Tag Archives: Michael Yanney

Lisa Roskens

January 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A group of horses first caught Lisa Yanney Roskens’ attention from a picturesque pasture beside her childhood home in Bloomfield Hills, a subdivision near Westroads Mall. Ever since, she has been enamored with horses.

By the time she was 5 years old, her parents, Gail and Michael Yanney, bought her a pony named Taffy. A year later, Roskens began taking Western riding lessons, and by her preteens, she joined Jan Mactier at Ponca Hills Farm and began learning English riding. She rode and competed in equitation (the art of riding) through high school, through her college years at Stanford University, and eventually sold her horse upon returning to Omaha in the early 1990s.

At that point, she began running instead of riding. But her former riding master knew where Roskens’ heart lay.

“Jan called me up one day and said, ‘let’s go for a ride’ and I’ve never gone back,” Roskens says.

Roskens began training again, in earnest, eventually getting back to competition. She rekindled her passion for horses, and in 2009, began looking at bringing the sport to Omaha when she attended the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the world’s top equestrian event.

afterhours2“I was a junkie, and I went to see my heroes, and I wanted to see what this top level competition was like,” Roskens says. “I was overwhelmed at the level of horsemen, but I was underwhelmed with the facility, the layout, and how everything was set up, from both a spectator’s perspective and a horseman’s perspective.”

She began to work towards bringing the event to Omaha.

“I found some friends. What does a girl do but get all of her friends together and say, ‘let’s figure out how to solve this problem,’ ” Roskens says lightheartedly.

The friends she brought together included businesspeople, horse people, and marketing and promotions people. She brought onboard Harold Cliff of the Omaha Sports Commission, whom Roskens says was “incredibly helpful.” By 2013, she and her friends watched their sport in their hometown (at the International Omaha), and last year, they won their bid to secure the 2017 World Cup. Omaha’s bid beat out London, Hong Kong, and ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

“To be honest, I thought the bid was kind of a trial run,” Roskens says. “We threw everything we had at it, but I really thought they’d get to know us, and we’d win for 2018. The entire equestrian community was surprised, and pleased.”

Roskens, who trains on two horses six days a week, frequently rides in the mornings before getting ready for her day job as chairman and CEO of Burlington Capital. While she pondered riding professionally in the past, she appreciates that her business acumen can bring knowledge to this sport.

“It’s easy to get caught up in how things are done and not look at them with innovation and a fresh set of eyes,” Roskens says. “That’s what I can bring to my sport.”

Roskens also credits some advice given to her by her parents for allowing her to keep her hobby as a hobby.

“Back when I was in high school, and I was considering becoming a professional rider, they said, ‘remember, when your hobby becomes your career, it’s no longer voluntary, and it changes the nature of your hobby fundamentally,’” she remembers. 

So while it may seem as though Roskens has two careers, she is happy to continue pursuing riding as a hobby.

“[People who turn hobbies into careers] go at it with this joy, this sense of fun, which is great, but if you don’t know how to balance your books, and you don’t know how to negotiate a lease, you either need to find someone who does, or you need to learn how,” she says.

Roskens and her friends have learned how, and that has enabled them to bring a world-class event to Omaha. When the FEI World Cup rolls into town in April, visitors will find an event that has been set up by a team of disciplined and passionate horsemen ready to welcome (and take on) the world.

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

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Flexing Some Muscle

June 2, 2015 by

Article originally published in Summer 2015 edition of B2B.

Tim McGill used to tag along with his dad to various job sites. He liked watching the cement masons mix, pour, and work the mixture into a heavy, viscous mass before swirling it over cracks and crevices to a smooth finish—pretty cool stuff to a little guy.

McGill was 7 years old when his father, Tim Sr., started McGill Restoration, a structural concrete repair, masonry repair, and waterproofing company. At 15, he started working for his dad in the field. He labored on commercial and industrial facilities for the next seven years until earning a construction engineering degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

McGill and his older brother, Rich, now own the company their father started. They’re busy—that’s the good news. But a virtual sign constantly hovers over the company’s Grebe Street location in Florence:

Help Wanted.

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“We’re always hiring,” says McGill, who pays what he calls very competitive wages.  “Our company has been around 30 years and finding people who want to be a craftsman their entire life and dedicate themselves to a trade has always been tough. But it seems to get tougher every year.”

