Girl Scouts River Valleys is proud to honor these seven women for their leadership, professional accomplishments and community contributions.
Karen Park Gallivan is the Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary for Graco, Inc., a Minneapolis-headquartered innovator and manufacturer of products that move, measure, control, dispense, and spray fluids in various industries all around the world. She has been in this role since 2005, where she manages the legal, environmental, and government relations functions for the company. From 2003–2005, she served as Vice President of Human Resources at Graco, and since 2005, she has served as the director of the Graco Foundation.
Prior to her work at Graco, Gallivan was Vice President of Human Resources and Communications at Syngenta Seeds, Inc., an agricultural biotech spin-off of Novartis; she also served in various legal, human resources, and communication roles for Novartis Nutrition Corporation, and practiced law at the firm Rider, Bennet, Egan and Arundel. She received her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and undergraduate degree in studio arts from Carleton College.
Gallivan has served as a member of the Minneapolis Workforce Council and the Minneapolis Youth Council. She currently serves as a trustee of William Mitchell College of Law and also serves on the Minnesota Women Lawyer’s President’s Leadership Circle.
Gallivan is a Girl Scout alumna, and some of her most vivid memories are from Girl Scout Camp—horseback riding in particular. Through the encouragement of her counselors, she conquered her fear of the large animals and became a confident rider. Gallivan believes that her camp experiences helped her grow as a person and made an impact in her life.
Gallivan says that the qualities Girl Scout’s builds – courage, confidence, and character – are the key to developing women leaders.
Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
Shelly Ibach is the President and CEO of Select Comfort and previously served as Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President of Sales and Merchandising, Channel Leader of US Retail Operations, General Manager of Consumer Sales Channels, and Senior Vice President of US Sales for the company.
Before joining Select Comfort, Ibach was the Senior Vice President, General Merchandise Manager for all Home businesses at Macy’s North and held progressive responsibilities within Target Corporation/Marshall Field’s. Ibach earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Merchandising from the University of Wisconsin.
Ibach serves as a member of the board of trustees for The Goodman Theater located in Chicago.
Ibach began her Girl Scout journey as a Brownie, and she said her learning experiences were the most important part of Girl Scouts. She says that she particularly enjoyed choosing the topics to explore while earning Girl Scout badges, and sharing what she learned with others. She also treasured the collaboration and group bond shared with her sister Girl Scouts.
Ibach’s advice for success in life is to dream big, and sleep well. She advises girls to have courage, and if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing your best.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Cynthia L. Lesher
Cynthia L. Lesher is the retired President and CEO of Northern States Power Company–Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company, and a community volunteer. During her extensive career at NSP/Xcel Energy, Lesher was also Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, President of NSP Gas, Vice President of NSP Human Resources, and other leadership positions.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Drake University and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and psychology from St. Cloud State University. She also completed the Master of Excellence Program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Lesher was appointed chair of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council in 2004 by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. In 2007, she received the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal Lifetime Career Achievement Award and was also named President of the Host Committee for the 2008 Republican National Convention. CityBusiness magazine has named her among the Twin Cities’ most innovative women, and she was selected by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce as 2008 Woman of the Year.
Lesher currently serves on the Board of Directors of Anchor Bank, the Twin Cities Area Red Cross (former Board Chair), Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, Children’s Hospital and Clinics, Opportunity Partners, Drake University Board of Trustees, and the University of Minnesota Humphrey School Advisory Board. She is a Regent Emeritus of the University of Minnesota. She is also a member of the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundatable, an organization of top women leaders in the Twin Cities.
Growing up, Lesher was a Girl Scout, and her mother was her troop leader. She says she remembers the joy and accomplishment she felt with every badge she earned, and today remains connected to the Girl Scout mission.
Lesher’s advice for girls of today is to accept who you are and to live the values encouraged by Girl Scouts.
Retired President and CEO
Jennifer Smith co-founded Innovative Office Solutions in June of 2001 and serves as the company’s President and CEO. Smith also helped found Medcare Products, Inc. in 1998, where she served as the President from 1998 until the founding of Innovative Office Solutions. She continues to be an owner, Board Member, and Chief Executive Officer of Medcare Products.
Prior to Innovative Office Solutions and Medcare Products, Smith was the Vice President of Operations for US Office Products, and owner and President of Town & Country Business Products. She graduated with honors from Hamline University in 1989, where she majored in Business Management and Psychology.
Smith is involved with the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and WomenVenture. She currently serves on the Steering Committee for WBENC, the Dealer Advisory Board of United Stationers, the Board of Governors of the National Office Product Alliance, and the board for I See Me. She also coaches and fundraises for local sports teams, teaches Sunday school, and volunteers with Feed My Starving Children.
Smith has received the Woman on the Way Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Woman to Watch award presented by the Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal, the Enterprising Woman of the Year Award, and the Bob Klas Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Dakota-Scott Counties.
Smith says she loved being a Girl Scout while growing up. Her experience of working together in teams and meeting girls from different schools has provided value throughout her life.
Smith says taking risks is important for girls to achieve success. She encourages girls to overcome fear and take risks to reach their goals in life.
Innovative Office Solutions
Jean B. Sweeney
Jean B. Sweeney is the Vice President of Environmental Health, Safety, and Sustainability Operations for 3M. During her tenure with the company, Sweeney has served in many roles including Six Sigma Director, General Manager of the Visual Systems Business, Managing Director of 3M Taiwan, and Manufacturing Director for 3M in Australia and New Zealand.
Sweeney attended college at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where she graduated as one of just six women in her chemical engineering class. She also received an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
She is a board member for the 3M Foundation and The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. She also serves on the board for the Montana State University Alumni Foundation and the school’s College of Engineering Advisory Board. When Sweeney’s father passed away two years ago, she and her mother created a scholarship endowment in his name at Montana State—the W. J. Bennington Endowment Fund for Women in Engineering. When Sweeney visits the campus, she mentors students in engineering and meets with scholarship recipients.
Originally from Billings, Montana, Sweeney started Girl Scouts in a Brownie troop led by her mother. Sweeney says that the early influence of Girl Scouting endures today as she pursues and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities. She later became a troop leader for her daughter’s troop, and got to witness her daughter earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. Sweeney also sponsors Girl Scout events at 3M where girls learn about the wonders of science.
Sweeney encourages young women to participate in science and math and to consider careers in science. She knows that there are many things in this world that are going to continue to be designed, and believes that women can – and must – play an important role in that.
Vice President Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability Operations
Sandra L. Vargas
Sandra L. Vargas has served as President and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation since 2007. The Minneapolis Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the country.
Prior to The Minneapolis Foundation, Vargas served as Hennepin County administrator, the top executive position in Hennepin County government. She began her career as a small-business consultant in the Minnesota Department of Economic Development, held management positions at the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and was the deputy county administrator for Hennepin County. Vargas earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the College of St. Catherine and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Vargas is active in a number of Twin Cities organizations and currently serves on the boards of MinnCAN, St. Catherine University, the Downtown Council, the Blake School, Wallin Education Partnership, and the Center for Leadership Innovation.
Vargas has been recognized as a leader in expanding business development opportunities for women and people of color, building cross-sector collaborations, streamlining business processes, incorporating accountability measures, and promoting strategies to increase individual self-sufficiency and strengthen communities. She was a Bush Fellow and was profiled in the book Heroes Among Us in 2008. She received WomenVenture’s Pioneer Award, the Medal of Honor from St. Catherine’s University, and the Caux Roundtable’s Outstanding Citizenship Award.
Vargas says that the relationship-building skills she learned in Girl Scouts helped her learn how to create networks outside of her family. This experience instilled the courage and confidence that has helped her be a trailblazer for women and people of color.
Her advice for girls is to take time to think seriously about what you want to do with your life—and act on it.
Andrea Walsh is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Health Partners, a family of nonprofit Minnesota health care organizations. In her role, she manages health plan and care delivery marketing, sales, customer service, corporate communications, government relations, and public affairs.
began her career practicing law and then in 1991 served as the Assistant Commissioner of Health at the Minnesota Department of Health, where she led the public policy development of MinnesotaCare, Minnesota’s health care access reform initiative. She graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School and received an undergraduate degree in Business and English from the University of Kansas.
Walsh is currently the chair of the board of directors for the Metropolitan Minneapolis YMCA and serves on boards for the Citizens League, the Minneapolis Downtown Council, and the Regions Hospital Foundation. She has received the “40 Under 40” business leader recognition from CityBusiness, and has also been recognized by the Health Care Forum as an International Emerging Leader in Health Care.
Walsh grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, where her father was a physician at the Mayo Clinic. In third grade, her family moved from Rochester to California and Girl Scouts was a great way for her to make new friends. Always competitive, Walsh loved selling Girl Scout cookies and enjoyed the variety of topics she could learn about while earning her badges.
Growing up in a family where she was told that she could be anything she wanted to be as long as she set her mind to it, Walsh now encourages girls to believe that very same thing in order to succeed.
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer