Who's Who 2010
Our annual guide to the Memphis names (and faces) you need to know.
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Appointed in 2009 as superintendent of Shelby County Schools, the fourth-largest school system in Tennessee. Has held several positions with the system in his 26-year career, including teacher, principal, and administrator. During his 11-year tenure as Houston High principal, the school developed a reputation for academic excellence, its fine arts program gained state and national recognition, and it won "Best of the Preps" award in athletics for 10 straight years. While at Houston, Aitken was named 2008 State Principal of the Year by the Parent Teacher Student Association, Administrator of the Year by the Tennessee Association of Student Councils, and received the A.F. Bridges Award for Principal of the Year. Holds bachelor's degree from Henderson State University and master's from the University of Memphis. Oversees a system with more than 47,000 students, 52 schools, and a $358 million budget. The county school system is one of three of Tennessee's 136 systems to make all "A's" on the last three Tennessee Report Cards.
The "Cadillac Cowgirl," well-known singer and songwriter. Nominated more than a dozen times in the songwriting, female vocalist, and community service categories of the Premier Player Awards, and was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition in 2002 and 2003. Has appeared in movies and videos with Harvey Keitel and Bridget Fonda. At one time was endorsed by Gibson Guitars, played drums with bluesman great Willie Cobbs, and served a memorable stint as the Tennessee Triple Threat with Duane Jarvis and Phil Lee. Has sung backup on stage or in the studio with Todd Snider, Keith Sykes, Mark Lindsay, Reba Russell, Barbara Blue, Jay Ruffin, Wanda Jackson, and Cory Branan. A deejay on WEVL in Memphis, her Monday-afternoon drive show CarTunes has been on the air since 1996. Newest record, Shine, was recorded at Sun Studios and went to #25 on the National Americana Chart.
CEO of Saint Francis Healthcare with responsibility for Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis and Bartlett, as well as the system's ambulatory surgery center, five sports medicine and rehabilitation centers, and a senior health-care center. Also serves as president and CEO of Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis. Earned a bachelor's degree in management from Purdue, a master's in business administration from Columbia, and a master's in public health from Columbia. Sits on the boards of the Mid-South eHealth Alliance, the Tennessee Alzheimer's Association, St. Louis Church Parish Council and St. Louis School Board, and the Hospital Wing (Memphis Medical Center Air Ambulance Service, Inc.).
President and CEO, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Has been with hospital since 2007. Helped oversee Le Bonheur's $100 million fund-raising campaign and completion of a new $340 million hospital. Received the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions Advocacy Award in 2008. Named Communicator of the Year by the Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in 2009. Named YWCA Woman of the Year (Cleveland, Ohio) in 2005, and a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow in 2008. Is also a registered nurse. Board member, Ballet Memphis and the Urban Child Institute. Member, Memphis Women's Forum.
Defense attorney known for tackling high-profile — even notorious — criminal cases. A current client is Thomas Pate, accused of murdering his wife, Micah. Past clients have included Jeffrey Scott, convicted of murdering his wife, a Bolton High School teacher; and Chris Jones, a former sheriff's deputy, convicted of killing a restaurant deejay. Both clients were found guilty of second-degree murder. In 2007, Ballin worked with lead counsel Steve Farese to convince a jury to find Mary Winkler, who killed her preacher husband, guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Partner in downtown law firm of Ballin, Ballin, and Fishman. Lifelong Memphian, earned his juris doctorate from the University of Texas. Has performed pro bono work for Save Libertyland.
President and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a broad-based public-private alliance focusing on the growth of biosciences in the Memphis region. Specializes in developing the infrastructure, work force, research, and entrepreneurship necessary for a thriving bioscience economy. Spearheading the construction of the UT-Baptist Research Park, an urban revitalization project that will consist of 1.2 million square feet of laboratory, research, education, and business space. Previously held executive roles at International Paper and Hewlett Packard, including co-founding of Sparcom Corp., an engineering software company. Holds B.S., Ph.D., and M.B.A. degrees. Co-founded Tennessee's first charter school, the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, targeting inner-city children in grades 6-12.
Publisher, The Daily News Publishing Co., since 2003. Attended Connecticut College and Columbia University. Produces The Daily News, The Memphis News, real estate information service Chandler Reports, and a community newspaper in Nashville, the Westview. Worked in publishing in New York and Connecticut before moving to Memphis. Previously held various positions at Towery Publishing. Author of the novel Shimmer.
Local historian and documentarian. In 1988 founded The Willy Bearden Company, producing films and museum exhibits on such diverse subjects as Horn Island, blues music, the cotton industry, Victorian Village, and the Biloxi lighthouse. Has written and produced several "Memphis Memoirs" documentaries for WKNO-TV on Overton Park, Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis garage bands, and Shelby Farms. Has published illustrated books on Overton Park and the cotton industry as part of Arcadia Press' "Images of America" series. Latest project: the film One Came Home, which he describes as "a realistic story of delivery and redemption." First job: handing out flyers for tiny theater in hometown of Rolling Fork, Mississippi.