Contractors across America echo McGill’s frustrations. The numbers bear witness. A survey conducted last fall by the Associated General Contractors of America shows 83% of firms nationwide report difficulty finding craft and trade workers: electricians, plumbers, tile setters, welders, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers—the list goes on and on. Midwest businesses reported even greater problems filling positions. Amazingly, all 18 companies surveyed in Nebraska by the AGCA said they had job openings they couldn’t fill.

“I have personally been involved in projects that turned away from Omaha because we couldn’t provide the skilled workers that they need,” says Bill Owen, board chairperson of the Downtown Improvement District.

Owen’s full-time job, however, puts him in a position to do something about the skilled labor shortage. As associate vice president for effectiveness and engagement at Metropolitan Community College, Owen helps guide an ambitious $90 million job-training expansion.“It’s a huge project for us,” he says.

The first iron beams currently rising from the dirt on the south end of Metro’s Fort Omaha location signal the beginning of three buildings being constructed simultaneously. When it becomes operational (hopefully in late 2017), the complex will provide more space and state-of-the-art equipment for career and technical training—a modern moniker for the kind of training once called vo-tech, or vocational education. The buildings will house an academic skills center, a center for advanced and emerging technology, and a construction education center, effectively consolidating all the trades and technology programs at the main campus in North Omaha.

“There’s not a career that technology doesn’t play a role in,” says Owen, explaining the importance of Metro’s new advanced and emerging technology center. “The laptop computer is part of the tool pouch for the trades or crafts person.”

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Blue-collar trades like welding or pipefitting, once considered about as contemporary and relevant as a VHS tape, are not only in demand, they have been re-booted to add electronic brains to the traditional brawn. Metro actually has a welding machine that requires no welding rod, no flame, and no spark, giving the student a completely virtual welding experience.

The 100,000-square-foot construction education center will feature a large, shared space for students to work on projects such as building modular homes. Sections will include electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and carpentry work.

“Metropolitan Community College has always been here serving the career and technical student needs,” says Owen. “It’s now much more apparent to other members of the community just how important that role is.”

Metro’s vision captured the attention of a very powerful member of Omaha’s community— the Knights of AKSARBEN Foundation, the area’s premier philanthropic organization consisting of a broad swath of business and civic leaders. Now in its 120th year, the Knights of AKSARBEN has evolved into a facilitator of education, focusing its scholarship largesse on high school students who often don’t have doors opened for them. When Metro announced its skilled-trades expansion, AKSARBEN saw an opening to expand its brand.

Championed by reigning King of AKSARBEN Michael Yanney, and nurtured by the board of governors, the foundation recently launched a pilot post-secondary scholarship initiative to funnel deserving students to Metro’s skilled trades and technology offerings.

“The AKSARBEN Scholars Career Connectors program is an effort to hit two needs within our community,” explains foundation president Jonathan Burt. “One is the need for more skilled and technical workers as well as a need to address the high pockets of poverty that we know still exist in our Omaha community.”

Working with current scholarship partner the Horatio Alger Association and a new partner, Avenue Scholars Foundation of Omaha, AKSARBEN hopes to award at least 150 two-year scholarships worth up to $8,000 by this fall. Career Connectors has also partnered with the Iowa West Foundation and Iowa Western Community College, a union that’s likely to add 30 to 35 students to the effort.

“Avenue Scholars, embedded in seven schools, identifies students who come from a high-needs background but who have a defined interest in a career path,” says Burt. “Those students can then apply for a Career Connectors scholarship.”

Burt and Avenue Scholars President Dr. Kenneth Bird, both educators by profession, understand the mindset of 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds. They know a student may go to Metro with one career in mind and then choose a different path, perhaps going into the distribution, management, or business end of things. That’s to be expected. And it doesn’t matter whether a student uses the scholarship money to take a six-week certification course, a six-month course or to acquire a two-year associate’s degree. “As long as the student exits the program with a skill set needed for a quality career, one that can open them up to a middle class lifestyle, then (the program) will be a success,” says Burt.

