Girl Scouts River Valleys is proud to honor these seven women for their leadership, professional accomplishments and community contributions.
Michele Azar is a growth-focused retail executive who keeps a close eye on the ever-changing technology landscape. She is currently the Vice President, supply Chain-Multichannel Fulfillment & Growth, at Best Buy Co., inc., where she is responsible for building new multichannel capabilities with speed, scale, and quarterly growth impact. Over the past 18 months, Azar drove material impact to both the top and bottom line through the chain-wide rollout of ship from store; this represented over half of e-Commerce growth. Azar has 24 years of retail experience and led the early development of Best Buy’s direct channel, Best Buy’s mobile web and co-founded Remix web services business.
After starting as an intern in the retail industry, Azar grew into buying and management positions at Gap Inc., and Target Corporation. In her earlier years at Best Buy, Azar was the head merchant for two different $2 billion revenue businesses, Computer Peripheral and Computer Hardware. Azar excels at the epicenter of change and disruptive technology. She has led three large-scale transformations, including supply chain reengineering in 1997. Michele’s entrepreneurial spirit began in grade school as she mastered different aspects of running a business from her father, a real estate broker, investor, and entrepreneur. Azar went on to earn her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and received a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.
As someone who enjoys unleashing the power of people, she not only works on developing her team, but girls in our community as well. She invests her time in helping build future women engineers by supporting Robettes 2177, an all-women’s robotics team. She believes that providing young women access to new experiences and women executive role models will inspire their dreams and open up possibilities. She enjoys serving on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts, Interlachen Country Club 9 Hole league, and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics of MN.
Azar was a Girl Scout as a child and she vividly remembers the 65th Anniversary of Girl Scouts. One of the biggest things she recalls from her Girl Scout experience was observing strong women role models, specifically her troop leaders (who included her mom) and the leader of the Girl Scout anniversary.
As an adult, Azar stepped up to be a troop leader for her two daughters’ troops, just as her mom did. One of her favorite experiences as a leader was when they ventured west on the Amtrak train to explore Glacier Park in Montana.
Azar is a Girl Scout for life because it provides access to women in leadership in an all-female environment. It also offers experiences to try things and discover new talents that girls never dreamed possible.
Her advice for girls and young women is to be yourself – and do that really well. she says, “Have the courage to pursue your dreams and don’t give up! Get outside of your comfort zone and have the courage to ask for what you want.”
Dr. Brenda Cassellius puts kids first. she’s been an educator, a leader of multiple school systems, and now she is the Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education.
Cassellius has been an educator for more than 25 years, working in roles that range from paraprofessional and classroom teacher, to school administrator and superintendent in K–12 systems in Minnesota and Tennessee. Among her many successes is her leadership in redesigning and changing efforts that put students first, focused on achievement, and resulted in better student outcomes. Since being appointed as Commissioner of Education in 2010 by Governor Mark Dayton, she has led comprehensive education reforms that benefit every child in Minnesota.
Cassellius has been instrumental in the national attention Minnesota has received for its education reform efforts. Minnesota is one of the first states to secure an Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility waiver. Cassellius also successfully secured key funding from the U.S. Department of Education, including the race to the top early learning Challenge Grant, Charter School Replication Grant, and many additional Federal grants.
In her prior role as the superintendent of the east Metro integration District in the Twin Cities, she led an achievement agenda with the 10 district superintendents. She was also an Associate Superintendent in the Minneapolis Public Schools, where she led nineteen middle and high schools and was responsible for the implementation of the Minneapolis Secondary Redesign. As the Academic Superintendent of Middle Schools in Memphis, Cassellius was responsible for middle school and district reforms that led to accelerated gains and the narrowing of achievement gaps among students in Memphis. Cassellius earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, her master’s from the University of St. Thomas, and her doctor of education at the University of Memphis.
Along with her sister, Cassellius was a Girl Scout, and she remembers getting her uniform – especially the cool socks, the merit badge sash, and the badges. Her experience as a Girl Scout gave her a sense of confidence and built on her love of learning. Working on tasks individually, in pairs, and on teams helped her learn to navigate and build relationships, negotiate differences, and appreciate diversity.
Cassellius said she believes organizations like Girl Scouts provide young women with the tools to be successful and engage in positive, confidence-building activities that grow and nurture their leadership and personal skills. As a child living in the projects, Girl Scouts provided a safe place for her to explore and interact with role models who helped encourage her and support her healthy mental, social, and intellectual development.
“There is no better time in history to be a woman than today,” Casseillius says to girls and young women. “Any opportunity is open to you, so go for it! Go for your dreams, believe in yourself, and achieve greatness! We are depending on you to make this world even better by making your mark in it!”
