Author Archive

2nd Annual Executive Leadership Series Recap


Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

by Sherra Bourget, Operations & Communication Director

ELS 2015_3

Marilyn Tam with high school and college students at ‘Becoming Leaders of Influence’ session, which followed 2nd Annual Executive Leadership Series

Several hundred executives and proteges from the private, non-profit and public sectors gathered together one recent beautiful September morn to attend the Roundtable’s 2nd Annual Executive Leadership Series and learn strategies on diversity from one accomplished author, business woman and humanitarian – Marilyn Tam. What many took away seems to be much more.

In addition to addressing Vermont’s specific diversity issues, Ms. Tam offered four general guiding principles that she’s used to build success with the companies she’s led (you’ll recall that Ms. Tam had previously led Nike, Reebok’s Retail and Apparel Division, and Aveda) and others she has guided. They are:

  • Tell the Truth
  • Make Partners
  • Make Big Mistakes
  • Die by Your Own Sword

Marilyn shared a fun visual exercise that shifted the conversation to perspective. For those of you that weren’t with us, I invite you to take a look at the image below. What do you see?* (answer below)


And, perspectives must have shifted, based on the testimonials that have filtered back to the Roundtable’s office:

“Wow! Just wow is my reaction.” ~ Ted Castle, CEO, Rhino Foods and Reaction Panelist

“Dr. Tam’s speech spoke directly to my heart” ~ Scholarship Seat Recipient

“I was moved by Marilyn. Really got me thinking about what my north star is.” ~ Executive

“One of the two best speakers I have ever heard!” ~ Executive

“You inspired me and your talk was with me all day and this morning and hopefully each and every day. Thank you so much for what you do. Your impact is tremendous and reverberates exponentially, I am sure of this” ~ a note received by Marilyn Tam.

After Ms. Tam and panelists Kyle Dodson, Champlain College, and Erica Schramm, VEIC, wrapped up the “Becoming Leaders of Influence” session, one other perspective offered was from Patrick Burke, Principal, South Burlington High School who asserted the event’s importance with, “You have to keep doing these!” Eighty students from Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Champlain College, Community College of Vermont, Saint Michael’s College, University of Vermont and South Burlington High School were in attendance of that session.

Thank you all who took the time out of your busy schedules to join us. Thank you also to our very generous sponsors – Green Mountain Power; Champlain Investment Partners;  Comcast;  FreePressMedia; KPMG; Sugarbush Resort; Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences; Chroma Technology; Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew; Gallagher Flynn & Co; Smugglers’ Notch Resort; VEDA and VSAC for making the Roundtable’s only fundraising event not only possible, but successful!

* There’s both a frog and horse in the image above. Once you are able to see both, you simply can’t not see both. Similarly, we are capable of understanding others’ positions  if we are willing to do so.

Presidents Column Fall 2015


Wednesday, October 7th, 2015


By Lisa Ventriss, President

The unseasonably warm September weather may have fooled us into thinking that summer was still at play, but the Roundtable calendar of activities should fool nobody. We are again firing on all pistons.

September showcased a capacity crowd at the second annual Executive Leadership Series Breakfast, featuring Marilyn Tam and area business leaders including Tiff Bluemle, Ted Castle, and Wanda Heading-Grant. While the main focus was on cultivating and benefitting from diversity in the workplace, Tam also shared her coaching lessons around how choosing happiness can lead busy executives to a balanced, healthy and joyful life. The student session included over 60 area high school and college students to discuss how their very diverse communities engage, learn from, and influence each other. And as a third benefit, the proceeds from the sale of Tam’s book, The Happiness Choice, benefited the Nordic Education Trust Fund.

Also in September, I attended the annual meeting of State Business Roundtable Executives, hosted by the Washington Business Roundtable. Over the course of three days in Seattle and its environs, we enjoyed the opportunity to network, learn, and engage in policy discussions mainly around education and economic development. And with site visits to Microsoft and Boeing, we heard consistent messages around their efforts to create the workforce of the future by investing directly in middle, high and technical schools. So, while my trip to the Great Northwest was mind boggling at times, the basic message was eerily familiar. The competitiveness of our economy cannot be sustained without the constant replenishment of its human capital. Companies in Vermont may not have $25 million to invest directly in high school computer science courses, as does Microsoft, but we can and must engage more actively with middle and high school students to create awareness of and aspirations toward post-secondary education and the world of work beyond school.

The fall lineup also includes the November annual board planning retreat held this year at Sugarbush Resort. In addition to having a 360 discussion on the legalization of marijuana, directors will be electing new directors, approving the new budget, and framing our work plan for 2016. Results of these actions will be reported to the full membership for ratification at the January 14th Annual Membership Meeting at The Essex.

As always, Sherra and I greatly appreciate your engagement and support of the Roundtable. We wish you a very productive fall and will look forward to seeing you in January.

Roundtable Associate Member, David Gurtman, Honored


Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

A special congratulations goes out to David Gurtman, Associate Member from Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, for being recognized as one of this year’s 40 ‘Rising Stars’ under the age of 40 by Vermont Business Magazine!  Dave has been an active member of the Roundtable – first as an Emergent Leader and then as an Associate Member – since 2009. In addition to serving on the Vermont Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) working group, created by Act 48, he also serves on the boards of CarShareVT, Chittenden County Bar Association and Leadership Champlain.

Congratulations also to the following member organizations that have Rising Stars of their own this year:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont
  • Cabot Creamery
  • Green Mountain Power Corp.
  • Middlebury College
  • Vermont Economic Development Corp.
  • Vermont Student Assistance Corp.

Education Matters: Vermont’s Policy Success


Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

by Mary Barrosse Schwartz, Executive Director
VBR Research & Education Foundation

Vermont has come a long way in developing and codifying research-based education public policy. After the 2015 legislative session, the State now has governance policy to create comprehensive educational entities, which have a decent chance of improving outcomes for children.

The proof, however, is always in the pudding. In other words, you can only say something is a success after it has been tried out or used. As a state, we have a long way to go to ensuring every child learns to read by age nine, and in increasing the aspiration of students to achieve postsecondary degrees or credentials so they can do well in life. How will new laws be implemented on the local level, so that our educational systems achieve the return on investment needed for our future economy?

Vermont has good early childhood policy, but it could be better. We have universal pre-k, but the quality standards are the lowest of any state in New England, and the law allows for 10 hours of funding per week, which is only half of what most other states offer. National research shows a positive return on investment for high quality programs with at least 20 hours per week.

Success in implementation of early childhood and in early elementary is critical for improved literacy. Vermont sees a high level of proficiency for literacy by age nine compared to other states, but only half of our children meet this benchmark. Dr. Blanche Podhajski of the Stern Center, a national leader in reading literacy, recommended to the VBR Education Task Force in August that improved teacher training and the use of evidence-based literacy curriculum, along with partnerships between pre-k and early elementary school programs to help transition children, will improve Vermont’s literacy outcomes.

UVM President Tom Sullivan addressed college attainment at the September Education Task Force meeting, recommending that school districts work to align course offerings with college requirements to help more students prepare for successful enrollment. In addition he said, “We must think about college attainment as getting an actual degree within two or four years, instead of focusing at getting more students enrolled. Success will be on-time graduation, with more students getting degrees.”

As Vermont school districts respond to the requirements of Act 46, it is essential that educational systems implement good policy to support the success of all children, instead of simply redrawing school districts boundaries. Local leadership of business leaders in literacy and post secondary achievement can start with asking about how the new districts will get better results.

Business Leader and Humanitarian Marilyn H. Tam Urges Vermont Employers to Embrace Workplace Diversity


Saturday, September 26th, 2015
Win Smith-MarilynTam-Wanda Heading-Grant-TiffanyBlumele-TedCastle-LisaVentriss

L to R: Roundtable Chair, Win Smith, Jr., Marilyn H. Tam, Wanda Heading-Grant, Tiffany Bluemle, Ted Castle, Lisa Ventriss

September 25, 2015 – Burlington, Vt.–Nearly 400 Vermont employers came together today at the Sheraton Burlington to hear an inspiring message from global business leader and humanitarian Marilyn H. Tam about the importance and value of workplace diversity. Ms. Tam addressed the rapidly changing faces of the nation and the world—including Vermont—as well as the shifting age of workers and the dramatic rise of women-owned companies.

