It only takes one person to make a change. Robert Kennedy believed in the ripple effect and so does Gambit Weekly. "Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others," Kennedy famously said, "he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls." It is in this spirit that we proudly present our sixth annual 40 Under 40. Each year, we seek to honor those individuals among us who are working in their own unique ways to make the communities of metro New Orleans better places to live. The accomplishments represented below are individually impressive; viewed as a whole, they represent promising new beginnings for the city of New Orleans.
Sgt. 1st Class Roy E. Handy Jr., 33
U.S. Army Recruiter
In the summer of 1988, 18-year-old New Orleanian Roy E. Handy Jr. had two separate conversations that changed his life: he talked to a waiter and an Army recruiter. "I was busing tables and washing dishes," Handy recalls. "There was a waiter there about 50 years old who liked the way I worked. He said, 'You keep it up and you can make it to waiter one day.'" Handy also talked to an Army recruiter, who promised the Lower Ninth Ward native some tough times but long-term rewards as a career soldier: a free college education, training in a marketable trade, travel and retirement by age 38. Handy chose the Army. Fourteen years later, Army Times newspaper chose Handy as its 2002 "Soldier of the Year." Now a recruiter himself, Handy has "exceeded his goal by 125 percent," Army Times opined in a recent editorial. "And while many recruits veer off course once they've reached the Army, Sgt. Handy's recruits boast a superior 95 percent retention rate. That work has helped Sgt. Handy's New Orleans recruiting station become tops in the state of Louisiana." Interestingly, Handy doesn't always directly advocate an Army career. "Sometimes I try to guide them toward college, because it's not about the Army and its not about Sgt. Handy," he says. "It's about what's going to be best for our youth." His own military career began with a job repairing long- and short-range missiles, but he found his work with youths to be more fulfilling. When he retires -- five years from now -- his goal is to become an education counselor for Orleans Parish Public Schools. He wants do then what he does now -- help youths be all that they can be.
Amanda Shaw, 12
This past August, the New Orleans Arena crowd attending the Cher/Cyndi Lauper show had the opportunity to witness the emergence of the next generation in music: 12-year-old Amanda Shaw, who stepped onstage with Cyndi Lauper to add a fiddle part to Lauper's classic "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." For the seventh grader at Mandeville Junior High, it was the opportunity to play alongside an idol. "Cyndi Lauper is my ultimate favorite," says Shaw. "She's really inspired me to get where I am. She told me that everything comes from the heart, and you should really listen to your heart when it comes time to make a decision." Shaw began playing classical violin when she was 4 years old and was 8 when she followed her heart into Cajun music, which she prefers because "it's dance music that gets people singing." Besides taking the stage at the Arena, highlights in Shaw's career to date include repeat appearances on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and at major festivals -- RollingStone.com reported she "left mouths agape at the Kids' Tent" at Jazz Fest. Last year, Shaw received the Cajun French Music Association's "New Dawn" award, and she released her first CD, Little Black Dog. Her secrets to being a working musician? First, get your homework done as well and as fast as possible. But even more important, have fun. "However you're feeling comes out in the music," says Shaw. "If you woke up grumpy and you're running late, the audience can tell. But if you're having fun, that's what will help you connect."
|Photo courtesy New Orleans Saints|
Sammy Knight, 27
New Orleans Saints' strong safety
Every Sunday during football season, New Orleans Saints safety Sammy Knight brings joy to Saints fans. It's hard not to root for a guy who was an undrafted free agent and immediately made an impact with the Saints during his 1997 rookie season, snagging five interceptions and becoming a cornerstone of the Saints defense. In the past six years, Knight has emerged as one of the Saints' leaders, with a heartening blue-collar work ethic and drive. Knight is already ranked third on the Saints' all-time interception chart and is on a pace to become the club's all-time interceptions leader. The rest of the NFL is also recognizing his talent; Knight was a 2001 Pro Bowl selection. Knight has never played for another NFL team, and for the past six years, he's been a year-round all-star with his local charitable efforts. "Stability is a great thing in this league, and I want to give as much of my time as possible back to the New Orleans community," says Knight. He does just that for a variety of organizations, volunteering as a Big Brother, participating in the Thanksgiving food drive for the Dryades YMCA and regularly visiting kids at New Orleans Children's Hospital. He and his wife, Freda, have recently established the Sammy Knight Foundation, benefiting members of churches such as Elysian Fields' Church of Christ. "We're creating scholarships for Christian athletes, starting with six $10,000 scholarships, and we're planning on having football camps, too," he says. New Orleans is fortunate that Knight's work ethic extends beyond the football field.
Karen Bourgeois-Solomon and Keith Bourgeois, 39
Real estate developers
While growing up with his twin sister, Karen, Keith Bourgeois never imagined that they would one day become business partners in a long and varied list of successful real estate ventures. But by combining their talent and a shared market-savvy vision, that's exactly what they have accomplished. "We never had plans to work together," Keith Bourgeois says. "We naturally work well with each other as twins. Karen has a broker's license and handles the inside stuff like design and decorating, and I have a contractor's license and deal with the construction aspects. So, as a team, we work hand in hand. It's worked out really well." Preservation of historic properties is a cornerstone of their formula. The two started off in 1991 when Karen renovated a house in Old Metairie, right at the time when property values in that area began to take off. They earned recognition in 1996 by purchasing and renovating a historic home in Old Metairie that was slated for demolition. "When we do a renovation, we keep in mind the style and the historic nature of the project," Keith says. "We go to great lengths to restore the historic quality of properties." From that initial success in renovations, they would form KB Developments and move on to larger projects in both renovation and new construction. They purchased an abandoned five-acre lot on River Road in Jefferson that was the former home of a plantation and created 26 lots that are now all sold, though construction is not completely finished. In 2001, the brother-and-sister team purchased a warehouse on Lee Circle for a $3 million conversion to loft-style condo units and retail spaces. The diversity of the projects Keith and Karen have delved into shows their grasp of the always-shifting trends of real estate. "You can't lock yourself into one market," Keith says. "Karen and I try to be flexible. You have to be. Whenever there's an opportunity, we jump on it."
