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Movers & Shapers, May 2015

Spotlight on Madison County

Robert Altenkirch

Robert Altenkirch

Robert Altenkirch 

Altenkirch is president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Prior to his appointment in 2011, he was president of New Jersey Institute of Technology for nine years. A graduate of Purdue University and the University of California, Berkeley in mechanical engineering, he has particular expertise in combustion and heat transfer and served as the principal investigator for 10 space shuttle experiments on the behavior of flames spreading in a reduced-gravity environment. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He also served as vice president for research and as dean of the College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. During his time as dean, MSU received the Engineering Research Center designation and created a major science park. He also helped lead the team that attracted Nissan to build its $1 billion plant in Mississippi. He also held research and engineering positions at the University of Kentucky and Washington State University. 

‚ÄčDeborah Barnhart

Barnhart is CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Her career spans three decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy captain, she was one of the first 10 women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She was vice president of three major aerospace and defense companies, and did congressional lobbying for Honeywell International, McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and United Technologies Aerospace. She earned her doctorate at Vanderbilt University, holds degrees from the University of Maryland, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was a Sloan Fellow. She serves as Gov. Robert Bentley’s appointee to the Alabama Space Authority Task Force and was recently appointed to the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council. She is a recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal. 

Elaine Ballew

 

Elaine Ballew

Ballew is executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. She has served more than 17 years as an asset manager for privately and publicly held companies and is a frequent speaker for business leaders and real estate professionals. She is the 2015 president of the Apartment Association of North Alabama and serves on the state board. She was born into a military family and attended the University of North Alabama and Athens State University. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in marketing. 

Lucia Cape 

Cape is vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County. She started at the chamber in 2006 as vice president for workforce. Prior to joining the chamber, she was a contractor to the Marshall Space Flight Center’s Academic Affairs Office, where she worked in informal education, including business and industry partnerships. She also served as a presidential management intern and a contractor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also has served professional rotations in public health departments in Tennessee and Louisiana, and worked as a technical editor for contractors to the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Georgia.  

Steve Hill

 

Steve Hill 

Hill is co-founder and president/CEO of The AEgis Technologies Group Inc. He provides ongoing executive direction of the company’s 300-plus employees and its subsidiary organizations, business units and operations spanning 12 locations in 10 states. He has spent most of his professional career since 1985 developing, applying and managing modeling and simulation technologies and most recently nanotechnology and advanced technologies. The company has received many accolades over the years; recently, Hill received the 2012 Russell Brown Executive Leadership Award from the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce for excellence in leadership and entrepreneurship. 

Bhavani Kakani 

Kakani is president and founding director of AshaKiran, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educate, empathize and empower foreign origin persons who are experiencing “crisis” situations. A longtime humanitarian, she is involved in many community organizations that help abused children and their families, better education, mentoring and community inclusiveness. She is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and has served on many civic boards as well. She has received many awards as a result of her community service. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She is involved in many community events, and AshaKiran organizes free seminars, annual free health screenings and fair, an annual community kite festival and the annual “A Ray of Hope” event. She is secretary and founding director of the board of Progress Bank. She has worked in international finance and in cytology.

Daniel Kasambira

Kasambira joined the Heart of the Valley YMCA Association in 2014 as executive director of the Hogan Family Branch YMCA in Madison. He is accountable for a $3.2 million budget that provides services to more than 17,000 members and program participants. Prior to his new position, he was director of Alabama A&M University Student Health and Wellness Center in Huntsville and a relationship manager at the United Way of Central Alabama. He also was executive director of three YMCAs. He is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College in New York, where he was a three-year starter on the basketball team. He is active in many civic and community organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Alabama and the Downtown Rotary Club. He is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Huntsville. 

Helen McAlpine

 

Helen McAlpine

McAlpine is president of J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, a position she has held since October 2000. She served as assistant superintendent of Huntsville City School System and held positions with Gadsden City School System and Jacksonville State University. She secured federal/state funds to construct a Library/Technology Center, the first new building on the campus since 1981. Her leadership includes a new college instructional site in downtown Huntsville, many new programs, including culinary arts, electrical engineering technology, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing. The college received SACSCOC accreditation in 2012, allowing students to transfer into other colleges and universities. Her efforts to increase scholarship funds and professional training for faculty and staff have led to a number of grants awarded to the college by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In September 2010 she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She was also recently appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley to the Alabama Board of Nursing.