Ms. Tam was the keynote speaker at the second annual Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership series breakfast. Her talk, “Diversity: How to Reap Vermont’s Rich Harvest of Culture, Creativity & Community,” connected such diverse themes as life purpose and work-life balance with how to accelerate change in the workplace to achieve greater diversity.

A former CEO of Aveda Corp, president at Reebok and vice president of Nike Inc., Ms. Tam shared her own sobering story overcoming cultural hardship in Hong Kong where she was born into a traditional Chinese family (her mother didn’t want another girl), and rising to become an influential corporate leader and more recently an advocate for living a happy, healthy, successful and balanced life.

“Marilyn Tam shared a refreshing message of hope and self-reliance,” says Lisa Ventriss, CEO and president of the Vermont Business Roundtable. “Vermont is more diverse than we think, getting more so by the day, and all of us will benefit from the energy and new ideas that workforce diversity brings.”

Ms. Tam shared her philosophy about work-life balance, the significant cost of unhappiness (estimated at $550 Billion in the U.S. in 2013), and the four principles that have helped her succeed in the workplace and life: tell the truth, make partners, make big mistakes, and die by your own sword.

These principles also apply to driving toward greater workplace diversity, Ms. Tam noted.

Three Vermont employers with first-hand experience in workplace diversity also addressed the assembled group. Ted Castle, the owner and president of Rhino Foods, noted “we are horrible at diversity in Vermont” and added “getting the conversation going is a great first step.”

Wanda Heading-Grant, Ph.D., vice president for human resources, diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Vermont, stressed that “diversity is an economic and social imperative.”

Tiffany Bluemle, director of Change The Story VT, which focuses on advancing women’s economic security in Vermont, urged the audience to be curious and ask questions about gender inequality.

Vermont Business Roundtable 2015 Becoming Leaders of InfluencejpgFollowing her breakfast presentation, Ms. Tam led a panel of local diversity leaders who encouraged more than 75 students from local colleges and high schools to find their life purpose to make a positive difference. She also talked about “how to use what you’ve got to get what you want.”

The Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership Series is supported by the generosity of presenting sponsor Green Mountain Power and gold sponsors Champlain Investment Partners, Comcast Business, FreePressMedia, KPMG, Sugarbush as well as silver sponsors Albany College Pharmacy & Health Sciences, of Chroma Technology Corp., Community College of Vermont, Dinse Knapp & McAndrew, Gallagher Flynn & Company, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

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About the Vermont Business Roundtable

The Vermont Business Roundtable was established in 1987 as a nonprofit, public interest organization. One hundred CEOs of Vermont’s top private and non-profit sector employers comprise the Roundtable. They are dedicated to making Vermont the best place in America to do business, be educated, and live life. Since inception, the Roundtable CEOs have dedicated themselves to thoughtful, deliberative, and well-documented analyses of significant public policy issues affecting all Vermonters, ranging from education, economic health, environmental quality, health care policy, and technology.

Learn more about the Roundtable and view published reports at


Ventriss VPR Commentary on DCF


Monday, September 14th, 2015

“DCF”, a Vermont Public Radio Commentary by Lisa Ventriss

September 11, 2015 – When I first heard the news of Lara Sobel’s murder, my mind flashed to that particular parking lot. In addition to Department for Children and Families – or DCF – the building also houses the Agency of Education where I sometimes have meetings, so I know that parking lot. Next I thought of my sister, the Director of a different DCF office. She spent that Friday night repeating the news of Lara’s murder to each of her 20-plus colleagues.

Since then it seems, just as Americans of a certain age think in terms of Pre- and Post-9/11, Vermonters must now also look at life in terms of Pre- and Post-8/7. There’s no undoing it.