Albert Cooper, 30
Visual artist and co-publisher/editor-in-chief, REDDOT: A Visual Arts Magazine
Albert Cooper is all about trajectory. No matter what he does, it seems, something or someone is being uplifted. After he graduated from Xavier University, he created the Emerging Artist Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District. After that, he served three years as the curator for the New Orleans African-American Museum and immediately beefed up their presentation of exhibitions of black artists. Months after that, he reunited with two people from his Xavier days, Wardell Picquet and Cheryl Dejoie-LaCabe, and started REDDOT: A Visual Arts Magazine to help bolster the local arts scene through media exposure. The bimonthly magazine just recently celebrated its first anniversary. "With New Orleans being an arts-and-culture city, there's so much that can be talked about," says Cooper. "There's too much to talk about. So I like to take one special thing, and since my knowledge comes from visual arts, I focus on that." So why the big need to keep moving everything, and everyone, up? "I do find myself in situations where, when I find an opportunity for myself, I want to bring people in with me," he says. "The visual-arts world is very competitive, and there are a lot of closed doors. The thing is, if I can get through, I get more people in with me. So much of art is elitist. But art in New Orleans is the culture of the city. So you want to open the door and open people's minds about art and how it affects our everyday life."
Brad Gordon, 32
Owner, Bayou Bagelry chain
When Brad Gordon attended Tulane University in the late 1980s, he loved everything about New Orleans and its extensive dining options, but he noticed one glaring omission: nowhere could you get a big, fresh, chewy bagel like the ones he grew up on in his native New York. When he graduated in 1992, Gordon went back north to investigate bagel stores, "everything from national chains to mom-and-pops." He trained at a shop in Long Island that he thought had the best bagels around and brought the equipment, recipes and know-how back to New Orleans. "I started when I was really young, 22," says Gordon, who opened the first Bayou Bagelry downtown in 1993, offering fresh bagels, flavored cream cheeses, sandwiches and coffee. "I wasn't a franchisee, where I had help from the franchiser. I learned through trial and error and flukes. I've always been interested in food and creativity, and all the recipes we do were made from scratch; all our ingredients are shipped in from New York, St. Louis, Chicago. Everything in there is the best quality ingredients we can use." Gordon started adding more and more products, but soon learned the key to success was simplicity. He cut down on the types of cream cheeses and coffees he offered, sticking to a handful of popular blends. Gordon has since opened four more Bayou Bagelry locations in New Orleans and Metairie, with plans for further expansion. He also supplies bagels in bulk to coffee shops, schools, hospitals and hotels. "I usually work, like, seven days a week!" he says. "I try to go to every location every day. The owner has to pass through there or things aren't going to function the way you want them to function."
Dr. Nicole Celentano, 32
Psychologist and director of New Orleans Center for Eating Disorders
Helping people come to terms with their shape and refocusing attention on the body's function and health rather than its subjective beauty are what Dr. Nicole Celentano does best. In addition to a private practice in New Orleans that specializes in treating young people for eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, depression and relationship issues, she is opening two outpatient clinics on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain to help youngsters adopt healthier behaviors. When she first began in the field, there was more pressure on women than men to be "beautiful" and obtain the optimum, often too-thin, image portrayed in the media, she says. That is changing, with men also feeling more pressure about their looks, and Blume hopes to help youngsters develop a healthy self-image before they fall prey to eating disorders and depression. "Education is really, really important," says Blume. "I lecture at a lot of the local schools and try to catch kids early on. We talk a lot about bodies, how they change at certain times and how we're all different. We try to instill body acceptance early on." Such intervention is gratifying, but Blume spends most of her time trying to help people who already have developed unhealthy habits and conditions. Her new clinics seek to provide comprehensive treatment on a schedule that allows patients to lead regular lives instead of being admitted to an intensive, inpatient program. "Unfortunately, eating disorders are such chronic illnesses -- about 20 percent of people who get them die from them -- that my job is heavy-duty in that respect," she says. "But I really like the people I work with, and it's worth it if you can make even a little difference in their lives."
Irvin Mayfield, 24
Trumpeter and composer
At the tender age of 24, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield has already co-founded the immensely popular Latin-influenced jazz band Los Hombres Calientes, earned a Grammy nomination, and was recently voted "Trumpeter Deserving Wider Recognition" in Down Beat magazine's annual critic's poll. With Los Hombres and as a solo artist, Mayfield has recorded nine CDs, with two new albums slated for 2003. Musical talent and ambition aside, Mayfield is now tackling his most ambitious project, as Dillard University's director of the Institute of Jazz Culture. "The program is made so it's part of the core curriculum at Dillard," says Mayfield. "Jazz is more than just music; there's jazz poetry, jazz art, jazz literature and jazz photography, and this program is made so every student has a jazz experience at Dillard." Mayfield's mission, on the bandstand and in academia, is keeping New Orleans' musical roots at the forefront of his endeavors. "Jazz came up through the brothels and swamps and streets, and I want it to have that downhome feeling," he says. His proudest moments came when he accomplished that goal in his international travels. "(Percussionist) Bill (Summers) and I went to Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Jamaica to record our new album, and there's no greater recognition than to stand in a house in Haiti, and they brought us food and welcomed us, and refused to take our money. They wanted to share their culture and learn about our culture. That type of cultural exchange is amazing, when you can bring New Orleans' downhome flavor around the world."
Tracy Ewell, 28
Makeup Artist and Owner, Tracy Ewell Cosmetics and Skincare
As a photography and ceramics student in college, Tracy Ewell wasn't sure what she wanted to pursue when she graduated. She was working as a receptionist in a hair salon, though, and every once in a while, one of the managers would ask her to touch up a client's makeup. "The owners were like, 'When are you going to go to hair school?' And I said, 'Never. When you cut someone's hair, it's permanent -- makeup you can wash off!'" Ewell says with a laugh. After a few stints behind makeup counters at Barney's of New York and Nordstrom's in Seattle, Ewell landed the manager's position at Make Up Art, the Uptown shop that offers high-end cosmetics, makeup applications and lessons. Earlier this year, she opened her own cosmetics boutique inside the Mimi clothing store on Magazine Street. "When I opened my own store, I went to New York and went shopping as an artist, thinking 'What would I like? What would I use?' I was looking for makeup that's good for you, that has ingredients that are going to help your skin," she says. "And I had to find lines that are backed by a working artist -- still owned by them, and not corporate." Since then she's served as makeup artist for high-profile clients including Self and Bon Appetit magazines. She's worked on fashion shoots for almost every publication in New Orleans, plus a music video for the rapper Tre 8. "It's so different from working on regular women -- models have to wear a lot of makeup to make it look like they're not wearing any, and I have to understand the complexities of the face. That's where my ceramics background comes in, because a face is not a flat canvas -- it's a three-dimensional canvas. So the art background really helps."
