Chamber Honors Outstanding Volunteers

The Chamber’s work is made possible by the support of our members, particularly those who devote their time and energy to helping advance key priorities. Since 2008, the Spirit of the Chamber Awards have recognized volunteers who have contributed the most toward the organization’s purpose of facilitating community leadership to create economic prosperity. These volunteers help the Chamber accomplish results and position Middle Tennessee for continued success.

The 2015 Spirit of the Chamber awardees were announced at the Chamber and Partnership 2020 Annual Meeting on Sept. 30.

Mike Shmerling, XMi Holdings
In the past year, Mike Shmerling, XMi Holdings, has been involved in two initiatives that have a long-term impact on the future of our city and region – regional transit and Metro government fiscal stability. As chair of the 2015 Leadership/Transit Study Missions, he led one of the largest delegations in Chamber history to Salt Lake City, where community leaders learned from national models in multi-modal transit infrastructure, community visioning and immigration reform. The best practices from this visit have already been implemented in the recently unveiled Moving Forward regional transit initiative, which will unite leaders and organizations committed to creating a regional mass transit solution through a collaborative effort. Shmerling’s other leadership role – as chair of Metro’s Study & Formulating Committee – grew out of his role as chair of a Chamber board-appointed Metro Benefits Systems Task Force in 2012. The Study & Formulating Committee assesses the long-term fiscal integrity of Metro employee benefit plans. As committee chair, Shmerling presented recommendations earlier this year that could save Metro taxpayers from $890 million to $1.05 billion over time.

John Aron, The Pasta Shoppe
As a small business owner in the manufacturing sector, John Aron, The Pasta Shoppe, has been a longtime member of the Chamber’s International Business Council (IBC) and an advocate for international trade and exporting. As a member of the IBC executive committee, he was instrumental in helping craft the IBC charter and strategic plan. He has also participated in IBC Day on the Hill, an annual event that educates and informs elected officials about the positive impact international companies bring to our region and state, and the effect immigration laws have on these businesses.

John Morgan, Tennessee Board of Regents
John Morgan, Tennessee Board of Regents, is a strong ally and champion in the Chamber’s postsecondary attainment initiatives and strategies. He supported the formation of the Middle Tennessee Regional Workforce Alliance, a public/private partnership between higher education, the public workforce system and business to address skills gaps and align higher education supply with business demand. To proactively tackle workforce challenges, the alliance created three business-led skills panels in high-growth, high-demand sectors vital to Middle Tennessee’s economy: advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology. Morgan has committed senior staff to support the skills panels and a Lumina Community Partnership for Attainment grant that is being used to increase the number of Middle Tennessee residents with postsecondary credentials.

MaryAnne Howland, IBIS Communications
MaryAnne Howland, IBIS Communications, has brought her enthusiasm and knowledge to several volunteer leadership roles as a Chamber member. She served three years as a Prosperity Leader; in this role, she was extremely engaged in helping ensure the Chamber achieved its state legislative agenda. She has also been part of the Vital Signs Action Team since the initiative was launched in 2013. Her strategic leadership has helped identify issues for regional action and community-driven solutions, particularly in the areas of postsecondary attainment and regional transit. She serves on the Chamber’s board of directors and has been active in the newly formed Moving Forward initiative.

J.D. Elliott, The Memorial Foundation
J.D. Elliott’s presence will be missed, but his myriad leadership legacies will continue to shape the region for many years. His role in the health care industry qualified him as a leader even before he came to Nashville to run Nashville Memorial Hospital and the Memorial Foundation. Elliott’s service and commitment to the priorities of Middle Tennessee nonprofits such as the Chamber never wavered over the decades. The Chamber’s No. 1 priority – public education improvement – was his passion. As a member of the Chamber’s Education 2020 leadership team, he helped transform teaching and learning in the Academies of Nashville. Due to Elliott’s vision, the Memorial Foundation and the Chamber partnered to create the first-ever externships for Metro high school teachers. In an externship, teachers spend several days shadowing a business to see how their academic standards are applied in that industry or career. Over the past five years, 512 MNPS teachers have participated in 92 externships. Elliott continued his focus on education and health and wellness issues as a member of the Chamber’s Vital Signs Action Team, which he served on since the initiative launched in 2013.

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