronnie Burt’s top job at the helm of Visit KC, the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. Since arriving at the job in 2014, Burt has relished his role as city cheerleader and is a key promoter of the new $102 million 2.2-mile streetcar system and planned new $300 million downtown convention center hotel. The Hyatt convention center hotel, slated to open in 2018, has been cited by Burt as a “game changer” and expected to bring billions of dollars worth of previously lost convention business to town.  Not content competing with the likes of third-tier cities like Omaha or Oklahoma City for business, Burt, in an interview with The Kansas City Star before assuming his KC post, said he wanted to compete with second-tier cities like Indianapolis, Nashville, Minneapolis and St. Louis in recruiting conventions, big events and tourism to KC. Last month it was announced that KC tourism broke records with 24 million visitors, bringing $3.1 billion in direct revenue and a $5.1 billion total economic impact. Before coming to KC, Burt, a New Jersey native, served as vice president of sales and services for Destination D.C. His civic involvement includes participating as one of six CEOs on Kansas City’s new Hospitality Alliance.

Ronnie Burt Visit KC and Bob Marcusse KCADC

ronnie burt, president and ceo of Visit KC; and Bob marcusse, president and ceo of KCADC


Kelly Carnago

Head of Google Fiber business operations in Kansas City

     Our city made headlines in 2011 when it was announced that KC would be the first city in the nation to receive Google Fiber, the company’s ultra-high-speed new broadband service. What began as an experiment in KC was deemed a success, and has since rolled out to eight other cities. When Carnago was selected this year as general manager of Google Fiber’s operations in KC, she fully accepted the challenge but realized there was still “a lot of work to do here,” as quoted in the Kansas City Business Journal. For example, when Google noticed a wide “digital divide” in KC between more affluent neighborhoods and less affluent in terms of Internet service, it deployed 60 employees to canvas the underserved areas and set up micro-grants for community organizations to encourage digital literacy throughout KC — an initiative applauded by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II.

     Carnago’s résumé includes former VP positions at Sprint and as an operations officer at e-waste solutions startup eRecyclingCorps. Her accomplishments have earned her a spot on the Kansas City Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business program in 2013.


Marcelo Claure

CEO of Sprint Corporation

      Claure, the outsized personality and new CEO of Sprint Corporation (with $34.5 billion in revenue) has been making waves since moving from his beloved Miami to KC for the job — cutting corporate spending by $1.5 billion in his first year and another $2 billion in cuts announced this fall; doubling retail outlets; and launching new initiatives such as an “iPhone Forever” deal, come-to-you service via a fleet of yellow Sprintmobiles, a national phone leasing plan and a buzz-worthy ad starring David Beckham. The 44-year-old exec has also been known for his spirited Twitter exchanges with rival T-Mobile CEO John Legere as they vie for the third-place spot as the nation’s top wireless carriers. At Re/code’s Code Conference in May of this year, Claure boldly stated, “Expect in 18 to 24 months, our network will be No. 1 [or] 2,” a claim he recently repeated on CNN Money. When he assumed the job, Sprint was losing about 700,000 customers a quarter, and the company was recovering from a failed merger with T-Mobile. Claure was hired to turn around Sprint, and that is what he intends to do, quickly (his contract extends to 2019).

     Claure came to Sprint in 2014, after founding Brightstar Corp. in 1997, a wireless distribution company with $10.5 billion in gross revenue since its founding and a presence in 50 countries. The Bolivian-born entrepreneur has been named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and garnered the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2001. In addition, Claure is a founding member of One Laptop per Child, a charitable organization aimed at empowering the world’s poorest children through education by providing them with low-cost laptops.


Bill Cobb

President and CEO of H&R Block

     Named in 2011 as head of H&R Block, the Kansas City-based venerable tax-preparation company, Cobb has proven his powerhouse worth. For example, the company’s shares gained 89 percent this fiscal year, with revenues topping $3 billion. Cobb came to H&R Block from impressive leadership positions with eBay U.S. Marketplaces, PepsiCo, YUM! Brands and Pizza Hut U.S. Under his direction at eBay from 2004 to 2008, the online auction company reached a record $2.6 billion in revenues. Upon arriving in Kansas City, Cobb embedded himself in the community, joining the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, KC Roundtable and the board of United Way. Cobb earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. Though presidential candidates on the campaign trail have threatened to make H&R Block obsolete with tax reform, we have a feeling this nimble CEO isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.



Jon Cook


Mike Lundgren

Director of Innovation Strategy at VML and Founding Curator of TEDxKC

     As CEO of KC-based marketing agency VML since 2011, Jon Cook has spearheaded the company’s impressive global expansion. Under his leadership, VML has expanded into Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, India, Mexico and South America; opened a total of 26 offices in 15 countries; and expanded client partnerships. Some of VML’s global clientele includes Microsoft, Ford, Kellogg, Colgate-Palmolive and PepsiCo. Cook also gives back to the KC community, serving on the boards of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial and Head for the Cure Foundation. The American Advertising Federation recognized him as Advertising Professional of the Year in 2014. In addition, VML won eight presitigous Cannes Lions and more than 270 awards total in 2014 — proof that this digital marketing pioneer has its finger on the pulse of creativity and technology.

     Mike Lundgren joined VML in 2005 as its director of innovation strategy for his insights and strategies on emerging trends, disruptive technologies and innovation. But perhaps what Lundgren is best known for is acting as founding curator of TEDxKC, the 18-minute or less presentation of ideas worth spreading. Lundgren is responsible for bringing inspiring and innovative presenters and performers to Kansas City for one of the largest independent TED events in the world and feeding the city’s hunger for creativity and knowledge. Before joining VML, Lundgren’s work experience included nine years at Apple, GE and Iomega.


Peter deSilva

President and COO of UMB Financial Corporation, Vice Chairman of UMB Bank, Chairman of UMB Fund Services

     In 2004 deSilva became COO and president of UMB Financial Corp, where he is responsible for the company's corporate services, corporate marketing and the company's investment management, investment servicing and health care businesses with total assets exceeding $230 billion. Prior to UMB, he served 16 years with Fidelity Investments in Boston, including time as senior vice president for Fidelity Brokerage Co. Since joining UMB, deSilva has doubled earnings and has placed a strong emphasis on enhancing UMB’s technology and delivery of services. In 2009 UMB Bank was named Forbes’ Best Bank in the continental U.S.