Barry P. Edwards, 37
Founder and President, Creative Presentations Inc.
Barry Edwards is fond of quoting Albert Einstein when explaining the path to his current success: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Despite a proven track record as a computer and software salesman, Edwards was forced by the economic recession of the early '90s to search for something new. "I thought, 'There's gotta be another answer here,'" Edwards says. "I started praying and asked God for wisdom. It hit me one morning; I realized I would work at home and sell audio-visual equipment." Taking what he describes as a "leap of faith," Edwards took the entire savings he and his wife, Susan, were holding for their first child and started what would become Creative Presentations. As the only employee, Edwards wore many hats, including answering the phones -- which he did in a disguised voice; when the call was for him, he'd place the caller on hold before returning with his normal voice. The hard work paid off, as Creative Presentations now boasts 35 employees; sales have increased from $180,000 in 1990 to more than $11 million in 2001. Edwards forecasts a bright future, with the company changing with technology into a concentration on visual communications. "Video conferencing has a good opportunity to take off right now because customers need it and they don't know it," Edwards says. "It allows them to travel less and save money. You watch television and talk with someone, live, anywhere around the world. It's incredible. So we're back to where we were 10 years ago. It's another opportunity to pioneer a need."
Corey Hebert, 32
As a medical student, Corey Hebert felt certain of two things: he wanted to go into pediatrics, and he wanted to come home to Louisiana. "I never liked working with adults. None of children's problems are self-inflicted; they're all victims," says Hebert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Tulane University and director of pediatrics for the Excelth Inc. health network. "And New Orleans had such a bad reputation, with the crime and poverty, I thought I would be valuable here." Though Hebert has been on medical missions to Third World countries and underserved rural areas, he's focusing on New Orleans as his main battlefield for fighting the conditions that create poor health. His association with Excelth, which operates community clinics serving mostly Medicaid patients, gives Hebert the chance to be "out there on the front lines." He also hosts the cable show Urban Pediatrics, aimed at giving parents advice in an approachable style they can understand. Hebert, who was the first African-American chief resident of Tulane's pediatrics department and the first African-American chairman of the Louisiana State Medical Society's resident section, feels obligated to reach out and connect with urban youth. "It's not just health, it's how to stay out of trouble," he says. "My job is to keep you intellectually and physically and socially healthy, so you can do the things you want to do when you're old enough to do it."
Louise Fergusson, 29
Executive Director, Save Our Cemeteries
Louise Fergusson became aware of New Orleans' above-ground cemeteries as a child, visiting her family tomb at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. But it wasn't until after she started working at Save Our Cemeteries (SOC) that she became passionate about them. With a background in archaeology, Fergusson was hired in 1996 as assistant to the director. "It was the beginning of the organization's endeavor into paid staff, and there was a lot to do," she recalls. "I was learning exactly what a nonprofit was." Since her promotion to executive director in 1997, Fergusson has been behind some of SOC's biggest achievements. Last year, SOC received its largest grant ever -- $150,000 from the federal Save America's Treasures program. She has worked closely with city and state governments, annually encourages the public to visit and clean up the graveyards on All Saints' Day, and helped the SOC partner with universities to teach student interns about grave restoration techniques. "We've put a tremendous focus on education, because you can't do the restoration and preservation work if people don't understand why it needs to be done," she says. "We've not only educated members of the community, but national preservationists are realizing that New Orleans cemeteries should be considered landmarks." Her main hobby also involves preservation of another kind: that of her Scottish heritage. Fergusson is a certified Highland dance instructor and serves on the board of New Orleans' Caledonian Society, founded by her parents in 1970. "It's something I just love," she says of her Scottish heritage activities, which involve organizing the annual Highland Games in Jackson, La. "This is something I would never let go of."
Van Gallinghouse, 39
President, Keating Magee Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations
New Orleans native Van Gallinghouse is one busy bee. And nowhere is that fact more evident than in "Get Buzzin'," the signature ad campaign that helped move the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans. "The Hornets account was the most stimulating client relationship that I have ever had," says Gallinghouse. "There was such a David-and-Goliath aspect to bringing the team to New Orleans ... It played to my strength, which is focusing energy on a task. This campaign was multi-faceted and had such an accent on the city of New Orleans and this economic development renaissance going on in the city." In his creative ad work, Gallinghouse is a renaissance man himself. After graduating from Loyola University, he worked at WWL-TV and in 1990 formed his own company, Gallinghouse Gregory & Associates. In 1998, Gallinghouse joined Keating Magee, bringing with him a diverse list of clients that included the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, Computer Associates International, and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Between working on his accounts, Gallinghouse also co-founded the New Year Coalition to reduce holiday gunfire, served on the Louisiana/HIV Planning Committee, and is currently on the board of the American Lung Association of Louisiana. His long list of social service and public-health related clients (including the Legacy Organ & Tissue Donor Foundation, and United Way of New Orleans) is a testament to his belief that advertising can make a positive impact in the community. "With all respect to selling widgets, my job resonates more when you're talking about people's lives. It sounds sappy, but it's meaningful when we have success stories built around public health issues and have an impact through campaigns that help do things like deliver a healthy baby through maternal and child health promotion."
Dane Ciolino, 38
Dane Ciolino is focused on legal ethics. He teaches it at Loyola University Law School, where he's been a full-time professor since 1995. Lately, as part of a Louisiana Bar Association committee, he's been helping to rewrite the rules of conduct for this state's lawyers. He also serves as a hearing-committee chairperson on the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. Within the past few years, Ciolino has twice brought suit on behalf of the citizens of Louisiana. First he sued the Louisiana Bar admissions committee in order to make that process more fair. (They made changes as a result.) Then he sued the state's tobacco lawyers because he thought their $575 million fee was unreasonable. (The resulting settlement is sealed, so he can't say anything about it except that it "was in the public interest.") All this work fits together philosophically, he says. "Basically, what I spend most of my time doing is trying to improve the legal profession. At the front end, through teaching students ethics and through being involved with educational programs for existing lawyers. And then at the back end by weeding out unethical lawyers on the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. It's kind of a weed and seed effort, trying to weed out the bad lawyers and to make the young lawyers coming into practice more aware about ethical issues."
