500 Festival Announces New Board Members and Elected Officers for 2021-2022

500 Festival Announces New Board Members and Elected Officers for 2021-2022

INDIANAPOLIS (September 22, 2021) The 500 Festival announces elected officers for the 2021-2022 500 Festival Board of Directors, in addition to six new civic and business leaders who are appointed.


Serving as the governing body of the 500 Festival, the board of directors is comprised of 33 community leaders. The board guides the strategic vision of the 500 Festival and its members act as trustees, representing the organization within the community. Committed to bettering the organization, members serve on various committees that support and enhance the 500 Festival and its more than 50 programs and events annually.


Elected officers for 2021-2022:

  • Chairman of the board: James Poore, Owner, Operator, MATCH Corp., McDonald’s
  • Vice Chairman of the board: Sarah Fisher, Owner & CEO, Speedway Indoor Karting
  • Secretary: Mike Boatright, First Vice President, Middle Market Commercial Banking, The National Bank of Indianapolis
  • Treasurer: Jeff Holley, Executive Vice President, OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc.


“James has been a commendable example of a service-minded individual during his time on the 500 Festival’s board of directors,” said Bob Bryant, president and CEO of the 500 Festival. “As our organization has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, James’ supportive insight and calming leadership have proven to be invaluable. I’m looking forward to working closely with James throughout his term as chairman, as we all hope for a more normal May in 2022. Whatever we encounter in the coming months, I have no doubt that James will continue to enhance and build upon the mission of the 500 Festival and its impact here in Indiana.”


“There is so much excitement amongst this year’s 500 Festival Board of Directors,” said Poore. “As board chairman, I’m humbled at the opportunity to work alongside these esteemed community leaders, as well as the 500 Festival staff and volunteers, towards a more normal, yet exciting Month of May. This organization is vital to the city of Indianapolis, and I can’t wait to start planning and celebrating the events leading up to the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”


New members of the 500 Festival Board of Directors:

John F. Gause, President and CEO, Apex Benefits Group

John F. Gause has served as a leader and visionary in the benefits industry for more than 35 years. In 2003, he founded Apex Benefits, Indiana’s largest health and welfare benefits firm dedicated exclusively to employer group insurance, where he continues to lead strategic innovation and business development. Gause is committed to investing time and resources in institutions that impact social causes, including food insecurity, childhood health, and access to quality education. He is passionate about serving organizations including Beyond Monumental, IPS Foundation, Holy Family Shelter, Gleaners Food Bank, and the Catholic Youth Organization, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where he volunteers as a football coach. Gause graduated from Saint Joseph’s College with degrees in finance and economics and is an active alumnus of Scecina Memorial High School.


Jeffrey A. Harrison, President and CEO, Citizens Energy Group

Jeffrey A. Harrison serves as the president and chief executive officer of Citizens Energy Group. He is responsible for establishing and maintaining the vision and strategic direction for the organization; ensuring a culture that maintains a strong focus on customer needs while demonstrating a high regard for employees, teamwork, continual improvement, and integrity; ensuring operational and financial prowess; and ensuring a responsible commitment to the vitality and success of Central Indiana. Harrison has served in the utility industry for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and an MBA from Indiana University. Harrison is a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Program, the Hoosier Fellows Program, and the Diversity Leadership Academy of Greater Indianapolis.


Roger Harvey, Principal and Managing Director, Bose Public Affairs Group

Roger Harvey serves as the principal and managing director of strategic communications with Bose Public Affairs Group and oversees strategic communications for Bose McKinney & Evans. Harvey is a trusted advisor to executive leadership at leading corporations, governmental entities, and nonprofit organizations. His expertise includes crisis communications, public relations, media coaching, grassroots campaigns, alliance development, and advocacy. Harvey is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has also completed programs with Lean Six Sigma, Executive Leadership, at the Six Sigma Enterprise Institute and is a graduate of the Business Journalism Program at the American Press Institute, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.


Dr. Aleesia Johnson, Superintendent, Indianapolis Public Schools

Dr. Aleesia Johnson has served as an educator for 18 years. She was named superintendent for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in June 2019 and is the first African-American woman to serve in this capacity. Johnson oversees the strategic direction and operations of the district in achieving its mission to empower and educate all students to think critically, creatively, and responsibly, embrace diversity, and pursue their dreams with purpose. Throughout her career, Johnson has served in a number of roles in education, including innovation officer and deputy superintendent for academics in IPS as well as middle school teacher, teacher development coach, assistant school leader, and school leader. She graduated from Agnes Scott College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and African-American studies. She also holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan, as well as a Master of Arts in teaching and an Ed.D. in educational leadership, both from Oakland City University.


JJ Nelson, Executive Director of Indiana, Delta Dental

JJ Nelson serves as the executive director of Indiana for Delta Dental. His responsibilities include not only managing the day-to-day operations for the Indiana market but also developing and executing the strategic plan for the state. Throughout the course of his 20+ years in the insurance field, JJ has worked with several large national carriers. He most recently served as a senior account executive at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as well as a client strategy specialist at CIGNA Healthcare. Nelson received his MBA from the Butler University Lacy School of Business, and a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.


Roger VanDerSnick, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Indianapolis Colts

Roger VanDerSnick is an Indiana native and graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He comes to the Indianapolis Colts with more than 25 years of experience in the brand management and sales & marketing fields. At the Colts, he is responsible for the team’s commercial operations, including ticket sales, sponsorship sales, marketing, content/production, media, and business analytics. For six years, he most recently served as chief sales and marketing officer of International Management Group (IMG), College Division. Prior to his time at IMG, VanDerSnick spent 12 years in auto racing, serving in a number of roles, including vice president of marketing for NASCAR and chief operating officer for International Speedway Corp. Prior to entering the sports industry, VanDerSnick was with Procter & Gamble for 15 years. He is also a member of the Indy Chamber Board of Directors.


“The 500 Festival is excited to welcome these six individuals to our board of directors,” added Bryant. “This is a wonderful group of community leaders who will be important to the success of the 500 Festival’s events and programs in the coming years. Their unique backgrounds and experiences will only enhance the board’s vision and perspective for the future. We can’t wait to welcome them and start planning for May 2022.”


The 500 Festival Foundation, a fully-charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to generating funds in support of the 500 Festival’s mission to produce life-enriching events and programs, fostering a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana, also recently elected a new board director.


New members of the 500 Festival Foundation Board of Directors:


Rob Hillman, recently retired President and General Manager of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana

Hillman served on the 500 Festival Board of Directors from 2012-2019 and was chairman in 2018. While residing in Indianapolis, Hillman also served on the boards of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, where he also served as chairman, Special Olympics of Indiana, United Way of Central Indiana, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, and Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. He is a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science from the Krannert School of Management.


“We are so thrilled to bring Rob’s expertise and passion for the 500 Festival back to Indianapolis, this time as a director on our Foundation board,” said Scott Thiems, chairman of the 500 Festival Foundation. “Having served as Chairman of the 500 Festival Board of Directors in 2018, Rob’s leadership acumen and knowledge of how the Foundation works to support the community through 500 Festival events and programs will be instrumental in the Foundation’s ability to positively impact lives well into the future.”


To learn more about 500 Festival’s events and programs, please visit 500festival.com.


About the 500 Festival

Founded in 1957, the 500 Festival is a not-for-profit organization that produces life-enriching events and programs celebrating the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500 and fostering a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. As one of the largest festivals in the nation, each year more than half a million people attend an event or program produced by the 500 Festival. Since its founding, the 500 Festival has contributed more than $500 million in economic value to Indianapolis. To learn more about the 500 Festival, visit 500festival.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.




Media Contact: Helen Khamis 500 Festival
(317) 914-4817 ǀ hkhamis@500festival.com