2010 Women of Influence Speaker Series

Join us each month for lunch and intimate conversation at Ruth’s Chris in downtown Minneapolis, hosted by Minnesota Monthly personality Sue Zelickson. All proceeds benefit the speaker’s charity of choice.

The 2010 series is complete. Please check back for the 2011 information.


February 18, 2010: Elizabeth Perlich Sweeney joined Children’s HeartLink as President in December 2002. She has nearly 20 years of experience supporting children’s health. She served as a board member of the University Pediatric Foundation, University of Minnesota, which is the primary source of fundraising for medical research at the Department of Pediatrics. In 1990 she founded and continues to serve as a board member of the Minnesota PKU Foundation, a small foundation that supports children and families living with phenylketonuria (PKU). From 1986 to 2002, she established and operated Vita, a personal fitness consulting business. Her first job out of college was selling commercial real estate with Neal Perlich Realty, Inc. from 1982 to 1985. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota School of Business. She considers her most significant work in life to be raising her children, Madeleine and David and, recently, the addition of Dave and Katie Sweeney. All proceeds from this event benefited Children’s HeartLink.

March 18, 2010: Chef Lucia Watson is the proprietor of Lucia’s Restaurant, Wine Bar, and Lucia’s To Go, one of the Twin Cities’ favorite neighborhood establishments. Lucia’s continuing popularity over the last 25 years is a tribute to her sensibility in menu selection and her warm, congenial hospitality. A third generation Minnesotan, Lucia’s love for cooking began watching her grandmother Lulu cooking over a wood stove at the family cabin on the Canadian border. After earning a BA in French from the University of Minnesota, she pursued her cooking in numerous restaurants with diverse instruction, including her first level Master Sommelier certificate.

Chef Watson has written two books: Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland with co-author Beth Dooley, and Cooking Freshwater Fish. She has been honored with many awards over the last few years, including a James Beard nomination for Best Chef in the Midwest in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and was knighted by the French Government in October 2009. Lucia served a four-year term on the Organic Advisory Task Force to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. She is also a former board member of the Chef’s Collaborative, has served as board chair for the Youth Farm and Market Project, and is currently the board chair of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Lucia teaches and speaks throughout the year, often in support of sustainability and farming issues. Lucia continues to be actively involved in her business every day, having fun with employees and being inspired by farmers and purveyors as well as the marvels of the seasons. She lives in Minneapolis and spends time at her home in France whenever she can, studying French food and eating oysters. Proceeds benefited IATP.

April 15, 2010: Becky Malkerson assumed leadership of the University of Minnesota Medical Foundation in August 2006. In the past three years, under her leadership, the foundation has recorded its best years of giving, including the three largest gifts ever given to the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the foundation, she held senior leadership positions at Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Amgen, Inc., (the worlds’ largest biotechnology company), UnitedHealth Group, and U.S. Bancorp, overseeing areas such as global marketing, corporate communications, brand strategy, public affairs, corporate foundation, and community programs. Becky received a B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota. Proceeds benefited pediatric research at the University of Minnesota Children’s Amplatz Hospital.

May 20, 2010: Deborah J. Rhodes, MD is a physician in the Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic, and is the director of the Executive Health Program at Mayo Clinic. Her research interests focus on the early detection of breast cancer with a new imaging device known as Molecular Breast Imaging. Dr. Rhodes is also involved in the Vday 2010 Spotlight Campaign. This campaign helps girls and women who have been brutally raped by rebel groups in the course of an ongoing civil war and have been left with urinary and bowel fistulas that need repair. Dr. Rhodes received a B.A. degree in history and literature from Harvard College and an M.D degree from Cornell University Medical College. She completed an internship, residency, and fellowship in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital and joined Mayo Clinic in 1997. All proceeds benefited the Vday 2010 Spotlight Campaign.

June 17, 2010: As the first female president and CEO of a major Twin Cities advertising agency, Christine Fruechte‘s passion for the power of strategic insight and innovative ideas is infectious. Her visionary leadership has attracted some of the greatest talent in the industry, driven the growth of many of the nation’s most respected brands, and made Minneapolis-based ad agency Colle+McVoy a growing force within the advertising industry.