David Nast

Nast is the founding director of Progress Bank and serves as president and CEO. He began organizing Progress Bank in 2007 and has served in his current position since the bank opened in 2008. He holds his bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Jacksonville State University, as well as banking certificates from the LSU Banking School of the South and Georgia State University’s Leadership Institute. He also holds the Series 7, Series 66 and Series 24 securities licenses. He is a member of the Huntsville Rotary Club and the Huntsville Sports Commission, and serves as a board member of the Alabama Bankers Association, the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Huntsville Museum of Art, the Madison County Committee of 100 and chairs the Huntsville Regional Council for Leadership Alabama Class 20. 

Patrick Scheuermann

Scheuermann is director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. He heads one of NASA’s largest field installations, with nearly 6,000 civil service and contractor employees onsite or nearby, including those at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. He manages a broad range of propulsion, scientific and space transportation activities. He has served in several professional, research and development capacities for NASA. Most recently, he was director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He has received numerous awards and honors, and was a finalist in NASA’s astronaut candidate selection program in 1998. He is a graduate of the University of New Orleans. 

David S. Spillers

 

David S. Spillers

Spillers has served as CEO of Huntsville Hospital and Huntsville Hospital Health System since 2006. Prior to coming to Huntsville, Spillers was COO of Mission Hospitals in Asheville, North Carolina.  He received his undergraduate degree from Winthrop College and his MBA from the University of Miami. He serves on the board of directors of the Alabama Hospital Association and is a member of its Medicaid Future Task Force. He is also a member of the board of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Spillers is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Huntsville Rotary Club and the Huntsville Committee of 100.

Taron Thorpe

Thorpe is commercial vice president/senior lender at BancorpSouth in Madison, and has held other leadership positions in Alabama and Tennessee banking institutions. He has more than 20 years of business experience and is a previous instructor with the Alabama Institute of Banking. He is chair of the Madison Industrial Development Board, president of the Riley Education and Behavioral Center and state government chair of Huntsville/Madison County Leadership. He was a recipient of the Excellence in Leadership and Service Award from the Madison Chamber of Commerce, and is a former president of the chamber. He is very involved in the community, including several areas of the Madison City school system, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Rotary Club of Madison, Madison Mayhem Softball and more. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University.   

Dennis Via 

Gen. Via assumed duties as the 18th Commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command in August 2012. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of material readiness. His prior assignment was as AMC’s deputy commanding general, deploying to southwest Asia in October 2011 as the commander of the AMC Responsible Reset Task Force. He also served as Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, J-6, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C. He is a distinguished military graduate of Virginia State University and holds a master’s degree from Boston University. He also is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has received many awards for service, has held many assignments around the world and is the only Signal Corps officer in U.S. Army history to be promoted to Four-Star General. 

Ken Watson

 

Ken Watson

Watson is the president of Bryant Bank in Huntsville. He was instrumental in leading the efforts to establish Bryant Bank’s presence in Huntsville in the fall of 2007. Throughout his 28-year banking career, Watson has worked in the Huntsville/Madison County community. He is a Huntsville native and 1986 graduate of the University of Alabama. He also obtained a degree from the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. He is a founding board member of RISE of Huntsville Inc., which was formed to develop a RISE School in Huntsville. The school, which became a permanent part of the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the fall of 2014, provides early childhood education services to children with a diverse range of abilities. In addition to his involvement with the UAH RISE School, Watson also serves on the boards of the Heart of the Valley YMCA and the Huntsville Sports Commission. 

Mary Lynne Wright

Wright is president of Madison Hospital and is truly a product of the Huntsville Hospital Health System. She was born at Huntsville Hospital and began her career there in 1977 as a registered nurse. Wright served in several departments at Huntsville Hospital including vice president of surgical services, where she was responsible for about 1,100 employees from various nursing units, surgery, endoscopy, physical therapy and Sports Center. She was named president of Madison Hospital in October 2010, prior to its opening on February 2012. Wright and her family have lived in the City of Madison since 1989. As a resident of Madison and long-time employee at Huntsville Hospital, Wright anticipated the opening of a Huntsville Hospital Health System acute care facility in western Madison County for many years. “I was able to put together a very good management team that understands the intricacies of running a small hospital,” Wright said. “We have a beautiful facility, but Madison Hospital is much more than that. Our vision is to be the community hospital of choice, consistently recognized for clinical and service excellence.”

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