Arts | Entertainment | Sports
MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, CHARLOTTESVILLE
In 2019 Bennett achieved what no team had never done before — coaching his team to become NCAA men’s basketball champions in his 10th year with the program, a year after the Cavaliers fell during the first round of the tournament. Cementing his reputation as a well-liked and generous coach, Bennett refused a raise when signing a new contract after the championship and donated $500,000 to a career development program for current and former players. In 2019, he was named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in Fortune magazine, and he was chosen NCAA Division 1 Coach of the Year three times, including twice while at U.Va.
A Wisconsin native, Bennett played basketball for his father, Dick Bennett, who coached the Phoenix at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and went on to play three seasons for the Charlotte Hornets. Before taking the helm at Virginia in 2009, Bennett was head coach at Washington State. The NCAA basketball season was cut short this spring due to the coronavirus, so the Cavaliers remain the national champions into 2020, although in a way few would have predicted.
PRESIDENT, RICHMOND RACEWAY, RICHMOND
Bickmeier became president of Richmond Raceway in 2011, and although NASCAR is still his main business, he also launched Virginia Credit Union LIVE!, a 6,000-seat concert space, part of a $30 million renovation of the raceway.
He previously was vice president of consumer sales and marketing at Michigan International Speedway and worked with the Anaheim Angels baseball team, the National Hockey League’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Rams. Bickmeier also taught communications and public relations at the University of San Francisco’s Sports Management Program, and in Richmond, he started the charity Richmond Raceway Cares, providing $25,000 in funds for local nonprofit organizations.
An Ohio native, he graduated from Ohio University and interned with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2020, with high school graduations upended by the coronavirus, the raceway invited Henrico County high school seniors to take “victory laps” on the racetrack to celebrate their achievements.
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, VIRGINIA TECH, BLACKSBURG
Oklahoma native Fuente stepped into big shoes in Blacksburg in 2016, when he succeeded legendary Coach Frank Beamer, who retired after nearly 30 years as the Hokies’ head coach. He had previously been the head football coach at the University of Memphis. However, the former Murray State quarterback and Walter Payton Award finalist has proved himself worthy, bringing the team to three consecutive bowl game wins for the first time in the program’s history and being named 2016 ACC Coach of the Year. In 2017, he and Tech agreed to a contract extension through 2023.
MOST RECENT BOOK READ: “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi,” by David Maraniss
FIRST JOB: Worked as a security guard in Tulsa
PERSON I ADMIRE: My wife, Jenny, and all coaches’ wives. They make so many sacrifices for our families and really take care of everything at home so we can do what we love — coaching football and helping young people grow.
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: Diet Mountain Dew
ONE THING YOU’D CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA: My family loves living in Blacksburg. I’d make it mandatory that you should visit Virginia Tech on a fall football Saturday!
VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, KINGS DOMINION/CEDAR FAIR ENTERTAINMENT CO., DOSWELL
Johnson, a veteran of Cedar Fair, which owns 11 amusement parks in the U.S. and Canada, took the reins in 2018 at Kings Dominion, where he had his first theme park job in 1974 as a tower guard for the Lion Country Safari. A graduate of the University of North Carolina and the Rappahannock Criminal Justice Academy, Johnson also held security and operations leadership roles at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, and California’s Great America in Santa Clara, as well as at Cedar Fair’s corporate offices. He serves on the global security committee of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. This year has been especially challenging for Kings Dominion, which did not open for the first time in 45 years due to the pandemic.
PERSON I ADMIRE: My mom. She reared five children while working the family farm, but always had time for us. She taught us the value of hard work, self-sufficiency and education among many other life skills.
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE RECENTLY: I’m trying to do a better job of balancing work and family life. I have six grandchildren and my goal is to be the best granddaddy ever. The key is getting them out of the house and away from their mobile devices and the TV.
PRESIDENT, BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG AND WATER COUNTRY USA, WILLIAMSBURG
Lembke left Busch Gardens briefly in 2019 to pursue other career opportunities, but he was back last November as president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, both owned by SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.
