Mary Gwen Wheeler – Executive Director
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.
Lilly Massa-McKinley, Ed.D. – Project Leader
Lilly Massa-McKinley is the Project Leader of 55,000 Degrees. She has a decade of experience working in higher education, community and volunteer engagement and student support services at the University of Montana, Indiana University –Bloomington, Ivy Tech, and Vanderbilt. Prior to joining 55,000 Degrees, Massa-McKinley served as Associate Director for the Office of Active Citizenship and Service at Vanderbilt University. Massa-McKinley also served as director of volunteer engagement for Habitat for Humanity in Benton Harbor, Michigan, when they hosted the 2005 Jimmy Carter Work Project, an annual home-building blitz. A recent doctoral graduate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt, Massa-McKinley has an MS from Indiana University and received her BA, Magna Cum Laude, from Wake Forest University.
Kofi Darku – Community Partnership Coordinator
Oma Kofi Darku is the 55,000 Degrees Community Partnership Coordinator. Darku earned his Bachelor of Arts from Wabash College and his Master’s of Public Policy from Vanderbilt University. Through his experience in the Child Development Program at Chicago Commons, the STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville and an internship with the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Darku has developed a useful balance of analytical skills in the policy context and the use of data to inform action.
Mike Kennedy – Technology and Data Coordinator
Mike Kennedy is the technology and data coordinator of 55,000 Degrees. He graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelors in Political Science. He also graduated from U of L with an MBA. Kennedy was part of the inaugural full-time MBA program, of which he was the youngest student.
Kennedy began working at 55K through an internship for the full-time MBA program. He was 55K’s first paid employee. Prior to that, Kennedy served as Editor-in-Chief of The Louisville Cardinal, U of L’s student newspaper. He is also a budding entrepreneur and has served as the policy director for a major congressional campaign.
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
- Ms. Joan Coleman,
- Dr. Kevin W. Cosby,
President, Simmons College of Kentucky
- Mr. David A. Jones,
Chairman and Managing Director, Chrysalis Ventures
- Dr. Donna M. Hargens,
Superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools
- Mr. Audwin Helton,
President, Spatial Data Integrations Inc.
- Ms. Alice Houston,
President and CEO, Houston-Johnson Inc.
- Mr. William M. Lear,
Chair of the Board, Stoll Keenon Ogden, PLLC
- Ms. Tori Murden McClure,
President, Spalding University
- Dr. Joseph J. McGowan,
President, Bellarmine University
- Dr. Anthony Newberry,
President, Jefferson Community and Technical College
- Dr. Sandra R. Patterson-Randles,
Chancellor, Indiana University Southeast
- Dr. James Ramsey,
President, University of Louisville
- Mr. Craig Richard,
President and CEO, Greater Louisville Inc.
- Mr. Benjamin K. Richmond,
President and CEO, Louisville Urban League
- Ms. Mason B. Rummel,
President, James Graham Brown Foundation
- Ms. Leisa Schulz,
Superintendent of Schools, Archdiocese of Louisville
- Dr. Rita Hudson Shourds,
Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College, Southern Indiana
- Mr. Victor A. Staffieri,
Chairman, CEO and President, LG&E and KU Energy LLC
- Mr. Glenn Sullivan,
President, The Sullivan University System
- Mr. James C. Worthington,
Worthington Law Firm, PLLC