For the fourth year, AARP and Pollen are honoring 50 Minnesotans over the age of 50 who are making a big impact in our world.

The 2019 50 Over 50 list celebrates and recognizes Minnesotans over the age of 50 who have made significant contributions and achievements in the arenas of social change/disruptors, nonprofit, business, arts and community. AARP Minnesota and Pollen will celebrate the honorees at the McNamara Alumni Center on Oct. 17. Tickets available at

Disruptors: Cheryl Peterson, Dan Cramer, Elaine Wynne, Harry Hartigan, Jens Vange and Alan Howell, John Capecci, June Blue, Mary Lenard and Marge Ostroushko, Dr. Sharonne Hayes and Tene Wells

Peterson, 55, is the executive director of Listening House, a St. Paul sanctuary where people who are homeless, disadvantaged or lonely come to find hope, community and connection. 

Cramer, the co-founder of Grassroots Solutions, 52, is the brain behind some of Minnesota’s – and the nation’s –most successful progressive grassroots campaigns. He helped Senators Paul Wellstone and Tina Smith get elected, and he was a key strategist in Minnesota’s successful charge to become the nation’s first state to defeat the 2012 anti-marriage amendment for same-sex couples and the 12th to legalize same-sex marriage. 

In 2013 Wynne received a grant to study Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy on post-9/11 veterans. Her study demonstrated its effectiveness – of the 27 veterans she studied, 100 percent reported lessened PTSD symptoms, and 74 percent reported being symptom-free. Shortly thereafter, the Veteran’s Administration mandated at least one EMDR therapist at all VA facilities nationwide. 

Hartigan, 71, with the help of AARP Minnesota, founded Boomer Town, a mainstay at Twin Cities Pride and a model being replicated at festivals nationwide. Boomer Town is a dedicated space for LGBTQ boomers, disproportionately affected by issues of stigma, isolation and unequal treatment.

When Hayes saw that men’s death rates from heart disease were dropping while women’s rates were rising, she founded Mayo’s Women’s Heart Clinic and helped launch WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. 

Thanks to commitments from architects Vange, 50, and Howell, 58, to equitable design, all MSP Terminal 1 travelers – regardless of age or ability – can now attend to their most personal restroom matters in privacy and comfort that includes improved lighting, slip-resistant floors and larger stalls that make it easier for travelers to maneuver themselves and their belongings.

The Minneapolis 60-year-old Capecci is cofounder of Living Proof Advocacy and coauthor of “Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference.”

A descendent of the White Earth Nation and a third-generation veteran, Blue, 56, challenges structures of power within the mainstream medical system and urges all people to be more respectful of Native Americans, people of color and our society’s elders.  

Lenard, 59, Edina, and Ostroushko, 68, Minneapolis, are leading Giving Voice, a nonprofit that equips organizations worldwide to bring together people with Alzheimer’s, as well as their caregivers, to sing in choruses. 

Wells, 66, is a powerhouse organizer helping to address some of today’s most pressing issues, including crime prevention, school readiness and economic development.

Nonprofit: Christina Woods, Chuck Peterson, Dan Cain, Gary Schoener, Jessie Nicholson, Dr. Leo Lewis III, Luz María Frías, Michael Goar, Michael Norton, Pam Determan

A member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Nation, 51-year-old Christina Woods of Duluth is executive director of the Duluth Art Institute, where she uses her leadership skills to promote inclusive community participation, especially in the area of underrepresented cultural narratives.

Peterson, 57, is the executive director of Clare Housing, home to nearly 300 people living with and affected by HIV.

Cain, 71, is president for the past three decades of Eden House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. During that time, he grew the nonprofit’s annual budget from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $12 million. 

In 1999, former Minnesota Viking, Lewis III, 63 launched Lewis Sports Foundation, a nonprofit that uses physical activity to help kids develop life skills and career goals. 

Schoener, 74, is the executive director and director of consultation and training for Walk-In Counseling Center, which is believed to be the world’s only completely free, anonymous, walk-in mental health counseling clinic where all services are provided by volunteer clinicians. 

CEO of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Nicholson, 67, has been protecting the civil and legal rights of low-income Minnesotans for over 35 years.

Frías, 57, a noted public policy strategist and thought leader on race equity for more than 20 years, speaks frequently on implicit bias and immigration public policy. She also helped develop the EMS Academy, which provides EMT training and certification to Twin Cities low-income youth of color as an employment pipeline for fire departments across the region.

Goar, 52, is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities and was previously superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools and executive director of Generation Next, a Twin Cities nonprofit committed to helping underserved youth. 

Sixty-five-year-old Norton serves on the United Way board, helps organize an annual white elephant sale at his church and dishes up twice-monthly dinners at his local Salvation Army. 

Determan, 66, is the driving force behind VINE Adult Community Center, a nonprofit that helps people over 50 “age to the max.” 

Business:  Al McFarlane, Brian Myres, Dave Mona, Laurie Houle, Lisa Deverell, Martha Pomerantz, Mickey Mikeworth, Phil Huston, Teresa Thomas, Tom McMullen Jr

McFarlane, 72, founded Insight News 45 years ago in the basement of his North Minneapolis home to provide a voice for the voiceless and to help Twin Cities African-American community members see themselves as business, civic and community leaders. Under his leadership, the weekly newspaper, which he still runs, has won numerous awards from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Minnesota Newspaper Association. 

Myres, 61, launched Myres Consulting to help foster growth, improve processes and create world-class brand experiences. He also joined DAYTA Marketing as chief operating officer where among, other duties, he mentors the digital agency’s 30-plus employees.

Mona, 76, a 40-year veteran of corporate and agency public relations, is the founder of Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin, now Weber Shandwick, the world’s second-largest PR agency. 

Laurie Houle, 63, has played a key role in transforming Metropolitan Gravel Company – a company started in the early 1960s by her husband’s parents –from a two dump-truck excavation business into a $25-million-a-year enterprise with more than 50 employees.

A Land O’Lakes executive with 30 years of hands-on experience, 53-year-old Deverell was one of the pioneers in establishing a Land O’Lakes employee resource group to help women succeed through all ages and stages of their careers. 

Pomerantz, 60, left a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 bank and took a pay cut to become a partner at Evercore Wealth Management, establishing the firm’s office in Minneapolis. Now Evercore Wealth Management has almost tripled in size and now manages $8.3 billion in assets for families, foundations and endowments across the U.S. 

Fifty-two-year-old Mikeworth, a financial pro who speaks, teaches and consults on how to manifest and enjoy wealth developed a prosperity business model that’s being used by more than 50 brands, some of which credit it with helping them become multimillion-dollar companies. Mikeworth also gives microloans to farmers and small businesses in 45 different countries.

Where others saw an abandoned corner gas station on a lot overgrown with trees, Huston, 68, saw opportunity. And now, just three years and a $1 million investment later, the site in Duluth, which features a billion-year-old cliff-is home to The Adventure Park on the North Shore, Minnesota’s first destination adventure park that features six separate trails with 75 different adventures, including 10 ziplines. 

Fifty-two-year-old Thomas of Minneapolis is a master at bringing people together for win/win connections. The author of “Win/Win Networking” created 50 Fun Things, a workshop to help people of all ages, especially those over 50, find more joy, live more fully and contribute more intentionally, while having more fun.

McMullen, Jr. has been helping entrepreneurs and their families buy and sell businesses for decades. Now, at age 76, he’s become a purpose-filled entrepreneur himself thanks to his invention, ClipDifferent. A unique automatic nail clipper that operates with the touch of a button, ClipDifferent makes it easy for people – including those with Alzheimer’s, arthritis, vision or limb loss – to trim their own fingernails. 

Arts: Dave Karr, Francis D.C. Stockwell, Jack Setterlund, Kim Kane, Luis Fitch, Maria Genné, Pam Gleason, Richard Hitchler, Rita Docter, Sherece Lamke

Karr, 89, has been a fixture on the Twin Cities music scene for over 60 years. With his playing as strong as ever, he remains a “first-call, A list” musician. Most often heard on tenor sax, flute or clarinet, Karr plays with his own quartet or backs up singers and musicians at Crooners Supper Club and other local venues. 

Seventy-four-year-old Stockwell is the artistic director of the North Star Boys’ Choir in Maple Grove where he works to help boys ages 5 to 12 learn note reading, new languages, and proper vocal and breathing techniques. 

Setterlund, 71, has been a familiar presence on the Duluth stage for decades. Appearing in countless plays, he’s mastered roles in everything from “Glengarry Glen Ross” to “A Christmas Carol.” 

Plymouth humorist and award-winning author Kane, 58, wrote “Sparkle On: Women Aging in Gratitude.” In it, Kim celebrates aging as a gift and reminds all of us that it’s never too late to become who we want to be.

Fifty-three-year-old Fitch is the founder of UNO Branding, a multicultural visual communication agency known for its ability to deliver “spot on” cross-cultural design solutions. As an artist, his brightly colored works are rich in culture and meaning, a playful update to traditional Mexican iconography. 

68-year-old Genné, founded and directs Kairos Alive!, a nonprofit that unites the arts and health research to empower older adults to fully and physically engage, no matter their abilities. 

Gleason, the 60-year-old director and co-founder of MotionArt, has been creating, teaching and performing dance for 35-plus years – many of those years with Hauser Dance. She has choreographed more than 50 dance pieces and eight plays, earned grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

For nearly two decades, 54-year-old Richard Hitchler was focused on the success of SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development – St. Paul’s only children’s theater. Now, he’s focused on the success of Theatre 55, which he created to engage people 50 and above.

Conductor and vocalist Rita Docter, 78, has been bringing music to the Twin Cities for most of her adult life. For more than 25 years she conducted six Twin Cities youth choirs. Along the way, she’s taught thousands of young people how to listen for themes and variations of tone and tempo and describe the feelings that music arouses in them. 

Lamke, 55, started at Twin Cities PBS at 19, in the male-dominated engineering department. Over the next 36 years, she worked her way up as a self-taught content producer, production manager, financial analyst and now an independent producer/director of her own company, Brigid Films – all despite having never earned a college degree. Along the way, she’s won numerous Emmys for her broadcast work, much of which is devoted to telling important stories about inequities.

Community: Jim Scheibel, Julie Eckhert, Kathy Jo Bissen, KaYing Yang, Lynn Goodrich, Marlise Riffel, Paul Benshoof, Sangeeta Jha, Sean Kershaw, Sylvia Bartley

Scheibel, 72, a Hamline University professor has inspired thousands of students to pursue lives of service. The former St. Paul mayor and city councilperson has made the most of his life in order to help others make the most of theirs. Scheibel is a community organizer by training and an acknowledged leader on addressing hunger, homelessness and immigration. 

After a decades-long career that included teaching Spanish, reporting the news and training broadcast journalists, Eckhert retired and began taking classes to prepare her to become a guardian ad litem and today the 71-year-old serves as a volunteer guardian for the State of Minnesota in Hennepin County. 

Bissen, 59, is executive director of SoleCare for Souls, a nonprofit she founded 13 years ago to provide medical foot care to those in our community experiencing homelessness and/or living in under-resourced conditions. Today, SoleCare has four Twin Cities locations.

Yang, 51, championed efforts to address gender-based violence, especially as experienced by refugee women. From there, she led a national policy organization focused on addressing the needs of our nation’s growing Southeast Asian populations. A few years later, she moved to Thailand to lead the resettlement of 17,000 Hmong refugees with the International Organization for Migration. She returned home to Minnesota in 2015 and joined the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, a nonprofit that helps all Minnesotans, regardless of background, achieve prosperity. 

Goodrich retired and moved from Southern California to his lake home in Nevis, Minnesota, 11 years ago and began volunteering in the local community. It started with a three-year term as president of the Tripp Lake Association and later, president of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations. He’s still on the board, now as past president, and focused on keeping Minnesota waters pristine for future generations. He also serves on the county Soil and Water Board, MN COLA, and the Leech Lake 1 Watershed Board. 

Marlise Riffel, 68, of Virginia, Minn. serves on the board of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS) and writes grants to help ensure the success of local events and organizations. She’s the co-founder of the Rutabaga Project, which brings fresh, healthy, local food to low-income residents on the Iron Range. 

Judge Benshoof, 68 of Bemidji, has served Beltrami County for the past 22 years. In 2013, he led the formation of the Beltrami County Domestic Violence Court, at the time one of only three such courts in Minnesota. Since 2004 Benshoof has also served as a leader of the Beltrami County’s Children’s Justice Initiative.

As professor of gerontology at St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC), Jha brings in speakers to help students better understand both the joys and challenges of growing. She helped develop SCTCC’s diversity plan and is an executive member of Create CommUNITY, a nonprofit that addresses human rights issues in Central Minnesota. A member of the St. Cloud chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, she teaches young Pan-Asian American women how to advocate for their rights. 

Kershaw, 52, is vice president of Wilder Center for Communities, where he helps individuals, organizations and communities develop the capacity to address our society’s most pressing and complex issues. 

Closing economic gaps is one of 52-year-old Bartley’s biggest goals. Thanks to her job as global senior director for the Medtronic Foundation, she is doing just that. Her advocacy contributed to Medtronic developing a jobs program that offers unemployed Black North Minneapolis and Cedar Riverside residents access to manufacturing jobs in one of Medtronic’s plants, offering steady incomes, health insurance and retirement plans. Bartley was also the founding chair of HNS Charter Management Organization, which provided back-office support to three charter schools that are helping 1,000 North Minneapolis students.

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