Christine has over 20 years of strategic marketing experience in working with clients such as Caribou Coffee, CHS, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Land O’Lakes, McDonald’s, Nestlé Purina, Red Wing Shoe Co., Starwood Hotels, The Minnesota State Lottery and Timex. Since Christine joined Colle+McVoy in 2004, the agency has experienced tremendous growth, significantly expanded its client roster, and received numerous industry accolades. Much of this recognition and growth has come from existing and new client partners leveraging interactive marketing. Colle+McVoy’s interactive billings have more than doubled since 2007 and digital projects now represent more than 40 percent of the agency’s work.

Prior to joining Colle+McVoy, Christine was a principal and executive vice president at Preston Kelly; founder and general manager of KidCom Worldwide, Campbell Mithun’s Youth Marketing Division; and served as director of client services at MVNP, a DDB affiliate in Honolulu. Christine’s professional leadership is matched only by her passion for family and the community. Despite her busy schedule, Christine is a devoted mother and active in several charities and community organizations, including Cultural Jambalaya, Free Arts Minnesota and Young President’s Organization. Proceeds will benefit Free Arts Minnesota.

August 12, 2010: Michele Tafoya, one of the most respected reporters in television sports, just completed her seventh season as sideline reporter for Monday Night Football. She also spent six years as the courtside reporter for the NBA on ABC, including the NBA Finals. Tafoya is also the host of WCCO Radio’s “Michele Tafoya Show,” which airs weekdays from 3-6.

Prior to ESPN, Tafoya worked for CBS Sports, since 1994, as a game reporter and studio host for NFL, college football, and college basketball telecasts. She also hosted CBS’ NCAA Tournament selection show, Goodwill Games and U.S. Open coverage, as well as CBS’s late-night Winter Olympics programs in 1998. She was a WNBA commentator on Lifetime from 1997-2001. Prior to joining CBS, Tafoya worked as a host and reporter for KFAN-AM in Minneapolis, primarily for Minnesota Vikings’ and University of Minnesota women’s basketball broadcasts. She also spent three years at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis as a sports anchor and reporter.

Tafoya graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in broadcast journalism and earned her masters in business administration from University of Southern California. In 1997, The American Women in Radio and Television honored her with a Gracie Award for “Outstanding Achievement by an Individual On-Air TV Personality” for her WNBA work with Lifetime. Recently, the American Sportscasters Association voted her as one of the top-five female sportscasters of all time. Tafoya resides with her husband, Mark, son, Tyler, and daughter, Olivia, in Edina, Minnesota.

September 16, 2010: Olga Viso began her tenure as director of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in January 2008, after 12 years at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, the final two years as director. At the Walker, one of the world’s leading art centers and among the top five most visited modern and contemporary art museums nationally, Viso oversees innovative artistic programming across the disciplines, including visual arts, performing arts, film, and design.

Viso is well known for her expertise in contemporary Latin American art and has introduced the work of Latino artists to new audiences through exhibitions, publications, and lectures. She is the author of Unseen Mendieta, which showcases previously unpublished slide and film documentation of the ephemeral, time-based artworks of the late Ana Mendieta (b. Cuba). Viso received her master’s degree in art history from Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) in 1992. All proceeds benefit La Escuelita.

October 21, 2010: Megan Doyle and her husband Dennis are Co-founders of Hope for the City, a humanitarian aid organization that uses corporate surplus in society to help fight poverty, hunger, and disease. The Minnesota-based non-profit organization, established in 2000, collects overstock products from top retailers, medical companies, and food distributors nationwide and donates the items to people in need locally, across the country and around the world. Since its inception, Hope for the City has donated approximately $433 million in wholesale value of goods.

Megan’s husband, Dennis, is the majority owner of Welsh Companies, a full-service commercial real estate company headquartered in Minneapolis with locations in 5 cities and more than 350 employees. Megan and her husband Dennis have been married for 25 years and are highly involved with the activities of their two sons, Devin and Nathan.


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