National Advisory Council

Mike Knapp

R. Michael Knapp, Chair

Michael Knapp serves as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Iowa Realty Co. Inc. His title represents the culmination of a successful 28-year career in real estate services and development in which he received numerous promotions and recognitions from his peers. Mr. Knapp earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of Iowa in 1972. Upon graduation, he entered the real estate profession as a sales agent with Iowa Realty. In 1977, he was promoted to manager of the company’s largest sales office. In 1984, he was named general sales manager of the residential division of Iowa Realty; and in 1991, he was promoted to senior vice president. Mr. Knapp was tapped as president and CEO in 1992. During his tenure as president of Iowa Realty, Mr. Knapp has negotiated several brokerage acquisitions that served to expand and diversify Iowa Realty’s presence across the state. In 1994, he led the acquisition of Carol Jones, Realtors of Springfield, Missouri, the No. 1 real estate brokerage in Southwest Missouri. A year later, in 1995, Mr. Knapp negotiated the purchase of First Realty/Better Homes & Gardens in Des Moines, which had long been Iowa Realty’s chief rival. The transaction gave Iowa Realty an unprecedented market share among brokerage firms based in larger metropolitan areas.

Mr. Knapp’s brokering talents took on a pivotal role in 1998 when AmerUs Group, the former owner of Iowa Realty and its affiliates, determined it would exit the real estate business. Mr. Knapp led the effort to identify a buyer that would best serve the needs of the company, its agents, employees, and the community. He brought buyer and seller together in a transaction valued at more than $80 million. Today, as part of, Inc., an affiliate of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, Mr. Knapp serves on the real estate holding company’s board of directors. In this role, he works in tandem with the company’s other real estate executives to implement best practice solutions and expand and diversify the company’s geographic scope and product offerings. Within the real estate industry, Mr. Knapp has been recognized as a superior brokerage operator. He received the honor of “Realtor of the Year” in 1990 from the Des Moines Board of Realtors.

Kathryn Kunert

Kathryn Kunert, Co-Chair

Kathryn Kunert is a native of Mason City, Iowa and graduated from UNI with a bachelor’s in public administration. In 1996 she joined MidAmerican Energy Company and currently is the vice president for economic connections and integration.

Kathryn is very involved in the community and has served as Past President and member of both Rotary DMAM and the Professional Developers of Iowa. She serves as a board member for the Iowa City Area Development Group and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance. Kathryn is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, a Forty Under 40 class member of 2002 and member of the Des Moines Symphony’s viewing committee.

Kathryn lives in the Des Moines Area with her husband, Randy.


Emily Abbas

Emily Abbas

Emily Abbas is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Bankers Trust. Des Moines native and advocate Emily Abbas joined Bankers Trust in 2014 as the Bank’s first Chief of Staff. About six months later, she also agreed to serve as Chief Marketing Officer, leading all marketing and communications efforts for the Bank.

Emily currently serves as President of Drake University’s National Alumni Board, Chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Communications Board, on the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, and on the board of directors at the Des Moines Community Playhouse.


Jim Aipperspach

Jim Aipperspach, Past Chair

Jim Aipperspach retired as a senior advisor at Bearence Management Group, a West Des Moines risk management company serving customers primarily in Iowa and Minnesota. He was previously for five and one-half years the director of operations at Great Ape Trust, a scientific research facility in Des Moines dedicated to the study of ape intelligence, language and culture. Aipperspach coordinates and supervises all non-scientific responsibilities at Great Ape Trust including accounting, administration, communications, fund-raising, grounds and maintenance, human resources, and public safety. Prior to joining Great Ape Trust, Aipperspach served as president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) for nearly ten years.

Before his position at ABI, he was president of the United Way of Central Iowa from 1993-95. For 18 years, Aipperspach, a native of Bismark, ND, worked in the telecommunications industry with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company and U.S. West, serving for seven years as vice president and CEO for U.S. West operations in Iowa. As a community leader, Aipperspach is a past president of the West Des Moines Community School Board, where he served for nine years, former president of the Greater Des Moines Committee, and former secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Business Council. He has served on the board of directors for Mercy Hospital, Bankers Trust, and the Iowa Telephone Association. Aipperspach currently also serves on the board of the Iowa College Foundation, and the Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa Council.

