President Emeritus, University of Illinois
Chair, FARM Illinois
Robert A. Easter was appointed president-designate of the University of Illinois in March 2012, and became the university’s 19th president on July 2, 2012. Before becoming president, Easter spent his entire, nearly 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He was interim chancellor from 2009-2011, serving as chief executive officer of the 42,000-student campus, and also served as interim provost and interim vice chancellor for research. From 2002-2009, he was dean of the nationally ranked College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Before that, he served as head of the Department of Animal Sciences, where he has been a faculty member since 1976. An expert in livestock feeding, Easter has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. He also has spoken to audiences in the United States and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding. In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), and was appointed as chair of BIFAD in 2007. He also is a fellow of the American Society of Animal Science and a member of Farm Foundation Roundtable and serves on the board of 1st Farm Credit Services, Agrible, the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation, and FARM Illinois. Easter earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural education in 1970 and a master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1972, both from Texas A&M University. He completed a doctorate in animal science at the University of Illinois in 1976 and immediately joined the Animal Science Department as an assistant professor of swine nutrition and management. He presently holds the rank of Professor Emeritus.
President, Illinois Farm Bureau
Vice Chair, FARM Illinois
Richard Guebert Jr., of Ellis Grove, is the 15th president of the Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB®) and serves as full-time executive officer. He is also president of COUNTRY Financial, Illinois Agricultural Service Company, and the IAA Foundation. Prior to his election as president, Guebert served as vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau from 2003-2013. As vice president, Guebert also served as chairman of the COUNTRY/IFB Governance Committee. In 2007, he was appointed by the IFB president to serve as chairman of a Floodplain Study Group. Guebert, his wife Nancy and his son, Kyle, operate a farm where they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat. In 2001, he served on the IFB Co-op Task Force and completed theAgricultural Leaders of Tomorrow leadership training. Guebert was named a Master Farmer in 2006 by Prairie Farmer magazine.
Theresa E. Mintle
Interim Vice Chancellor for Public and Governmental Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
Vice Chair, FARM Illinois
Theresa is Interim Vice Chancellor for Public and Governmental Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Previously, she was the fifth President and Chief Executive Officer of the 112 year-old Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Theresa’s passion to grow the Chicago region’s economy and strengthen Chicago’s status as a world-class city stems from her experience in public service. She spent 27 years working at the national, state and local levels of government where she gained first-hand experience working with business and government on programs to grow jobs and the economy. She draws from lessons learned to drive the Chamber’s strategic focus on small business growth, middle market expansion, international opportunities, industry-specific investment, technology innovation and regional collaboration. Theresa is Vice-Chairman of FARM Illinois; Vice-Chairman of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives; on the board of Choose Chicago; a director of the World Business Chicago Steering Committee; a member of the German Marshall Fund Leadership Development Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the Midwest selection committee; and a member of the President’s Circle of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; The Economic Club of Chicago; and The Chicago Network.
Senior Program Officer, Chicago Community Trust
Michael Davidson is the senior program officer for The Chicago Community Trust in sustainable development. Davidson leads grant making for community and regional planning organizations, focusing on the confluence of environmental, economic and social sustainability as the optimal framework for policy planning and development practice. Prior to joining the Trust, Davidson was midwest director for ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA. He has also worked as a program officer at the Great Lakes Protection Fund and manager of the Campaign for Sensible Growth. Davidson spent the first nine years of his career in the research department of the American Planning Association (APA), where he provided planning practitioners with best practices in urban and regional planning. He is the founder of the Prairie State Local Government Sustainability Network and a founding member of the Sustainable Communities Division of the American Planning Association. He earned a graduate degree from DePaul University’s School of Public Service and has authored and produced over 30 articles and technical reports on contemporary planning issues.
Partner, Agribusiness, Ernst & Young LLP
Rob Dongoski leads EY’s Agribusiness sector globally and focuses on strategy, transformation and M&A for many of our clients in the Agribusiness sector. As EY’s global leader, he is at the forefront of industry issues and spends time with our clients globally. He also serves as the lead partner on several global accounts ranging from grain processing, meat processing and seed. Rob’s experience includes leading a number of clients in the design and implementation of the appropriate operating model for their business. This includes various functions across strategy/portfolio management, marketing/merchandising, operational areas and backoffice efficiency. Rob has also been involved in designing transformation and integration strategies for his clients that have recently acquired new companies or needed to more effectively integrate previous acquisitions. In over 15 years with EY, Rob has served companies such as Land O’ Lakes, CHS, Tyson Foods, Monsanto, ADM, Hillshire Brands, Kellogg, Cargill, Ingredion, The Andersons, Beam Global, and Kraft. This client base and his role as the senior advisory partner on several other clients have enabled him to become a knowledge leader on matters of critical importance to global and market-leading companies. Rob spent earlier parts of his career in EY offices in St. Louis and Boston, where he was promoted to partner in 2000. Rob moved to Chicago in 1997 after working for Fidelity Investments. He volunteers at 1871, leads EY’s Midwest Veterans Network, co-leads our recruiting at Indiana University, and is a Board member at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago and Member of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority
Ms. Healey is Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), owner of McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center and Navy Pier, Illinois top-visited tourist destination and the 1,258 room Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. In her role as CEO, Ms. Healey oversees the development of the McCormick Collection which includes a 10,000 seat event center and a 1,206 room Marriott Marquis Headquarters Hotel, scheduled for completion in 2017. Prior to joining the MPEA, Ms. Healey served as the Chief Executive Officer of Tur Partners LLC (“Tur”) and also served as Principal in Charge of the Development Group for the John Buck Company. Ms. Healey coordinated the organizational and planning activities for the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012, acting as Director of the NATO Host Committee as an executive “on loan,” overseeing planning, fundraising and implementation of the Summit and in 2009, was appointed as President of Chicago 2016, where she was responsible for leading Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Ms. Healey held several senior leadership positions for the City of Chicago under the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, most recently acting as Mayor Daley’s Chief of Staff. She earlier served as Commissioner of the City’s Department of Planning and Development.
Chief Risk Officer, Compeer Financial
Terry L. Hinds is Chief Risk Officer for Compeer Financial a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. Compeer Financial is a $18.5 billion organization providing loans, leases, risk management and other financial services throughout 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In his current role, Terry is responsible for the overall risk management of the company including: risk policy, coordination of risk philosophy, risk asset and acquired property management, the association’s appraisal function, and internal audit in coordination with the board’s Audit & Finance Committee. Prior to being named Chief Risk officer he lead efforts in Capital Markets, Agribusiness, Trade Credit, Leasing, ProPartners, Investments, Commercial Bank and other Partner Purchases as well as the association’s legislative affairs activities. Terry’s family is deeply rooted in Illinois agriculture and still owns and operates the first Illinois farm the family purchased in 1848. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in Agricultural Economics and University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Banking. He has spent more than 39 years in various positions within the Farm Credit System including AgriBank, Farm Credit Bank of St. Louis and several Illinois Farm Credit associations.
District Director, Illinois Soybean Association
Jered Hooker from Clinton, Ill., is the assistant treasurer-secretary and a district director for the Illinois Soybean Association. His family has owned their farm since 1875. Hooker was a Soy Ambassador, and is currently secretary-treasurer of the Weldon Grain Company, member of the De Witt County Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers and Chicago Farmers. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Illinois.
Dean, College of ACES, University of Illinois
Dean Kimberlee Kidwell, a nationally respected scholar of plant breeding and genetics, holds the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair in the College of ACES at the University of Illinois. In her previous role as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources at Washington State University, Dean Kidwell spearheaded the development of the new Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership. Dean Kidwell is an accomplished spring wheat breeder and geneticist, developing more than 20 wheat varieties for Washington State farmers. Her research has led to two patented discoveries, and addressed basic questions involving gene discovery, genetic characterization, and genetic mapping of important traits for wheat improvement. Dean Kidwell has been recognized with numerous honors and awards for her hard work in research, teaching, and leadership. Most recently, she was named a Crop Science Society of America Fellow. She grew up in Danville, Illinois, and is a proud alumna of ACES where she earned bachelor’s degrees in both genetics and development and agriculture science. She received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Managing Director, Commodity Research and Product Development, Global Client Services and Development, CME Group
David Lehman is a Managing Director in the Research and Product Development Division of CME Group. Lehman is responsible for leading efforts to identify and develop new CME Group product and services opportunities related to both exchange-traded and over-the-counter (OTC) markets, maintaining viability of current product offerings and providing strategic insight into new markets, business development and research within the commodity space. Prior to joining the company in 1989, Lehman held the position of Industry Economist with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from the University of Maryland.
Director, Fresh Taste
Karen Lehman directs Fresh Taste, a funder initiative dedicated to relocalizing the food system in the Chicago foodshed and improving equity of access to good food. Lehman’s food system work spans three decades, beginning with an award-winning PBS documentary on women’s leadership in farm movements. Prior to her work with Fresh Taste, Lehman was a senior associate with Cambridge Leadership Associates. Lehman directed the local food and regional economy programs at The Minnesota Project; co-founded Youth Farm, located in Minneapolis and St. Paul; and directed the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Agriculture Program. Lehman also held an endowed chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota, consulted with the Ford Foundation on rural development in Mexico, and received a Master’s of Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow.
Founding Principal and CEO, The Development Consortium
Janet Mathis is a founding Principal in The Development Consortium, an economic development and real estate consulting firm created in 2006, and is currently the firm’s CEO. Until May 2017, Mathis also was the President and CEO of Renew Moline. Mathis is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Economic Development Association (IEDA), the state association of economic development professionals, and received the organization’s highest award, Distinguished Developer of the Year in 2013. She was named an Edgar Fellow in 2014, and was the recipient of Western Illinois University – Quad Cities’ 2013 Award of Excellence for best exemplifying the four pillars of the university. Mathis is currently on the Board of Directors of the River Bend Foodbank; is President of the Board of Directors for the Center for Youth and Family Solutions; and is on the Board of Food and Agricultural Roadmap (FARM) Illinois. Mathis has a bachelors of science degree in agricultural industries from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with continuing studies in crisis communications from Illinois State University; economic development from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville; and brownfields redevelopment from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox
Ron Meeusen, PhD is a Managing Director of Cultivian Sandbox and co-founder and Managing Partner of Cultivian Ventures. Ron has over 30 years of experience in bringing new technologies and products to market. He has led research and development for major corporations in agricultural chemicals, field crop and vegetable genetics and breeding, animal health, novel foods and industrial materials. His successful projects include the world’s first field trial of a genetically engineered crop trait in 1986, development and launch of one of the first insect and herbicide resistant corn hybrids in 1996, introduction of a trans-fat free canola oil, and development of dozens of new varieties of field and vegetable crops on three continents. Ron has been a frequent speaker at conferences, a consultant to Federal policy on biotechnology regulatory issues, and active in industry trade groups. Prior to forming Cultivian Ron led the expansion of the biotechnology research and development program of Dow AgroSciences, and founded a successful biopharmaceutical company, Immuneworks, Inc. Ron represents Cultivian on the board of directors of AbCelex Technologies, Agrivida (Board Chair), enEvolv, Proterro, Rivertop Renewables, Vestaron and Virgin Plants. He was also a member of the board of directors of Allylix, Aratana Therapeutics and Divergence, Inc. Ron holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in plant cell biology, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in plant physiology.
President and CEO, Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation
Lee Strom is President and CEO of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation, Illinois’ premier agriculture leadership development program. Prior to his current role, Lee was CEO of FARM Illinois, a role he assumed in April of 2015. During his leadership over the 2 ½ years as FARM Illinois’ CEO, Lee’s efforts grew the organization into a respected convener of Illinois’ many entities that touch the food and agriculture sector. Lee also spent nearly a decade of service in Washington D.C. where he served as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Farm Credit Administration. FCA regulates the $250 billion national network of Farm Credit System institutions and Farmer Mac which provide credit and financial services to the nation’s agriculture and agribusiness sectors. He also served as chair of the $3.5 billion Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation. Lee has served as an agriculture advisor on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Advisory Board on Agriculture, Labor, and Small Business, and served in numerous other leadership capacities within the agriculture and finance sectors. In 2011, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Northern Illinois University for his efforts in protecting and managing the assets of the agriculture industry. Lee and his wife reside on a farm in Kane County, Illinois where his ancestors settled in the late 1800’s. Lee he has been involved in the agriculture industry his entire life.