Founder and executive director of Streets Ministries, which provides Christian ministry, guidance, after-school activities, and other services to the youth of the housing projects across the city. In neighborhood with easy access to drugs and high rates of teen pregnancy, Streets Ministries provides a safe haven for students at its modern facility on Vance near downtown. Bennett, a graduate of the University of Memphis with a master's degree in counseling, founded Streets in 1987 with little more than a vacant building, a van, and a basketball and goal. The dedication of Bennett and his wife, Debbie, has drawn national media attention. With recent acquisition of land in northeast Memphis, Streets will soon serve diverse community there. In 2010, the organization received $1 million donation from former U of M basketball coach John Calipari.
CHARLES "CHUCK" BRADY
President/CEO of the Memphis Zoo since 2003. Responsible for overseeing all renovations and expansions at the facility since the late 1980s. Active in conservation efforts for various species and currently serves on the boards of the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation and the Jaguar Conservation Fund. Played a key role in negotiations with the Chinese government that brought a pair of giant pandas to the zoo in spring 2003. Holds Ph.D. from Ohio University.
Writer and director of Oscar and Sundance award-winning movie Hustle & Flow, filmed in Memphis; followed it with Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Ricci. Age 36. First garnered national attention with The Poor & Hungry, which won the Best Digital Feature award at the 2000 Hollywood Film Festival and was acquired by the Independent Film Channel. Received the Governor's Award in 2005 from the Tennessee Film Commission for his contributions to the area's film industry. Recently wrapped $5 Cover, a group of webisodes for MTV/Viacom's online and new media division centered around Memphis' rock-and-roll scene. Currently, Brewer is in pre-production on the remake of Footloose for Paramount Pictures. Also developing Mother Trucker, an original screenplay for New Regency Pictures.
Tournament director since 1999 of the St. Jude Classic golf tournament. Managed transition when title-sponsor Stanford Financial fell under government scrutiny in winter of 2009. Oversaw redesign of Southwind's TPC course in 2005; also involved in development of FedEx Cup points system to determine year-end PGA Tour champion. Total purse at 2010 event was $5.6 million. Age 57. Has been part of tournament for more than 40 years. Received 2003 Charles Thornton Distinguished Alumni Award from University of Memphis. Chairman of Germantown Area Chamber of Commerce, 1999.
Upon becoming superintendent of Memphis City Schools in mid-2008 was preoccupied by the continuing dispute, still in litigation, between city, county, and state governments over the issue of funding for MCS. As a result, his first initiatives were relatively modest, though they included innovative approaches to school security and health care. Cash, 55, was previously head of accountability for the Miami/Dade County Public Schools in Florida. The mayor's public disparagement of the applicants was yet another hurdle for the new superintendent to overcome, along with the funding conundrum, the system's history of academic under-achievement, and the unresolved issue of city/county consolidation.
Newly appointed music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The first woman to win the Malko International Conductors Competition (2005), she recently concluded a highly successful tenure as assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. In 2002, was unanimously selected music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, the oldest of its kind and the model for many of the youth orchestras in the United States. During her five-year tenure, she led its sold-out debut in Carnegie Hall, received an ASCAP award for innovative programming, and developed new and unique musicianship programs for the orchestra's members. She was honored with a Sunburst Award from Young Audiences for her contribution to music education. Holds a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Michigan and was the first student in New England Conservatory's history to receive double master's degrees simultaneously in violin and conducting.
Chairman-elect of the Shelby County Commission for 2010-2011. Chism's decades-long influence as a political broker transcends his base in Memphis' inner city. Age 70. His annual summer picnic in South Memphis is an obligatory stop for candidates and politicians. Longtime president of a Teamster's local and an organizer for the union, got his political start as liaison with candidates at election time. A major ally of such diverse figures as Willie Herenton, Harold Byrd, and Jim Strickland, he has been a prominent spokesperson on the commission for issues affecting African Americans and workers' rights. A former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, he is a staunch advocate of exploiting the party's current majority on the commission. An entrepreneur and businessman in his own right, served a term as interim state senator and has been a member of several local boards and commissions, both governmental and private-sector.
Elected to Memphis City Council in November 2007 and chair of council for much of 2009-10. Regarded as political moderate with penchant for mediating between black and white blocs and facilitating compromises to controversial measures. Age 47. Special assistant to the office of district attorney general, with oversight of juvenile crime, truancy, and mentoring programs. Past president of Memphis Area Neighborhood Watch and University of Memphis Rebounders, and member of numerous local governing boards. Former president of the National Convocation of Christian Church Disciples of Christ. Holds bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Memphis.
REGINALD W. COOPWOOD
President and CEO, Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The Med). Named to position in March 2010. Has an M.D. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. The Med is anchored by Centers of Excellence in Trauma, Burn, Wound, Neonatal Intensive Care, and High-Risk Obstetrics. The regional hospital also includes the only Level 1 Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center in a 150-mile radius of Memphis. As CEO of Nashville General Hospital, Coopwood was named by BusinessTN magazine to Top Hospital Operators in Tennessee list in 2007 and 2009. Winner in 2005 of the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center's Excellence in Health Award.
Since 1985, president of the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority operating Memphis International Airport, the world's number-one air-cargo airport and facilitator of $28.6 billion in economic activity and one in three jobs in the Memphis region. Career milestones include initiating Memphis' first nonstop international passenger service to Europe, expansion of the World Runway to increase international flights, and a $400 million terminal improvement and expansion project. Age 63. Inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame in 2005. Past chairman of the 4,000-member American Association of Airport Executives and recipient of FAA's Airport Manager of the Year honor.
Executive director of MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association), a 42-year-old, nonprofit, social services agency. Since 1988, Craddock has worked for MIFA and organizations under its umbrella. Has degrees in urban anthropology and law from the University of Memphis and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama. MIFA sustains the independence of seniors, addresses the needs of families in crisis, and leads efforts to equip urban youth for success. Craddock oversees an $11 million budget, 160 employees, more than 4,000 volunteers, and actively works to forge partnerships that can address emerging issues.
Few people love Memphis more than Kerry Crawford. As social media specialist at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, she's the voice behind the "I Love Memphis" blog, where she chronicles the best of Memphis food, music, events, and culture. When not blogging, spends her time helping tourists and locals find hidden gems in Memphis through social networking. In 2010 named one of the 20 most influential Memphians under 30 by the Memphis Flyer. Native Memphian, with a degree in public relations and journalism from Ball State University. Age 25. When not working, laces up her skates for Memphis Roller Derby's Women of Mass Destruction team, where she's also the league's public relations director.
Executive director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Football Classic, one of the oldest annual postseason games in college football. Contest features teams representing Conference USA and the Southeastern Conference. Impact of game estimated at between $17 million and $20 million. Kickoff of 2009 event scheduled for mid-day on New Year's Eve. Age 63. Former president of the Colorado Rockies major-league baseball team and former general manager of the Memphis Showboats of the USFL football league.
Chef of award-winning Iris Restaurant, which he opened in 2008. Voted by Memphis magazine readers "Best Restaurant," "Best Service," and "Best Chef." Named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast. Graduated from Culinary Institute of America at the top of his class, studied both in Spain and France. The majority of his culinary education, however, came under the direction of award-winning chef John Besh. Named one of Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs for 2009." English's restaurant was also voted "Best Restaurant" and "Best Chef" by the Memphis Flyer, "Editors Choice: Best Restaurant" by At Home Tennessee, "Best Bet Outside of Louisiana" by Louisiana Life Magazine, and "Hot New Restaurant" by Delta magazine.
World-class Memphis-based soprano diva, who won the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition in 1985 shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois. Made her debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1989 as Mimi in La Boheme opposite Placido Domingo and since then has performed in the world's premier opera houses. Career highlights include performances at Bologna, London's Covent Garden, Barcelona, and with the New York Philharmonic. As one of "The Three Sopranos" (with Cynthia Lawrence and Kathleen Casselo), has toured Europe and frequently sang with Luciano Pavarotti. In 2007, recorded a CD of rock and jazz classics, which included songs by Led Zeppelin. Most recently contributed to the album Aristocrunk by Memphis rappers Lord T and Eloise.
NATHAN L. ESSEX
Became president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, the state's largest community college, after coordinating the merger of Shelby State Community College and State Technical Institute at Memphis in 2000. Holds a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. Previous experience includes area head of leadership and planning at the University of Alabama and dean of the college of education at the University of Memphis. Was named Distinguished Administrator of the Year at U of M, College President of the Year by Alpha Beta Gamma international honor society, and the University of Memphis Society's Educator of the Year. Received Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keepers of the Dream Award and the Educational Freedom Award, and the Hobson Goodlow Foundation Phi Beta Sigma African American Male Image Award. Has written nine textbooks and numerous publications in national journals. Serves on eight boards representing various organizations in the community and is president of the Community College Council and Tennessee Junior College Athletic Association.
Director and chief executive officer of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Also holds the St. Jude Endowed Chair of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine and the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee — Memphis. For more than 30 years, Evans' groundbreaking research has focused on the pharmacogenomics of anticancer agents in children, for which he has received three consecutive NIH MERIT Awards from the National Cancer Institute. Received bachelor's and doctoral degrees from the University of Tennessee — Memphis, and spent a sabbatical year at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Has written more than 300 articles and edited several textbooks and scientific journals; recognized by Institute for Scientific Information as a "Highly Cited Scientist" because citations of his publications are among the top 1 percentile of scientists worldwide in his field. Was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002. Serves as vice chair of Rhodes College board of trustees, member of the board of directors for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, on board of Scientific Counselors for the National Cancer Institute of NIH, chairs board of Tennessee Technology Corporation, and is a member of Memphis Tomorrow.