Most Influential and Intriguing - April 6, 2016

Courtesy of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Magazine • April 6, 2016

A roundup of some of the region’s most interesting people of 2015.

by Jane Bokun

Each year the magazine’s editorial board of directors collects nominations for our list of those most influential over 50 who impact Northwest Indiana. The people of influence that Retirement Living has chosen for 2015 continue to touch the region and are examples of leadership and entrepreneurship. For example, there are Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller, who started a multimillion-dollar bag conglomerate, Vera Bradley, right from Fort Wayne. Here in Indiana, we’re lucky to have many big ideas and the people who can implement them.

It’s no secret that if you need help in all areas of business, such as banking and technology, or just to hone your skills as the next “Shark Tank” recipient, Indiana is the place to be. Retirement Living magazine honors those who go above and beyond to bring us the latest in technology, business, and improvements to our quality of life. With that in mind, we present Retirement Living’s most influential and intriguing people over 50.

Arts Advocate

Christina R. Dougherty went to the University of Michigan, graduated and moved to Chicago. She then began her career as a music educator, performer and arts administrator, which led her to earn a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University. “I’m honored to have been selected as most influential by the magazine,” Dougherty says.

Accomplishments: Among her many talents, she has also been an instructor in the graduate education departments of St. Xavier University and Aurora University in Chicago, and a voice instructor at St. Louis University and the American College in Chicago. She has been a section leader of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. If that isn’t enough in her busy life, she brings her talent to Northwest Indiana by continuing to perform with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra Chorus.


State Sen. Edward Charbonneau, who has served in the Indiana Senate since 2007 and is Home Field Advantage Foundation president, has had a heart for the people around him ever since he graduated from Indiana’s Wabash College. He earned his MBA from Loyola University and his JD from South Texas College of Law. “Indiana is a great place for business,” Charbonneau says.

Accomplishments: A few of the businesses/groups/awards linked to Charbonneau are Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored (POPULAR)–2011 mid-year integrity award recipient; Opportunity Enterprises–board member; The Methodist Hospitals Inc.–former interim president and CEO and board vice chairman; Northwest Indiana Forum–former president and CEO; U.S. Steel–former head of government and community affairs; Indiana State Ethics Commission–former member; Indiana Steel Industry Advisory Commission–former member; Sagamore of the Wabash award recipient; Tradewinds Rehabilitation Center Sempre Vivum award recipient; and ABATE of Indiana, Region 2 member.

Banking and Finance

Michael Schrage is a leader who turned Centier into Indiana’s largest privately owned bank and is deeply committed to public service. “We love dealing in Indiana,” Schrage says.

Accomplishments: Schrage led Centier Bank through extensive growth. Under Schrage’s leadership for the past nine years, Centier has been voted among the top 10 best places to work in Indiana. The past two years Centier has been named one of the best banks in the country to work for by American Banker, a trade publication. Schrage has served on numerous local boards including the American Red Cross, the Northwest Indiana Symphony; the Calumet Council of Boy Scouts and St. Jude House. Schrage chaired the Juvenile Diabetes Walk and most recently has been deeply involved with the American Heart Association and its gala. Schrage has served on the board of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for the past five years and is a board director for Culver Academy.

Economic Development

Don Babcock, who is the director of economic development at NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Co.), is friendly, funny and open to new ideas. He says the reason for his company’s success is that “NIPSCO is partnering with our community to create a better tomorrow. We’re making things more efficient for our customers and recognizing the value it brings,” Babcock says.

Accomplishments: As the director of economic development at NIPSCO, Babcock has the demanding job of deciding how the company allocates the $1 million-plus it invests each year and the $5 billion it plans to invest over the next 10 years in order to help build the economy of Northwest Indiana.

Business Development and Marketing

Dave Wilkinson is the kind of executive who instinctively knows business.

Accomplishments: He tripled the revenue of the Strack & Van Til grocery enterprises and shares his expertise as visiting professor of the Indiana University Northwest School of Business and Economics. The fact that he has is now a retired Strack and Van Til president has not slowed him down one bit.


Martin Beran is the head of System Support at Fronius USA. “Our company started in Austria and now our science is seen in companies all over the world,” Beran says.