     DeSilva is an active participant in the KC community, serving on the boards of the National WWI Museum, MRI Global, Park University and the Kansas City Symphony, acting as former chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and serving as 2010 campaign chair for the United Way of Greater Kansas City. At the Chamber of Commerce he spearheaded efforts to make KC America’s “most entrepreneurial city” as part of its Big 5 initiative. As quoted in the Kansas City Business Journal in 2012, he states, “There’s an entrepreneurial network in Kansas City, but it’s pretty fragmented, so I’m trying to connect those resources together through UMKC, the Bloch School, the Kauffman Foundation, MRI Global, KCSourceLink….”


terry and peggy dunn kansas city

Terry Dunn

Former CEO of JE Dunn and Current Chairman of Greater KC Chamber of Commerce

Peggy Dunn

Mayor of Leawood

     Terry and Peggy Dunn are the quintessential power couple, and together their investment in KC has been immeasurable. As mayor of the city of Leawood for the past 18 years, Peggy Dunn presides over one of the most covetable suburbs in the city — one known for its schools, neighborhoods, parks and, increasingly, retail attractions like Mission Farms and Park Place. Leawood is also the headquarters of formidable companies like Mariner Wealth Advisors and Reece & Nichols. Peggy sits on the board of directors at Union Station and has served on the boards of Saint Luke’s South Hospital, Starlight Theatre, Leawood Chamber of Commerce, The Salvation Army, UMKC Capital Campaign, Truman Medical Center, the United Way of Greater Kansas City and many more. 

     Terry Dunn is the former president and CEO of J.E. Dunn Construction Group, ranked the 186th largest private company in the nation in 2010 by Forbes magazine. Founded in 1924, it builds institutional, commercial and industrial structures nationwide. Some of its major projects have included an IRS facility and the world headquarters for H&R Block, both located in KC. Dunn joined the company in 1974 and presided as CEO from 1989 to 2005. Currently he is president and CEO of the holding company for JE Dunn Construction Company. Terry is also acting chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce for the second time, with a special focus on building entrepreneurship in KC. As one of the most influential business leaders in KC, Terry served as past chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, President of the American Cancer Society Central KC Unit, and vice chairman of the Economic Development Corporation. His civic activities included the Boy Scouts of America and serving on the board of various groups such a UMKC Bloch School, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and UMB Financial. Together, Terry and Peggy Dunn chaired the KC finance committee in a bid to bring the 2016 GOP Convention to KC.


Dr. Melinda Estes

President and CEO of Saint Luke’s Health System

     Estes oversees Saint Luke’s Health System, one of the largest nonprofit health care providers and private-sector employers in the metropolitan area. Estes, board certified in neurology and neuropathology and with an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, joined the health system in 2011 after serving as CEO of what is now called the University of Vermont Medical Center. This year Estes launched a Focus 2015 project at Saint Luke’s to achieve a $100 million improvement through revenue enhancements and the elimination of inefficiencies. The goal is to deliver top quality care, safety and access with greater cost-effectiveness for the patient. Accolades have followed this local powerhouse who brings solid expertise in hospital management. For example, Estes has earned a spot on Becker’s Hospital Review’s list of 130 women hospital and health system leaders to know. In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Saint Luke’s nationally in seven specialties, and it was ranked the No. 2 hospital overall in the KC metro. In addition to her role at Saint Luke’s, Estes serves on the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association.


David Frantze

Partner at Stinson Leonard Street LLP

     As head of the real estate and development division of the law firm Stinson Leonard Street, Frantze has coordinated some of the most high-profile real estate deals in town such as Union Station, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Sprint Center, the Kansas City Power & Light District and the renovation of Kauffman Stadium. Specializing in economic incentives for real estate development and business relocations, Frantze oversaw Freightquote’s relocation from Lenexa across state lines to KCMO, after the company won approval from the Missouri Development Finance Board for state incentives. The project involves roughly 1,000 existing jobs, 200 projected new jobs and a new 200,000-square-foot office building. Recently, Frantze's assisted Cerner Corp. in winning an incentive package worth more than $1.7 billion for its $4.45 billion Trails Campus in south Kansas City. He also assists various nonprofits in their real estate transitions such as Kansas City Hospice and Kansas City Art Institute.

     Frantze was elected to the Midwest Real Estate News’ Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame in 2011 and has landed on The Best Lawyers in America list. He is involved in many charitable organizations including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Boy Scouts of America, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and KU Endowment. He is also the proud co-owner of JJ’s Restaurant with his restaurateur brother Jimmy Frantze.


Esther George

President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

   A graduate of the American Bankers Association Stonier Graduate School of Banking and the Stanford University Executive Program, George joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1982, spending much of her career in the Division of Supervision and Risk Management. She served 10 years as the district’s chief regulator, responsible for state-chartered member banks and nearly 1,000 bank and financial holding companies. In 2011 George was named president and appointed as the Fed’s top bank regulator. In addition, she is a member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which has authority over U.S. monetary policy, so the economic influence she wields is quite substantial.

     George has participated in the Bank for International Settlement’s Financial Stability Institute programs in places like Malaysia and Beijing. Every year she hosts the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Jackson Hole Economic Symposium, a forum that draws important central bankers, policy experts and academics from around the globe to discuss emerging issues and financial trends.


Carl Gerlach

Mayor of Overland Park

     Gerlach has acted as mayor of Overland Park for 10 years and is currently serving his third term after being re-elected in 2013. He is a chairman and board member of numerous KC organizations, from the Johnson County Education Research Triangle to the Kansas Lottery Commission. Gerlach is a graduate of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s “Leadership Kansas.” He received the 2013 Ewing Kauffman Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and the 2012 NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award.  Fun fact: The mayor, who played basketball at K-State, was drafted in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks in 1976. He later played for the San Antonio Spurs.

   Because of Overland Park’s stellar triple-A bond rating during Gerlach’s leadership, the city has exploded with new developments, including the $35 million renovation of Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the mixed-use project BluHawk at 159th Street and U.S. Highway 69 and the Overland Park International Trade Center. In addition, TopGolf opened in Overland Park, Black & Veatch moved 700 employees to OP office space, and plans are in motion, despite a recent stumble, to transform Metcalf South. Most telling, a recent citywide survey found that 99 percent of residents said Overland Park was a good or excellent place to live.


Gwendolyn Grant

President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City

     One of the most powerful advocates for social and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities, Grant is indeed making a difference. Serving as the Urban League of Greater Kansas City’s first female leader, she provides leadership development and writes and lectures frequently on race relations and social justice. Since 2001, when Grant became Urban League’s leader, she has become a dynamo in civic and political circles. Grant is the founder of Destination: Wealth Creationä, an initiative that is designed to teach sound financial principles and create wealth in urban communities; and Project League, an initiative to develop purpose-driven and proactive professional leaders, which has trained 450 emerging leaders to date. Her civic involvement includes stints on the board of directors for the Kansas City Missouri School District Buildings Corporation, the finance committee of Friendship Baptist Church, the Arts Council of Kansas City and the advisory board for the Institute of Urban Education. Grant holds an Executive Fellows MBA from Rockhurst University and is a graduate of FBI Citizen’s Academy. Among her numerous awards: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Community Service Award, Martin Luther King – King Dream Conference Woman of the Year and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equity.


Greg Graves 

CEO of Burns & McDonnell

     Graves is CEO of the second largest engineering firm in KC, and in 2014 the fast-growing company broke ground on the $139.5 million expansion to its headquarters, planning to add 2,100 new jobs to the KC economy. As of 2014 the company was approaching $2 billion in annual revenue with projects around the globe. In 2014 Ernst & Young named Graves a finalist for its national Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Burns & McDonnell also ranked No. 14 on the Fortune magazine list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. The firm has invested heavily in KC, donating to local schools and hospitals, giving $1 million to preserve Union Station, and contributing to local arts organizations such as the Kansas City Ballet and the Kansas City Symphony.

     As past chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Graves inaugurated the Big 5 initiative, which the Kansas City Business Journal describes as a “list of audacious goals for the community” — such as making KC a world leader in animal health and research, boosting entrepreneurship, improving education, public safety and transportation, and boosting health care in KC’s urban core.

      Graves and his wife, Deanna, whom the Kansas City Business Journal calls “perhaps the area’s premier fundraising power couple,” are leading the $100 million fundraising efforts for the University of Kansas Hospital’s new medical tower. Graves stated, “Great cities have great academic hospitals. If we want Kansas City to be a top-10 city, we need the University of Kansas Hospital… to be a top-10 hospital."  To this end the Graveses have pledged $1 million, and the Burns & McDonnell Foundation has also donated $2.5 million to the project — its largest gift yet. Graves is the soon-to-be chairman of KU Hospital’s governing board. He has also raised money for Children’s Mercy Hospital, Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Marillac. In addition, he is a member of the board at UMB Financial Corporation, Union Station and UMKC, and was recently appointed chair of Kansas City Repertory Theatre board of directors.


George Guastello Union Station Kansas City

George Guastello

President and CEO of Union Station

     Labeled a “civic turnaround specialist” by the Kansas City Business Journal, Guastello injected new life into several beloved KC institutions in his career, including Starlight Theatre and the American Royal Association, before becoming CEO of Union Station in 2008.  A sparkling gem in KC’s civic crown, it is hard to imagine that the iconic Union Station once sat empty, neglected and near demolition since its closing in the 1980s. In 1996, a historic bi-state initiative was passed to partially fund the Station's $250 million renovation, which was completed in 1999. Everything sparkled again including the 3,500-pound chandeliers in the 95-foot-tall Grand Hall.

     Not so sparkling was Union Station’s ledger books. When Guastello arrived in 2008, it was near bankruptcy. He acted quickly, making drastic cuts to the budget, outsourcing the restaurants, recruiting showstopping exhibits and leasing the rest of the spaces for income. He managed to maintain Science City, refocused it on STEM education and paid off all debt by 2010. Today the nonprofit is home to not only Science City and Amtrak, but a planetarium, 3-D movie screen, a theater stage, restaurants and various local organizations. It also plays host to rotating exhibits, from Gridiron Glory to the current da Vinci exhibit, as well as events like the recent Techweek. In 2014 the landmark building celebrated a spectacular centennial orchestrated by Guastello, including a 3-D projection on the Beaux-Arts façade. And for the last five years the institution has been more than $1 million in the black. Up next: a $9 million upgrade to its exterior spaces funded in part by generous donations from the Hall and Bloch family foundations. The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), representing 50 countries, bestowed on Science City its prestigious 2015 “EDGIE” Award for Visitor Experience. Not bad for a CEO who started out as a theater major.



Wendy Guillies

President and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

   After serving as interim CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for nearly a year, Guillies was chosen to be the permanent CEO in June 2015. The KC-based, nonprofit foundation, founded by the late pharmaceutical exec, KC Royals owner and philanthropist Ewing Kauffman, is among the largest private foundations in the U.S. with an asset base of approximately $2 billion. The foundation places special focus on grants and operations benefitting education and entrepreneurship in KC, including the Kauffman Scholars scholarship program, Kauffman FastTrac to help develop entrepreneurs, and the immensely successful 1 Million Cups entrepreneurial networking program that has fanned out to more than 70 cities across the country. In 2011 the Kauffman Foundation partnered with the White House and AOL co-founder Steve Case to launch Startup America to help foster successful, high-growth and innovative startup companies in the U.S.

     Guillies, a graduate of the Chamber of Commerce’s Centurions Leadership Program, developed and launched Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2008 under the auspices of the Kauffman Foundation. The annual week, held each November, hosts thousands of events and competitions in 150 countries “to inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activity while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors.”

   Guillies, who joined the foundation in 2000, serves on the board of Kauffman FastTrac. She was also appointed to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee in 2014. In an interview with the Kansas City Business Journal in June 2011, Guillies states, “When Ewing Kauffman founded the organization, "entrepreneurship" wasn't the hot, popular word it is today,” she said. "He set us on this course, which was very unique at the time.” Today, Guillies is admirably carrying that torch.


Reverend Adam Hamilton

Founding Pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

     Hamilton is the senior pastor and founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Under the leadership of the reverend since its founding in 1990, the Church of the Resurrection has become the largest United Methodist Church in the U.S., measured by both weekend attendance and membership. The church touts a congregation of more than 20,000 members and an average weekend worship attendance of 10,000. In addition, Hamilton is the author of 22 books that explore the significance of biblical stories and equip Christian leaders to be more effective in their work. He plans to expand the congregation yet again with a $90 million, 3,500-seat sanctuary to proclaim the gospel to non-believers and the curious. It is slated for a 2017 completion. He also founded the Young Pastors Network to train aspiring new pastors.

     Hamilton has received countless honors including the B’nai B’rith award in Social Ethics, the Denman Award in Evangelism and was named one of 10 people to watch in America’s spiritual landscape by Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. In 2012 the White House asked the reverend to deliver the message at the National Prayer Service as part of President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony.


