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Leadership

Donald E. Lassere
PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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Donald E. Lassere joined the Muhammad Ali Center in 2012. In his role as CEO, Mr. Lassere is responsible for fostering the Center’s mission, building and expanding upon the Center’s educational programs, partnerships, and other outreach initiatives.

Among his many accomplishments during his brief tenure, Mr. Lassere has facilitated a comprehensive rebranding process and implemented a strategic plan that has focused the Center on three primary program areas: Education, Global Citizenship, and Gender Equality.

In addition, Mr. Lassere, has helped launch the Muhammad Ali Global Humanitarian Awards. The Humanitarian awards are designed to inspire and encourage young people worldwide to become actively involved in social justice issues that are impacting their communities, countries and the world.

Prior to joining the Muhammad Ali Center, Mr. Lassere was Senior Vice President of Programs at Scholarship America where he oversaw Scholarship Management Services (SMS). SMS administers over 1,200 scholarship, tuition reimbursement and education assistance programs and distributes over $160M annually in private
education assistance. In addition, Mr. Lassere provided oversight for the organization’s grassroots programs, including Dollars for Scholars (DFS) which had over 35,000 volunteers throughout the country.

Prior to his tenure at Scholarship America, Mr. Lassere spent over 20 years working at national and international corporations for profit corporations, including Gallup Consulting, Enron Corporation, Ernst & Young Consulting and Verizon.

Mr. Lassere currently serves as Chairman for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also serves on the advisory board for the Family Business Center.

Mr. Lassere holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco.

Jeanie Kahnke
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS AND EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

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Jeanie Kahnke is the Senior Director of Public Relations and External Affairs at the Muhammad Ali Center, where she has been employed since February 2002. In her role, Ms. Kahnke is responsible for the Center’s media and public relations. Prior to joining the Center, she was the Chief Operating Officer of New Vision Enterprises, a Louisville-based non-profit organization that provides services to persons with visual impairment. A native Minnesotan, Ms. Kahnke loves traveling and experiencing new cultures. Prior to moving to Louisville, she spent 18 years living and working in the Washington, D.C. area in the fields of corporate communications, video production, and broadcasting. In the District, she was employed at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors as Assistant Vice President for Communications and at Gray and Company Public Communications International as a producer.

Ms. Kahnke received a Masters of Arts Degree in Telecommunications and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She completed a master’s internship program at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum. She also holds a two-year Sales and Marketing degree from South Central College in Mankato, Minnesota.

Jay Graham
Chief Mission Advancement Officer

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Jay Graham is currently serving as the Chief Mission Advancement Officer with the Muhammad Ali Center. He is responsible for cultivating, developing, and maintaining donor relations for operational support of the Muhammad Ai Center (MAC), its programs, and facilities, as well as management of capital fundraising programs.

Mr. Graham has served most recently with The Healing Place in Louisville, Kentucky, as Vice President, where he reengineered the Development Office for better efficiency, productivity and cost savings. He began a $20 million dollar campaign which accumulated over $4.5 million dollars in six months. During his tenure, Mr. Graham was successful in rebranding The Healing Place message and increasing their depleted donor base by approximately 4,000 new donors. Finally, as a forward thinking professional he also orchestrated the first crowd funding effort for a non-profit in the state of Kentucky raising $550,000 in six weeks.

Over the last 15 years Jay has worked almost exclusively for non-profits in many capacities in Virginia, Illinois and Pennsylvania. He has primarily focused on public relations/marketing and fundraising, but also has experience in the financial and operations side. His philanthropic knowledge is vast and far reaching with regards to all aspects of philanthropy.

Mr. Graham earned his bachelor degree from Jacksonville State University while earning national honors on the field as a collegiate football player. He has received two master’s degrees; from Austin Peay State University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Marcel Parent
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, OUTREACH, AND CURATION

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Marcel Parent brings a life-long passion for cultural institutions to his role as the Senior Director of Education, Outreach, and Curation for the Center. Here, he is responsible for the development, implementation, and management of educational and programming initiatives, the development of temporary exhibitions, the management of the volunteer program, and for overseeing collections management.

Previously, Mr. Parent was the Education & Volunteer Manager at the Springs Preserve, a large museum and nature preserve complex focused on the rich cultural history, and the sustainable future, of the Las Vegas Valley. There, he also played key roles in PR/marketing, development, and exhibits. Before that, Mr. Parent was responsible for education, outreach, and guest services for Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, a world-class aquarium focused on predators’ exhibits and ocean conservancy. In his eventual role as Shark Reef’s Interim Director, he redefined the branding and marketing efforts of a young facility, and developed exhibits/displays that were world-firsts.

Mr. Parent possesses a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration from Concordia University (Montreal, Canada).

Elizabeth Vissing
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF EVENTS AND OPERATIONS

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Elizabeth Vissing is Senior Director of Events and Operations at the Muhammad Ali Center, where she oversees the operational functions of the Center, as well as facility’s event rentals. Her employment began at age 16 working as a sales associate and assistant to Benton Fine Jewelry in Jeffersonville, Indiana and continued with an internship and position with the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. She joined the Center in 2006 as a Special Events and Sales Coordinator. Ms. Vissing was an accomplished equestrian rider and competed as a young person in 4-H and later with the American Quarter Horse Association competing in both English and Western events.

Ms. Vissing attended Louisville’s Sullivan University for college and received a Degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality studies. She also received an Associate of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management from The National Center for Hospitality Studies at Sullivan University.

Gwendolyn Young
IN-HOUSE COUNSEL

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Gwendolyn Young is In-House Counsel at the Muhammad Ali Center. In her role as In-House Counsel, Gwendolyn is responsible for ensuring legal and regulatory compliance, mitigating legal exposure, and effectively communicating risks involved in management decisions. Gwendolyn is also responsible for developing and implementing processes and systems to hire, retain, and manage employee talent. Prior to joining the Muhammad Ali Center, Gwendolyn served for 16 years as Vice President and Senior Attorney for a large regional bank.

Gwendolyn is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Law School and has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Gwendolyn is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Jim Gates, Jr.
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF FINANCE

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Jim Gates, Jr. is Senior Director of Finance and Accounting at the Muhammad Ali Center. In this role, Jim oversees all of the financial functions of the Center, including financial reporting, budgeting, and financial planning and analysis.

In addition to his role at the Muhammad Ali Center, Jim is also the CFO/COO of Dale Romans Racing Stables, a thoroughbred racing company with operations in Louisville, Lexington, Florida, New York, and Arkansas. Previously, Jim had a variety of roles during his 14 years at Churchill Downs. Most notably, he oversaw all facets of operations as General Manager for seven years. During his time as GM, Jim played a key role in the $121M renovation of Churchill Downs, as well as the roll-out of large-scale concerts (Rolling Stones, The Police) and night racing at the facility. Prior to becoming GM, Jim was responsible for mergers and acquisitions activity as Vice President, Development.

A CPA with a B.S. from the University of Dayton and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, Jim’s career also includes five years as an auditor for Price Waterhouse. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Louisville Sports Commission and the St. X Alumni Association. Jim and his wife have two children.