Board of Directors
BRET DUSTON – Chair
Senior Vice President & Director of Commercial Banking – Colorado, Academy Bank, N.A.
Bret has been in the banking industry and active in the greater Denver, Colorado market for 25 years. Bret has extensive experience helping small and mid-sized commercial businesses grow and prosper. He has held numerous executive management roles with responsibility for small business, business banking, middle market, SBA, and credit administration divisions during his tenure. Prior to joining Academy Bank, Bret served in executive roles with Vectra Bank Colorado, Flatirons Bank as its CEO, and multiple roles of increasing responsibility with KeyBank, N.A. Bret is a graduate of Texas Tech University and holds an MBA from the University of Colorado. He has served on multiple boards including as past President of Trout Unlimited (St. Vrain), South Metro Economic Development, and a graduate of the prestigious “50 For Colorado” leadership program. He currently serves as a Mentor in the DTC/Greenwood Village Young Professionals Mentorship Program. Bret and his wife Heidi just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and have two children, Bryce (17) and Aubrey (14). The family resides in Castle Rock, CO.
ANN SWANSON – Vice Chair
Ann’s career was spent at the Walt Disney Company as the Vice President of National Accounts at Disney/ESPN Networks. Ann was inspired to shift gears in life in 2011, when she attended Ready, Set, Grow, Women’s Bean Projects’ annual luncheon and graduation celebration. Ann has been a mentor for six years, worked on several special projects, served on the Programming Committee, and in 2017 joined the Board of Directors. She never ceases to be amazed by the transformation the ladies go through from when they first start their journey to when they begin to blossom with self-confidence, and learn work skills they never thought they had. It is a true metamorphosis. Travel, gardening, bike riding, and bridge keep Anne entertained when not volunteering at the Bean Project.
LESLIE KARNAUSKAS – Treasurer
Leslie has been a supporter and customer of Women’s Bean Project since its beginning so when the opportunity to join the board presented itself, she jumped at it. She is semi-retired from her 35 year career in accounting and looks forward to spending time supporting organizations such as the Bean Project. Leslie believes that helping one woman at a time gain self sufficiency for herself and her family is the only way to break the cycle that surrounds those who live in poverty. There are many other things that peak Leslie’s passion but one in particular is history – women’s history and her family’s genealogy specifically.
GWEN J. YOUNG – Secretary
Of Counsel, Greenberg Traurig
For many years, Gwen has donated to Women’s Bean Project and other non-profits that help women. She believes that women in our community and abroad who suffer from cycles of poverty, incarceration, homelessness or other struggles need the tools to obtain the employment and social skills to become productive members of their communities. Having served on a non-profit board for eight years and volunteering on its various committees, Gwen hopes to bring that experience to grow the Bean Project and help the women who commit to its program to thrive for their entire lives. Gwen is an attorney in private practice, primarily in the area of complex commercial litigation, and is a founding partner of her Denver firm, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell. She semi-retired in April 2018 and is now Senior Counsel, looking forward to committing to the Bean’s success for years to come.
Amy Bittner is a Principal at Mercer in the Employee Health & Benefits Practice. She is responsible for developing new business partnerships for Mercer’s Denver office as well as developing programs and content to educate and empower the local human resource community. Amy has over 18 years of experience helping organizations access their current human resource strategies as well as overall business goals. In addition to her board position with Women’s Bean Project, Amy served for 3 years on the board of Firefly Autism and co-built a skills-based volunteer group, hrUnlocked (Formally hrCares Colorado), which focuses on removing barriers to employment for those who struggle to find appropriate work. hrUnlocked has more than 70 members and hosts volunteer events throughout the year.
Milly Christmann is a high energy, operationally oriented talent management leader with extensive expertise in human resources, sales management, service and operations. Currently, Milly is focused on her Human Resources consulting business which is geared to support small to medium sized businesses where she is leveraging her Fortune 100 background to level the playing field for those business owners. Milly also provide career and executive coaching as well as transitional career coaching. She most recently served as the Vice President of Human Resources for PFG, Vistar in Denver, Colorado. She has also led HR functions for The Coca-Cola Company, The Home Depot, and Sears, Roebuck and Company where she began her career. She has also crossed over from HR into Sales, Operations and Supply Chain functions in order to round out her ability to act as Trusted Advisor at an executive level. Milly and her husband, Ken, reside in their forever home in the rural beauty of Sedalia, CO and enjoy hiking, archery, fishing and their two hunting dogs Kobe and Tessie.
Director of Business Development, Kelley Bean Co. Inc.
Women’s Bean Project was one of Bryce’s first customers when he went to work for his family’s business after graduate school. When he relocated to Denver many years later, it wasn’t hard to find the perfect spot to combine his knowledge of the food industry with the responsibility he felt to giving back. Bryce believes the Bean Project is one of those special places that has the team and vision to make a permanent change in the trajectory of a life. Having a general passion for business, much of Bryce’s free time is spent with entrepreneurial endeavors rounded out by the mountains of Colorado and a well-worn passport.
Treasurer, Friendship Bridge
Amy is passionate about helping women in ways that enable self-sufficiency and development through education, work experience, and financial literacy. Women’s Bean Project is a perfect fit and she has been involved with the Bean for several years on the finance committee and now serving on the Board. She is currently the Treasurer at the Friendship Bridge, an international social enterprise and nonprofit that provides microlending to women in Guatemala to help them create and grow their own businesses. She is responsible for the organization’s investor relations, debt portfolio and cash management. Amy has over 20 years of corporate finance experience. She was previously the Vice President of Investor Relations at Western Union and held various finance roles at Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink). She was born and raised in Denver and attended the University of Denver where she earned a BSBA and a master’s degree in International Management with a Finance specialization.
Executive Director Career Services, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver
Bob has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Women’s Bean Project for over 15 years, primarily because of the work and dedication of CEO Tamra Ryan. Having failed at early retirement, his day job is the Executive Director of Career Services at the Daniels College of the University of Denver. He is a seasoned business strategist and executive with a background in strategic marketing, early stage investment, technology product development, e-commerce, and digital advertising. He is an adjunct faculty member in the Daniels College and University College at DU. Bob earned a BS from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MBA from the University of Denver. He is married to pediatrician and saint, Karen Leamer, and has two reasonably well adjusted kids and two poorly behaved Siberian Huskies.
Associate, Arnold & Porter
Moved by the Bean’s commitment to empowering women in the community, Holly joined the board in 2014 and began serving on the Program Committee shortly thereafter. She worked in banking before earning her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law, where she graduated in the top of her class. Holly practices general litigation with an emphasis on complex commercial matters and loves to travel.
CEO, JESSI Exceptional Search Services, Inc.
Julie was inspired to learn more about Women’s Bean Project after noticing the individually labeled soups on the store shelf. The Bean Project mission aligns with her beliefs that when an individual is addressing their circumstances, they deserve the resources to succeed and that, as a society, we all benefit by lending a helping hand. Julie has a Master’s degree in Organizational Management and has held leadership and sales positions in entrepreneurial companies, as well as large corporate environments. She believes that measurement drives growth and success and the Bean Project’s ability to show success with solid numbers fits her approach. Julie has a close family with three children and grandchildren. They spend a lot of time enjoying the outdoors and traveling to new places.
President, Teegarden Financial Corporation
David Prichard is a highly respected, heavily involved Denver-area business leader and community influencer. David serves as the President of Teegarden Financial Corporation, a specialty finance and investment firm that partners with high net worth business owners, families, and executives throughout the country. A serial entrepreneur, David has founded multiple businesses, from consumer products to retail establishments. David is an active Angel/Venture investor and prides himself on bringing solutions to the table that effectively connect people, resources, and strategy as they work to turn ideas into reality.
David’s passion for community is evident in his work with many organizations. David is particularly engaged with and sits on the board for two of these non-profits. Women’s Bean Project hires women who are chronically unemployed and teaches them to work, stand tall, find their purpose, and break the cycle of poverty. The Opportunity Coalition provides leadership, collaboration and support to help grow businesses and create economic vitality in Colorado. David moved to Colorado in 2004. He has 4 boys and loves spending time with them and watching them grow into men. David has adopted all the local sports teams and is an Avalanche Season ticket holder. The Prichard family loves to travel, ski, and enjoy the Colorado outdoors together.
VP Experience Design, Vertafore
Inspired after hearing Tamra speak at an event, Leah knew she had to get involved with Women’s Bean Project. She has served as a Mentor, Job Coach, Alumnae Relations Chair and Board Member, becoming more dedicated to the program participants and overall mission with each new role. Leah works in technology, focusing on web design and usability, and has worked in the US and Europe for companies such as Hilton, Travelocity, HomeAdvisor and Vertafore. An avid traveler, passionate college sports fan and amateur fly fisherwoman, Leah holds multiple degrees from Southern Methodist University, and lives in Denver with her husband and her part lab, part trouble mutt.
Associate General Counsel and Secretary, Johns Manville
Roger heard from co-workers about this amazing organization called Women’s Bean Project. Finding the project’s mission compelling, he joined the board four months later. Roger has practiced law for over 30 years in the area of corporate and commercial law with an emphasis on international business transactions. He has run two different businesses; a railroad and a manufacturing company in Singapore. Having traveled extensively, Roger enjoys international travel, time with friends and family, boating, and most athletic activities.
ELLEN STEIN WALLACE
Partner, Johnson and Wallace Consulting
Ellen is a partner with Johnson and Wallace consulting, specializing in helping organizations build the internal capacity to achieve their missions, sustainability and significance. She has 35 years of policy, program planning and development experience and has worked in the field of domestic violence advocacy for over 20 years. She received her MSW from the University of Denver. Ellen has consulted with state domestic violence coalitions, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, and as the Interim Executive Director for the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She has implemented executive coaching, board development, capacity building, strategic planning, organizational stabilization, and organizational trauma work. Ellen lives with her husband Luther and enjoys hiking, gardening, paddle boarding, and (sometimes) beating Luther at tennis. She is very excited for the opportunity to contribute to the Bean Project.
HOPE ERRICO WISNESKI
Chief of Staff/Associate Dean for Operations, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver
Although her feet have touched down in nearly every U.S. state, Hope has happily called Colorado home for over 20 years and embraces every opportunity the state provides. She likes to balance her love of the outdoors with volunteer work in her community, keeping in touch with her roots as a direct service provider after she finished her MSW at the University of Denver. She’s back there today, serving as the dean’s chief administrator for the Graduate School of Social Work. Her key responsibilities focus on the school’s financial management, service to internal stakeholders, engagement of external stakeholders, and larger market positioning. Hope brings years of experience and demonstrated success in organizational and change management, staff leadership and development, and civic engagement and community partnerships. Hope’s former experience includes various client service and management roles in Colorado’s nonprofit, juvenile justice, private foundation, and mental health agencies. She is proud to belong to the Women’s Bean Project board and to be a small part of the transformative legacy created by this enduring organization.