David Harrison

President of VanTrust Real Estate LLC

     David Harrison is the president of VanTrust Real Estate LLC, a five-year-old company that has already proven to be a real estate powerhouse. Backed by the Van Tuyl family, VanTrust started as Caymus Real Estate. It has since evolved into one of KC’s leading full-service real estate development firms. Harrison has accrued more than 25 years of experience in the commercial brokerage and development industry, including a decade as the vice president and general manager of Opus Northwest LLC’s Kansas City office. Harrison is recognized for his ability to put together tough deals and take on challenging projects. While they have projects and offices in multiple cities, KC remains their sweet spot.  A few of VanTrust’s significant development projects include AMC Theatre’s $30 million corporate headquarters in Leawood, Plaza Vista on the Country Club Plaza (home of Polsinelli PC and Hotel Sorella), Freightquote’s $45 million corporate headquarters, The Village at Mission Farms, the new 51 Main luxury apartments south of the Plaza and the future $139.5 million headquarters expansion for Burns & McDonnell in south Kansas City.


Robb Heineman

CEO of Sporting Club and Sporting Innovations

   Heineman was named CEO of Sporting Kansas City’s parent organization in 2006 and is one of the club’s five principal owners. He is also CEO of Sporting Innovations, a technology company focused on innovation in sports and entertainment. Heineman has formed partnerships with worldwide partners like Cisco, Google, Panasonic and Sprint, making Sporting Park a “living lab for sports and entertainment technology.”

   After being named CEO of Sporting Club, Heineman worked to get a soccer-specific stadium built in KC, and in 2010 the Kansas Board of Commissioners approved the plan for the magnificent 18,467-seat Sporting Park, a youth soccer complex and new offices for Cerner Corporation. More recently, as principal at OnGoal LLC, he is leading an effort to build a $64 million soccer village, which will include the U.S. Soccer Federation’s National Training and Coaching Development Center and at least eight tournament fields all on 170 acres in Kansas City, Kansas. It will be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.

   Heineman, along with Sporting KC owner Greg Maday, run Rock Island Capital, the No. 2 venture capital provider in KC, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. He was named Executive of the Year 2013 by the Kansas City Sports Commission and was in Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2012.


Hank Herrmann

Chairman and CEO of Waddell & Reed Financial Advisors

   Herrmann, who has been with Waddell & Reed for 45 years and was named CEO in 2005, is a household name in the Kansas City financial community. Waddell & Reed posted record earnings in 2013 ($253 million, up 67.6 percent from 2012) and continues to grow — 2014 first-quarter earnings were $74.86 million, up 39 percent from 2013’s first quarter.

   Waddell & Reed, which has $123 billion in assets, took the top spot on Barron’s Best Mutual Fund Families list. Ivy Funds, a subsidiary of Waddell & Reed, is ranked fourth. (You may recognize the name from the prominent placing on the front of Sporting KC’s jerseys.) Herrmann has served on the board of United Way of Greater Kansas City, and he was recently named one of the Kansas City Business Journal’s Power 100. Waddell & Reed celebrated its 75th anniversary on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. The company also raised funds to support local civic treasures like the national World War I Museum in Kansas City.


Sly James

Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri

     Sylvester “Sly” James is the second African-American mayor in Kansas City’s history, following in Emanuel Cleaver’s footsteps, and was recently named the first VP of the African American Mayors association. But the bowtie-wearing mayor would rather be known for his actions. The Kansas City-born lawyer entered his second term focusing on four prongs: education, employment, efficiency (in terms of how government works) and enforcement. Among his initiatives in no particular order: a partnership with Cisco to boost KC as a smart city; a petition to raise minimum wages; focus on crime reduction; efforts to end predatory payday lending; plans for an 8,000-room new convention center hotel to draw more convention business and dollars to KC; breaking ground on the new streetcar project; investment in the city’s water and street infrastructure; the recruitment of MLB’s All-Star Game to KC in 2012 which put KC in the national spotlight and brought in loads of new business; plans for a new or renovated airport; and the establishment of KC as the first city in the nation for Google Fiber.

       In 2012 Newsweek and The Daily Beast included James in its list of today’s most innovative mayors for his work in encouraging entrepreneurism — turning Kansas City into the "Silicon Prairie” and for partnering with Google to bring their ultra-high-speed broadband network to the city. However, James is known as a coalition builder and claims there is still much to tackle. In his inaugural 2015 address to the new City Council, James said, “We are not done yet if we want a city with safe neighborhoods, world-class schools, abundant cultural opportunities and a high quality of life.”


Min Kao

Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Garmin Corporation

     Kao co-founded Garmin, the first company to manufacture Global Positioning System (GPS) devices for the commercial market, in 1989 with Gary Burrell (Burrell stepped down as CEO in 2002 and is currently chairman emeritus.) Kao, who earned his master’s and a doctorate in electrical engineering, is credited with designing and engineering the GPS software technology for the original Garmin product line. He also led the development of the first GPS navigator to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration while working at Allied Signal (now Honeywell). Kao, a Leawood resident, leads a group of five KC-area businessmen on Forbes’ 2015 rankings of “The World’s Billionaires” with wealth of $3 billion. He is ranked No. 23 on CNN Money’s list of “The 50 Who Matter Now.”

   Close associates say Kao is generous with his fortune, but he keeps his spending confidential, The Wichita Eagle reports. Kao donated $17.5 million to the engineering college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, his alma mater; and $1 million to K-State’s college of engineering. He gave $10 million to the Garmin Electrical and Computer Engineering Initiative at Missouri University of Science and Technology. His foundation partners with select universities to provide scholarships for engineering students.


John Kornitzer

Founder and CEO of Kornitzer Capital Management and Buffalo Funds, KCM’s mutual fund group

   As the leader since 1989 of Kornitzer Capital Management, one of the largest fee-based investment advisers in the metropolitan area, and Buffalo Funds since 1994, Kornitzer has extensive financial know-how. His firm ranks in the top 500 in the world in size. KCM manages investments for clients around the world including high net worth individuals, foundations, corporations, trusts, mutual funds and retirement plans. Prior to founding KCM, Kornitzer was vice president of investments for Employers Reinsurance Corp., which he joined in 1978, and managed assets for the company through acquisitions by Getty Oil, Texaco and General Electric Investment Corporation. Kornitzer’s extensive experience also includes 11 years on Wall Street, including seven years for Merrill Lynch. In addition to his business responsibilities, Kornitzer serves on the board of the National World War I Museum.


Maria Meyers

Director of the UMKC Innovation Center

   As head of UMKC’s Innovation Center, Meyers helps get university researchers connected with the right resources in the community to boost business growth. The center is an outgrowth of her former work as founder of KCSourceLink. In 2003, Meyers started KCSourceLink to connect a network of more than 180 entrepreneurial resources in the Kansas City region that can help foster small businesses. Because of the success of the local venture, Meyers and her team took the idea nationwide via U.S.SourceLink, which is now America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.

