Inaugural Women's Summit - Speakers

  • Sen. Julie Raque Adams

    Senator • Commonwealth of Kentucky

    Senator Julie Raque Adams has served in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2011. She represents the 36th Senatorial District, which encompasses a portion of Jefferson County. After serving four years in the Kentucky House of Representatives, Adams was elected to the Senate in 2014 and began her term in 2015. Senator Adams currently serves as Senate Majority Caucus Chair. She was first elected to this leadership position in 2018 and was reelected in 2020. She also serves as a member of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee; the Banking and Insurance Committee; the Licensing and Occupations Committee; the Rules Committee; the Committee on Committees; the Legislative Research Commission; the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee; the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee, and the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee. Additionally, she serves as Co-Chair of the 1915c Home & Community-Based Services Waiver Redesign Task Force and is a Pari-Mutuel Wagering Taxation Task Force member. As a House of Representatives member, health initiatives were a primary focus for Adams as she was appointed Vice-Chair of the House Health and Welfare Committees. Additionally, she was elected to serve on the first Louisville Metro Council in November 2002 and won re-election in 2004. While on the Council, Adams was involved in many businesses, tax, and economic development ventures. Senator Adams brought a tremendous amount of governmental experience to City Hall and Frankfort, having served as a staff member for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as a federal lobbyist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and as Press Secretary and Campaign Manager for Congresswoman Anne Northup (R-KY). Born and raised in Louisville, Senator Adams graduated from St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Sacred Heart Academy, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN, and a Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. When in Louisville, Senator Adams is a small business owner. Active in the community, Sen. Adams attends St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church and currently serves as a board member for the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, Twisted Pink – research-based non-profit for metastatic breast cancer, and Louisville non-profit Family Scholar House and The dePaul School. Julie is married to Jim Adams and is the proud mother of two sons, James and Joseph.  
  • Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball

    State Treasurer • Commonwealth of Kentucky

    Allison Ball is the 38th State Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, currently serving her second term. Prior to her role as State Treasurer, Treasurer Ball practiced bankruptcy law and focused on consumer rights and commercial litigation. As part of her time in public service, Treasurer Ball spent four years as an Assistant Floyd County Attorney, prosecuting child abuse and juvenile delinquency cases. Treasurer Ball has a rich Kentucky history; her family has been in Eastern Kentucky since the 1790s. She holds a degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law and was very active while a student there, serving as President of the University of Kentucky Chapter of the Federalist Society. Treasurer Ball has led a professional career developing and improving the economic mobility of individual Kentuckians. She developed a deep appreciation of entrepreneurialism and small businesses when, at the age of 9, she started her first business selling pencils, and continued with the operation of a small-town law practice. Treasurer Ball understands the importance of a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility in any enterprise. Treasurer Ball is a fierce watchdog for Kentucky taxpayer dollars. Since taking office, she has returned a record $99 million of unclaimed property, more than any State Treasurer in Kentucky history in a single term. She is committed to good governance and transparency and is responsible for launching Kentucky's transparency website showing how the state government spends its money. Additionally, Treasurer Ball started a savings and investment program for Kentuckians with disabilities called STABLE Kentucky that allows families to save money while continuing to receive assistance, at no cost to Kentuckians. Treasurer Ball has been a national leader for improved financial literacy. As part of these efforts, she established the Kentucky Financial Empowerment Database and the Kentucky Financial Empowerment Commission. Treasurer Ball earned the most votes of any other candidate on the ballot in both the 2015 and 2019 elections. A Floyd County native, Treasurer Ball is married to Asa James Swan. They have one son, Levi, whose birth in 2018 made Treasurer Ball the first Kentucky constitutional officer to give birth while in office. When first elected, she was the youngest female statewide elected official in the U.S.  
  • Dr. Neeli Bendapudi