Of course, 2020 didn’t wind up as anyone would have expected, particularly for Virginia’s major amusement parks, which had not reopened as of late July. Lembke was a vocal critic of the state government’s 1,000-person mandated attendance limit for theme parks, saying it wasn’t financially feasible. Busch Gardens reopened in August on a very limited basis for its Coasters and Craft Brews event series.
Before joining Busch Gardens Williamsburg as president in 2018, Lembke was vice president of merchandise and culinary at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and vice president of merchandise at the Williamsburg park. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo and has worked for SeaWorld Entertainment in various capacities since 2000. Lembke also serves on the board of directors for the Williamsburg Tourism Council, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance and the Historic Triangle Collaborative and has coached youth hockey.
ARVIND M. MANOCHA
PRESIDENT AND CEO, WOLF TRAP FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, VIENNA
A lifelong music devotee, Manocha joined Wolf Trap as its leader in 2013, overseeing the year-round performing arts program, which extends from pop bands to opera, at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Frequent performers at the park’s distinctive, yellow pine-ceilinged Filene Center have included Ringo Starr, Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello.
Before moving east, Manocha was chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and worked at the Hollywood Bowl. He currently serves on the board of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and as a trustee of Levine Music, a music education center in the Washington, D.C., region. A native of Ohio, Manocha has launched digital streaming of Wolf Trap Opera productions and expanded Wolf Trap’s early childhood arts education model.
EDUCATION: Cornell University (B.A.) and University of Cambridge (M.A.)
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE RECENTLY: Like so many during this pandemic, we’ve recently adopted our first pet, a cat.
FIRST JOB: Sales clerk in a bookstore during
BEST ADVICE: If you’re under 30 and have the opportunity to live abroad for any length of time — for any reason at all — do it.
ERIK H. NEIL
DIRECTOR AND PRESIDENT, CHRYSLER MUSEUM OF ART, NORFOLK
Neil joined the Chrysler Museum in 2014, leading it into the digital age, including launching its first interactive gallery in 2018. Before arriving in Norfolk, he was director of the Academy Art Museum in Maryland and executive director of the Heckscher Museum in New York. He has curated exhibits and worked with artists including Carrie Mae Weems and James Turrell, and published works on architecture, photography and contemporary art. Neil also serves on the VisitNorfolk Board of Directors and is active in the Society of Architectural Historians and the Association of Art Museum Directors.
EDUCATION: Princeton University (B.A.) and Harvard University (M.A., Ph.D.)
HOBBY/PASSION: I love to go to the movies. We have a wonderful place in Norfolk called the Naro with independent films and documentaries that we visit frequently.
MOST RECENT BOOK READ: “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,” by Dinaw Mengestu
SOMETHING I WOULD NEVER DO AGAIN:
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU’D CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA? Increase funding for museums and
DIRECTOR AND CEO, VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, RICHMOND
Nyerges came to VMFA in 2006, having served as director and CEO of the Dayton (Ohio) Art Institute for 14 years. Since arriving in Richmond, Nyerges has overseen a major expansion of the museum and several blockbuster exhibitions, including works by Pablo Picasso and Kehinde Wiley (whose celebrated “Rumors of War” statue was installed on the VMFA’s front yard in 2019), and the Terracotta Army, ancient life-size clay figures from the First Emperor of China’s burial site. A Rochester, New York, native, Nyerges is an affiliate graduate faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, a member of the Forum Club in Richmond and the former co-chair of the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, among other civic organizations.
EDUCATION: George Washington University (B.A., M.A.)
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE RECENTLY: Becoming a grandfather. What a pure joy!
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: A great bottle of Virginia Meritage (from Michael Shaps Wineworks in Charlottesville)
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA? Grant all African American and Native American Virginians equity, equality and prosperity. They’ve given 400 years of their blood, sweat and tears to make us the great state that we are today.