Through the generosity of the Knights of AKSARBEN and the innovation of Metropolitan Community College, scholarship winners will discover what many young adults haven’t: a career in the trades can mean money. “Department of Labor data, not self-reporting data, show our graduates in the construction trades, just one to two years out from our program, earn between $36,000 and $39,000 a year,” says Owen, pointing to scads of graphs and spread sheets. In the trades, experience counts more than education, leading Owen to pose, “Imagine what your salary will be when you’re 10 years out.”

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Manual labor can also mean longevity. Those same Labor Department numbers project a 27 percent increase in skilled labor jobs through 2020. Certainly the big-ticket building boom on both sides of Missouri—the $400 million Google project in Council Bluffs, the $1.2 billion StratCom headquarters in Bellevue, and the $323 million cancer center in Omaha—define a golden age in the Midlands. People who do have the skills are already employed.]

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t more young adults going into the trades? The explanation
has many parts, some more sociological than economic.

“The shortage actually started 20 to 30 years ago—long before the Great Recession,” according to Dr. Eric Thompson, an economics professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “As we become more of a service economy, fewer and fewer children have parents who were blue-collar workers. People did more of their own home repairs back then and they tinkered with cars. Young people were picking up skill sets as they watched their parents and transitioning to those occupations.”

Thompson also points out that young adults are staying single longer now, making them more inclined to take a chance on a career, “that may be less steady but potentially more exciting and rewarding.” The cyclical nature of construction and manufacturing, so vulnerable to downturns, makes young people hesitant, he says.

Another part of the equation—a big one—involves education. “Those of us in the education community have been steering teenagers toward four-year degrees,” says Thompson. Latching onto that explanation, Bill Owen adds, “It isn’t just the high schools. In many cases, it’s the parents who feel, ‘Well, my child is going to aim higher than a trade job and is going to aim for a profession.’”

As someone who came up through the trades before parlaying his associate’s degree into a master’s degree in education from Iowa State, Owen sees the pendulum swinging the other way. “These jobs were looked down on in the past. And now people are really beginning to admire and respect those who can do things with their hands because it’s almost a lost art. Perception has changed.”

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Filling Mom’s Shoes

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Daughters become inspired, motivated, and awed by their mothers as they see them dash out the door on a volunteer mission time after time. They often follow in their footsteps.

But as daughters trail mothers down the volunteer road, they’re finding the path has veered. More women in the workplace means a different approach to volunteering. Meetings once scheduled for mornings are now scheduled for noon so volunteers can return to jobs. An e-mail sent at midnight is now more likely to happen.

How volunteers schedule their time has changed. The dedication and sense of responsibility that daughters learn from mothers has not. Here we share four stories about the gift mothers give daughters that keeps on giving —the gift of volunteering.

Gail Yanney & Lisa Roskens

Gail Yanney became an anesthesiologist in the 1960s when few women held careers. At the time, the consensus was that working women didn’t have time to volunteer. (We know better now.) But she soon became one of Omaha’s most active volunteers.

Her volunteering career began while she was a busy student at UNMC College of Medicine. Invited to join Junior League, she asked permission from her department head.

“He said, ‘Physicians need to be part of their community,’” remembers Gail, who is now retired.

Passionate about the environment, she was a teacher naturalist at Fontenelle Forest on her day off. Gail is also a founder of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

 “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.” – Lisa Roskens

With her husband, Michael Yanney, she received the Spirit of Nebraska Award from the Eppley Cancer Center last year.

Gail’s daughter, Lisa Roskens, learned from her mom. “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.”

Lisa is chairman of the board, president, and CEO at the Burlington Capital Group, a company founded by her father, who partners with his wife in philanthropy. Volunteering is a family affair at the Roskens’ house where Lisa’s husband, Bill, and their two children join in. They rally around animals and kids and have helped at the Nebraska Humane Society and at Take Flight Farm.

Lisa tries to pass on to Charlie, 13, and Mary, 10, what her mother passed on to her. “We try to instill that sense of giving back as an obligation to being a citizen in a community. I don’t tell them what charities to support, but foster independence.

“Mom said the only thing you get out of life is what you give away.”

Sharon Marvin Griffin & Melissa Marvin

Sharon Marvin Griffin and her daughter, Melissa Marvin, have received many of Omaha’s top honors for volunteering. For Sharon, they have included Arthritis Woman of the Year, Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, Salvation Army Others Award, and United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, among others. For Melissa, awards have included the 2010 YWCA Women of Distinction and honors from the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Each has been involved in more than 40 charitable activities over a lifetime. Each presently serves on 10 nonprofit boards. Coincidence? Not likely. Melissa has inherited her mother’s zest for volunteering.