    President • University of Louisville

    Neeli Bendapudi is the 18th President of the University of Louisville. Selected by the UofL Board of Trustees in April 2018, Bendapudi came to Louisville from the University of Kansas where she served as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. Since becoming President, Bendapudi has worked toward making the university a great place for students to learn, a great place for faculty and staff to work, and a great place for alumni and the community to invest. Under her leadership, the university will celebrate diversity, foster equity and strive for inclusion. She earned her PhD in marketing from the University of Kansas and has teaching experience at Texas A&M University and The Ohio State University. Bendapudi returned to KU in 2011 to become the School of Business dean and H.D. Price Professor of Business. During her career, she has taught at the undergraduate, MBA, Executive MBA and PhD levels and received numerous college, university and national teaching awards. Bendapudi specializes in the study of consumer behavior in service contexts. Her research deals with customers’ willingness and ability to maintain long-term relationships with firms and with the brands and employees that represent them. Her research has been published in the Journal of Academic Medicine, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Marketing (where she also served on the editorial board), Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Service Research and in the proceedings of various national and international conferences. Her work has been featured by popular media outlets including The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, WebMD and Fox News Network. Previously, she served as chief customer officer of the Huntington National Bank and was actively involved in business outreach through consulting and executive education programs. A highly sought-after keynote speaker, she has addressed national and international audiences for many companies, trade groups and organizations. Bendapudi sits on the Board of Directors of publicly held company Lancaster Colony Corporation and has sat on several non-profit organization boards, including MRIGlobal, an independent research institute. She is a former Leadership Foundation Fellow of the International Women’s Forum, one of a select group of women selected worldwide for this prestigious honor. She is married to Venkat Bendapudi. Their daughter, Sirisha, is married to Kyle Ladd.  
  • The Honorable Elaine Chao

    The Honorable Elaine Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and U.S. Secretary of Transportation •

    Elaine Chao is the first American woman of Asian heritage to be appointed to a President’s cabinet.  She has held two cabinet positions: U. S. Secretary of Labor and U. S. Secretary of Transportation. An immigrant to this country at the age of 8 not speaking any English, she received her citizenship at the age of 19. Her experience transitioning to a new country motivated her to ensure that everyone has access to opportunities. Secretary Chao was also President & CEO of United Way of America; Director of the Peace Corps; Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Transportation; Chairman of Federal Maritime Commission. She was also a banker in the private sector. The recipient of 37 honorary degrees, Secretary Chao earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.  A proud Kentuckian, she lives in Jefferson County.   
  • Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman

    Lieutenant Governor • Commonwealth of Kentucky

    Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman is an educator, basketball coach, writer, founder of a non-profit and the fifty-eighth lieutenant governor of Kentucky. She is wife to Chris, mom to Evelynne, adopted mom to Emma and a bonus mom to Will and Nate. Her family lives in Frankfort. Public service is a way of life for Jacqueline and her family. She was raised to offer a hand up to those in need and, as a result, has devoted her personal and professional life to serving her community. She is a tireless advocate for public education and a strong proponent of young women stepping into leadership roles. As a high school basketball coach, Jacqueline led her teams to five consecutive record-breaking seasons and one appearance in the Sweet 16. She earned regional Coach of the Year honors in 2015. Jacqueline's leadership doesn't end in the classroom or on the court. Her experience as an alumna of Emerge Kentucky drove her to found her own nonprofit, Lead Kentucky, in 2013. Lead Kentucky ensures Kentucky's college women are prepared, encouraged, and empowered to seek leadership positions on their campuses and later in their professional fields. Since its inception, Lead Kentucky has empowered 50 campus ambassadors with 29 different majors on more than a dozen college campuses. Most recently, Jacqueline served as an assistant principal at Nelson County High School. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. As Lieutenant Governor, Jacqueline is focused on creating a comprehensive cradle-to-career public education and job training system in Kentucky that will produce the future leaders of our Commonwealth. As a fifth-generation Mercer Countian, she also concentrates on the many challenges facing rural Kentucky. Jacqueline is determined to build a better Kentucky for everyone.  
  • Governor Martha Layne Collins