   Meyers was also active in the launch of UMKC’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which made entrepreneurship a field of study and now offers B.B.A, M.B.A. and doctorate degree concentrations.

   Meyers has held positions with a variety of both startup and large companies, including COO during the $240 million project to create Science City at Union Station. She was also named one of the Kansas City Business Journal’s Power 100.


Dayton Moore

General Manager of the Kansas City Royals and Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations

      As the senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the Royals, Moore has headed one baseball’s most inspiring turnarounds: the rebirth of what it means to “be royal” in Kansas City. Through crucial trades, careful curating and management, the Wichita native has built one of the best teams in the American League. And Kauffman Stadium is as packed as ever with royal blue waves of fans still riding the high of a post-season to remember, even going so far as to shatter the Royals’ 1989 single-season attendance record in September.

     Moore and his staff are revered for building a consistently strong farm and scouting system and have been rated by Baseball America, mlb.com and espn.com in 2011 as the best in baseball for scouting. In Moore’s first nine seasons supervising the Royals, the Boys in Blue have racked up nine Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and 13 All-Star Game selections. Moore chartered the “C” You in the Major Leagues Foundation in 2013, an organization that supports youth baseball, education, families in crisis and faith-based programs and organizations. He is a past recipient of the Cy Young Award and has been named Executive of the Year by Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Sports Commission. Moore is also the author of More Than a Season: Building a Championship Culture.

     The Royals were named Baseball America’s Organization of the Year for the second time after their World Series run. And to add another feather to Moore’s cap, at presstime the Royals had clinched the No. 1 berth in the playoffs as the AL Central Division Champions.


cliff illig neal patterson cerner

Neal Patterson

Chairman, Co-founder and CEO of Cerner Corporation  

Cliff Illig

Vice Chairman and Co-founder of Cerner Corporation

     The company that would become Cerner was sketched out by Arthur Anderson employees in 1979 on a picnic table at Loose Park. Today those visionary co-founders, Patterson and Illig, preside over a cutting-edge health technology company worth billions. As the world’s largest independent health care IT provider, the KC-based company processes more than 150 million health care transactions per day and more than $3 billion annually in revenue. Patterson and Illig got a lucky break when one of the medical community’s most prestigious hospitals, the Mayo Clinic, gambled on the unknown upstart and its hospital management software. Another big break came with the recent advent of Obamacare, which penalizes hospitals who are not up to speed with their digital recordkeeping. In 2013 Cerner enjoyed 20 percent workforce growth, and the stock shot up 44 percent. Cerner is poised to become an even bigger health IT titan in the future. Not bad for an Oklahoma farm boy (Patterson) and self-described tech nerd (Illig) who took one of the school district’s first offered computer classes as a Shawnee Mission East student in the 1970s.

     As chief proselytizer for Cerner, Patterson emphasizes that his company’s streamlined computer systems not only create efficiency and save money, but more importantly save thousands of lives by delivering real-time patient information that health officials can act on immediately — detecting patterns and health warning signs, and preventing human error. And in an admirably altruistic move for the corporate world, Patterson led efforts to create the CommonWell Health Alliance in 2012. The alliance unites top health care IT vendors (including some of Cerner’s competitors) in an effort to make the transfer of patient info across various health care providers and health IT vendors, easier and more seamless and efficient. He cites this as the moral thing to do. This year, Cerner was ranked by Forbes as one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” and by Fortune as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.” Other recent company milestones include the $1.3 billion acquisition of Siemens Health Services; the breaking of ground on a new corporate campus to host its growing KC workforce, which is expected to reach 16,000 new workers within the decade; and landing a lucrative $4.3 billion, 10-year contract with the Department of Defense to modernize its 9.5 million health-related military records via Cerner’s participation in the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health.

     Both Patterson and Illig also give back substantially to the KC community. They are co-owners of FiveStar Lifestyles (the creators of Loch Lloyd) and co-owners of Sporting KC with several other partners and were instrumental in the $200 million effort to bring soccer and the Sporting KC Park to town.

     Patterson is co-founder of the First Hand Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that provides assistance to children with critical health care needs; a Lifetime Director for the American Royal Association; a founding member of the Entrepreneurs’ Exchange; and a trustee of the Midwest Research Institute.

    Illig, the operational brains behind Cerner, serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Heart of America Council of Boy Scouts of America, the board of directors of the Stowers Institute, and the Executive Board of the First Hand Foundation. He served as past Director of Greater Kansas City Chamber Of Commerce and is a member of the Greater Kansas City Business Hall of Fame. Currently Illig is spearheading the nonprofit EnterpriseKC, which will research the needs of local entrepreneurs and work to make KC more fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The Kansas City Business Journal predicts the organization could be a “game changer.”


Gordon Lansford III

President and CEO of JE Dunn Construction

     Lansford III is the president and CEO of JE Dunn Construction and the first non-Dunn family member to hold the position in the Kansas City-based company’s 90-year history. Under his leadership, the company has begun projects such as the Cambridge North Patient Tower at the University of Kansas Hospital, the $4.45 billion Cerner Corp. campus in south Kansas City and the $79 million One Light mixed-use tower in downtown KC. Before being appointed to his current position, Lansford served as the company’s CFO for 15 years. Lansford is active in KC community organizations, including being a member of the Children’s Mercy Hospital Hands & Hearts Board of Directors, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kansas City, the Kansas City Sports Commission of Directors and the Newhouse Women’s Shelter Board of Directors. JE Dunn Construction began in 1924 as a family-run local contractor and now has major projects throughout the nation, but local projects still have special priority. Dunn Construction is responsible for building Kansas City landmarks such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


Bob Marcusse

President and CEO of KCADC (Kansas City Area Development Council)

      Marcusse joined the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) in 1991 as president and chief executive officer. The marketing- and advertising-focused organization has as its mission the recruitment of corporate talent to KC. Three main employment sectors the KCADC touts: distribution and logistics, animal health and biosciences, and technology/information technology. During Marcusse’s tenure, KCADC has attracted 26,000 new jobs and $2.9 billion in capital investment to the 18-county bi-state region. Prior to his role at KCADC, Marcusse  held leadership positions including executive vice president with the Columbus, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce.

     This year he was named to an inaugural list of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers and in 2014 KCADC was named the No. 1 regional economic development organization in the US by Winning Strategies report. In 2014 KCADC achieved the best job-attraction record in its history, drawing 25 companies and 3,300 jobs to metro KC, crossing both state lines and injecting more than $150 million into the local economy. Among the companies KCADC has recruited to KC: Frontier Airlines, Mars Chocolate, Sungevity, MindMixer LLC and a little company called Google. KCnext, an affiliate of KCADC, was created to lure the tech industry to our city as a leading technology hub and foster KC’s growing reputation as “America’s Creative Crossroads.”