Accomplishments: This innovative company manufactures grid-connected PV inverters, including those that convert DC energy from solar panels to AC that can be used by companies such as NIPSCO to power homes and businesses, as well as system monitoring equipment. Fronius USA is also a member of Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s solar-ready committee.


Maggi Spartz heads up the Unity Foundation of LaPorte County. This dynamic woman is a graduate of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, where she honed her entrepreneurial skills. “I was an entrepreneur and I came to be passionate about the Unity Foundation,” Spartz says.

Accomplishments: She says she started with nothing but a great board of directors. Now the Unity Foundation has a whopping $26 million in assets. “We’re not just a charity, we’re a vehicle to help others,” Spartz says.

Among her biggest accomplishments may be her son Emerson Spartz, who is one of the world’s leading experts on Internet virality and has been featured in major media including the Wall Street Journal, CBS Evening News, CNN and more. Emerson Spartz owns Spartz Inc., and he runs one of the fastest-growing digital media publishers with 160 million page views per month. At the age of 12, Spartz founded MuggleNet, the No. 1 Harry Potter website, which attracted 50 million page views per month. He later became a best-selling author.

“There are some amazing things going in Northwest Indiana,” Spartz says. “We’re on the cusp of a renaissance.”


Thomas Keon has been named chancellor-designate, effective July 1, 2016, when Purdue University Northwest officially comes into existence, the result of the unification of Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central. Keon, who has been chancellor at Purdue Calumet since 2011, was one of four finalists in the national search.

Accomplishments: Dr. Thomas L. Keon began his appointment as the seventh campus leader in the history of Purdue University Calumet on July 1, 2011. During his installation address on March 20, 2012, Chancellor Keon spoke of a Purdue University Calumet that “creates new industries in Northwest Indiana, in addition to serving existing ones. We should not merely serve, but also dream boldly and push forward.” Before arriving at Purdue University Calumet, Dr. Keon spent 14 years as dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida (1997-2011), where he was responsible for all personnel, including 150 full-time faculty members, budgets of up to $31 million, and 9,100 students and academic programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels at a university of more than 55,000 students.

Women In Business

Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller were just looking for luggage that was a tad more feminine when they created their multi-million dollar business.

Accomplishments: As cofounders of Vera Bradley, an international woman’s bags and accessories firm, Miller and Bradley Baekgaard started the company more than 30 years ago. In fact, recently, Patricia R. Miller announced her retirement. She will continue to serve as a member of the Vera Bradley board of directors and on the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Board.

“Vera Bradley is a thriving enterprise today because of a friendship that spans several decades. Pat’s business skills paired with Barb’s creative talents were the perfect combination to successfully launch this company in 1982,” Mike Ray, Vera Bradley CEO, said in a press release. “The solid foundation and positive culture that Pat helped build will certainly live on at Vera Bradley. We wish her the best as she starts another chapter and look forward to her ongoing contribution as a member of our Board.”

These two amazing women and their foundation have donated more than $25 million to help find a cure for breast cancer.


Hailing from tiny Seymour, Indiana, John Mellencamp has made Indiana proud for decades. Mellencamp fell in love with music and was fronting a soul band by the time he was 14.

Accomplishments: He released his first album in 1976 called “The Chestnut Street Incident.” According to his website, Mellencamp’s manager dubbed him Johnny Cougar out of his belief that nobody would buy a record by anybody named Mellencamp. John protested but was overruled and eventually, of course, reclaimed his birth name as his public name. His first hit was “I Need A Lover.” In 1982 his fifth album, “American Fool,” was the year’s best-selling album on the strength of two huge hits, “Hurts So Good,” and the No. 1 single “Jack & Diane.” The albums that followed in the ’80s, “Uh-Huh,” “Scarecrow,” “Lonesome Jubilee,” and “Big Daddy,” were released under the name John Cougar Mellencamp. Hit singles during this period included “Crumblin Down,” “The Authority Song,” “Small Town,” “Rain On The Scarecrow,” “Lonely Ol Night,” “”R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.,” “Paper In Fire,” “Check It Out,” “Cherry Bomb,” “Pop Singer,” and “Jackie Brown.”

