Mary Gwen Wheeler – Executive Director

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Mary Gwen Wheeler is the Executive Director of 55,000 Degrees. Previously, she served as the Mayor’s Sr. Advisor for Education and Youth for Louisville Metro Government, leading policy development and implementation of education and youth initiatives.  In Jerry Abramson’s first term as Metro Mayor, she served as Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  In June of 2010, Ms. Wheeler was also appointed by Governor Beshear to the Kentucky Board of Education.

With a B.A. in American Studies and a Masters in Public and Private Management from Yale University, Ms. Wheeler also has experience in family literacy, workforce development, non-profit management, strategic planning, and international development.  This included 10 years with the National Center for Family Literacy as a project manager and vice president of planning and development.

Emma Brown – Director of Community Engagement

emma brown 55000 degrees@Emma55K

Emma Brown is the Director of Community Engagement for 55,000 Degrees. She brings strong outreach, communications and relationship-building skills developed in her professional career. Brown joins 55,000 Degrees after serving as Marketing Director at Strothman and Co., Executive Director of Young Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL), and as Regional Director at KY YMCA Youth Association. Brown received her Masters in Communication from Bellarmine University and has a BA in Economics from DePauw University.

Matt Berry, Ph.D. – Director of Strategy & Impact


Matt Berry is the Director of Strategy & Impact for 55,000 Degrees. He has a decade of experience in higher education having served in several student and academic affairs roles while at Benedictine University. Berry has spent the last several years focused on higher education research and policy while at University of Louisville and the Council on Postsecondary Education. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Organizational Development from University of Louisville, an M.S. in Organziational Behavior from Benedictine University, and a B.A. in Communication from Wittenberg University. He has also co-authored several peer-reviewed articles in the field of higher education and most recently was a senior research and policy analyst at the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Lauren Hatchett – Initiative Coordinator

mike kennedy 55000 degrees@Lauren55K

Lauren Hatchett is the Initiative Coordinator for 55,000 Degrees. Previously, Hatchett served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member and Leader, which is how she first began working with 55,000 Degrees.  Hatchett brings strong communication skills and volunteer management experiences with her, as she has formerly worked with the Louisville’s historic Presbyterian Community Center, Greater Louisville Inc. and Louisville Metro Government. Hatchett graduated from Transylvania University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Biology.

Board of Directors

55,000 Degrees is a public-private partnership, and is overseen by a diverse board of directors.

    • Chairman Greg E. Fischer,
      Mayor, Louisville Metro Government
    • Ms. Susan A. Barry,
      President and CEO, The Community Foundation of Louisville
    • Dr. Barbara Bichelmeyer,
      Chancellor, Indiana University- Southeast
    • Mr. Tony Bohn,
      System Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer, Norton Healthcare
    • Mr. David Calzi,
      Managing Partner, Ernst & Young
    • Ms. Joan Coleman,
      President, Coleman Consulting
    • Dr. Kevin Cosby,
      President, Simmons College of Kentucky
    • Dr. Ty Handy,
      President and CEO, Jefferson Community and Technical College
    • Dr. Donna Hargens,
      Superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools
    • Ms. Alice Houston,
      President and CEO, Houston-Johnson, Inc.
    • Mr. David Jones, Jr.,
      Chairman and Managing Director, Chrysalis Ventures
    • Mr. William Lear,
      Chair of the Board, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC
    • Ms. Tori Murden McClure,
      President, Spalding University
    • Mr. Kent Oyler,
      President and CEO, Greater Louisville, Inc.
    • Dr. James Ramsey,
      President, University of Louisville
    • Mr. Benjamin Richmond,
      President and CEO, Louisville Urban League
    • Ms. Mason Rummel,
      President, James Graham Brown Foundation
    • Ms. Leisa Schulz,
      Superintendent of Schools, Archdiocese of Louisville
    • Dr. Rita Hudson Shourds,
      Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College Southern Indiana
    • Mr. Victor Staffieri,
      President and CEO, LG&E and KU Energy
    • Mr. Glenn Sullivan,
      President, The Sullivan University System
    • Mr. Joseph Tolan,
      President and CEO, Metro United Way