     Marcusse is a member of the Rockhurst University School of Business Advisory Board and the University of Missouri Economic Development Cabinet and past Chairman of the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute.


Bob Page University of Kansas Hospital and Annette Bloch Center for Advanced Health Care

bob Page, president and ceo of the University of Kansas Hospital; and Annette Bloch of the Bloch Founding Family at the center for Advanced Health Care, one of several buildings supported with contributions from Annette Bloch and the late Richard Bloch. Glass art by Vernon Brejcha.


Bob Page

President and CEO of the University of Kansas Hospital

     In 2007 Page became CEO of The University of Kansas Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for KU Medical Center. His predecessor Irene Cumming led KU Hospital through a dramatic turnaround, beginning with its 1998 split from the state university system (and state funding) after low patient satisfaction scores, large employee turnover and low revenue.  As a VP and then COO, Page was a key player in the hospital's revenue surge — from $190 million in 1998 to a projected $577 million in 2007 — and “the catalyst for a quantum leap in patient-satisfaction scores,” says Tammy Peterman, the current COO, as quoted in he Kansas City Business Journal in 2007. Today, KU Hospital's patient-satisfaction scores rank in the upper 90th percentiles. For 2015-16, U.S. News & World Report ranked the hospital in the top 50 nationally in all 12 medical and surgical specialties for adults and also named the hospital as the best in the state of Kansas for the fourth consecutive year. It’s the ninth consecutive year the hospital has ranked on the Best Hospitals list.

     In addition, as of 2012, The KU Cancer Center has been named one of only 67 National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the country, as helmed by its director, Dr. Roy Jensen, who was also instrumental in the ranking. This was the result of a 10-year effort to improve cancer care and more than $100 million in philanthropic fundraising to develop an impressive team of doctors and cutting-edge research programs. Now Page is presiding over the construction of a much-needed new $280 million patient wing. Page’s goals are nothing less than “to be the best in the country” in terms of caring, healing, teaching and learning.


Bob Regnier Blue Valley Bank

Bob Regnier

Founder, President and CEO of Blue Valley Bank

     Formerly of Boatman’s Bank, Regnier has been President and CEO of Blue Valley Bank since he founded it in 1989. The community bank has since expanded to five locations in Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee, Leawood and Lenexa with a special focus on encouraging local entrepreneurship and fostering a spirit of philanthropy, and it manages more than $800 million total in assets. Among the bank’s out-of-the-box innovations, a seven-days-per-week operating schedule. An avid philanthropist, Regnier once took to the roof of his bank until 100 percent of his employees had pledged to the United Way campaign. Regnier has also devoted his money and time to countless business and charity-minded local organizations.

      Regnier serves on the Board of Directors of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Union Station, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, University of Kansas Hospital Authority, Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Johnson County Community College Foundation as well as the Board of Trustees of MRIGlobal. He served as board member for eight years and president for two years of the Blue Valley School District and was former chairman of the influential Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. He also helped kick-start the ArtsKC fund, and his family foundation donated $3 million to UMKC’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (which now bears his name), within the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.


Jeff Shackelford

Executive Director of Digital Sandbox KC

      Shackelford has helped bridge the gap between Kansas City’s corporate world and tech entrepreneurs as the executive director of Digital Sandbox KC. The 3-year-old company provides innovators with proof-of-concept resources to support early-stage business development. With Shackelford at the helm, the company has provided $22.7 million in funding for 55 projects, 27 of which are new KC-based companies and have resulted in 181 new jobs created with nearly $55 million in total salaries. Projects include Smart Steps LLC, a tool to help challenged youths solve problems in crisis situations; ShotTracker, a wearable athletic tech piece that tracks basketball shot attempts, makes and misses; and PerfectCube LLC, which provides business analytics tools for small retail business owners. Shackelford’s tech-based career includes co-founding former startup Birch Telecom, founding the Overland Park-based computer support firm Tech Guys Inc., acting as business sales director for Time Warner Cable and as an executive at Sprint. Digital Sandbox KC has been awarded the i6 Challenge Grant from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration for the second time in a row. The three-year $500,000 grant was matched by the Kauffman Center Foundation, Missouri Technology Corporation, the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management and Cobalt Ventures for a total of $1,150,000.


John Sherman and Bill Gautreaux

Co-founders of Inergy

      Sherman and Gautreaux are entrepreneurs with a focus that’s all about energy. Through their leadership, Inergy, a Kansas City-based publicly traded master limited partnership founded in 1996, enjoyed tremendous growth, creating total enterprise value of nearly $5 billion prior to merging with Crestwood Midstream Partners in 2013. The merger with Crestwood created a diverse North American energy infrastructure company with a $9 billion enterprise value. For his part, Sherman has served and supported the Kansas City community extensively, with his philanthropic work mostly focused on educational opportunities for the underserved. He serves as chair of the board of directors for both the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and the Truman Presidential Library Institute. He is also on the board of directors of the UMKC Foundation and Teach for America Kansas City. He is a trustee of the Kauffman Foundation, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and MRIGlobal.

   Gautreaux, who after the merger leads the company’s new Supply and Logistics Group, majored in history and minored in philosophy, which may explain his love of art. Last fall, he loaned a collection of cutting-edge paintings to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. He sits on the boards at Kemper Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Moreover, Gautreaux is a top individual fundraiser in the nation for Bike MS: Kansas City Ride to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.


Brent Stewart

President and CEO of United Way of Greater Kansas City

      As the United Way of Greater Kansas City’s first permanent president and CEO, Stewart is responsible for overseeing an organization that acts as a bridge and broker between charities and their donors. He is charged with making sure the Kansas City community’s needs are met and that pledged money is used wisely. Since taking the helm, Stewart has overseen and supported programs that further his work in the fight against poverty and serving those who are underserved. Among those projects: co-championing the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Ideas Urban Core Neighborhood Initiative, establishing a partnership with the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and supporting the new petition for Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Stewart has an extensive background in nonprofit management, strategic planning, resource development and community partnerships, and has dedicated 25- plus years to the United Way Systems in various communities.

     Stewart is also a director of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, on the board of trustees for the United Way of Greater Kansas City and was awarded the Civic Recognition Award for his acts of compassion and kindness. At its annual campaign in 2014 the United Way of Greater Kansas City raised $35,079,586, made possible by more than 1,600 companies and organizations.