He received the 2001 Billboard Century award in recognition of all that he had accomplished over the course of his career and was honored with the Woody Guthrie Award in 2004. He was honored by The Americana Music Association with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting three years later with the award presented in Nashville by Rosanne Cash.


Railcats owner Patrick Salvi is the go-to man for all things innovative in the sports realm. As to his award of most innovative for sports in Retirement Living, Salvi says he is “honored.”

Accomplishments: Aside from sports, Salvi is the managing equity partner of the Chicago personal injury law firm, Salvi Schostok & Pritchard PC. As one of the most prominent trial lawyers in the country, Salvi is consistently recognized by “Best Lawyers in America” and has been named to the “Illinois Super Lawyers” Top 10 list.

As a lifetime baseball aficionado, Salvi decided it was time to enter the world of minor league baseball. He purchased his first team, the Gary SouthShore RailCats, in 2008. Salvi then expanded his enterprise to include a 100 percent interest in both the Schaumburg Boomers (Frontier League) and the North Shore Navigators (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), as well as a minority interest in the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks (Futures Collegiate Baseball League).

Salvi was recently honored by The Pitch and Hit Club of Chicago, an organization dedicated to honoring the achievements of those in the baseball community. They recognized the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Schaumburg Boomers owner, Pat Salvi, and the Boomers president/general manager and former RailCats general manager, Andy Viano, at their annual awards banquet in 2014. Salvi Sports Enterprises, the parent company for both the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Schaumburg Boomers, was honored with the 2014 Organization of the Year Award. Both Salvi-owned franchises won the 2013 championship in their league, the Frontier League and the American Association respectively.

Health Care Administration and Advocacy

Having started his career as a pharmacist, John Gorski has devoted more than 30 years to improving the delivery of health care. He has guided the creation of the region’s largest integrated healthcare delivery system, Community Healthcare System, operated by Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana (CFNI). Gorski was appointed CFNI’s president and CEO in 2015 after serving as the chief operating officer and having directed the strategic growth and development of the system’s three not-for-profit hospitals brought together in 2001: Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

Accomplishments: Prior to directing the operations of Community Healthcare System, Gorski spent 23 years at Community Hospital in Munster, beginning as director of pharmacy and advancing to director of ancillary services. At Community Hospital, he initiated major service line expansions, helping to transform a small community-based hospital into a major medical center now recognized as one of the nation’s best. His commitment to patient-focused health care has led him to champion innovative models of care improving the delivery of healthcare and increasing patient satisfaction. In 2004, he was the recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Senior-Level Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award for his contributions toward the advancement of excellence in healthcare management. In 2006, he served as president of the Northwest Indiana Administrator Forum of IHA for the American College of Healthcare Executives Indiana Hospital Association.

Medical Research & Physician

Laser technology has been evolving and at the forefront has been Dr. Jerome Garden as director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago.

Accomplishments: Since receiving his medical degree and dermatology training at Northwestern University Medical School, and becoming board certified in dermatology, he has constantly been involved in laser and related technology therapy and research, cosmetic dermatology, and patient care. He is currently a professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University Medical School, and on staff both at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and The Children’s Memorial Hospital. Dr. Garden is the author of numerous articles and chapters in the field of lasers, and has contributed to the development of various laser and related technology systems, and to their application. In addition, Dr. Garden has been an ongoing reviewer of scientific articles for various medical journals. For many years, he has been involved in the training of physicians in laser therapy. He also is a frequent lecturer on these topics at national and international medical meetings.


Former CEO of McGill Manufacturing, Jim McGill has always been sure of his company’s success.

Accomplishments: The company began a century ago by his father, Charles S. McGill. The now-Valparaiso company manufactured bearing and electrical products. In Valparaiso, the company was run by the McGill family until it was bought by Emerson Power Transmission in 1990. Jim McGill worked for his father until 1976. He felt a sense of pride in his family’s name and abilities. But, he also learned to be a philanthropist. He said he always enjoyed giving back to the community.

Now, McGill Manufacturing Co. Inc. is a large-sized ball and roller bearing manufacturer in Valparaiso. It has 800 full-time employees and generates an estimated $85.2 million in annual revenue. Due to his philanthropic nature, McGill served on the Valparaiso University board of directors and Indiana Commission for Higher Education.