Since then, security officers must escort workers to and from their cars; protesters have threatened workers and their families on social media sites and in person; staffers have resigned, while others have continued on with renewed resolve.

Since then, it’s become evident that DCF has struggled to communicate the challenges it encounters to fulfill its mission to “foster the healthy development, safety, well-being, and self-sufficiency of Vermonters.” Yes, DCF took it on the chin publicly after the tragic deaths of two small children in the system, and recent budget cuts have reduced staffing even though caseloads are above the federal goal and calls to DCF Child Protection Line have increased 25 percent between 2010-2014.

But, it’s taken the murder of a DCF social worker for the public to see that rampant drug addiction, financial stress, domestic violence, poor education, mental illness, and joblessness have created a toxic environment for our children. And DCF has to walk through it every day.

Once a judge issues a written court order, case workers enter a client’s home and remove at-risk minors, and place them either in kinship or foster care. Other than having a deep and abiding commitment to children, it’s hard to imagine what mental preparation workers need to enter a home without knowing the risks that may await them there.

Still, my sister reminds me, when other options and budgets have been exhausted, these same DCF workers conduct drives for furniture and clothing, Christmas and birthday presents, books, toys, games, and school supplies from within their own networks of family and friends, so that a family or child in their care might have a bit of normalcy in their life.

Just as we can’t return to Pre-9/11, we can’t ever return to Pre-8/7. But, we can and must explore ways to prevent it from ever happening again.

Business Leader and Author Marilyn H. Tam To Speak on Workplace Diversity


Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

September 8, 2015 – Workforce diversity is the topic of the day September 25, when international business leader and author Marilyn H. Tam visits Vermont for a series of events for business, public and not-for-profit leaders as well as high school and college students.

Ms. Tam will be the keynote speaker at the second annual Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership series breakfast at the Sheraton Burlington on Friday, September 25 at 8:30 am. Her talk, “Diversity: How to Reap Vermont’s Rich Harvest of Culture, Creativity & Community,” promises to offer some global perspective on the very best practices for recruiting, cultivating and retaining a diverse workforce.

A former CEO of Aveda Corp, president at Reebok (apparel and retail group), and vice president of Nike Inc., Ms. Tam is also a storyteller, author, radio host and respected humanitarian.

Her story is one of overcoming cultural and economic hardship in Hong Kong, where she was born into a traditional Chinese family, and rising to become an influential corporate leader and more recently an advocate for living a happy, healthy, successful and balanced life.

“Ms. Tam’s message about workforce diversity is timely as Vermont businesses, non-profits and the public sector continue to struggle with talent recruitment,” says Lisa Ventriss, CEO and president of the Vermont Business Roundtable. “We have to ask, are we tapping all of our community, in all of its diversity?”

Ms. Tam’s presentation will be followed by brief remarks from three local leaders with deep but different experiences with cultural diversity in the workplace. Ted Castle is the owner and president of Rhino Foods, one of Vermont’s leading companies and a pioneer in hiring New Americans. Wanda Heading-Grant, Ed.D., vice president for human resources, diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Vermont, has focused her career on issues of education, social service, social justice and equity. And Tiffany Bluemle is director of Change The Story VT, which focuses on advancing women’s economic security in Vermont.

Following her breakfast presentation, Ms. Tam will moderate a panel of local diversity leaders who will address 100 students from local high schools and colleges, including the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Champlain College, Community College of Vermont, St. Michael’s College and the University of Vermont.

A limited number of individual seats to the breakfast event are available for purchase. More information and registration is available at

Also, a number of employers who have purchased tickets and tables for their employees have opted to donate a scholarship seat at their company tables for people unable to afford the $140 price of admission. To request a scholarship, call Sherra Bourget at the Roundtable, 802-865-0410.

The Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership Series is supported by the generosity of presenting sponsor Green Mountain Power and gold sponsors Champlain Investment Partners, Comcast Business, FreePressMedia, KPMG, Sugarbush Resort as well as silver sponsors Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Chroma Technology Corp., Dinse Knapp & McAndrew, Gallagher Flynn & Company, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

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 About Marilyn H. Tam
Marilyn Tam, Ph.D., is a Speaker, Author, Consultant, Board Certified Executive/Corporate Coach, CEO of Marilyn Tam & Co. and Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. She was formerly the CEO of Aveda Corp., President of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group, Vice President of Nike Inc. and also a successful entrepreneur who has built four companies.

Marilyn is a contributing writer to Huffington Post. She also had for some time a weekly radio show, The Happiness Choice on FMG network, which reaches 35 million people and features experts on how to live a happy, healthy, successful, and dynamically balanced life.

Welcome New Members!


Friday, July 10th, 2015

The Roundtable is pleased to welcome new Member:
Bob Morgan, CEO, North Country Federal Credit Union

We are also pleased to welcome several new Members of existing companies. They are:
Al Getler, President & Publisher of FreePressMedia / Burlington Free Press, who succeeds Jim Fogler.
Steve Gibbs, Chief Accounting Officer of Keurig Green Mountain, who succeeds T.J. Whalen.
Jeff McMahan, President and Managing Partner of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., who succeeds Brian Murphy.
Paul Savas, Vice President of Comcast Business Western New England Region, who succeeds Associate Member, Charlie Tzoumas.
Ed Townley, President and CEO of AgriMark and Cabot Creamery, who succeeds Rich Stammer.
John Valente, Director and Shareholder of Ryan Smith & Carbine, Ltd., who succeeds Tom Dowling.

If you did not get a chance to meet them at the Summer Membership Meeting in June, we invite you to make our new colleagues feel welcomed by reaching out to them at your first opportunity.

Members Honored for Worksite Wellness Progams


Thursday, July 9th, 2015

At a conference entitled, “Linking Employee Health to Better Business,” which was held at the end of March, Governor Shumlin presented awards to nearly 100 employers from around the state for their efforts to create cultures of wellness at their workplaces. Of those awarded, a number of Roundtable Members were honored.

We’d like to congratulate the members that we know were recognized:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont
  • Brattleboro Retreat
  • Engelberth Construction
  • King Arthur Flour
  • Sonnax Industries
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • University of Vermont Medical Center
  • Vermont Mutual Insurance

We applaud you and other members for your efforts to promote healthy lifestyles. Because of your investments, indeed you make working and playing in the Green Mountains a desirable place to be.

Fore more information on the Vermont Department of Health’s Worksite Wellness resources, please visit:

Over 30 Member Organizations Participate in 2015 Corporate Cup Challenge


Thursday, July 9th, 2015

With team names like, the “Flying Fiduciaries,” “Kicking Asphalt” and “Cirque de Sore Legs,” the 2015 Corporate Cup Challenge 5k race saw over 4,000 runners and walkers, which has been raising money for the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for over three decades. The Council supports healthful initiatives like: Vermont Senior Games, promoting workplace wellness and other activities that encourage health and fitness within Vermont’s youth population.

A shout out goes to the more than 30 member organizations that supported their employees to push back from their desks and get outside for some physical activity with the community!

Agri-Mark / Cabot Creamery Trapp Family Lodge
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont Union Mutual Group
Champlain College Union Street Media
Community College of Vermont University of Vermont
Freeman French Freeman University of Vermont Medical Center
Gardener’s Supply UVM Foundation
Green Mountain Power Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Hickok & Boardman Vermont Energy Investment Corp.
Keurig Green Mountain Vermont Foodbank
Merchants Bank Vermont Gas Systems
MVP Health Care Vermont Law School
National Life Group Vermont Mutual Insurance Co.
Northwestern Medical Center Vermont State Colleges
Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer Vermont Technical College
Saint Michael’s College Vermont Teddy Bear
Smugglers’ Notch Resort Vermont Student Assistance Corp.
Sugarbush Resort Vermont State Employees Credit Union

See WCAX’s coverage of the event, here.

If interested in participating in next year’s Corporate Cup Challenge, visit the Council’s website: