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Area Executives Graduate with New Leadership Skills

June 2018

The Doniphan Leadership Institute graduated its 23nd class June 27 at William Jewell College. Staff and sponsors congratulated the 20 Doniphan Fellows who live and work throughout Greater Kansas City.

Twenty Greater Kansas City executives took their skills to the next level by graduating from the Doniphan Leadership Institute in a ceremony at William Jewell College on Wednesday, June 27.

The graduates represented a variety of organizations and businesses: international corporations Ingredion and Hallmark; North Kansas City, Children’s Mercy and Liberty hospitals; Mid-Continent Public Library; several foundations; and both Clay County and the Clay County Sheriff’s Department. Clay County and Northland residents were among the graduates and were joined by a resident of Buckner and Merriam, Kan.

Now in its 12th year, the institute is a joint effort of the Pryor Center at the college and the Clay County Economic Development Council.

The new Doniphan fellows shared praise for the program as they were recognized before more than 60 attending family, friends and coworkers. Although they live and work throughout Greater Kansas City, many had similar observations about the institute.

Will Akin, Emergency Division commander for the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, was one of several who praised fellow students, as well as the program. “What I learned from my classmates was absolutely amazing,” he said. “It was something I could absolutely apply to my life.”

Kara Drury of Claycomo and assistant manager for Mid-Continent Public Library, appreciated the chance to learn and take risks. “It was a safe space to be open and learn,” she said. “It’s a wonderful program.”

Greg Garcia, director of emergency services for North Kansas City Hospital and a North Kansas City resident, cited one lesson that proved especially true for him. “We’ve learned a lot. One of our discussions included how luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I feel lucky to have been involved.”

Mike Gaudin of Children’s Mercy Hospital was among those who were surprised at the variety of effective leadership styles. “I didn’t expect to learn all of these different ways to be a leader,” noted Gaudin, a Kearney resident. “That really surprised me.”

Smithville resident Aaron Kagay, who serves at the Clay County Parks Nature Center, had a similar experience. “Probably the most important thing I learned is the variety of styles. That teaches you to be flexible in viewing others and in viewing life.”

Sean Milleson, Clay County finance manager, was surprised at one of the program’s takeaways. “I think this will really help me be a better leader,” he said. “I learned to step back and analyze more.” Milleson resides in Liberty.

An assistant Kearney school principal and a Kearney resident, Erek Noland cited specific parts of the program like 360 Feedback Assessment with Consultation. “You learn to take time to reflect. After that, you learn to like differences in style. It’s a real eye-opener.”

Liberty Hospital patient accounts Manager Jessica Rhodus also learned to look inward more. “It forced me to step back and consider my values. I also realized a need to step back and focus on my life and how it works.” Rhodus lives in Liberty.

Mathew Taylor, Hallmark section manager and Kearney resident, noted that he has a master’s degree and is honored to work with a number of entrepreneurs and business owners from whom he’s learned a lot. “But my Doniphan classmates really taught me a lot,” he said. “Everyone is unique, and everyone has their strengths.”

Weatherby Lake resident Laura Welch of the Welch Family Foundation summed up the graduates’ perspectives well. “You learn so much. I know I’m walking away with skill sets I didn’t know I had and how to use them. Alone, I could not get the answers. With all of you, I did.”

The dinner event was held in the college’s Yates/Gill Union and included speakers Kevin Shaffstall, director of the Pryor Center for Leadership Development; Joe Millas, guest instructor; and Tom Vansaghi, professor of Business and Leadership at the college.

The complete list of new Doniphan Fellows, their employer, position and city of residence (where available) is Will Akin, Clay County Sheriff's Department Emergency Division Commander; Jon Bazzano, Clay County Sheriff's Department emergency medical specialist; John Davis, Clay County Chief Ranger, Smithville; Leslie DeGroot, Clay County Purchasing Manager; Kara Drury, Mid-Continent Public Library assistant manager, Claycomo; Darren Eddy, Ingredion Assistant Department manager, Merriam, Kan.; Greg Garcia, North Kansas City Hospital director of emergency services, North Kansas City; Mike Gaudin, Children's Mercy Hospital Lead Grounds, Kearney; Tricia Hawkins, Liberty Hospital practice manager, Liberty; Aaron Kagay, Clay County Parks Nature Center, Smithville; Natasha Kirsch, The Grooming Project, Kansas City; Julie Martin, Lions in Four Foundation, Lenexa; Sean Milleson, Clay County finance manager, Liberty; Erek Noland Kearney Public Schools Assistant Principal Kearney; Colleen Norman, Mid-Continent Public Library assistant branch manager, Buckner; Jessica Rhodus, Liberty Hospital Manager of Patient Accounts, Liberty; Jeremy Rosemann, Ingredion associate engineer, Kansas City; Lisa Skeens, Liberty Hospital RN Quality Analyst, Lawson; Matthew Taylor, Hallmark Section Manager, Kearney; and Laura Welch, Welch Family Foundation, Weatherby Lake.


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