Ryan Heckman


Mr. Ryan Heckman grew up in rural Colorado and his childhood near a ski area led him to become the youngest member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team. After a successful athletic career that included two Olympic teams, he graduated with honors from the University of Colorado.

Ryan has 20 years of private equity investing and operating experience. As a co-founder of Excellere Partners, Ryan led a top-decile performing lower middle market private equity fund with approximately $730 million of capital under management.  After his career as an investor, Ryan became President and CEO of EVP EyeCare, a Denver-based healthcare company. With his leadership, the company grew 20-fold while building best-in-class facilities, medical team and culture through a multi-state expansion strategy.  Today, EVP EyeCare is one of the largest providers of surgical eye care in the United States.

Active in his community, Ryan also co-founded the Colorado Impact Fund, a Denver-based social impact fund, served on the investment committee for the Colorado Health Foundation and is a trustee for the University of Denver.  Ryan is also a member of Colorado Concern, a bipartisan alliance of approximately 100 CEO’s who are active in strengthening public policy in Colorado.  Ryan assumed the role of Chairman of CiviCO in 2013.

Ryan and his wife, Katie, live in Denver, Colorado with two young children.


Erik Mitisek


Erik Mitisek is the president of Imagine Analytics, an IMA financial developed enterprise software company, focused on delivering digital solutions to improve insurance carrier and broker partnerships.

Erik is a seasoned business builder and innovator, having either served as the founder, CEO, or working directly for founders, building four companies from inception. Erik has led the development of the business, with a focus on product, in almost all his companies working to connect market opportunities to new products. Always following the trends in the market, he has created companies in the music, real estate, financial services and online travel industries. Insurance is next.

Erik’s passion outside of business is the innovation community. Erik previously led University of Denver’s Project XITE, which is now a leading innovation program in the region. He founded Denver Startup Week, the largest free entrepreneurial event in North America; created the Commons on Champa, an incubator for emerging start-ups and Denver’s hub for entrepreneurship; and led the launch of Startup Colorado and BuiltInColorado. In 2016, Erik was appointed Chief Innovation Officer of the State of Colorado by Governor John W. Hickenlooper, a role he held through January 2019.

Outside of Imagine Analytics, Erik also serves as Co-Chairman of Quarterly Forum/CiviCO and on the boards of the Mile High United Way, Colorado Technology Association, Good Wood Club and the National Cybersecurity Center.


Christine Kneeland


Christine has spent her multifaceted career optimizing the potential for individuals and groups to address critical issues, take advantage of emerging opportunities, and create value.

Christine was a co-owner of Center Partners when it was acquired by the international public relations and research firm WPP. She remained a Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer. She also served on a Global Talent Development team and on the faculty of WPP’s Global C-level Leader training. Earlier in her career, Christine founded WorkLife Designs, an organizational effectiveness consulting practice including facilitating visioning and strategic planning forums. Clients included communities, universities, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies.

Christine is a co-founder and Chair of Homeward 2020, Fort Collins’ strategic partnership dedicated to making homelessness rare and non-recurring. She is a founding member of The Leaders Initiative (TLI), which was incubated by Governor Hickenlooper and is now part of Quarterly Forum. Christine has served on numerous boards, is an alumnus of Leadership Fort Collins, and previously held an elected seat on the Fort Collins City Council.

Christine holds a M.Ed. from Colorado State University. She was on the faculty at Regis University in the Leadership Development Master’s Degree Program where she received an Excellence in Teaching Award.Christine is an avid photographer and, with her husband, Bill, enjoys the wonderful outdoor activities that Colorado so abundantly offers.


Taylor Kirkpatrick


Taylor is President and Chief Executive Officer of Babson Farms Inc., a family office with operating businesses in agriculture and insurance, diverse real estate investments, mineral interests and public and private equity investments.

Prior to managing this multi-generational single-family office, Taylor was involved in mergers and acquisitions as a Principal and a VP for 13 years. He started his career in financial services working in management and consulting roles for mutual fund companies based in Boston and Paris.

Taylor is active in the community and is currently involved in several philanthropic organizations in Denver, including leadership roles at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation, the Mothers’ Milk Bank Advisory Council, the Children’s Hospital of Colorado 2221 Society, and the Good Wood Club.  He also serves on the boards of Alliance for Choice in Education (ACE), Bright By Three, Quarterly Forum, Constellation Philanthropy, and the Advisory Board of the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology.