Don Adams

Don Adams, Ph.D.

On July 1, 1969, Donald Adams was appointed vice president for student life at Drake University. In 1985, the title of vice president for enrollment management was added, and in January 1995, Dr. Adams assumed the position of executive assistant to the president, Secretary to the University, and Legislative liaison. Since his retirement, Dr. Adams has continued to be an avid supporter of Drake.

Prior to coming to Drake University, Dr. Adams served ten years at Michigan State University where he was a member of the vice president for student affairs staff as director of residence hall programs. Dr. Adams did his undergraduate work at the University of Northern Iowa and received his masters and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University. He has served as regional vice president and president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Dr. Adams has also received the outstanding alumnus award from the University of Northern Iowa, the Fred Turner Award for outstanding service to NASPA, and was selected for the Scott Goonight Award from NASAP as the outstanding student affairs administrator in the United States. In addition, he has served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association since 1976. He has also been a consultant for colleges and universities and continues as an active member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Lisa Brinkmeyer

Lisa Brinkmeyer

Lisa passed away in June 2023. She strongly influenced the work of The Ray Center through her early role on our Pursuing Victory With Honor advisory committee and then as an active member of our National Advisory Council. We are thankful for all that Lisa did to uplift the lives of Iowans and know her legacy will continue to inspire others.

Lisa is the 2023 Robert D. and Billie Ray Pillar of Character Award recipient.

Sam Butler

Sam Butler

Samuel D. Butler is the Global HR Director, Ag & Turf and Worldwide Finance in the Global Human Resources Organization at Deere & Company, a position he’s held since October 2021 where he is responsible for developing strategies to attract, develop and retain  a diverse and inclusive workforce for the enterprise.

Butler joined Deere & Company in December 1999 as a module leader at John Deere Harvester Works. In his 23 years of service with the company, he has held a number of leadership positions at Harvester, Seeding, Cylinder and Deere and Company with increasing responsibility. Prior to being appointed to his current assignment, Butler was the Director of Global D&I and Talent Acquisition.

Before joining Deere, Butler served in the United States Army for eight years.  He graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1992 and received his M.B.A. from St. Ambrose University in 2004.

David Chivers

David Chivers

David has built his career as a digitally native executive, consultant, advisor, board member, and coach — helping brands, organizations, and people accelerate innovation and transformation to drive growth. As an executive advisor and strategy consultant, he currently partners with Facebook to help local organizations across the globe tackle customer experience and engagement, digital transformation, alternative recurring revenue streams, and innovation projects. He works with businesses in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Europe.

In addition to his Facebook engagements, David consults and advises a number of local and international media companies, technology firms, academic institutions, marketing services agencies, professional services firms, and consumer organizations.

David is the former president and publisher of The Des Moines Register and regional president for USA TODAY. He has held executive leadership roles at The Wall Street Journal, Factiva, Meredith Corporation, and Jostens. He is honored to serve on a number of boards and in advisory roles related to higher education and charitable giving focused on education and improving the lives of children. 

David, his spouse Theresa, and their two teenage children live in Des Moines.

Marta Codina

Marta Codina, Past Chair

Marta Codina is a 39-year veteran of the financial services industry who started her career as a teller during high school in Houston, Texas. Marta moved to Iowa in 1992 to join US Bank and worked there for 10 years as a regional manager leading the Retail Banking Division. She joined Wells Fargo in 2001 and during her tenure has served as a regional development manager, overseeing leadership strategies and learning and development for Iowa, and as an area manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, overseeing the mortgage production sales force for Iowa.

Marta currently serves as region bank president for Wells Fargo Bank. In her role, she oversees western Iowa retail banking in a territory that includes Des Moines, Ames, Atlantic, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Clarion, Denison, Eagle Grove, Emmetsburg, Fort Dodge, Jefferson, Mason City, Perry, and Sioux City.