TODD ‘PARNEY’ PARNELL
CEO, RICHMOND FLYING SQUIRRELS, RICHMOND
Parnell is a recognizable figure at Squirrels baseball games, wearing loud pants and going by the nickname “Parney.” His career started in 1989 as director of sales and marketing for the Phillies farm team in Reading, Pennsylvania, and took him to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Kannapolis, North Carolina, before he moved to Richmond to oversee the Squirrels in 2010, their inaugural season in Richmond, as vice president and chief operating officer. In July, he was promoted to CEO, replacing Chuck Domino, who retired. In 2019, Parnell was named the Class AA Eastern League Executive of the Year. Over the last decade, Parnell has welcomed more than 400,000 fans in one season, hosted the 2019 Eastern League All-Star Week in 2019, sent the team’s mascot, Nutzy the Squirrel, to hundreds of public events around Richmond and launched charitable initiatives, including “Renovating Richmond’s Recreation,” created to revamp 14 area baseball fields. This year’s season was canceled due to the coronavirus, but Parnell walked the bases a total of 125 times in April, raising money for local COVID-19 relief efforts during an event called “500 Bases of Love.”
CEO, VENTURE RICHMOND, RICHMOND
Sims became Venture Richmond’s leader in 2017 after she proved her mettle in an interim role. She also serves as executive director of the Richmond Folk Festival, the largest annual music festival in the state. A Nashville native, Sims was hired in 2006 as director of events and oversaw the 2nd Street Festival, TEDxRVA and the opening of the 2015 UCI World Championship cycling competition, among other signature events. This year, Sims announced that the folk festival would not be held in person this October due to concerns about the coronavirus, although she promised that there would be a virtual version of the festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of music fans to the capital each fall. Before moving to Richmond to work for what is now Richmond Region Tourism, Sims was executive director of the Asheville, North Carolina, Convention and Visitors Bureau and worked for Opryland USA and the Country Music Foundation/Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. She volunteers on several boards, including the Massey Cancer Center Advisory Board and the Richmond Region Tourism board of directors.
OWNER, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM, ASHBURN
Snyder is best known for purchasing the former Washington Redskins from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke in 1999, declaring in 2013 he would “never” change the name of the team, which has been criticized as racist for decades. But under pressure from FedEx and other corporate sponsors, Snyder announced in July that the Redskins name and logo would be retired in 2020. That news was followed by an exclusive report in mid-July from The Washington Post that 15 female former Redskins employees said they were sexually harassed and verbally abused at work by other executives during Snyder’s tenure, although Snyder was not accused of misconduct. Snyder hired a Washington-based law firm to review the organization’s conduct, and several executives were let go days before the report came out. A Maryland native, Snyder is a lifelong entrepreneur. He founded a wallboard advertising company in 1989 with his sister Michele, which became Snyder Communications LP. After going public, the business expanded to $1 billion in annual revenue and 12,000 employees by 2000, when Snyder sold the business for more than $2 billion. Forbes valued the Washington team at $3.4 billion this year, making it the world’s 14th most valuable sports franchise, although its 2019-20 season was a less-than-stellar 3-13.
MUSICIAN, PRODUCER AND DEVELOPER, LOS ANGELES/VIRGINIA BEACH
Williams, known for his Grammy-winning career as a pop and hip-hop performer (including 2014’s smash hit “Happy”) and producer and his forays into fashion design and movie production, also has focused his attention on his hometown of Virginia Beach in recent years. Something in the Water, a three-day music and arts festival on the oceanfront, debuted in April 2019 with music superstars Janelle Monáe, Missy Elliott, Migos and Dave Matthews Band, among others. The second festival was scheduled for April 2020 but was canceled due to the coronavirus, although it’s set to return in April 2021. Williams also is part of a group developing the $325 million Atlantic Park surf park and entertainment venue on the former Dome site. In June, he paid a surprise visit to Richmond for Gov. Ralph Northam’s announcement that Juneteenth would become an official state holiday, marking June 19, 1865, the day that the last group of enslaved Americans were told they were free. Among other charitable initiatives, Williams has offered internships to 114 Harlem, New York, high school students and started a foundation that runs after-school programs in Virginia Beach.
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