Courtney Egan, 36
Courtney Egan has been called New Orleans' most important video maker working today. That's no small boast considering the wealth of burgeoning young talent in the city, but the great thing about Egan is how she passes on her talent to an even younger generation with her work as instructor in the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts' media arts program. Additionally, she was the first teacher of the award-winning New Orleans Video Access Center's Teen Video Workshop, with participants' work screening at 32 film festivals, including Sundance, and one student even earning an Oscar nomination in the student division. Last year, Egan made a presentation on the workshop to the National Council of the Arts in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the National Endowment for the Arts. "It's a very expressive medium, one that kids have more access to, and one they have to understand to view TV critically," Egan says. "Everything created on the screen is an illusion. Even the news can be illusory. I want to make them understand that at a young age." As challenging as her teaching projects have been, Egan keeps working on her many filmmaking projects, including her series of video collages, Chaos Hags. "I use a traditional collage method but apply it to video," she says. "I wanted to cut out different body parts of different female stars, Frankenstein-style, to create some Superwoman. It allowed me to explore different emotions and conflicting feelings at same time. Video lets me access that and lets me explore my emotions."
Dominique Macquet, 36
Executive Chef/Partner, Dominique's
Tell Dominique Macquet about Esquire calling him one of the 12 chefs to "keep your eye on" in 1996. Or how a year later the same magazine dubbed Macquet's namesake restaurant (in its debut year) one of the "Top 20 Best New Restaurants." Or mention the honors from Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator. Or you could remind him that he cooked for President George W. Bush earlier this year. All that's great, he'll say; now if you'll excuse me, I've got a meal to prepare and businesses to run. "For me, if people write about me, it's good," says the native of Mauritius, before the caveat: "I always look beyond that. I believe that I shouldn't believe what they write about me; otherwise it will go to my head. You're only as good as your last plate." Macquet has served up plates in such exotic locations as South Africa, the Queen Elizabeth II, the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and, upon his arrival in New Orleans in 1992, The Bistro at Maison de Ville. After eating one of his Bistro meals in 1997, the owners of the Maison Dupuy virtually gave him carte blanche in helping to open Dominique's. His ascendance has included the 2000 cookbook, Dominique's Fresh Flavors, and Macquet recently started his own salt-import business, Dominique's Fleur de Sel. His most recent project? Making French cuisine for accessible. The answer? Cotton candy. "We've got a flavor for every day!" he says, as he shows off the machine he recently purchased. When diners are finished with dessert, he runs out a glass tube of the stuff, and the diners (kids, especially) go wild. "I want to bring fun into dining again."
Lisa K. Blume, 35
Chief Financial Officer, Ochsner Health Plan
Hard work, learning all you can and bright business savvy are among the work ethics that helped Lisa Blume rise from an accountant at a fledgling Ochsner Health Plan (OHP) to the chief financial officer who helped guide it from a red-ink disaster into financial health. A UNO graduate, Blume started as senior accountant at OHP in 1994, earning a promotion to accounting manager a year later, director of finance in 1997, controller in '99 and senior vice president and CFO in 2000 under turnaround specialist Chief Executive Officer Terry Schilling. OHP, which at that point had sunk to a deficit of $23 million, last year realized more than $500 million in revenues. "I moved up quickly, but I think it was hard work," Blume says. "When I joined Ochsner Health Plan, it was nothing for me to work 10 to 12 hours a day, but I came here with no health care experience and I decided I was going to learn everything I could." That included studying things like underwriting, which wasn't part of her job but helped her understand the overall system. Although she credits Schilling with turning the economic tide for Ochsner, Blume helped guide the health plan through the perilous waters of trying to keep customers while asking them to increase what they pay for medical coverage. She also kept the OHP workforce intact and producing efficiently throughout the changes. "Part of (the secret) is knowing how to work with people in the organization, knowing how to treat people and knowing how to get the best out of people. Sometimes the leadership skills are as important as the technical skills."
Dane Rhodes, 38
Actor, director, producer
In the local theater scene, Dane Rhodes enjoys many roles. His recent run in the musical comedy hit Anything Goes at Le Petit Theatre and an upcoming role as a "maniacal, Mafia murderer" in the Ricky Graham-produced farce The Ritz might point to a strong leaning toward comedy. But that's just one medium in which the actor, director and producer operates. "My intent was to come down here and teach theater at Tulane," says Rhodes, who moved here eight years ago and specializes in what he calls contemporary American drama. "But then I decided there are people better suited for that than myself. It was more my calling to be in the active arts." From that point, Rhodes formed the Sandi Rhodes Theater Company with partner Sandi Bravendar. One popular creation spawned from this partnership is Joey and Mary's Irish/Italian Wedding, a long-running comedy staged locally at Carlone's. Rhodes' other directing and producing credits include the acclaimed Hurlyburly and the current Queen of Bingo. He also helped spearhead the Shakespeare on Trial series, a unique vision created with partners Michael Sullivan and Kara Hadigan that every week puts a Shakespearean character on trial for crimes committed in their various plots. In the works is Torch Song Trilogy, which Rhodes will direct and produce at Le Chat Noir in May. Despite the long list of director and producer credits, acting remains his passion. "It's a little more moment to moment," he says. "With acting, you need a continual creativity every night to somehow make it all work again. For me, that's more of a challenge."
Gary Lazarus, 27
Camp Dream Street Mississippi
Gary Lazarus, a New Orleans native, started volunteering at Camp Dream Street Mississippi when he was only in high school. The weeklong camp in Utica was founded 27 years ago for kids with cerebral palsy and spinal bifida. Campers range in age between ages 8 and 14 and come from states all along the Gulf Coast and from as far away as Florida. Lazarus is now the executive director of the camp. It's a volunteer position, but it pays richly in other ways, he says. "It's a pretty inspirational thing to see a child who is paralyzed below the waist and can climb a 50-foot Alpine-tower ropes course. To watch a child with no legs jump off a diving board into a pool without any fear. To see campers learn things about themselves and surprise themselves." Often the counselors are also surprising themselves, says Lazarus, with what they have helped a camper accomplish. "If that camper has learned to tie his shoes for the first time, or brush his teeth or get dressed for the first time by himself, that's something that a camper is going to take with them. Everyday, for the rest of their lives, they're going to tie their shoes on their own and know that they learned that from this counselor." Lazarus's day job is project manager and marketing director for a third-generation family business called Goliath Construction. "I've had several opportunities to leave for other career opportunities. Being part of the family business is my way of staying in New Orleans. I'm a New Orleanian by choice."
