Ben Utecht had big dreams growing up in the small town of Hastings, Minnesota. Sports and music were his passions. Utecht’s path saw him famously make his dreams come true by winning the 2006 Super Bowl while starting as a tight end for the Indianapolis Colts.
Now Utecht is using his passions, talents, and life experiences to help others make positive change in the world. He is a sought-after keynote speaker because of his positive and powerful lessons on culture, leadership, and purpose.
Utecht’s NFL career was cut short due to multiple concussions. This has led him into being an outspoken - and influential - advocate for sports brain injury awareness. He is the author of “Counting The Days While My Mind Slips Away”, a powerful story of perseverance, hope, and love.
Music remains a passion for Utecht. He has made that dream come true by becoming a Dove award nominated professional singer and songwriter. Utecht’s 2014 music video “You Will Always Be My Girls”, has drawn well over a million views on YouTube. Utecht co-wrote the song as a love letter to his wife Karyn and daughters. His message is simple, your legacy only lives in your memories.
Since becoming the President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in 2005, Eileen has helped reinvent and reimagine the Community Foundation’s work and purpose. Today, it is an influential social and civic voice that helps grow local philanthropy and lead and convene the community. Last year, the Community Foundation awarded $7.1 million in grants and scholarships, a record level of impact, and currently reports $66 million in charitable assets.
Under Eileen’s leadership, the Community Foundation launched the Community Investment Funds, the Innovation Fund, the Business Women’s Giving Circle, the Loudoun Impact Fund, the Environment Fund, the Healthy Kids Grants, the Permanent Fund, and the Opportunity Index for Northern Virginia, a data rich dashboard of 29 data indicators reflecting the region’s health and well being which will be updated annually to illustrate emerging trends. In 2017, the Community Foundation hosted the inaugural Shape of the Region Conference that welcomed the entire community to a dialogue about opportunity, inequality, and mobility from poverty.
Eileen currently serves on the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce Board, the Northern Virginia Regional Board for GO Virginia, and the Advisory Board for George Mason University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Jack Bobo serves as the Vice President for Global Policy and Government Affairs for Intrexon Corporation, a synthetic biology company developing revolutionary solutions to the world's most pressing problems--in food, energy and health. In 2015, he was named by Scientific American one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology. He joined Intrexon from the U.S. Department of State where he worked for thirteen years as a senior advisor on global food policy, biotechnology and agricultural trade. He is an accomplished communicator, having delivered more than 300 speeches on the future of food, the role of science and technology in feeding the world and how to build consumer trust. Prior to his career at the State Department, he was an attorney at Crowell & Moring LLP. He received a J.D., an M.S. in Environmental Science, a B.A. in psychology and chemistry and a B.S. in biology from Indiana University
Jenn Brown is the Executive Director of Civic Nation. Prior to her current role, she was the founding Executive Director of Battleground Texas, a long-term project dedicated to increasing voter turnout in Texas. Before starting Battleground Texas, Jenn was the Field Director for the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2012. There she oversaw 650 staff and 120 offices. Before moving to Ohio, Jenn managed nine states in the 2010 midterm election as the Mid-Atlantic & Ohio Valley Director for Organizing for America. Jenn moved into that role after serving as the Minnesota State Director for Organizing for America in 2009 and a Regional Field Director for the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2008. Prior to being involved in political campaigns, Jenn worked at several social justice organizations, including Vote Hope, the Center for Progressive Leadership and the United States Student Association. Jenn attended the University of California, San Diego.
Kasha Patel fills the unknown demand of female Indian comics from West Virginia. Now based in DC, she is a stand-up comedienne, writer, and on-screen personality who focuses her jokes on her life as an Indian-American in the U.S and science.
The founder of “DC Science Comedy,” she produces one of the nation’s only regularly occurring science shows where only science jokes, stories, songs, and bits are allowed with sold out crowds. She has been featured in BBC World, The Washington Post, hosted a mini-series on NASA TV, and appeared on the Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum." She currently hosts Undark magazine's science podcast.
Kasha grew up in West Virginia, majored in chemistry at Wake Forest University, and earned her Master's degree in Science Journalism at Boston University. From her standup debut in Boston, Kasha has performed coast to coast from San Francisco to New York City.
Kurt Newman, MD is President and CEO of Children’s National Health System. Children’s National is ranked among the nation’s top 5 pediatric hospitals and was named the #1 hospital for newborn care by U.S. News & World Report for the second consecutive year.
Dr. Newman has served Children’s National for over 30 years, first as a surgeon, then Surgeon-in-Chief, and now CEO. He is also a professor of surgery and pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Science. He guided the creation of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, with the bold vision of making children’s surgery less invasive and pain free. As CEO, he has fostered a culture committed to patient-centered care and championed innovation in operations, and clinical care, and research.
Dr. Newman’s medical memoir, HEALING CHILDREN: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine, debuted in June 2017 as an Amazon Best-Seller in Pediatrics and earned critical praise in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and Harvard Business Review.
Dr. Newman is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and of Duke Medical School. He and his wife Alison are the parents of two grown sons and reside in Bethesda.
Personal social media handles
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a Senior Counselor at ASG, where she draws on her long and distinguished career as a U.S. diplomat to help the clients of ASG’s Africa practice.
She joined ASG after serving as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2013 – 2017). In this capacity, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on peace and security, democracy and governance, economic empowerment and investment opportunities. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources where she oversaw all personnel functions for the U.S. Department of State’s 70,000-strong workforce.
Previously, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield served as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia (2008-2012) and held postings in Switzerland (at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. Her Washington postings include the Bureau of African Affairs, where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield taught political science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was awarded the Hubert Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, and the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs. She has also received the Presidential Rank Award and the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award.
She earned a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University and a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she worked towards a PhD. She received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the Unviersity of Wisconsin in May 2018.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is also a Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Affairs at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service.
She is based in Washington, DC.
Marissa Sumathipala is a biotechnology entrepreneur, researcher, and student at Harvard University. She’s the founder and lead developer of Theraplexus, a biotechnology startup transforming rapid, low cost drug discovery with artificial intelligence and network science analytics. She has 4+ years of training in both traditional molecular biology and computer science from world-class institutions: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Campus. She has been recognized as a US Presidential Scholar, Davidson Fellow, Regeneron Science Talent Search 'Junior Nobel Prize’ Finalist, Coca Cola Scholar, RSI Scholar, record breaking 4-time International BioGENEius Finalist, and record breaking 2-time Best of Category Grand Award Winner at the International Intel ISEF. As a 2019 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader, Marissa was recognized as one of the most influential social entrepreneurs under age 19. Marissa seeks to positively impact industry, transforming personalized medicine with artificial intelligence and bioinformatics to bring lifesaving drugs to market faster and cheaper.
Mark Charles is a dynamic and thought-provoking public speaker, writer, and consultant. The son of an American woman (of Dutch heritage) and a Navajo man, he speaks with insight into the complexities of American history regarding race, culture, and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and conciliation for the nation. Mark serves as the Washington DC correspondent and regular columnist for Native News Online and is the author of the popular blog "Reflections from the Hogan." Mark is a founding partner of a national conference for Native students called “Would Jesus Eat Frybread?” Mark’s forthcoming book on the Doctrine of Discovery entitled Truth be Told is being published by InterVarsity Press and will be available in 2019.
Mark is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram under the username: wirelesshogan.
Unapologetically curious, Michael Morales is passionate about asking great questions. An Air Force pilot with over 200 combat airlift missions into Afghanistan and Iraq, he has spent his career advising political and military leaders globally, from leading teams planning and executing all U.S. military exercises in Central and South America and the Caribbean, to building partnerships with air forces in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Currently on the Secretary of the Air Force’s congressional liaison team, Mike previously served as a White House Fellow and Senior Advisor to the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration across two administrations, where he led major strategic partnerships with the tech sector and worked as the policy lead for Puerto Rico, where he is from. Before that, Mike was a squadron commander in Kabul, Afghanistan, leading a multinational combat flying advisory team responsible for developing the Afghan Air Force’s airlift capability. Mike serves on the advisory board of CivikOwl, a tech startup focused on exposing fake and biased news and providing high quality perspectives from across the political spectrum. He is a 2017 French American Young Leader and 2018 US-Japan Leadership Program Delegate. Mike, his bride, and their four sons live in Vienna, VA.