A graduate of the University of Houston, she was a founding member of the Wells Fargo Central Iowa Diversity and Inclusion Council and is an executive sponsor of that group, which coordinates Wells Fargo’s local efforts around diversity and inclusion. Marta currently serves on the National Advisory Council of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center (formerly known as Character Counts in Iowa) and as vice-chair on the executive committee of the United Way of Central Iowa. She is a very active volunteer in the Central Iowa community with a variety of non-profits.

Marta and her husband, Jim Bruno, are residents of Waukee, Iowa, and have a son, Nicholas, and daughter, Maddie. Marta is a native of Cuba and came to the United States as a refugee in the early 1960s with her parents. Her passion is around “making a difference” primarily in the areas of early childhood development and diversity and inclusion.

Mike Dayton

Michael Dayton

Mike is a member attorney and past chairman of the Business, Finance & Real Estate team at Nyemaster Goode, P.C. He assists clients with mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance issues, contract matters, data and cybersecurity, commercial lending and secured transactions, and raising capital for entity formation and growth. He has worked with a broad range of industries including health care, agribusiness, construction, manufacturing, creative services, wind and other renewable energy, banking, software, and more.

With bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and philosophy and experience in social work, Mike is passionate about serving the community, especially in the areas of child education and welfare. He is currently obtaining his PhD in education from Drake University. Mike is deeply involved in serving his community through leadership, teaching, and coaching. He takes community work and participation in nonprofit boards seriously. He extends that desire to improve the community to teaching and molding the next generation of attorneys and consistently looks for ways to mentor younger attorneys.

Mike Gartner

Mike C. Gartner

Mike C. Gartner is the newest stockholder and director of Raccoon Baseball Inc. Mike is a native of Des Moines and a graduate of Dowling High School and attended Simpson College. He worked for several years at Orchard Place, a home for troubled youth, and this season has joined the staff of the Iowa Cubs. Mike is also president of the Gartner Family Foundation, which supports education, cultural and youth organizations in the Des Moines area.

Mike C. Gartner is married to the former Michelle Sutton. They live in Des Moines.

Renee Hardman

Renee Hardman

Ms. Hardman attended Drake University where she earned a BA with a major in Psychology and later obtained a Master in Business Administration (MBA).  She has earned both the SPHR and the newly advanced SHRM-SCP HR certifications. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (both nationally and locally).

Ms. Hardman’s community involvement includes Trustee for Des Moines University, Advisory Board member for The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Diversity Committee (past member), Board Member of the Latino Leadership Initiative, Des Moines Chapter of The Links, 5th Judicial Nomination Commission — Governor Appointee, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is past President of the Chrysalis Foundation and longtime volunteer and past Board Member for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Des Moines.

Ms. Hardman is the recipient of many awards and honors. In 2014, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Other awards include the Distinguished Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s Alumni Volunteer Award, DMU’s Diversity Champion Award, Connie Wimer Spirit Award, President Obama’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major of Service Award, Des Moines University Glanton Scholarship Honoree, Women of Influence Award, Best Minority Business Leader Award, and YWCA’s Women of Achievement Award.

She has chaired the Governor’s Diversity Committee and was an active member of Drake University’s Diversity and the Downtown Partnership’s Diversity Committee. Renee’s passion is around leadership development, diversity & inclusion, and inspiring individuals to reach their fullest potential. 