Rachel Kincaid, 34
Director of Federal Affairs and Assistant to the Chancellor, University of New Orleans
As UNO's director of federal affairs and an assistant to the chancellor, Rachel Kincaid plays a number of vital roles that help the university -- and as a result, all of New Orleans -- grow and prosper. To her, the two are inseparable in that regard. "Urban universities are beginning to rethink what it is they offer their community," Kincaid says, referring to her role as UNO's liasion to the Coalition for the Great Cities' Universities Consortium, a collection of 17 urban universities. "They now realize that they are the economic development engines for that city. Not only do we provide a quality education, we also create jobs." Kincaid, who is also currently enrolled in UNO's Executive MBA program, has been able to view UNO's economic impact first-hand in recent years. Managing the school's institutional relationship with New Orleans' congressional delegation, she played a crucial part in securing funding for the UNO-Northrop Grumman Partnership, which has resulted in creating the Maritime Technology Center for Excellence in Avondale. Federal funding and support has also helped to establish the UNO Research and Technology Park, which boasts high-paying jobs for college graduates, and the Advanced Materials Research Institute, which is on the forefront on biotechnology. In partnering with the LSU Health Sciences Center, the UNO entity is now producing a chemotherapy treatment that is delivered only to the area of the body stricken with cancer, a significant medical breakthrough. Such progress, Kincaid feels, is her job's reward. "(The chemotherapy treatment) is just another one of the differences the university makes in our everyday lives," she says. "That makes you feel good when you go home at night."
Brian Greene, 39
Executive Director, Second Harvesters Food Bank
Brian Greene was overloaded this last week, dealing with emergency-response teams for Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Lili. Greene is the executive director of the Second Harvesters Food Bank, which, on normal weeks, distributes food to disadvantaged people in 23 southern Louisiana parishes and two counties in Mississippi. "These communities are far more devastated than people realize," he says. "All the food that we've sent out so far -- we've probably have sent out a couple hundred thousand pounds -- just gets sucked up immediately." Still, a number of the affected cities have received very little, if any, food, and so he's currently trying to arrange the logistics, always the most difficult part of disaster relief, he says. At this point, Second Harvesters distributes more than 13.9 million pounds of food each year. That's three times the amount it was distributing nine years ago, when Brian Greene first took the reins of the organization. Greene also started a number of popular programs, including the Mobile Pantry foodshelf-on-wheels; the Kids Cafe, an evening meal and educational program; and Second Helpings, which distributes prepared and perishable foods from the convention center, hotels and restaurants.
Robert Nelson, 32
President, Elmer's Candy
Robert Nelson grew up in the family-run business which is now the nation's No. 2 producer of Valentine's Day heart box chocolates in the nation -- and growing. Nelson was, in fact, as happy as a kid in the candy store. "I thought it was normal to have cases of candy in the house," Nelson says. "I thought it was very interesting how the Easter bunny always brought Elmer's." Some of his earliest memories include visiting the aromatic chocolate manufacturing plant in downtown New Orleans, which was established in 1853 then moved to Ponchatoula in 1970. As a youth, he would get up at 5 a.m. on Good Friday to help load trucks with Elmer's Gold Brick eggs and Heavenly Hash destined for Easter baskets nationwide. Nelson earned a master's degree in business administration from Tulane University and has put his education to work expanding Elmer's, which now employs 250 people. Under Nelson's direction, Elmer's recently won state approval for a $5 million bond issue which will allow the candy-maker to expand its refrigerated warehouse and shipping plant by 77,000 square feet. Nelson puts special emphasis on the importance of being a good corporate citizen. Elmer's supports other Louisiana businesses by using Louisiana products, such as sugar and pecans. The company also donated the land and helped build the town library and recently contributed more than $120,000 for its expansion. Unlike many industrial plants, Nelson takes pride in the way his factory smells to passerby -- especially when fudge is being made. Still, Nelson says, he seldom goes to social functions straight from work. "If I do, people will say, 'Hey, you smell like chocolate.'"
Kerry Chausmer, 32
Louisiana Safe Kids
Since 1994, Kerry Chausmer has headed up Louisiana Safe Kids, the only statewide program dedicated to preventing unintentional injuries in children from birth to 14 years of age. Most of us would call them "accidents." Chausmer calls them "preventable injuries." Prevention is behind everything Safe Kids does, she says. "Things like how to keep kids safe in the car and home, pedestrian and bike safety." Last year, she lobbied successfully for a mandatory bike-helmet law for children; it took effect March 1st for all kids under 11 riding on a public road. Car crashes are the number-one killer of children, notes Chausmer, and the effects of collisions are often complicated by incorrectly installed infant and child car seats. So Chausmer spends a lot of her time checking those seats. To correctly check a car seat takes at least 30 minutes, she says. "We make sure that it's free from any kind of recall or defect and that it's installed correctly in the vehicle." Given a chance, Chausmer can discuss countless variables in car seats, seat belts, car models and child size. That's partly because she's spent hours upon hours checking car seats and partly because she has taken a 32-hour standardized course in the topic. In Chausmer's case, it's also possible that a tendency for car safety is imbedded in her family DNA. "My dad had a little Beetle before I was born," she explains. "And it didn't come with seat belts, so he actually put in airplane harnesses because it was a convertible. And he ended up flipping it, so that saved him and his sister." She adds, "It's not like I've always been some weird safety freak or something. But I'm pretty sure that everybody can think of somebody who was saved by their seat belt."
|Photo courtesy Francisco Gutierrez|
Perfusionist and Founder of Heart of the Americas
Francisco Gutierrez didn't come to the United States expecting to start an international nonprofit. When he arrived in America from Nicaragua more than 20 years ago, it was to join siblings and attend college at Louisiana State University. Eight years ago, though, Gutierrez's father developed a heart condition called mitral valve insufficiency, which in America can be corrected with a fairly common procedure. But in Nicaragua, where cardiac care was practically nonexistent, the disease killed him. That's when Gutierrez came up with "Heart of the Americas," founded in 1999 to bring advanced cardiac care to indigent Latin populations who desperately need it. A perfusionist -- the professional who operates heart-lung equipment during open-heart surgery -- Gutierrez knew cardiac doctors, nurses and other staff in both the U.S. and Nicaragua. The organization has completed five week-long missions to Nicaragua, which require about 17 U.S. professionals donating their time and resources to work with Latin American medical personnel. Each trip, they complete an average of 12 surgeries and 50 procedures such as angioplasties and pacemaker placement. The organization's main objective is to offer training and equipment to cardiac specialists in Latin America. "That's our goal -- to train them and give the tools to the people so eventually they'll do it themselves. They're very eager to learn, and they're getting it," Gutierrez says. "Three cases were all done by the medical personnel in Nicaragua on the last trip. We're getting there."
Tammy Carnaggio-Kern, 39
Founder and CEO, Paper Doll Promotions
As head of Paper Doll Promotions, which turns regular parties into outrageous extravaganzas, Tammy Kern's days at the office are anything but ordinary. "Any day you could have an Uptown model, next to a juggler, next to a tarot-card reader, next to a fire performer, next to a clown," Kern says. She began Paper Doll in 1986, as a Loyola University theater student. "I wanted to do something connected to fashion or theater, and I couldn't figure out what I could do and still stay in New Orleans. I was going to Mardi Gras balls and events like that, and I thought it would be a good idea to start designing costumes and hiring my friends who were models to meet and greet at the door. Then I began hiring actors and variety entertainers. I started not knowing it was going to become a company!" Kern's work varies from providing models for fashion shows and conventions to stocking parties with psychic readers, circus performers or entertainers clad in any of the 1,000-plus costumes she designed. Clients have included such giants as the NFL, the Atlanta Olympics, Disney, Microsoft and Coca Cola. Kern -- whose husband and occasional client is Mardi Gras Productions owner Blaine Kern Jr. -- says her most creative moments come when clients hand her the reins. "I like it when clients give me the freedom to create the theme," she says. "Sometimes they'll say 'We're doing a blue party; make it happen.' Or, 'The theme is The Elements; make it happen.' That's when we do a great job. You don't want to let someone down when they give you that much freedom -- you've got to shine for them."
Robbie Vitrano, 39, and Pat McGuinness, 37
Founders of Trumpet LLC
Trumpeting the strengths and possibilities of New Orleans and harmoniously heralding the entrepreneurial spirit of companies are the personal and professional goals upon which Pat McGuiness and Robbie Vitrano founded a local advertising agency in 1997. In just five years, the co-creative directors have taken Trumpet LLC from a company with a handful of employees to a nationally recognized firm with a workforce of dozens and a second office in New York. Despite its growth and prominence on the national scene, Trumpet has remained based in New Orleans -- it's the second-largest ad agency in the state -- and takes an active role in promoting and developing the business base of the city. "The position for the company is to showcase the potential of a creative company, built from New Orleans DNA, as a means of economic and social development," says Vitrano. "One of the things we're most proud of is we're doing it from New Orleans. We're national in focus -- about 40 percent of our business is from outside -- but we believe in the potential of this city." Trumpet has earned a host of accolades from business and professional organizations and the media, and its client list includes Pan American Life, Cox Communications, Tenet Healthsystems and Entergy. The firm takes a holistic approach in helping a company to not only communicate its philosophy to consumers but live by it as well. "It's about ideas that help companies grow," McGuiness says. "We make sure that what they create lines up with the total ethos." Trumpet also notes the strengths of New Orleans as a business and to that end, Vitrano helped found the nonprofit group Idea Village, which seeks to develop a world-class entrepreneurial community in the city by helping early-stage start-up businesses. "We want to build the sense that New Orleans is an entrepreneurial city," he says. "The group has been working for about four years ... and now it has gotten to be something that people can point to as an illustration of future leaders working together for New Orleans. I'm proud to be a part of that." The partners agree that part of any company's success is believing in its overall goal. "The nature of a creative company has a lot to do with how true you are to your internal beliefs," Vitrano says. "The people we work with are those who are trying to build organic companies inside and out. Consumers really appreciate that. It gives them a sense of purpose. There's something very powerful about a person on a mission."
Scott Hutcheson, 38
Director of Operations, Arts Council of New Orleans
Scott Hutcheson has been a cello player and stage actor, but insists that his rightful place in the creative arts is in the seats. "I'm a good audience member," he says with a laugh. "I appreciate it, although I can't do it. I appreciate the work that goes into it." Not that he minds his role outside the spotlight. Hutcheson, who had directed arts councils in Ruston and Lake Charles, found himself in a new position at New Orleans' Arts Council in 1996 with a daunting, yet exhilarating challenge: to help make a reality of the proposed "Louisiana ArtWorks." The unique $15 million-plus "arts incubator" would let the public view resident artists working in a variety of media and also purchase their creations. The downtown facility, slated for completion by the end of 2003, is projected to create more than 150 jobs and have a total annual economic impact of $74 million. "It's a pleasure to come to work and do this," Hutcheson says. "There are people who are artists -- it's in them, it's what they do -- and there are people who are created to push papers and plan things and be an organizer and study reports -- and that's me. I like that." Besides his key role for the ArtWorks, Hutcheson is committed to helping the general public get in touch with art. "We can help so many people in so many ways, and we do it every day," he says. "It can be something as small as someone calling us to ask who designed the sculpture in front of the LL&E building, to someone telling us 'I have this wonderful project and I need advice about fundraising.' There's always something we're able to do that's positive."
Blake Haney, 27
Owner, Whence: the Studio, and Founder, New Breed New Orleans
For Blake Haney, it's not enough to own an innovative, successful business. He's got his mind on larger matters -- like starting a revolution. The achievements of Whence: the Studio, the marketing agency that Haney began last fall, would make any businessman proud; Whence won three ADDY honors and works for progressive individuals, nonprofits and businesses. But it's New Breed New Orleans that Haney really wants to discuss. Haney calls New Breed -- a collective that promotes positive action in New Orleans -- a "grassroots idea village." The nonprofit thrives via public gatherings, forums and its Web site, www.newbreedneworleans.com -- all of which unite people committed to change in New Orleans' business and social climates. "We can create technology in New Orleans and make it a more connected city, and market New Orleans to cultural creatives: people who love authenticity, who love experimental stuff, who don't like to be mass-marketed to. That's what New Orleans is all about," Haney says. "And we will have created some sort of momentum for change, and people will see that, and they're going to start moving here." About 250 people appeared at the first gathering in August to hear speaker Tim Sanders, author and chief solutions officer at Yahoo!. New Breed also hosted a district attorneys' forum, and more events are in the works. Haney says New Breed and Whence operate under the philosophy that the more radical the idea, the better. Haney passionately fosters the notion that even the most negative-seeming situations can be turned into opportunities. "Like the education system in the city -- it's so completely broken down that you can come in with revolutionary new approaches to education and implement them in New Orleans because nothing else is working," Haney says. "And you suddenly set the groundwork for the rest of the country to follow us as an example."