He has been married for almost 13 years to Molly, and they have an almost 7 year-old boy, Henry, who loves minerals, bugs and ninjas.

Taylor received a Bachelor of Arts in French from Middlebury College and an International MBA from the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

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Ward V.S. Cerny


Ward V.S. Cerny is a Vice President and Financial Advisor in Bernstein’s Denver office. He advises high-net-worth individuals and institutions regarding investment strategies, working closely with clients and their professional advisors on a wide range of investment matters. Prior to joining the firm in 2010, Cerny worked at Green Manning & Bunch, a Denver-based investment banking firm, where he was responsible for the origination and execution of mergers & acquisitions transactions in energy and power, among other sectors. Earlier, he worked in investment banking at the Australia New Zealand Bank’s project finance division in Singapore/Kuala Lumpur/Melbourne and in the M&A department of UBS Investment Bank in New York.  Mr. Cerny started his career in international M&A at Enron in Houston, Brazil and Singapore. He earned a BS in business administration from Georgetown University and an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He was a founding leader of the IDEA Academy, currently known as IDEA Public Schools, a leading group of charter schools in the US. Mr. Cerny served as President of the Association for Corporate Growth in Denver for three years and also served on the founding board of Ben Franklin Academy charter school (Finance head) and the Colorado Council for Economic Education board.  He is currently on the boards of Quarterly Forum and Governor’s Leadership Foundation.


Melissa Brownstein

Board Member

As a Partner at Plante Moran formerly EKS&H, Melissa is able to apply her entrepreneurial zeal to engage with the best of investor groups to provide critical audit, tax and consulting support services for private equity groups and their portfolio companies. Her experience encompasses nearly 20 years’ in public accounting, including tenure at two of the largest international public accounting firms. As a Manager with Ernst & Young’s M&A practice out of Los Angeles, she played a key role in bringing to close numerous deals throughout the tech boom era. 

Aside from her dedication to her professional work, Melissa is a proactive civic volunteer, holding a particular passion for women’s leadership opportunities, and higher education reform.  Melissa has been an active member of the Advisory Board for the University of Colorado (CU) - Leeds School of Business for over 10 years.

Melissa graduated summa cum laude from the CU Boulder and is an active Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Melissa and her husband, Todd enjoy travel to remote parts of the world, as well as exploring their native Colorado via hiking, biking and golf excursions.


Eugéne Smit

BOard Member

Eugéne is the founding partner of the McKinsey Denver office. He also leads McKinsey Implementation – a global group of almost 1,000 consultants focused on helping client execute.

Over his 20 years with McKinsey, he has advised clients on 5 continents on a variety of topics ranging from strategy to operations.

Eugéne holds an MBA from Stanford University and a degree in Electrical Engineering and is the proud father of 2 boys.

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Paul Teske

Board Member

Paul Teske is Dean of the School of Public Affairs (SPA), which is ranked #34 in America by U.S. News and World Report.  Teske was designated a University of Colorado Distinguished Professor in 2008, one of 75 across the 4 campus system. He received the 2005 Distinguished Research Award from the 300 college member groups NASPAA/ASPA and he also won the 2005 Excellence in Research and Creative Activities award from CU Denver. Teske’s research has centered on education policy, regulatory policy, and urban policy, with 8 books, more than 50 articles, and 20 book chapters on these topics. Teske’s research has been funded with more than $5 million dollars, including grants from the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Education, Brookings Institution, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Manhattan Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Smith Richardson Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Daniels Fund, and Rose Community Foundation.  His research has been discussed in media outlets including the Denver Post, New York Times, New York Post, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Education Week, and National Public Radio.

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Hal Katz

General Council

Hal Katz has is a partner with Husch Blackwell, LLP, with more than 20 years of experience as a corporate and transactional attorney.  Hal is a creative thinker, guiding his clients when it comes to business strategy and problem-solving.  He has been on the front line of innovation, witnessing firsthand successes and failures at both the industry and business levels. He appreciates the opportunity to serve his diverse clients, which range from for-profit to non-profit, and private to governmental.  

 Committed to public service, Hal serves on many boards, which include Chairing the Board of Trustees of Integral Care, a governmental agency supporting adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities.  He also serves as the Vice-chair of the Health Law Section of the American Bar Association.

 Hal holds a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.  He has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America, and Chambers USA.  In his spare time, you can find Hal practicing yoga, fishing, or traveling with his wife, Tricia, and their two young adult children.