    Governor • Commonwealth of Kentucky

    Governor Martha Layne Collins grew up in Shelby County, Kentucky, graduated from The University of Kentucky and was a schoolteacher until 1970.  She then assumed a role as Coordinator of Women’s Activities in a number of political campaigns, leading her into public office. Collins served as Clerk of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from 1975 to 1979, where she guided the office through the most far-reaching changes in the history of the state’s judicial system. Having been elected to a term as Lieutenant Governor from 1979 to 1983, Collins sat as president of the State Senate and as both Vice-Chair and Chair of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors. As Lieutenant Governor, Collins gained critical experience in leadership serving as acting Governor 25% of her term. She was then elected as the first (and to date only) female Governor of the Commonwealth in 1983, and the sixth female governor in the nation’s history.  She is currently the senior former female governor in the United States.  During her tenure as Governor (1983-1987) she is noted for establishing education reform and economic development as critical priorities and for achieving success on both fronts. Passage of a $300 million education reform package and creation of record jobs and investment were highlights of the Collins administration.  She was also instrumental in bringing Toyota Motor Manufacturing and many other international supply companies to Kentucky.  As a result of the outstanding relationships she developed, Governor Collins was named Honorary Consul General of Japan in Kentucky. After leaving the Governor’s office, Martha Layne Collins served as president of St. Catharine College for six years, as the Executive-in-Residence at the University of Louisville’s School of Business, and as the Director of the International Business and Management Center at the University of Kentucky’s Carol Martin Gatton College of Business and Economics.  Governor Collins was a Harvard University Fellow in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at the Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  In 1998, Governor Collins became Executive Scholar in Residence at Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky.   In 2003, Governor Collins was the recipient of the First Annual World Trade Center Association (WTCA) World Trade Day Book of Honor Award for the state of Kentucky.  This award is presented to a company or individual in recognition of exemplary contribution to advancing peace and stability through trade.  2004 marked a new direction for Governor Collins when she was invited to join the staff of the Kentucky World Trade Center as the new Chair & CEO.   Governor Collins has served on the Board of Directors for Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY; R. R. Donnelley, Chicago, IL; Regional Technology Strategies, Incorporated, Chapel Hill, NC; and Vianix LLC, Virginia Beach, VA; and as an Advisory Board Member of BB&T, Louisville, KY; and Women Leading Kentucky, Lexington, KY.  She also is a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Additionally, Governor Collins has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Volunteers of America Award, the special Millennium Celebration Award from the Kentucky Commission on Women, the Junior Achievement Award of the Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame Laureate, the Kentuckians of New York Award, the Senator John C. Stennis Award, and the Flame of Excellence Award presented by Leadership Kentucky.  She is in the Hall of Fame at the University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Services, and in 2007 was named a Woman of Distinction and was a University of Kentucky Distinguished Alumnae.  In 2008, Governor Collins was named Rural Kentuckian of the Year by the Rural Electric Cooperatives of Kentucky.  And she is currently a member of the Isaac Shelby Chapter, NSDAR. Governor Collins is married to Dr. Bill L. Collins and enjoys the company of their five grandchildren.  
  • Susan Elkington

    President • Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky

    As president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) since 2018, Elkington oversees an $8 billion operation, which employs more than 10,000 people, and in a year, can produce as many as 550,000 vehicles and more than 600,000 engines. TMMK is Toyota’s largest production facility globally, producing the Camry, Avalon, Lexus ES 350 (including hybrid versions of all three), and RAV4 Hybrid; plus, four-cylinder and V6 engines, in Georgetown, Kentucky. Elkington joined TMMK in January 2017 as senior vice president, overseeing the plant’s manufacturing and administrative functions. Prior to this role, she served as general manager, Production Control Division at Toyota Motor Corporation’s (TMC) global headquarters in Toyota City, Japan, supporting Toyota’s 53 manufacturing plants worldwide. Elkington began her career with Toyota in 1998 in Princeton, Indiana, as an assembly engineering specialist. By 2013, she held the position of manufacturing vice president at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI). She currently serves on numerous charitable and corporate boards, including the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, is a member of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce board and its executive committee, and a member of the board of trustees of the University of Evansville. She is also a non-executive member of Toyota Motor Corporation Australia’s (TMCA) Executive Management Committee (EMC). Throughout her career, Elkington has been recognized as a leader in the automotive industry. She was included in Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry (2020), is an inaugural inductee into the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame (2020), a STEP Ahead Honoree (2014), and an ATHENA of Southwest Indiana Award Finalist (2013). Elkington earned her mechanical engineering degree from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana.  
  • Kirsten Hawley

    Senior Vice President, Chief People, Places and Communications Officer • Brown-Forman Corporation

    Kirsten Hawley has worked for Brown-Forman Corporation for over 2 decades and currently serves as senior vice president, Chief People, Places and Communications Officer. During her career at Brown-Forman, Kirsten has served in a variety of HR roles providing human resource consultation to Brown-Forman’s businesses across North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Global Production, and corporate functions such as Marketing, IT, and Finance.  She also spent seven years in the marketing organization as a brand manager for a global liqueur brand. Before joining Brown-Forman, Kirsten’s early career experiences included working as a research assistant for the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany and as an outplacement counselor for the Department of the Army. Kirsten holds a Master’s degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University.  
  • Alice Houston