Louis Malcolm Hutson III, 17
Louis Malcolm Hutson III (he goes by Malcolm) wasn't trying to trying to win a trip to Washington or win a $10,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. But that's exactly what this Mandeville High School student ended up with. When he sat down at the computer, he was "just playing around." More specifically, he was trying to figure out why certain databases end up in "collisions," where two sets of data overlap each other and create an error. Hutson wound up with the intimidating-sounding project, "Hashing Algorithms: An Evolutionary Approach." An algorithm is simply a procedure that solves a problem. Hashing a database, like hashing a potato, divides it into smaller bits to give the program some short cuts. To this, Hutson added evolution. He explains. "My program will take a math equation and evolve it like a living creature. It'll develop the fastest-possible hashing algorithms for your data." Hutson's second love is music -- alto saxophone in jazz band and French horn in wind ensemble (mellophone for marching band). Music and math are related, he says, because "it takes creativity to see through these problems and see creative answers." Nothing is more satisfying than a problem solved. Last week, on the way to church, Hutson heard this puzzle on National Public Radio. "Write out the digits 1 through 9 in order, then add some plus signs and some multiplication signs to the string to make it add up to 2002." All through the church service, he says, "I was listening, but I was also running a program in my head, thinking 'will this work?'" It did, after 4,000 runs. "Here's the kicker," he reports joyfully. "They said the answer is unique. But I found two answers."
Claudelle Vallette, 38
CEO, Greater New Orleans YMCA
Last year, in a YMCA staff session, then-CEO Mary Zoller said that chief financial officer Claudelle Vallette was exactly what the Y needed -- "an accountant who 'gets' the mission, too." Then Zoller resigned. In January, the Y board asked Vallette to become acting CEO. She accepted, knowing that the organization was in serious financial distress. "The problem was that, as an association, our heart was bigger than our pocketbook," she explains. As CEO, Vallette has been able to implement new procedures, like the one about not spending more money than you raise, which the Y had done to the tune of $100,000 the previous year. Things looks much better now, she says. "We've drastically turned around our financial position this year. We are, I would say, 60 percent better than we were last year." The turnaround comes just in time. This year, the Greater New Orleans YMCA is celebrating its 150th birthday and they'll be doing that in much rosier financial health. "We are the sixth-oldest YMCA in the nation," says Vallette. "We want to see 150 more." Thinking that even Y board members need reminding of the organization's importance in the community, Vallette now begins each meeting with community members. The board has heard the stories of people who can now read because of the adult-literacy programs run by Y Educational Services, and they've been sung to by kids who received Y scholarships to summer camps. "When you see these people who have benefited from what we are doing," says Vallette, "it makes you come in the next day and fight."
Tommy Kurtz, 35
Vice-President of Economic Development, MetroVision
"I know that economic development is sort of a buzz word right now," Tommy Kurtz says, "but trust me, it is the word right now." He should know. As the vice president of economic development for MetroVision, Kurtz's leadership comes at a crucial time, when a struggling city and region are beginning to see positive change. "This year has been a pivotal year," Kurtz says, "because people in this region have begun to realize what economic development means and what it can provide. There's new leadership now and a new attitude. Everyone -- the business, civic and political leaders -- is engaged now. We're no longer just reversing the trend of the past few decades, we're moving forward." Kurtz's rapid ascension to his position in a complex, challenging field (he's the youngest certified economic developer in the state) was inspired by his desire to make a living in his hometown. When the Jesuit High School alum left to study at Boston College, Kurtz realized the pitfalls of returning to New Orleans, then reeling from the oil bust. "At that point, I became dedicated to coming back and making a difference," he says. Working in similar roles first for the City of New Orleans and then Entergy, Kurtz was hired by MetroVision in 1999. He has since overseen such crucial victories as securing the Avondale shipyard, landing the Hornets and making economic development the focus of a legislative special session. All this, Kurtz feels, paints a positive picture for the area's economic future. "I'm blessed to have a great staff of professionals around me that are as passionate about New Orleans as I am," he says. "There are a lot of good things happening right now."
Yosheka G. Daniel, 34
Executive Director, Safe Neighborhood Action Plan
The idea behind Safe Neighborhood Action Plan (SNAP) is that crime is best deterred when community residents are empowered and employed, explains Yosheka Daniel. So neighbors in SNAP's eastern New Orleans community take literacy classes, train for jobs, learn computer software, and become first-time homebuyers. Their kids get help with homework. A Gentilly native who received her master's degree in community counseling from George Washington University, Daniel took the reins of SNAP in December of last year. The organization has existed since 1996, one of 16 similar communities in the nation chosen for a special crime prevention initiative led by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Assisted Housing Managers Association. Daniel understands why the SNAP community was chosen. "Nationwide, this is one of the largest communities like this -- a mix of Vietnamese Americans and African Americans," Daniel says. The area also needed a boost; it was experiencing escalating crime, and it faced other challenges, says Daniel. "This part of New Orleans East is considered isolated and lacking in vital resources. We have no libraries, no community centers, no type of public parks." The national housing organizations were also interested in the neighborhood's low income -- a high proportion of its residents qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers. Daniel emphasizes the positive: diversity. Currently, SNAP events feature Vietnamese-American performers and African-American performers -- in separate performances, one after the other. She'd like more. "I'd like to incorporate the two cultures into one performance," she says.
Todd Cranson, 26
Archbishop Shaw High School Band Director
As a high school student at Archbishop Shaw in the early '90s, Todd Cranson never in a million years thought he'd one day join the faculty of his alma mater. But four years ago, the tubist returned to take up the baton as band director of the Marrero school. "When I was in the band, I never imagined music as a career," Cranson says. "I didn't know what I wanted to do." As an undergraduate at LSU, Cranson says the decision to major in music education was made for him by a band director who, fortuitously, would not accept "Undecided" on a transcript; Cranson went on to receive his master's degree from the University of Arkansas and eventually returned to Shaw to take over the band from his former director, an 18-year veteran. But directing the 50-plus member band isn't all Cranson has undertaken. This past summer, he traveled to Italy after winning a national competition to perform as a featured resident solo artist at the prestigious Rome Festival. The festival, governed by the Associazione Rome Festival in Italy and a New York educational charity, gathers musicians from around the world for an intense monthlong musical colloboration, which culminates in a number of symphonic music, opera, ballet and chamber music performances. After Rome, Cranson traveled to Greece to study with Roger Bobo, "probably the most famous name in the world for tuba playing," Cranson says. "There we were, the principal tuba players from the Hong Kong symphony, the Athens symphony ... and the band director from Shaw high school." While Cranson values his experiences for their artistic significance, what he treasures most, he says, is the opportunity to turn around and pass on what he has learned to his high school students.
Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, 34
Even with a microscope, Tulane University associate professor Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede never sees the things she studies -- amino acids, proteins, strands of DNA, and a synthetic DNA mimic called PNA. She is only able to view a "picture" of her subjects through the use of a spectrophotometer, which uses light to detect movement and change. "They are small things," she explains, "but they are very important and can make a very big difference." In order to perform basic tasks like moving muscles and digesting food, your body requires the functions of proteins, which are formed from long chains of amino acids. "And in order to function," says Wittung-Stafshede, "proteins need to fold up into a globular state. It's like when you're knitting and you have a long string that you're winding into a round ball." If folded proteins start to go bad, misfold or open up, that can lead to all sorts of conditions, like Alzheimer's or Huntington's, mad cow disease, or Creutzfeldts-Jacobs. As a result, she says, understanding protein folding may mean a chance to cure these diseases. Wittung-Stafshede, a Swedish native, moved to the United States to follow her love of research. At Tulane, she is the only woman in a department of 15 chemistry professors. That's typical, she says, and so she makes an effort to encourage female chemistry students to make an academic career of it. Wittung-Stafshede is also the founder of a group called the New Orleans Protein Folding Intergroup, made up of eight local college professors (including faculty from Tulane, Xavier, Loyola and UNO) and their students, all of whom work on different areas of protein structure and protein folding.
C.W. Cannon, 36
C.W. Cannon's next book will be a jazz novel called Sleepytime Down South. It's fitting given Cannon's musical studies, which began on the trumpet at McDonough 15 elementary under the direction of Walter Payton. After high school, Cannon spent quite a few years away from New Orleans, earning himself a few diplomas in between hanging out in Berlin and Chicago, waiting tables, tending bar, and writing fiction. He has now returned to his native neighborhood, Faubourg Marigny, and an adjunct professorship in the Xavier University English department; this spring, Cannon became one of the city's newest novelists with the release of Soul Resin (FC2 Press). Publisher's Weekly called the book a "strange and remarkable story, full of authorial extravagance and trickery ... a darkly gothic tale." Cannon explains why New Orleans is a perfect setting for haunted stories like his. "When I was growing up, the city was very dilapidated. And it has some sort of vibe that makes it seem suffused with decay," he says. "So one thing is the prevalence of death. Death is around; life seems cheap. The other side, which may very well be related, is the history of the city. Makes for great ghost stories." Besides, people expect this type of tale from New Orleans, says Cannon. "Because the place that New Orleans holds in the national mythology is a place of the gothic, a place about death and pleasure and the conflation of death and pleasure."
Virginia Parker Saussy, 36
Executive Vice-President, Mignon Faget
Virginia Parker Saussy keeps coming back to what works best for her. After a year of college in Missouri, the Benjamin Franklin grad returned home to attend and graduate from Newcomb College. One of her early gigs out of college was working with Mignon Faget in marketing, but after a stint as a regional marketing director with Verizon Communications, she just had to come back -- again. Now, Saussy is executive vice-president of Mignon Faget. A tireless community volunteer, Saussy helped start the Walk the Beat fundraiser that supports the Police Foundation. She also has served on several boards, including the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, the Contemporary Arts Center and the recently formed Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association. Additionally, Saussy is one of the founding members of the all-female Krewe of Muses. The krewe's emergence has been nothing short of sudden impact, starting two years ago with seven or so women and blossoming into 550 members the first year. They're holding steady at 800 members including 650 riding members. Saussy wears the multiple hats of ritualist, songwriter, and theme and float chairman. "It's so much fun," Saussy says. "It's like a sorority without being silly -- silly, but from an adult's perspective. I do a lot of different projects within the city, and one time I was sitting at Dress for Success, and I realized the women here in this city are amazingly strong. It's changed a lot, and the krewe really shows that. We're a very diverse group of women, and we're really proud of that."
Lt. Cmdr. Scott McCartney, 35
U.S. Coast Guard, Fitness Innovator
Lt. Cmdr. Scott McCartney grew up in the New York City area, spinning records as DJ Sak and dancing on the street. His big brainstorm -- Urban Funk Factory -- started in the Washington, D.C., area. "I was a regular aerobics instructor, but I got bored after about a month and a half of doing it," he recalls. So McCartney tried something new. "I'm just a good old street dancer myself, and I just coupled that with fitness principles. It just really took off there in D.C." Yet McCartney wanted to move beyond the typical health-club clientele, into the community. It was this instinct that pulled him into the schools, a place where he continues to work today. "I always felt that good fitness programs seemed like they were a privilege," he explains. "If people have money, they can pay for a class. But fitness shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right." Nearly three years ago, McCartney was transferred to New Orleans. In recent years, he has started a dance troupe, recorded a video (Hip-Hop Sweat), and continued school visits through his new non-profit, called the Sak Foundation. At Salvation Studio, McCartney offers classes Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons for fees that range between $8 and $11. Eventually, he'd like them to be free. "My dream is to have this class funded where the public can come to it, enjoy it and not have to pay anything," he says.
Kenneth Purcell, 28
President and CEO, iSeatz.com
If anyone personifies the credo "learning by doing," it's Kenneth Purcell. "School was never for me," says Purcell, the president and CEO of iSeatz.com. "I worked my way through college; I took a semester off to extend my internship with a start-up company ... My philosophy has always been to try and have an impact wherever I am. And the biggest impact I could make would be going to work for a small company where my decisions were critical." In 1999 Purcell co-founded iSeatz, the largest and fastest-growing online restaurant reservation provider in the country. "It seemed like this was a missing component of Internet services. You could look at information about restaurants online, but you couldn't make reservations, so there was no source for one-stop shopping." With chef profiles, menus, reviews and more, iSeatz is a foodie's nirvana -- a way to find great restaurants in dozens of cities and book an instant reservation. Recently, iSeatz pulled off the coup of partnering with such powerhouse sites as Travelocity.com, CitySearch.com, Expedia.com and Ticketmaster. Where other online reservation services floundered and flopped, iSeatz has thrived. Purcell gives the credit to a dedicated team of about 15 iSeatz employees. "We stayed really lean," he says. "We kept our costs low, and we tried to constantly increase our revenues so we didn't need as much venture capital as our competitors." Purcell, who recently competed in his first triathlon, says his future might hold a teaching gig at the MBA level -- but not anytime soon. "I wouldn't trade this for anything," he says, "except being a rock star."