Jonathan Thomas

CEO of American Century Investments

      Since 2007, Thomas has led Kansas City-based investment management firm American Century Investments, bringing energy, enthusiasm, optimism and candor to the company that now has about $150 billion in assets. With funds regularly cited for their performance, the company has expanded its global efforts and institutional business. Locally, the company has invested heavily in Kansas City, with its more than 1,000 employees. Because the Stowers Institute for Medical Research has a 40 percent stake in the company, American Century's performance directly contributes to important cancer and other gene-based research. In giving back to the community, Thomas serves as a member of the Board of Governors at the Investment Company Institute and also serves on the Bio Med Valley Discoveries Board of Directors. He is a past board member of the Kansas City Zoo and the American Royal.


Brenda Tinnen

Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sprint Center

      As senior vice president and general manager of Sprint Center/Anschutz Entertainment Group Kansas City, Tinnen has hosted more than 750 events over the years. Credited with the most successful venue launch outside of New York and Los Angeles, Tinnen has made the Sprint Center the destination venue for entertainment since its opening in 2007 and one of the busiest arenas in America. Hosting countless top-bill acts like Elton John, Katy Perry, Garth Brooks, Madonna, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift, the Sprint Center has aided in the revitalization of downtown KC, injecting business to surrounding bars and restaurants. In her career Tinnen has held similar development and operational roles in other AEG projects such as the Staples Center, the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace and the Kodak Theatre. Tinnen is also the current chair of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association — just the second woman to chair the association in its 96-year history after Anita B. Gorman. Tinnen also serves on the boards of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, the UMKC Board of Trustees and is a past recipient of the Missourian Award and voted one of the Central Exchange’s Women of the Year.


David Trabert

President of Kansas Policy Institute

     If there is a person in the metro who knows about fiscal policy and education issues facing the state of Kansas and its metro residents, it is lobbyist David Trabert of Johnson County. Through efforts of his Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank founded in 1996, the Kansas Legislature in 2011 passed a law that allows Kansas school districts to more easily access monies to offset declines in base per-pupil aid from the state.  A frequent speaker for business, legislative and civic groups, Trabert also regularly testifies before the Kansas House and Senate committees on state budget, tax and education issues. Moreover, he also writes guest editorials for national and state publications, and his popular blog shines light on what really matters to Kansans. He serves on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and co-chairs the Education Finance Joint Working Group for the American Legislative Exchange Council.


Debbie Wilkerson

President and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

     Wilkerson, a key leader in Kansas City, has held the position of CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation since 2012, upholding the company’s vision of fulfilling community dreams through the power of philanthropy. Ranked among 1 percent of more than 700 community foundations in the country, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation helps make giving convenient and efficient through charitable giving accounts. Wilkerson has been a foundation employee since 1998, serving as the foundation’s general counsel and COO. Before coming to the foundation, Wilkerson was a tax and estate-planning lawyer for prominent Kansas City law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.

     The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation has more than 3,000 individual funds under its network, ranging from $1,000 to tens of millions of dollars. Since its beginnings in 1978, the GKCCF has garnered more than $1.7 billion in donations for Kansas City-area nonprofit organizations. With $1.64 billion in assets, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation ranked No. 2 on the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2013 list of KC’s largest charitable trusts and foundations.


Julián Zugazagoitia

Director and CEO of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

      Zugazagoitia assumed the job at the Nelson-Atkins in 2010. He was formerly the director of El Museo del Barrio in New York City and prior to that he held jobs with UNESCO in Paris and with the Getty Conservation Institute working on cultural heritage projects in Europe and Africa. The Mexican-born Zugazagoitia is a true cosmopolitan, who speaks six languages and possesses an art history degree from L’Ecole du Louvre and a doctorate from the Sorbonne Paris IV. At a 2014 ceremony in Paris, Zugazagoitia was named an officier of the l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in recognition of his contribution to culture. The global arts promoter has also curated exhibitions as Director of Visual Arts for the Spoleto Festival in Italy.

     If all this makes him sound excessively academic and unapproachable, think again. During his tenure at the Nelson-Atkins, he has concentrated on audience outreach and collaboration. For example, the Nelson has hosted the local TEDx conference with VML and collaborated with the Kansas City Symphony, UMKC Conservatory of Music and the Kansas City Art Institute, to name a few. A headline-grabbing recent exhibit of Ferran Adria’s sketches included a personal appearance by the world- famous chef and creative conceptualist. Currently, the museum is hosting a blockbuster exhibit of native artist Thomas Hart Benton. In 2017, the museum will inherit the Bloch Family’s collection of impressionist art and a new gallery, funded by the Bloch Family Foundation, to house them in. 

     Zugazagoitia has led efforts to expand the museum’s core audience through various events such as Art Tastings, the widely popular Third Thursdays designed to appeal to millennials, and the family-oriented Picnic on the Lawn and Stroller Tours. In 2013 he set out a five-year plan of strategic goals for the museum, including envisioning a new cultural district. In 2014 the museum unveiled plans for this projected expansion with more green spaces, walkways and sculptures as part of a broader cultural district embracing KCAI, The Kemper and UMKC. Though the project is only in conceptual planning stages, it represents Zugazagoitia’s bold and inclusive plan to bolster the cultural arts in KC.


The Emeritus Power List: The Founding Families of Kansas City


The Bloch Family

Founders: Henry and Richard Bloch

Fortune: The self-made Bloch brothers converted H&R Block tax preparation company into a multibillion dollar business.

Foundations: The Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the Midwest, focuses on business and entrepreneurship, education, the arts, health care, social services and Jewish organizations. The R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation founded by Annette and Richard Bloch is dedicated to fighting cancer and supporting cancer patients and their families

Noteable Gifts to KC: $11.7 donation to the Nelson-Atkins Museum from the Bloch Family Foundation for a new gallery to house the Blochs’ collection of 29 impressionist and post-impressionist artworks;  $12 million from the Bloch Family Foundation to Saint Luke’s for its neuroscience programs and research; $32 million from Henry Bloch for a new Henry W. Bloch School of Management building at UMKC, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Center at Truman Medical Center, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion at The University of Kansas Hospital. Annette has also made a matching grant promise of $10 million for the University of Kansas Hospital’s planned new patient tower.

Other Benefactors: Midwest Research Institute (MRI), Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, United Way, the Kansas City Symphony, Menorah Medical Foundation, the New Reform Temple and the State Ballet of Missouri.


The Hall Family

Founder: Joyce C. Hall

Fortune: Donald J. Hall Sr. took his father Joyce’s successful greeting card company and transformed it into a multi-unit business encompassing retail, cards, gifts, television and even Crayola crayons.

Foundations: The Hall Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization founded by Joyce and Elizabeth Hall to support projects related to public and private education, the arts, community development and civic beautification in KC. It donates tens of millions annually to community causes and is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the U.S.

Notable Gifts to KC: The creation of Crown Center and world-class The American restaurant, the redevelopment of Quality Hill, $75 million to Children’s Mercy for a new research building, a new Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park for the Nelson-Atkins Museum

Other Benefactors:  Adele Hall also created the Children’s Mercy Golf Classic with Tom Watson to benefit the hospital. Other benefactors include Union Station, the Kansas City Zoo and the University of Kansas.

Current Generation: Don Hall Jr. currently presides as president and CEO of Hallmark.


The Helzberg Family

Founder:  Barnett Helzberg Jr.

Fortune:  At the age of 14 Helzberg took over the family jewelry business, Helzberg Diamonds, from his ailing father and by 1963 he officially assumed the company’s operations, growing the company into a lucrative and polished gem that caught the eye of Warren Buffett.

Foundations: The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP) pairs rising businessmen and women with established business mentors in KC. One of the past beneficiaries of HEMP was Danny O’Neill, founder of The Roasterie, who was paired with Henry Bloch as his mentor.

Notable Gifts to KC: Helzberg founded the charter school University Academy in 2000. His wife, Shirley, has become known as a pioneer developer in the Crossroads Arts District, snapping up historic properties and refurbishing them for stunning new uses such as the historic Webster House. She transformed the Victorian schoolhouse next door to the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts into a destination restaurant and retail space. Currently Shirley has invested in several other Crossroads properties via her Walnut Creek Ranch LLC.

Other Benefactors: The Helzbergs support numerous arts organizations such as the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and Starlight Theatre; they helped endow the African gallery at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and the symphony hall at the Kauffman Center bears their name, as does the new Penguin Plaza at the Kansas City Zoo. Shirley served for 18 years as president of the Kansas City Symphony board and is currently the chair of the board of trustees of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


The Hunt Family

Founder: Lamar Hunt

Fortune:The name Hunt is synonymous with sports in Kansas City for more than 50 years. The family legacy begins with patriarch and pioneer Lamar Hunt, son of a Texas oil tycoon, and has trickled down through his family to sons Lamar Jr. and Clark.

Foundations: Lamar Hunt is the principal founder of the American Football League, Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League. In KC he is renowned for founding the Kansas City Chiefs. Nationally and internationally he is one of the founding investors of the Chicago Bulls, owner of two MLS franchises and the co-founder of World Championship Tennis. Hunt was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Notable Gifts to KC: Lamar Hunt founded the Kansas City Chiefs, chartered the Kansas City Wizards, helped establish Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun and developed SubTropolis and the bluffs above the Missouri River in Clay County.

Current Generation: Lamar’s sons, Clark and Lamar Jr., continue their father’s legacy. Clark is current chairman and CEO of the Chiefs, among many other sporting positions established by his father. Lamar Jr. recently acquired the East Coast Hockey League team the Missouri Mavericks and established a metro-wide alliance to encourage youth hockey. He is also the founder of Loretto Companies, an umbrella company including real estate investments, a private charitable organization and sports ventures.


The Kemper Family

Founder: William Thornton Kemper Sr. developed what would become United Missouri Bank and Commerce Bancshares, creating the beginning of a major banking dynasty in the Midwest.

Fortune: Key players in growing this powerful banking family’s fortune include James Kemper, Rufus Crosby Kemper and, lastly, R. Crosby Kemper Jr., who became president of UMB in 1959, retiring as chairman in 2004. Kemper’s sons Sandy and R. Crosby Kemper III served stints as head of UMB before pursuing other interests.

Foundations: The Kemper Foundation has gifted funds to everything from the building of the Vista International Hotel (now the Kansas City Marriott) to the American Royal, including the Agriculture Future of America, which R. Crosby Kemper Jr. founded.

Notable Gifts to KC: The $3.2 million Kemper Arena and the $6 million Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art were both gifted to the city by the late R. Crosby Kemper Jr. The maverick businessman also saved the Kansas City Symphony (then known as the Kansas City Philharmonic) in 1982, when it was about to go under financially, by paying its losses and rallying other civic leaders like Donald J. Hall Sr. and Henry W. Bloch for support.

Other Benefactors: An avid art collector, R. Crosby Kemper Jr.’s master works like John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Cecil Wade can now be seen at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, while 300 contemporary works like Warhols and Calders found their way to the Kemper Museum.  His son R Crosby Kemper III is currently director of the Kansas City Public Library. Much like his father rescued the symphony, he steered the library from potential financial ruin (the library was in the hole for $1.4 million) to financial and cultural success since assuming the post in 2005.

Current Generation:  Another generation of dueling cousins — St. Louis-based David Kemper (son of James Kemper Jr., who was Crosby Kemper Jr’s cousin) in the role of CEO of rival Commerce Bancshares, and Denver-based Mariner Kemper (youngest son of Crosby Kemper Jr.) in the role of CEO of UMB Financial Corp. — continue one of the best stories of American free enterprise.


The Kauffman Family

Founder: Ewing Marion Kauffman

Fortune: The self-made Kauffman established his pharmaceutical company, Marion Laboratories Inc., in his basement and grew it into a dynamo company that merged with Dow Chemical Company in 1989.

Foundations:  Ewing and his wife, Muriel, formed the billion-dollar Kauffman Foundation in the mid-1960s with a special focus on disadvantaged youths, education and entrepreneurialism. Today the Foundation is still a powerhouse force for good helmed by power-list member and CEO Wendy Guillies. Today the Kauffman’s daughter Julia Irene Kauffman continues the charitable traditions of her parents with the establishment of Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, among other endeavors.

Notable Gifts to KC: Ewing Kauffman, at the convincing of his wife, Muriel, brought the Royals baseball team and the showcase Kauffman Stadium to Kansas City in 1969 and 1973, respectively. Kauffman Foundation is the gift that keeps on giving, with innovative entrepreneurial programs like 1 Million Cups business networking that has grown to countless cities, and the Kauffman Scholars program for low-income students. Julia Irene Kauffman’s tireless campaign to bring the $440 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to downtown KC, a dream of her mother’s, lasted for 12 years during which she had to overcome various obstacles and setbacks. However, the result is a stellar, world-class arts center that has magnified Kansas City’s cultural largesse tenfold.

Other Benefactors: The Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center at Saint Luke’s Hospital, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Kansas City Ballet, Citizens of the World Charter Schools

Current Generation: Julia’s most recent campaign is to bring UMKC’s Conservatory of Music (and dance) downtown, in close proximity with the Kauffman Center, and she has made a $20 million pledge toward the project.

Categories: Best of KC, Best of KC 2019, Business, People