Walter Lauridsen

Walter Lauridsen

Walter is Chairman and owner of Boyer Valley Company-a company of the Lauridsen Group, Inc. (LGI). LG l’s foundation began in 1916 as the Lauridsen Creamery, selling butter, eggs, and poultry to the local community. LGI headquarters is in Ankeny, Iowa, and not far from the old creamery in Dedham, Iowa. The company is now worldwide with more than fifty manufacturing and sales locations in twenty countries and sales in more than sixty countries. Each company under the LGI umbrella is truly independent. They have the ability and the charge to be entrepreneurial, to seek out new markets, to develop new products and applications, and above all -to discover new ways to add value through fractionation and novel application. What’s more, because some LGI companies have offices and a presence around the world, all LGI companies benefit from their exposure to new markets, new products, new applications, and new thinking. Walter has assisted with numerous domestic and foreign manufacturing start-ups and expansions and served as Vice President, Entrepreneurial initiatives for LGl’s Essentia Protein Solutions Company before assuming the role of CEO at B.V.C. Walter holds a B.A. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University. He is actively engaged in The Other Side Academy initiative. 

Chuck Long

Chuck Long

Chuck Long is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Iowa Sports Foundation. Mr. Long will lead the organization in its efforts to provide quality sports, wellness, nutrition and fitness programs for Iowans of every age and ability. Long is a seasoned executive who has provided leadership in the sports field for more than 30 years, with extensive experience leading multidimensional programs. 

Long was a consensus All-American quarterback for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes (1981-1985), Big Ten player of the year, recipient of the Maxwell Award (college player of the year) and the Davey O’Brien Award (nation’s best quarterback), Heisman Trophy runner-up and first-round NFL draft pick in 1986. Long played eight seasons with the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams before joining the 1995 University of Iowa coaching staff under the direction of Hayden Fry. Long’s sixteen-year coaching career included positions with the country’s other top college football programs including the University of Oklahoma 2000 national champions, San Diego State University, and the University of Kansas

Greg Pavelka

Greg Pavelka

Greg lives in the small town of Traer, Iowa. Greg is recently retired from East-Central Iowa REC after more than 20 years of service. Prior to working with the REC Greg developed 160 acres of prime ground.

Greg is a father of two- a daughter and a son. He is the proud grandfather of four-Wesley, Rachel, Madeline, and Zachary. Greg believes that while children makeup about 27% of the US population but are 100% of our future which way they go depends on us.

Greg looks forward to spending his retirement golfing, traveling, hunting and fishing. He enjoys gardening and just being outdoors.

Alan Sprinkle

Alan Sprinkle

Alan is co-owner and president of Covenant Construction Services, a commercial general contracting company specializing in government contracting, and CCS Homes, a custom home builder with a motto of;  “Your Home Your Way.” Their care for their process takes them to the top of Energy performance of the homes they build.

Alan formerly served in the United States Army as a command sergeant major and retired in 2001. He entered the Army in October of 1981 and CSM Sprinkle’s assignments included duties as a military policeman, airborne ranger, and Army recruiter. Prior to retiring, was responsible for the Des Moines Recruiting Battalion covering Iowa, Nebraska, part of South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Illinois as well as many other leadership positions before that. CSM Sprinkle holds a Bachelor of Science-Arts Degree from Excelsior College, in Albany, New York. Some of Alan’s hobbies are exercising and instructing at Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping, golf, gardening, and cooking. Alan is married to the former Ms. Laurie Witt of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. They have two sons, Benjamin and Joshua who are both married. Alan and Laurie have five grandchildren.

Julie Stewart

Julie Stewart

Julie Stewart has been an instrumental part of the Prairie Meadows corporate management team since the organization’s first year of operations in 1989. She successfully led the marketing and advertising programs during the introduction of casino gaming. She was elevated to assistant marketing director in 1996 and was eventually named marketing director. As Prairie Meadows expanded its corporate giving, Julie was chosen in 2006 to direct the newly created Community Relations department. Julie earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.

Over the past year, Julie has made significant contributions to the community as co-chair of the ALS Campaign, Variety Club of Iowa, United Way of Central Iowa, Des Moines University’s Glanton Scholarship Dinner, and the Governor’s Boy Scout/Girl Scout Luncheon.

