The women and men listed here represent some of the key players in the hospitality sector, which we’ve broadly defined to cover arts, entertainment, food service, lodging, recreation and tourism. The names come from our own news staff, peer recommendations and public nominations—a long list, which was peer reviewed and culled to create the list that follows. For a variety of reasons, three individuals who made the final list are not depicted here; they are: Chris Ratay, director of marketing at the Omni-Severin Hotel; Stephanie Schulz, director of conventions and meetings at the NCAA; and Bruce White, president and CEO of White Lodging.
Susie Townsend, 53
Vice President of Convention Services
Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association
Vice President of Guest Welcome and Super Service
2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee
A 21-year veteran of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, Susie Townsend is currently on loan to the Super Bowl Host Committee, where she is broadly in charge of making sure the region is at its most hospitable when the crowds come pouring in.
Townsend conceived of and launched the Super Service program, which she hopes will be a long-lasting legacy of the Indianapolis Super Bowl. Working with partners at IUPUI, the ICVA and Indianapolis International Airport, Super Service offers online certification to front-line hospitality workers, such as cab drivers and waiters, training them to greet visitors warmly and educating them about the city’s attractions. The program, which is offered in English and Spanish, is designed to elevate the standard of service visitors to the city receive.
At ICVA, Townsend directs, manages and supports service initiatives for major citywide conventions, which have included Dealer Expo and Gen Con. She manages the ICVA Rose Awards Program, which recognizes customer-service excellence. She has served on the local organizing committees for events such as the Men’s and Women’s Final Four and the Men’s and Women’s Big Ten Tournament. She co-chaired the Professional Conference Management Association in Indianapolis in 2004.
Townsend is a graduate of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, and was named to IBJ’s “Forty under 40.” She has two children.
John Vanausdall, 54
President and CEO
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
John Vanausdall be-came president and CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum in 1996. As the museum’s chief executive, he is primarily responsible for strategic planning, fundraising and community engagement. He has led the museum through a $42 million capital endowment campaign, which has built the museum’s endowment, collections and facilities.
The culmination of the effort is the $21 million Mel and Joan Perelman Wing, which opened in June 2005 and doubled the museum’s size, adding space for exhibitions, meeting space, education facilities and a cafe. More than $20 million was added to the museum’s endowment. Currently, Vanausdall is completing a $4.5 million capital campaign to enliven the museum and add activities appropriate for families, making the experience more engaging. The results of this effort so far include a 40-percent increase in museum attendance and a doubling of ticket revenue.
Vanausdall serves on the board of Museums West, a consortium of Western art museums, and served as its president from 2006 to 2009. He sits on the editorial board of Native Peoples Magazine. Locally, he is on the board of the Hoosier Salon and on the host committees for a variety of arts and museum-related events that have been held in Indianapolis. He also serves on the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators. He is a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash.
Vanausdall earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University and has attended the Museum Management Institute in Berkeley, Calif. Before joining the Eiteljorg, Vanausdall held various positions at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Amy Vaughan, 43
Indiana Office of Tourism Development
Amy Vaughan was named director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development in 2005. She landed the job in more robust times and has managed the transition to leaner economic times, just when media needs have sprawled from online and print to include Facebook, Twitter, phone apps and more. Vaughan and her team have learned to be judicious in allocating resources and savvy in choosing their outlets.
After a brief stint in copywriting for a small ad agency in Fort Wayne, Vaughan moved to Indianapolis to search for a new career. Networking led her to Hamilton County, which was just starting a tourism office. Vaughan joined the office in 1991 and became director in 1992. She stayed there until taking her current position. Vaughan considers herself the fortunate beneficiary of many great women mentors, including her current boss, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
Vaughan holds a bachelor’s in journalism and English from Indiana University and a master’s in philanthropic studies from IUPUI. She is past president of the Association of Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureaus and is a graduate of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy. She sits on the board of the Indiana Hotel Lodging Association, and is on the Indiana Tourism Council and the marketing committee of Indianapolis Downtown Inc.
Recognized by Purdue University as a distinguished Darden professor, she was a guest lecturer at the school’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. She was included in IBJ’s “Forty under 40” list and is certified by Destination Marketing Association International.
Vaughan and her husband, Rick, live in Fishers with a son.
Julia Watson, 50
Vice President of Market and Communications
Indianapolis Downtown Inc.