Forty years ago, Rob entered the foster care system as a child who had lost both parents. He was brought into a house of strangers with all of his belongings in a tattered and torn trash bag. Eight years ago, 4 children, who are now his daughter and 3 sons, arrived on his doorstep through foster care. As they entered his home for the very first time, each clutched a garbage bag holding the few items they called their own. Scheer was floored. How, after thirty years, were children in the foster system still carrying their life in a bag used for trash? After searching for a means to provide dignity to kids in care, Scheer founded Comfort Cases, a non-profit organization to assemble packs of comfort and essential items to children in the foster care system.
Comfort Cases has been given exciting exposure with interviews on The Ellen Show, a viral video production viewed by over 100 million from Upworthy, and a segment dedicated to the cause on The Today Show. They have already shipped the Cases to 32 states, and the dream is for every youth to receive Comfort Cases upon entering foster care. In addition to his work as the Founder of Comfort Cases, Rob has over 25 years of leadership and operations management experience in the mortgage and financial industry. Rob is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy. He lives in Maryland with his husband Reece and their four children.
One of the next chapters in Rob’s life is working to provide higher education and support to children who either have, or are close to “aging out” of the foster care system. Each year nearly 30,000 young adults “age out” nationally without a support system or adequate life and career skills to transition into independent, successful adults.
Tara Wilson-Jones is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Make-A-Wish® Mid-Atlantic. Tara has been with the Mid-Atlantic chapter since August of 2009 and worked previously for another chapter for 3 ½ years. In her role, Tara is responsible for running the marketing and communications team - building and implementing the department plan and strategy. With a mission based focus on the children with critical illnesses Make-A-Wish serves, the marketing and communications team for the Mid-Atlantic chapter handles all local brand awareness, media relations and coverage, (regularly assisting with national media support and engagement,) video production, website creation and management, e-communications, print and digital collateral, social media and marketing. Additionally, cause-related marketing partnerships and sports relationships are managed by the Marketing and Communications team under Tara’s leadership. Tara is passionate about the Make-A-Wish mission and the power it has to transform lives, one wish at a time. A huge Oregon Ducks football fan and Washington Capitals hockey supporter, Tara also loves reading, spending time in the outdoors, cooking and various athletic activities.
Tom Teasley and Chao Tian
A leading performer on the Chinese dulcimer, board member of Beijing Association of China Traditional Music, and leader of “Always Folk” ensemble, a member of 12 Girls Band, Chao Tian has established a career as a soloist, educator, advocate, and composer in both traditional Chinese music and other genres. As a lecturer at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) and a former member of the world renowned Twelve Girls Band, she worked many years in the discipline of musical and cultural exchange. She is currently a member of the prestigious Artist in Residence program (AIR) at Strathmore Music Center. Her musical journey began at the age of 5 and at age 12 she gained entrance to the affiliated middle school of China Conservatory with a major in dulcimer and a minor in piano. Later she was recommended for immediate admission to China Conservatory, where she obtained the master degree of arts in musical performance in 2010 as well as minors in piano and percussion. She had the experience studying Cimbalom with Hungarian virtuoso musician Victoria Herencsar, which broaden her understanding of western classical and religious music. She has contributed to local Chinese community’s cultural awareness and she was invited to perform at Chinese New Year Festival Gala 2018.
2016 Drummie Award for 'World Percussionist of the Year by Drum! Magazine, Mr Teasley maintains a unique career as solo percussionist, composer and collaborator. Tom is a 2010, 2011 and 2017 Helen Hayes Theatre Award recipient for outstanding sound design (nominations in 2012, 2014, 2015). Tom tours frequently throughout the world performing and presenting clinics for the instrument companies he endorses including Yamaha, Vic Firth, Sabian, Remo, Gon Bops and others. His educational book /DVD, An American Approach to World Percussion is published by Alfred Publishing. Tom is the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 WAMA (Washington Area Music Award) World Music Instrumentalist of the year. A six-time recipient of a Fulbright-Hayes grant for performances in the Middle East, Tom collaborated with indigenous musicians and gave historic performances by invitation of U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Samoa, Oman and Jerusalem. He has been an artist-in-residence at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and has collaborated with the National Symphony as both a soloist and composer. As an international collaborator he has performed by invitation in Europe, South America, New Zealand, Samoa and Korea. He has been the subject of numerous feature articles in both Modern Drummer Downbeat and Drum magazines. www.tomteasley.com.