Julie currently serves on the boards of The Ray Center, Variety-The Children’s Charity, Blank Park Zoo Foundation, Better Business Bureau, and United Way Campaign Cabinet. She is also a member of Altoona Elementary PTA, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Altoona Chamber of Commerce, and Polk County Democrats. Julie is a past board member of Greater Des Moines Leadership, Des Moines Arts Festival, Generations Inc., and the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce. She is an honorary member of 40 Under 40, and she is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s TLP\CLP programs and Leadership Iowa. Julie and her husband Mark have three children. 

Anna Stoermer

Anna Stoermer

 Anna Stoermer has nearly two decades in merchandising, marketing and retail experience. Anna’s Hy-Vee career began as a part-time courtesy clerk in the Kansas City market, and she has quickly moved through the Hy-Vee leadership ranks. 

Her first store leadership assignment came in 2011, when she was named an assistant manager at the Lantern Park Plaza Hy-Vee in Coralville, Iowa, and then was named assistant manager and then manager at Hy-Vee’s flagship store in Waukee, Iowa. She was given leadership of her first store, the Hy-Vee on Army Post Road in Des Moines, in 2017 when she was named store director and then transitioned to store director of the Hy-Vee in Liberty, Missouri. 

In 2020, Anna was promoted to district vice president, central region and then district vice president, Des Moines West District in May 2021. In August 2021, Anna took on the role of Senior Vice President, Marketing. In April 2022, Anna was also named Chief Marketing Officer. In November 2022, Anna was named an Executive Vice President. 

Anna was inducted into the Hy-Vee Hall of Fame as the 2020 Store Director of the Year, Southern Region. 

Anna and her husband Cody have two children, Cohen and Mira. Anna holds a degree in philosophy and religion from Drake University 

Jay Tyler

Jay Tyler

Jay Tyler graduated from Waukee High School and attended the University of Iowa where he graduated with a bachelor’s in inter-departmental studies with an emphasis in business. Throughout his career, Jay worked part-time for the family-owned business, Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Jay has held various jobs within the organization including warehouse operations, service support, merchandising, and delivery. In September of 2008, Jay moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to take part in a Management Training Program for Swire Coca-Cola Company. After eighteen months in Utah, Jay returned to central Iowa where he was employed at Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company until 2023.

Jay lives in West Des Moines, and enjoys golf and other outdoor activities.

Sam Wallace

Sam Wallace

Wallace was the recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 2002, he received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa, the Simonton Community Excellence Award from the Iowa CareGivers Foundation in 1998, American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Award in 1997 and several other awards. 

John Watson

John Watson

John was born and raised in Des Moines, attending Roosevelt High School. He then completed his undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a major in marketing. After graduation, John worked as a ski lift operator in Breckenridge, Colorado. He then moved to Chicago to work in advertising where he worked on major consumer brands. Following his time in Chicago, he moved back to Colorado, accepting a position in Denver with a marketing agency.

In 2021, John returned to Des Moines to attend Drake University Law School. John is a member of the Drake Law Review and has served as a clerk for prominent Des Moines law firms. In his spare time, John referees hockey in the American Hockey League and enjoys traveling across the country attending concerts.

Randy Ray Watson

Randi Ray Watson

Randi grew in Des Moines and is a graduate of Roosevelt High School. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa in 1978, and received her law degree from Drake University in 1987.

Following law school, she practiced law with Verne Lawyer and Associates in the area of litigation. She accepted a teaching position at Des Moines Area Community College in 1994, where she taught until her retirement in December 2016. She also practiced law for several years with Grefe and Sidney, P.C. as a transactional lawyer.

Some of her community involvement and professional activities include, long time member of Blackstone Inn of Court, past member of the Roosevelt High School Foundation, past-president of the Iowa State Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, and Iowa Supreme Court

Commission for the Unauthorized Practice of Law commissioner. She is married to Bill Watson, they live in Des Moines and have two sons, John and Michael.

Honorary Members

Kathy Breheny

Jared Clauss

Mary Cownie

Billy Cundiff

Randy Edeker

Matt Harris

Sandy Hatfield Clubb

Shawn Johnson East

Nate Kaeding

Donna McAninch

Drew McLellan

CJ Niles

The Honorable Sally Pederson

Dean Summa