Trista Harris is a leader in the Minnesota nonprofit community, with a longstanding background in local foundations. She is currently the president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, a community of outstanding philanthropic leaders committed to building prosperity for all in the state’s increasingly diverse communities. Minnesota Council on Foundations members represent three-quarters of all grantmaking in the state, awarding almost $1 billion annually.
Harris’ priority is developing a diverse pipeline of leaders for the social sector. To help achieve this goal, she co-wrote a book called How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar, a how-to guide for people creating a career in the social sector.
Prior to joining the Minnesota Council on Foundations in 2013, Harris was the Executive Director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice in Minneapolis, and she previously served as program officer at the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation (now Minnesota Philanthropy Partners). Harris earned her Master of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and her Bachelor of Arts from Howard University, Washington, DC.
Harris has been featured on CNN, and she has been covered by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, New York Times, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, Career Builder, and numerous social sector blogs. she writes about generational change in the foundation field in her blog at www.tristaHarris.org and is an international speaker on working across generations to create social change.
Harris is the former chair of the national board of advisors of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, is the governance chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and is an active donor to a variety of social justice causes through the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.
As a child, Girl Scouts opened Harris’ eyes to a big world of opportunities. The Girl Scout handbook and badge book exposed her to new ways of thinking and new ways to stretch herself. As a parent, Girl Scouts allowed her to see her own daughter have those same experiences of testing boundaries and going outside of her comfort zone. In addition to being a member and a Girl Scout parent, Harris also had the opportunity to work for Girl Scouts, which gave her insight into the large number of caring adults that are behind the scenes to create a memorable experience for girls.
Harris says she believes Girl Scouts is a critical resource to help girls reach their full potential. Caring adults and boundary-breaking programming help girls see themselves in a new light.
To girls, she says, “Never, never, never give up. the world is full of obstacles, both real and imaginary. The real test is, do you stop when something gets in your way, or do you overcome that obstacle, and the next, and the next?”
Lyndel King is a lover of art and has been an international thought leader in the art field for many decades. She has been the Director and Chief Curator since 1981 at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, supporting the museum’s mission of creating art experiences that spark discovery, critical thinking, and transformation. King is also an adjunct professor in art
history and professor of museum studies.
Prior to her work at the Weisman, King worked as director of exhibitions and museum programs for Control Data Corporation and as an exhibition coordinator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. King earned her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Minnesota and her Bachelor’s in Microbiology and Chemistry at the University of Kansas. When King attended graduate school, it was uncommon for women to pursue art history at that level. She had originally contemplated medical school, but once she started in art history, there was no turning back.
Much of King’s community involvement focuses on the arts, education, women, and international initiatives. She has served on the boards of several national and international museums and art organizations, including the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul and the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville. She is a member of the board of the Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis and has been a long-time member and board member of Partners for the Americas. She has been a board member for the Foundation for Arts and Culture in Eastern Europe and has, as a volunteer, presented more than ten seminars on museum management in Eastern Europe and Russia.
King has also been a long-time member of the International Women’s Forum and is currently president of the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. She says women’s rights are not to be taken for granted, and she is keenly interested in what the Girl Scouts and other organizations do to empower girls to become leaders.
King was a Girl Scout as a child, and she remembers earning badges by accomplishing her goals. In Girl Scouts, she learned about the importance of relationships, and the experience helped her nourish her appetite for learning. She was a teacher at a Girl Scout camp one summer and remembers that she learned to tie knots the day before she had to teach the little kids. From that experience, King learned that she could learn fast and that she could be an effective teacher.
King supports any organization that helps girls become women who have rich and fulfilling lives and careers. She believes women need to mentor and help other women – a concept shared passionately with Girl Scouts.
Beth Kieffer Leonard
Beth Kieffer Leonard is a numbers person at heart, and she has embraced this passion to its fullest through her successful career in accounting.
Leonard is the managing partner of the Minneapolis accounting firm, Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company, LLP (LBL), where she recently celebrated her 30th anniversary. She became the first woman partner with the firm 20 years ago, and she’s been the managing partner for more than seven years. As managing partner, she leads a diverse group of 125 talented professionals serving a wide variety of business and individual clients.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting at the University of Minnesota—Carlson School of Management where she is now on the Board of Overseers. An active member of community and professional organizations, she is the founding member of Women’s Business Development Center – Minnesota; a judge for the Minnesota Cup; and a member of the American Institute of CPAs and Minnesota Society of CPAs.
Leonard’s leadership has been acknowledged by numerous national and regional associations, including Women in Business Champion for the Small Business Administration—Minnesota, and the Advocacy Award from the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago. She was recently honored among the state’s (Real) Power 50 Leaders by Minnesota Business; and Finance & Commerce also recognized her among the 2012 top Women in Finance.
As a child, Leonard started Girl Scouts as a Brownie. Today, she has vivid memories of looking through her Girl Scouts handbook and making plans for the badges she would earn. Cookies and camp were also a big part of her Girl Scout experience. These opportunities allowed her to practice setting goals and creating plans to achieve them. The camp experience was also special because it gave her the chance to learn outdoor skills.
Looking back, Leonard recognizes that Girl Scouts taught her many skills that have set the foundation for her career in finance and accounting. She supports Girl Scout because activities like the Cookie Program teach important lessons that will help girls become great businesswomen and entrepreneurs. She also values the opportunity for girls to form cohorts, which helps build confidence and strong friendships that last a lifetime.
When asked for her advice to girls, Leonard says, “Always believe that you can accomplish what’s in your head and in your heart. they often go together and it’s really important that you follow your passion. never let someone else set the goals and define your success – that’s the most important thing.”
Bethany C. Quam
Bethany Quam is a proud business leader in the food industry, where she has worked for more than 20 years.
Quam joined General Mills in 1993 in the finance function. After a couple years, she moved into sales and spent 19 years working with a variety of customers in many locations across the u.s. She is currently the president of the Convenience and Foodservice Segment at General Mills. Her team has responsibility for $2 billion in sales of General Mills products in away-from-home locations such as schools, restaurants, hospitals, and convenience stores.
Quam holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and an Executive MBA from the University of Minnesota. She is a board member for the Women in Foodservice Forum.
An active community member, Quam has committed a great deal of time to the United Way. From 2011–2013, she served on the General Mills United Way Campaign, and in 2013, she chaired the campaign and raised $8.8 million for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. In addition to the United Way, she is an active member of the Lord of
Life Lutheran Church and has volunteered in the children’s ministry. She has also been involved with both of her daughters’ Girl Scout troops, serving as the cookie mom for three years and one year as the leader of the fifth grade troop. Her girls, Mckenna and Sadie, keep her and her husband Jess very busy.
As a child, Quam was a Girl Scout member of troop 575, from first through sixth grade, at Bel Air Elementary School in New Brighton, MN. Her most memorable Girl Scout experience was selling cookies in second grade. she set her sights on selling 225 boxes in order to qualify for the stuffed animal horse. it was her first experience of setting a stretch goal for herself and then working a plan to achieve the goal.
Quam believes that Girl Scouts is critical to building the skills and confidence of young women. She says that today, women have so much opportunity in front of them; however, they have to have the skills and the confidence to turn that opportunity into achievement.
Quam’s advice to young women and girls is to, “Believe in yourself and your abilities to do whatever you want. We are all a work in progress and the joy in life comes from doing things that never seemed possible. You should push yourself to do things that are uncomfortable, because a mind stretched can never return to its original state.”
Megan Remark is a leader in the health field and has dedicated her career to providing the highest quality care and best experience possible in our area’s hospitals and clinics.
She is the new president and CEO at Regions Hospital, and prior to this role, she was a senior vice president at HealthPartners. she has more than 24 years of experience in health care – 19 of those at HealthPartners. Her first role at HealthPartners was in 1995 as the Como Clinic manager. she spent several years as the vice president of Outpatient Services, leading Regions Hospital clinics, the Emergency Department and several support areas; and for 10 years, she led the HealthPartners
Specialty Care Division.
Remark earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Behavioral Science and Health at the University of Utah. Remark has been recognized as a leader in the Twin Cities community. she received the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal 40 under 40 Award in 2008 for her outstanding leadership skills and was recognized again in 2012 by the Business Journal as an Industry Leader.
Remark is actively involved in several community groups, particularly those focused on health care, education, and advancing women in leadership. She is currently on the board of directors of the Jeremiah Program, which works to transform families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. She’s also a member of the Minnesota Reading Corps and the Governor appointed board for the Commission for National and Community Service. She also mentors people in health care careers and is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
During childhood, Remark was a Girl Scout Brownie and Junior. She loved attending Camp Foxtail, a Girl Scout camp not far from her home in Las Vegas, NV. What she loved best about Girl Scout camp was hiking in the mountains, learning camping skills, and singing songs around the campfire. Girl Scouts provided a strong foundation for Remark’s development as a leader. She supports Girl Scouts because it’s an opportunity for young girls to learn from positive female role models. It’s also a safe environment for girls to learn about themselves and practice leadership skills they can use in the future. Remark has been a leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, and her husband, roger, an Eagle Scout, has been a Boy Scout leader for their son’s troop.
Remark’s advice for girls and young women is to dream big. She says, “Approach every day with a positive attitude, be kind to everyone, and believe in yourself and your capabilities. You can achieve great things if you surround yourself with people who support you.”