Mary Gwen Wheeler – Executive Director

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Mary Gwen Wheeler is the Executive Director of 55,000 Degrees. Previously, she served as the Mayor’s Sr. Advisor for Education and Youth for Louisville Metro Government, leading policy development and implementation of education and youth initiatives.  In Jerry Abramson’s first term as Metro Mayor, she served as Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  In June of 2010, Ms. Wheeler was also appointed by Governor Beshear to the Kentucky Board of Education.

With a B.A. in American Studies and a Masters in Public and Private Management from Yale University, Ms. Wheeler also has experience in family literacy, workforce development, non-profit management, strategic planning, and international development.  This included 10 years with the National Center for Family Literacy as a project manager and vice president of planning and development.

Emma Horn – Director of Community Engagement

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Emma Horn is the Director of Community Engagement for 55,000 Degrees. She brings strong outreach, communications and relationship-building skills developed in her professional career. Emma joins 55,000 Degrees after serving as Marketing Director at Strothman and Co., Executive Director of Young Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL), and as Regional Director at KY YMCA Youth Association. Emma received her Masters in Communication from Bellarmine University and has a B.A. in Economics from DePauw University.

Matt Berry, Ph.D. – Director of Strategy & Impact


Matt Berry is the Director of Strategy & Impact for 55,000 Degrees. He has a decade of experience in higher education having served in several student and academic affairs roles while at Benedictine University. Matt has spent the last several years focused on higher education research and policy while at University of Louisville and the Council on Postsecondary Education. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Organizational Development from University of Louisville, an M.S. in Organziational Behavior from Benedictine University, and a B.A. in Communication from Wittenberg University. He has also co-authored several peer-reviewed articles in the field of higher education and most recently was a senior research and policy analyst at the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Kris Stevens – Data, Reporting, and Technology Manager

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Kris Stevens is the Data, Reporting, and Technology Manager for 55,000 Degrees. Previously, Kris served 55,000 Degrees as a Digital Storyteller as well as working as an IT Administrator with Johnson Controls Inc. and as an EMT with St. Vincent Health. Kris specializes in distilling complex data and ideas into visualizations and narratives that are informative. He holds a M.S. in Analytics from Bellarmine University and a B.A. in Bible and Religion and Business Information Systems from Anderson University.

Deja Jackson – Initiative Coordinator

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Deja Jackson is the Initiative Coordinator for 55,000 Degrees. She brings experience from Marketing and Sales in both the banking and automotive industry, as well as internships with political organizations, campaigns and in Reginald Meek’s office. Deja joins 55,000 Degrees after working for Cox Automotive and Forcht Bank. Deja received her B.S. in Political Science from the University of Louisville.


Board of Directors

55,000 Degrees is a public-private partnership, and is overseen by a diverse board of directors.

    • Chairman Greg E. Fischer,
      Mayor, Louisville Metro Government
    • Ms. Susan A. Barry,
      President and CEO, The Community Foundation of Louisville
    • Mr. Tony Bohn,
      System Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer, Norton Healthcare
    • Mr. David Calzi,
      Managing Partner, Ernst & Young
    • Dr. Kevin Cosby,
      President, Simmons College of Kentucky
    • Ms. Wendy Dant Chesser,
      President and CEO, One Southern Indiana
    • Dr. Susan Donovan,
      President, Bellarmine University
    • Dr. Ty Handy,
      President and CEO, Jefferson Community and Technical College
    • Ms. Alice Houston,
      President and CEO, Houston-Johnson, Inc.
    • Mr. David Jones, Jr.,
      Chairman and Managing Director, Chrysalis Ventures
    • Mr. William Lear,
      Chair of the Board, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC
    • Ms. Tori Murden McClure,
      President, Spalding University
    • Mr. Terry Nolot,
      Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College Southern Indiana
    • Mr. Kent Oyler,
      President and CEO, Greater Louisville, Inc.
    • Dr. Marty Pollio,
      Superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools
    • Dr. Greg Postel,
      President, University of Louisville
    • Ms. Theresa Reno-Weber,
      President and CEO, Metro United Way
    • Ms. Sadiqa Reynolds,
      President and CEO, Louisville Urban League
    • Ms. Mason Rummel,
      President, James Graham Brown Foundation
    • Ms. Leisa Schulz,
      Superintendent of Schools, Archdiocese of Louisville
    • Mr. Victor Staffieri,
      President and CEO, LG&E and KU Energy
    • Mr. Glenn Sullivan,
      President, The Sullivan University System
    • Dr. Raymond Wallace,
      Chancellor, Indiana University- Southeast