In her position at IDI, Julia Watson leads a staff of three in positioning downtown Indianapolis as a destination for central Indiana residents, while providing community relations and outreach expertise. She facilitates IDI’s private-sector fundraising and leads the separate subsidiary known as Indianapolis Downtown Marketing Inc.
Since joining IDI in 1995, Watson has helped integrate more than $8 billion in new developments, created the award-winning advertising campaign “Downtown Indianapolis—Amazingly Always New!,” and staged the Circle of Lights celebration, the annual holiday lighting ceremony at Monument Circle.
Watson has served on the local organizing and planning committees for Super Bowl 2012, Men’s and Women’s Big Ten Basketball tournaments, Big Ten Football Championship, 2008 NFL season launch, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial celebration, among many other initiatives, events and conventions. She sits on the board of the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association and finds that most of her volunteer activities are work-related.
In her spare time, Watson spends time with her family and does fitness training. An Indianapolis-area native, Watson is a graduate of IUPUI.
Indiana Sports Corp.
Susan Williams is the fourth president of the Indiana Sports Corp., a role she assumed in 2005. She had served in a variety of volunteer roles, including vice chairwoman of administration and finance. The Indiana Sports Corp. promotes Indiana as an attractive place to live, work and visit through sports and sporting events.
During Williams’ time at the helm of the ISC, Indianapolis has been awarded numerous high-profile sporting events, including the 2008 Olympic Diving Trials, the 2012 Super Bowl, the 2015 Men’s Final Four and the 2016 Women’s Final Four.
Before joining the ISC, Williams was executive director of the Indiana State Office Building Commission, where she oversaw the design and construction of the NCAA headquarters and Hall of Champions, the Indiana State Museum and other projects throughout the state.
Williams is a graduate of Franklin College, where she currently serves on the board of trustees, and holds a master’s from Indiana University. She currently serves on the boards of the Indianapolis Arts Council, the Massachusetts Avenue Community Development Corp. and the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. She is a mayoral appointment to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission and served 13 years as a member of the City-County Council.
Turner Woodard, 62
Canterbury Hotel, Wasatch Lake and the Stutz Business Center
Turner Woodard, owner of The Stutz Business Center, made headlines last year when he bought the Canterbury Hotel, a historic hotel on South Illinois Street. Woodard is an Indianapolis native who has carved a niche in tourism and commercial development through adaptive reuse.
Woodard is passionate about preserving the heritage and history that have made Indianapolis great. In the early 1990s, he bought the Stutz auto factory.
“We cleaned it up, lit it up, and painted it up,” Woodard said. Today, it is a bustling business incubator that’s home to both entrepreneurs and artists.
The Canterbury is Woodard’s most recent passion. Since the purchase last March, he and his team have implemented operational, marketing and interior design updates with a simple goal–-to bring the 12-story, 99-room jewel-box-style hotel back to prominence. Late last year, Woodard reopened the restaurant, renamed it Turners, and hired a new chef. Woodard and his team are now busy working with designers to update all the hotel rooms in preparation for Super Bowl guests.
When Woodard needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis, he heads to Wasatch Lake, a 300-acre country retreat that has eight lakeside rental cabins. Woodard purchased the lake and property in 1996 and renovated the cabins.
Tamara Zahn, 57
Indianapolis Downtown Inc.
Tamara Zahn formed IDI, a not-for-profit strategically focused on developing, managing and marketing downtown Indianapolis, in 1993. Since the inception of the organization, $8 billion in developments promoted by IDI have been completed downtown, and IDI has implemented a number of innovative security, parking, business improvement and marketing programs. More than 80 projects, totaling $3.6 billion, are currently under way, including 2,000 new residential units downtown and enhancements in the city’s six cultural districts.
Before founding IDI, Zahn was principal of her own consulting firm, which specialized in urban development. Through Zahn Associates, she consulted with downtowns throughout the United States. Clients included Simon Property Group, the Rouse Co.’s American City Corp. and the New York Port Authority.
Zahn serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including International Downtown Association, Urban Land Institute and the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. She also serves on the host committees for Super Bowl 2012, NCAA Women’s Final Four, Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix and other events. Zahn has been involved in Holliday Park, helping to create Friends of Holliday Park, the Holliday Park playground, nature center and other park improvements.•