“Mom is a professional volunteer,” says Melissa. “No. 1 is the importance of giving back. No. 2 is the importance of how to be a leader, how to work together in teams. I try to emulate that.”

“Mom is a professional volunteer…I try to emulate that.” – Melissa Marvin

Melissa remembers her first volunteer experience at age 7. She and brother Barney, then age 2, delivered Christmas gifts to shut-ins. “We looked on it as an honor,” she says.

The family, including her father, Sam Marvin, who died in 1997, together rang bells for The Salvation Army.

The mother and daughter also have in common busy careers. Sharon, who is married to Dr. William Griffin, has had a 25-year career in real estate at NP Dodge. Melissa is with the Cohen Brown Management Group and is director of Community Engagement for Metropolitan Community College.

Mom has the final word: “The more you give, the more you grow.”

Susan Cutler, Jeanie Jones & Jackie Lund

Susan Cutler has big fans in her daughters.

“I watch all the friends Mom has made and the rewards you get from giving. I have huge shoes to fill,” says Jeanie Jones. “I don’t think she realizes how big those shoes are.”

Those shoes took the first steps to volunteering in her hometown of Council Bluffs, where Susan lived with her husband, Bill Cutler, a funeral director. They moved to Omaha in 1987. “When I started volunteering, I learned so much about my community,” she says.

She volunteered at her children’s schools. “I wanted to meet other parents, learn what was happening,” says Susan, who was a third-grade teacher earlier in her life. She presently is on the board of directors of the Methodist Hospital Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chairman for Joslyn Art Museum’s 2013 Gala.

“I have huge shoes to fill. I don’t think [Mom] realizes how big those shoes are.” – Jeanie Jones

Her daughters have their own impressive resume of community service.

“I remember Mom was involved in Ak-Sar-Ben when I was in sixth and seventh grades. I had to go to stuff and didn’t like it,” laughs daughter Jackie Lund. The mother of two children is owner of Roots & Wings Boutique in Omaha. But Jackie now goes to “stuff” and enjoys it. She is guild board treasurer of the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I met some of my best friends through volunteer work,” says daughter Jeanie, who has three children. She serves in leadership positions for such groups as Clarkson Service League, Ak-Sar-Ben, Joslyn Art Museum, and Girls, Inc.

Susan said she didn’t try to influence her daughters. “Your children do what they watch, not what you say.” She continues her devotion to volunteering. “You learn about yourself, as well as about the community. It all comes back to you more than you can ever imagine.”

Sharon McGill & Kyle Robino

Kyle Robino remembers as a child slapping stickers on hundreds of mailings for charities. That was her first exposure to the world of volunteering with her mother, Sharon McGill.

Their family’s tradition of volunteering has been passed down from generation to generation. Sharon inherited the volunteering gene from her mother, who helped establish the Albuquerque Garden Center, and from her grandmother, a strong force in her rural New Mexico community. “I looked back at their lives and learned how they made things better for others,” she says.

Sharon brought along her talents as a ballet dancer when she moved to Omaha in 1968. Not surprisingly, her first volunteer act was helping to build a professional ballet company. A dancer, teacher, board president, and, later, ballet mistress for Ballet Omaha, Sharon took her two daughters along. They attended ballet classes and absorbed the essence of volunteering from watching their mother. She now serves on the Joslyn Castle board.

“I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models. My mom was a great role model.” – Kyle Robino

Kyle and her sister, Gwen McGill, who resides in Napa Valley, Calif., are following in their mother’s ballet shoes.

The JDRF is the center of Kyle’s volunteer work. Five years ago, her older daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Kyle’s husband, Mike, is board president of the JDRF Heartland Chapter.

“As you get older, you figure out what your passions are and what causes are personal to you,” says Kyle, who owns Old Market Habitat flower shop. “I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models,” she says. “My mom was a great role model.”

Kyle is now a role model for a possible fifth generation of volunteers—daughters Olivia, 14, and Ava, 7. These young ladies will have big shoes to fill, too.