The Economic Club of Grand Rapids invites you to celebrate the 33rd Annual Dinner on June 7, 2022, featuring legendary tennis champion, entrepreneur, and founder, Venus Williams. Our guests will have the opportunity to hear how she leads on and off the court and be empowered by the change she’s brought throughout her career.
Legendary Tennis Champion, Entrepreneur & Founder
On this special occasion we will be honoring this year’s winners of our Slykhouse Community Leadership and Business Person of the Year Awards.
2022 Slykhouse Community Leadership Recipients
John & Nancy Kennedy
Community Leaders and Philanthropists
2022 Business Person of the Year Recipient
Founder & CEO, Rockford Construction
Guest of Honor
- Legendary Tennis Champion: 7-Time Grand Slam Singles Champion, 5-Time Wimbledon Champion, 4-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
- Entrepreneur and Founder, EleVen, V Starr, and Happy Viking
- New York Times Bestselling Author, ‘Come to Win’
With 7 Grand Slam titles, 5 Wimbledon championships and 4 Olympic gold medals, tennis champion Venus Williams is arguably one of the most accomplished and inspiring women in the history of sports.
Beginning her rise to the top at the age of 14, Williams quickly took the world of tennis by storm, rising to the top-ranked position, breaking countless records, and winning numerous championships.
Not only is Williams a force on the court, the fashion community has taken notice of her bold sense of style with numerous recognitions, including landing on Vogue’s ‘Top 10 Best Dressed’ list and Sports Illustrated’s ‘Fashionable 50.’
Encouraged by her mother at an early age to explore her creative side, Williams enrolled in fashion school where she was instantly drawn into the world of fashion and interior design. True to her bold spirit, Williams parlayed her fine-tuned business acumen with her healthy competitive spirit into two successful design ventures.
In 2002, after obtaining an Interior Decorator certification, Williams founded V Starr, a full-service commercial and residential design firm, which recently announced their partnership with Airbnb partner, Niido to design their first-ever apartment complex.
Continuing with her love for design, Williams obtained an Associate of Science in Fashion Design and in 2012 she launched the fashion-forward activewear brand, EleVen by Venus Williams. In May 2020, Venus partnered with Credo Beauty to debut an award-winning line of clean, mineral-based SPF products under the EleVen by Venus umbrella, which recently expanded with their Perfect Form Lip Balms SPF 15 earlier this year. Her entrepreneurship in the health, wellness and beauty space also includes her role as Chief Brand Officer to Asutra and in December 2020, Williams launched her plant-based protein company, Happy Viking. She is also an ambassador PlantX, an online store for plant-based products.
Sticking to her entrepreneurial spirit, in 2009 Williams along with her sister, Serena became the first female African-Americans to have a stake in an NFL franchise after joining the ownership group of the Miami Dolphins. The following year, Venus published her motivational book, Come to Win which reached No. 5 on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
Throughout her career, Williams has been a steadfast advocate for equality. In 2006, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, titled her as the first “Promoter of Gender Equality.’ In 2007 it was her unwavering fight, which led Wimbledon to award women players the same pay as their male counterparts and most recently, she launched an awareness initiative called the #PrivilegeTax in conjunction with EleVen to bring attention to the wage inequality and unveiled a platform of resources for young women to get inspired and address the issue on a grassroots level.
Williams’ achievements throughout her legendary career have merited her a plethora of additional accolades, including being honored as Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year,” ESPN’s “WTA Player of the Year,” and Forbes’ ”Celebrity 100″ among others. In September 2009, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Williams with the Americanism Award for publicly speaking up for Israeli player Shahar Pe’er who was barred from the Dubai tennis tournament.
Williams holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Indiana University East and an Associate of Science in Fashion Design from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
CBS Sports Broadcaster
Greg Gumbel’s standout work in the world of sports broadcasting has made his face, name and voice as familiar as any in the industry. Throughout 50 years in the business, Gumbel has become one of the most outstanding and best known announcers in sports television. He has covered everything from Major League Baseball to the NBA to the NFL, the Men’s NCAA Championship Tournament, the Summer and Winter Olympic games, World Figure Skating Championships, the Daytona 500 and hosted Wimbledon for NBC Sports to name a few.
In the fall, he calls exciting NFL play-by-play action across the country on CBS, with his broadcast partner, Adam Archuleta. Prior to returning to the booth in 2006, Gumbel successfully completed his second season as the host of the CBS’ Emmy award winning show “The NFL Today.” He formerly hosted “The NFL Today” on CBS from 1990-93 and “The NFL on NBC.” Gumbel was also the lead play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports’ coverage of the National Football League from 1998 to 2003. In that capacity, he called the thrilling action at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston and Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. He is the first network broadcaster to both call play-by-play and host the Super Bowl. He hosted Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis, Super Bowl XXX in Tempe and Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego.
When the NFL season winds down, Greg is host of one of the premiere events in all of sports, The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. He has been the CBS host of March Madness since 1998. During the height of March Madness, Greg spends hours in the studio with his colleagues, analysts Clark Kellogg, Seth Davis, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, providing CBS viewers with exciting highlights and coverage on the Road to The Final Four.
Greg is a 3-time Emmy award winner, and the 2007 Honoree of the prestigious Pat Summerall Award for his outstanding work in broadcasting. He served the maximum 12 years as a member of the March of Dimes National Board of Trustees and an additional 13 years as a Special Advisor to the President of the March of Dimes. Greg is honored to be a member of the St Jude’s Children’s Hospital Sports Council. And having completed the maximum 10 year term as a member of the Board of Regents at his alma mater, Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, Greg has been unanimously elected to Regent Emeritus status by the Board.
Slykhouse Community Leadership Award
John and Nancy Kennedy
Community Leaders and Philanthropists
John and Nancy believe their call to service involves working toward a more equitable world by investing in people. Particularly by helping those who live in areas with less access, they hope to help generate more meaningful opportunities for their fellow citizens. As a result of this philosophy, they spend considerable time and energy in public policy and philanthropy in many areas, from education to health to criminal justice reform.
Currently, John is the President and CEO of Autocam Medical, which he started in 2005. This business is a rapidly growing manufacturer of precision-machined implants and instruments for surgical applications, including bone screws and plates, surgical drivers, drill bits, and other cutting instruments. Autocam Medical has facilities in the US, China, and Brazil. Here, John focuses on educating and training the growing workforce in the knowledge work of the business, thus providing more opportunity for the company’s associates.
Beyond his business commitments, John devotes time to numerous organizations. He chairs the board of directors of the West Michigan Policy Forum, and he serves on the boards of Business Leaders for Michigan, the Van Andel Institute, Talent 2025, and Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.
John has also spent significant time trying to help increase literacy outcomes in West Michigan for many years. Most recently, John founded a not-for-profit called The Center for Sound Literacy to support early elementary reading teachers and students. Children who have received CSL services have averaged over two years of growth per year in each of the last three school years.
Nancy Kennedy lived in Detroit and Chicago before moving to Grand Rapids in 1983. She was licensed as a CPA at Arthur Andersen before working with John on the launch of Autocam Corporation. While raising their 4 children, Nancy served on various boards including Catholic Social Services, The Hugh Michael Beahan Foundation, Catholic Secondary Schools, Saint Mary’s Hospital, United Way, and the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation. She currently serves on the board of the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park Foundation, and she serves on the advisory board of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Business.
For the last 6 years, Nancy has invested much of her time in creating and growing a volunteer reading tutor program for 1st and 2nd-grade students in historically under-served schools. In its current format, students practice reading leveled books to volunteers, and then they practice reading the same books at home with their parents at night.
While John and Nancy feel God’s call to do their work, they also feel truly blessed in seeing the joy of others when they experience their own success.
As a co-founding partner, Mike VanGessel has led Rockford Construction to the #1 contractor in West Michigan and one of the Top 200 Contractors in the nation. In the company’s 35-year history, Rockford has completed 6,000+ projects totaling more than $5.5 billion. A Grand Rapids native with strong ties to the community, Mike is drawn to projects that positively impact the way people live, work, learn, heal, and play. He uses his innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to serve the company and the community as he works with civic leaders, non-profit organizations, and other visionaries to create a brighter future. He is a business thought leader, community advocate, and catalyst for change.
Mike serves on many Boards and consistently gives his time and talents to serving others. He has also been involved in some of Grand Rapids’ most iconic projects including the JW Marriott, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Reclad, Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids Research Center and Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building, Perrigo Corporate Headquarters and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. He received his B.S. Degree in Construction Management from Michigan State University and has participated in the Continuing Education Program at Wharton School of Business.
Business Person of the Year Award
Founder and CEO, Rockford Construction
Thank You to Our 33rd Annual Dinner Sponsors!
Premier Annual Dinner Sponsors
Leadership Annual Dinner Sponsors
Patron Annual Dinner Sponsors
Partner Annual Dinner Sponsors
42 North Partners
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
BMO Harris Bank
Grand Wealth Management, LLC
Lake Michigan Credit Union
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Reagan Marketing + Design
The Huntington National Bank
Trinity Health Michigan
Universal Forest Products
Western Michigan University
Community Annual Dinner Sponsors
Bank of America
Experience Grand Rapids
Ferris State University
First National Bank of Michigan
Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Rapids Chamber
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Hill Island Financial
JP Morgan Chase
Leggett & Platt
NICOLAI North America
Raymond James & Associates
Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge
Warner Norcross + Judd
West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Past Annual Dinner Speakers
2018 – Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, 2006-2011
2017 – David Cameron, Prime Minister, UK, 2010-16
2016 – Ben Bernanke, Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve, 2006-14
2015 – Derek Jeter, Legendary NY Yankee & Journalist, George Will
2014 – Richard Branson, Founder & Chairman, Virgin Group
2013 – Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State
2012 – Tony Blair, Prime Minister, UK, 1997-07
2011 – Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State & Gen. Colin L. Powell, 65th Secretary of State
2010 – George W. Bush, 43rd President, United States
2008 – Tom Brokaw, Retired NBC News Anchor
2007 – William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President, United States
2006 – Bono, Co-Founder of DATA and Lead singer of U2
2005 – General Colin L. Powell, 65th Secretary of State
2004 – Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State
2003 – Her Majesty Queen Noor, Queen of Jordan
2002 – Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988-96
2001 – Antonin Scalia, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1986-16
2000 – F.W. DeKlerk, President of South Africa, 1989-94
1998 – Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, 1981-85
1997 – Shimon Peres, Prime Minister of Israel, 2007-14
1996 – Stephen R. Covey, Author, and Lecturer
1995 – Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House, 1995-99
1994 – Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1989-93
1993 – James A. Baker III, 61st Secretary of State
1992 – Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, 4-Star General, U.S. Army
1991 – Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, UK, 1979-1990
1990 – George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist
1989 – Paul Erdman, Novelist, Economist
1988 – Mark Shields, Political Analyst