    Founder & Owner • HJI Supply Chain Solutions

    Alice K. Houston was educated in the Louisville, Kentucky public schools and received her high school diploma in 1964.  She graduated “Cum Laude” from Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio in 1968; and received a Danforth Foundation Fellowship in Latin American History to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University.  She attended Vanderbilt from 1968-69.  She left Vanderbilt in 1969 to marry Wade Houston who was pursuing a career in professional sports.  The two traveled and lived in France where her husband, Wade, played and coached basketball in Strasbourg, France. Upon returning to the United States, Alice began a long and successful association and career at the University of Louisville.  While earning a M.Ed. in College Student Personnel Services, she served as Assistant and subsequently Associate Director of Financial Aid at the University of Louisville. She left the University of Louisville in March 1988 to join a series of family businesses which collectively became one of the largest minority-owned company in the United States, and the largest minority-owned transportation company in North America during the 1990’s. In July 2001, Alice divested of her interests to concentrate her attention to developing HJI Supply Chain Solutions and became President and CEO in January, 2005.  During the ensuing years, HJI became a preferred supplier of material fulfillment, sequencing, assembling, and logistic services. In 2011 HJI was nominated by Ford Motor Company and subsequently won the TSMSDC “Supplier of the Year Award”, and was honored in 2018 and 2019 by Yangfeng Global Automotive Interiors with their Supplier Diversity Excellence Award. In August, 2020, Alice resigned as CEO, successfully completing a six-year succession plan aimed to transition ownership to the 2nd generation. Aside from her business interests, Alice enjoys working in the community.  She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Urban League, a past Chair of Greater Louisville, Inc., was honored as Louisvillian of the Year in 2008, named a Daughter of Greatness by the Muhammad Ali Center in 2017, and in 2020 received the Greater Louisville’s Inc.’s Gold Cup Award, the Louisville Business First Legacy Leader Award, and was the University of Louisville’s Alumna of the Year.  She currently serves on the following boards: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,  15K Degree Initiative,  Evolve 502 Board of Directors, Simmons College of Kentucky,  Russell Place of Promise Advisory Board, and the Greater Louisville Inc. Foundation.  In 2002, she and her husband Wade were awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Spalding University. Both have been recognized with numerous awards and recognitions. Alice was raised in a Christian home where she learned to love and trust the Lord. She joined Calvary Baptist Church when she was only five, and has been an active worshipper and participant wherever she has  lived.  She is currently a member of Green Castle Baptist Church where she has served for over 20 years as a trustee, organized the Nursery, Coffee and Christ Ministries, and recently co-lead a $450,000 million renovation of the church’s Nursery and Kitchen facilities. She has been an active participant in the BSF International Bible Study organization since 2009. Finally, Alice has been an active fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Louisville Urban League, and other organizations.   Alice is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, LINKS, Inc., Girl Friends, Inc., and a Trustee at Green Castle Baptist Church.  Of  all her activities, however, she is most proud of being married to  Wade Houston, and being the  mother of Allan, a member of the Management Staff of the New York Knicks; Lynn a graduate of Georgia Tech University who has assumed the role of CEO in the family business; Natalie who is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and a practicing cosmetic dermatologist, and “Mema” to her fifteen grandchildren:  Remie, Allan III, Brayden, Gabby, Rowan,  Ella, Colin, Jade, Ava , Jodi, Kylie, Truth, Aaron, Asher, and Channing.  
  • Rep. Joni Jenkins

    Representative • Commonwealth of Kentucky

    In 2019, Joni Jenkins was elected as the first woman leader of the Kentucky Democratic House Caucus, and reelected to that position in 2020.  Prior to that, Rep. Jenkins had been elected by her colleagues to serve as the Whip of the Caucus, only the second woman ever elected into Democratic leadership at that time. Joni Jenkins was elected as the state representative for Kentucky’s 44th District in 1995.  She has served as chair of the House Women’s Caucus, chair of the Jefferson County Delegation, and chair of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee.   Much of Rep. Jenkins’ career focus has been in the area of preventing violence against women.  She created and directed P.E.A.C.C. (Prevention, Education, Advocacy on Campus and in the Community) at the University of Louisville and managed the professional training and public education programs at the Center for Women and Families in Louisville, a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis program.   Throughout her legislative tenure, Rep. Jenkins has also advocated for and championed legislation to address substance abuse. She and state Rep. McKenzie Cantrell established the South Louisville Opioid Task Force in June of 2018, gathering experts on law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse and healthcare to discuss strategies to combat the scourge of addiction affecting their districts, victims, families and businesses.   She currently serves on the Milbank Memorial Fund’s Reforming States Group Steering Committee; the Volunteers of America Freedom House Advisory Board, and WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions), Inc., Board, a national women’s leadership organization.   Rep. Jenkins is a member of the Lynnhurst United Church of Christ Consistory and serves on the United Church of Christ Committee on Ministry, is co-chair of the PAL After School Program Committee and is chair of the Stewardship Committee.   She has been recognized for her legislative work in recent sessions by the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, the Kentucky Humane Society, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, The River City chapter of Business and Professional Women, the Jefferson County Teachers Association, the Metro Louisville Disabilities Coalition and American Cancer Society.   Rep. Jenkins is a graduate of the University of Kentucky Communications’ School of Journalism.  
  • Justice Michelle M. Keller

    Justice • Kentucky Supreme Court, Sixth District

    Justice Michelle M. Keller was appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in April 2013 by Governor Steven Beshear and was subsequently elected to a full eight-year term on the Court in November 2014. Prior to her service on the Supreme Court, Justice Keller was elected as Judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals in November 2006. Justice Keller has served as the Court of Appeals representative on the Judicial Conduct Commission, Chairperson of the Court of Justice’s Technology Governance Committee, and is currently serving as Chairperson of the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission and Criminal Rules Committee. Prior to her service on the bench, Justice Keller practiced law for 17 years. She served as an assistant county attorney for her home county of Kenton. Her private practice concentrated in the areas of medical negligence and product liability defense, personal injury and family law, and criminal defense. Justice Keller also practiced administrative law, representing numerous clients before state regulatory and licensure boards. She is Chairwoman Emeritus of the Kentucky Personnel Board and has served as a hearing officer and member of that Board. Justice Keller is licensed to practice law in Kentucky, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and the United States Supreme Court. She has twice been commended by the Kentucky House of Representatives for her service to the Commonwealth. Justice Keller attended Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law while working as a licensed registered nurse in critical care. At Chase, Justice Keller was an IOLTA Scholar, earning her Juris Doctor in 1990. Chase presented Justice Keller with both the Chase Excellence and Chase Exceptional Service Awards in 2007 and 2011 respectively. Additionally, Justice Keller was named a 2012 Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky honoree for her commitment to public service and community involvement. She was honored on Law Day in 2013 with the Richard D. Lawrence Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Northern Kentucky Bar Association (“NKBA”). After delivering the Law Day address on May 1, 2014, she was honored with the Liberty Bell Award for her service to the Court of Justice, and in December 2017 was the first woman presented with the Distinguished Lawyer of the Year Award by the NKBA. Most recently, the Kentucky Bar Association (“KBA”) designated Justice Keller to receive the 2020 Distinguished Judge Award. Justice Keller has served in various positions for the NKBA, KBA, and the American Bar Association. In 2009, she received the KBA’s Donated Legal Services Award for her commitment to Pro Bono service and support of Kentucky’s legal services organizations. She is a Master in the Salmon P. Chase Inn of Court and served as president of the Inn from 2012-13. Justice Keller is also a Fellow of both the American and Kentucky Bar Foundations. A lifelong Northern Kentuckian, Justice Keller and her husband, Jim, a physician, are the proud parents of daughters, Brenna, a research fellow with the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), and Olivia, a practicing attorney.    
  • Elizabeth McCoy

    CEO • Planters Bank

    Elizabeth McCoy is the CEO of Planters Bank in Hopkinsville, KY. Planters Bank is comprised of 12 locations located in Western Kentucky and Montgomery County, Tennessee. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; University of Kentucky Board of Trustees; past Chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; and serves on several other boards and committees including the Hopkinsville Industrial Foundation, Hopkinsville/Christian County Economic Development Council, and the Dean’s Advisory Council for Gatton College of Business. Mrs. McCoy recently received the Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award. She is originally from London, Kentucky and a graduate of the University of Kentucky and the Gatton School of Business. She holds an MBA and is a Certified Public Accountant. Ms. McCoy is married to Hal McCoy and has one son.  
  • Diane Medley

    Executive Chairman • MCM CPAs & Advisors

    Active in public accounting since 1981, Diane Medley co-founded Chilton & Medley in 1988 and Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP in 2010. She has led the firm through several mergers and acquisitions, making MCM the largest CPA firm in the region with approximately 350 employees across five locations, including offices in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; Indianapolis and Jeffersonville, Ind., and Cincinnati, Ohio. Today the firm is the 76th largest professional and financial services firm in the United States. As the former Managing Partner and Co-Founder, she was the first woman in the region to have this leadership position within a major firm, and one of only a few in the U.S. Top 100. Diane’s other distinctions include induction into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, 2017; the Today’s Woman Most Admired Woman Award, 2016; The UofL Entrepreneurship Circle of Fame Award, 2016; Alumna Fellow of the Year of the University of Louisville, 2015; Women Leading Kentucky, Martha Layne Collins Award, 2015; Business First’s Enterprising Woman of Achievement Award, 2014; NAW-BO’s Business Owner of the Year Award for Large Businesses, 2014 ; Tower Award for Business, 2009; Business First Who’s Who in Finance and Accounting, 1995; Outstanding CPA, 1987 and Outstanding Alumnus, 1993 Award from University of Louisville Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Fraternity; Kentucky Society of CPAs Award for Highest Grades on May 1981 CPA Exam; Elijah Watt Sells Award for National High Distinction on May 1981 Exam. Diane currently serves as a Board Member of Brinly-Hardy Inc., a private, multi-generational family company based in Southern Indiana; past Chair of One Southern Indiana; Chair of the Ky Chamber Foundation and Executive Committee Member of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and a member of both the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Ogle Foundation Board of Directors. She is a member of the University of Louisville School of Business Advisory Board. She is the former Chair and Executive Committee Member of the University of Louisville Foundation and the current Treasurer and Member of the UofL Board of Trustees. She is a former Chair and Treasurer of Greater Louisville Inc.; a past officer of the Louisville Chapter of NAWBO and a past board member of the Kentucky Society of CPAs. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum, the AICPA and the KYCPA. She is an alumna of the Leadership Kentucky Class of 2015 and the Leadership Louisville Class of 2008. After graduating from Meade County High School in 1973, Diane attended the University of Louisville and graduated with a B.S. in Commerce in 1980 with Highest Honors. She was the class Valedictorian of the School of Business and Outstanding Senior in Accounting.  
  • Kate Shanks

    Senior Vice President of Public Affairs • Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

    Kate Shanks is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber, the state’s largest business association.  Kate joined the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in 2015. During her tenure directing Public Affairs, she led the effort to adopt significant legislation such as COVID-19 liability protections for employers and unemployment insurance tax relief in 2021 and successfully advocated for recovery through employment legislation and alcohol shipping modernization in 2020. She oversees the Chamber’s advocacy in Frankfort and D.C., policy research and design, state and federal agenda development, grassroots expansion, and political engagement.  Kate is a lifelong resident of Kentucky and earned both a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation and Management and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kentucky. Before joining the Chamber, Kate spent nearly 12 years working for state agencies in communications, policy analysis, and legislative affairs. Kate lives in Frankfort with her husband, Greg, and two sons, Tyler and Brendan.  She is the daughter of a small business owner and is originally from Louisville.      
  • Renee Shaw

    Director of Public Affairs and Moderator • Kentucky Educational Television (KET)

    Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as moderator of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, Election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums. Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health. As an award-winning journalist, Renee has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and the Kentucky Associated Press. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; in 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking.  In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.  A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Renee is a sought-after speaker on media, diversity/inclusion, public policy, and political issues. She travels the state moderating and emceeing community events.  
  • Ashli Watts

    President and CEO • Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

    Ashli Watts was named the President and CEO for the Kentucky Chamber, the state’s largest business association, in November 2019. Ashli joined the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in November of 2012 and during her tenure a Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the Chamber led efforts in passing significant pieces of legislation such as felony expungement in 2016, right to work legislative in 2017, workers’ compensation reform in 2018 and reinstating arbitration agreements in 2019. As part of the Chamber’s leadership team, the Kentucky Chamber was named National State Chamber of the Year in 2017. Prior to joining the Chamber, she worked at the Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission. Ashli graduated from Campbellsville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History in 2004 and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Louisville. Ashli is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, currently serves on the boards for Campbellsville University, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), where she was also named a 40 under 40 in 2020. Ashli also serves on the Kerner Commission, Agritech Council, and the Commonwealth Education Continuum, appointed by Gov. Andy Beshear. She currently resides in Frankfort with her husband Ryan and two children, Emma and Carter.