Ever year, Business Report‘s Forty Under 40 honors the best and brightest young stars in the Capital Region right now. But what happens to their careers afterward? Business Report caught up with 10 past winners to see what life has been like after the recognition. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all of them seem to have continued their successful careers. See below for profiles of those 10 past winners—and for a then-and-now shot of each one.
Fred P. Cerise, 54
Then: Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, LSU School of Medicine
Now: President and CEO, Parkland Health & Hospital System
Public health is the specialty of Fred Cerise. He began his career at Earl K. Long Hospital and in 2004 was named secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, spending his four-year tenure there at a time when the state was struggling to rebuild much of its infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008 he returned to LSU as the vice president for health affairs and enjoyed working under president John Lombardi. However, when the LSU Board of Supervisors pursued positions that Cerise deemed counter to LSU’s interests and he spoke out against them, he was removed from his leadership position. Shortly afterward, he was contacted about an opportunity at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, and in 2014 Cerise was appointed president and CEO of one the truly iconic public hospitals in the country—which he considers his most unique accomplishment.
Having grown up in New Orleans and having spent most of his professional career in Baton Rouge, Cerise never imagined he’d leave Louisiana. “Sometimes forced change is a good thing, and that has been the case with my latest career move,” he says. Although he misses his Louisiana connections, his family—including his three children ages 17, 19 and 21, all of which he had after being named a Forty Under 40 honoree—has found a third home in Dallas.
Parkland is a massive operation, and Cerise says it takes a significant investment of time and energy to be optimally effective. “I feel like I am hitting a good stride here,” he says. “I hope to finish my career at Parkland if that works out.”
Linda Perez Clark, 49
Then: Associate attorney, Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson
Now: Partner, Kean Miller
Since being named a Forty Under 40 honoree, Linda Perez Clark decided she’d rather help clients write and negotiate good, clear contracts instead of helping them sue over ambiguous ones. She reinvented her legal career by shifting away from litigation and focusing exclusively on preparing and negotiating all manner of contracts, ranging from company formations to the buying and selling of businesses.
Over the past year she has helped clients successfully close on mergers and acquisitions totaling more than $500 million, and has become a lead negotiator on sizable deals. “I never thought my career would go in this direction, as I really expected to enjoy trial work,” Clark says. “But I thoroughly enjoy my practice, and I’m glad it changed over the years.”
“Practicing law is hard, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who support and appreciate the effort,” Clark says. Finding that support at Kean Miller has allowed her to develop and direct Kean Miller Connection, a law school prep program that encourages women and minorities to consider pursuing a law degree. “I’m extremely proud of that program and the support given to it by the firm and its clients,” she says.
Another of Clark’s unique accomplishments is co-owning Bin 77 in Perkins Rowe. She says being a business owner helps her relate to her clients better. But as many moms would say (with giving a nod to her husband for his help), raising a kind, thoughtful son has been her best achievement.
Wilson Fields, 47
Then: State senator, District 15
Now: District court judge, 19th Judicial District Court
Judge Wilson Fields works to cultivate a servant’s heart, and it began early in his career when he was the state senator for District 15. He and his brother Cleo made Louisiana history by being the first brothers to serve together in the Senate.
Today, in addition to his role as judge, he has the pleasure of being the father of two boys, Wilson and Wesley, ages 15 and 12. He has coached Wesley’s basketball team at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School for the past several years, and enjoys watching Wilson play basketball and baseball at St. Michael the Archangel High School.
Fields counts as his best accomplishment his work with youths throughout the area, including volunteering with the outreach programs of the Louisiana Leadership Institute, which was founded by his brother and aims to create leaders by exposing students to educational, cultural and recreational activities. Not to be outdone, Fields founded the Academic Honors Network, a program that sponsors scholarships for higher education to high school juniors and seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA in East Baton Rouge Parish.
As for his future plans, he says: “I am blessed and thankful for the opportunity to be serving as a district court judge in the 19th Judicial District Court and will continue to serve the community in whatever aspect that God has in store for me.”
Renita Williams Thomas, 52
Then: Chief executive officer, In Loving Arms Nanny & Sitter Agency
Now: Chief executive officer/principal, In Loving Arms HealthCare for Kids
“I am, always have been and will always be in the business of caring for children,” says Renita Williams Thomas.
In 1992, after several failed attempts to find dependable in-home childcare for her then three young children, Thomas started In Loving Arms Nanny & Sitter Agency. After raising her natural children, she set out to achieve her lifelong goal of adopting children from foster care. One of the children she made part of her family required intensive medical care, so she filled the niche for herself—and for others with similar challenges—and opened a daycare for medically fragile children.
And if that wasn’t enough, on a whim she returned to school and earned a master’s in nursing. She has worked for OLOL Children’s Hospital as a pediatric nurse, Capital City Family Health Center as chief nurse for HIV services, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center as regional cancer control officer, the Department of Health and Hospitals, and the Southern University School of Nursing as adjunct professor of pediatric nursing.
Thomas is now in the planning phase of opening a few more pediatric day health centers in other states. And she is headed back to school once again to become a Certified Orton-Gillingham Therapist after learning her daughter is dyslexic and finding that there are very few certified tutors, a service her child needs to be successful.
“It is my passion and goal to continue to explore and invent options for moms in the workforce who would like to continue to work while knowing that their children, their most precious resources, are always in loving arms,” Thomas says.
David Tatman, 54
Then: President, Tatman Group; Vice president, Risk Management Services
Now: President and CEO, Tatman Group
When David Tatman formed Tatman Group, he had no employees and just two clients, and was busy at home with toddler daughters and a newborn baby boy. Today, his company has a full-time staff of 10 and it represents 38 clients across the globe. His girls are in college and his son is about to graduate high school. His business has also changed. “We now have four companies that operate in Louisiana and Mississippi,” he says. “I started out as a worker bee, and now I am a teacher and a mentor.”
Over the years he has worn other hats as well. He was elected to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2011 and served as president for two terms. During that time, he led the effort to reduce the size of the board from 11 to nine and spearheaded the effort to bring in Superintendent Warren Drake. Both were difficult challenges that have impacted the school board in a significant way.
Three years ago, Tatman formed OffScript Productions, a film production company that produces short films, instructional videos and political spots. “The creative culture of Baton Rouge is rich, and we are growing in this incredibly artistic environment,” Tatman says. “We are excited about the prospects of the company.”
Tatman’s goal is to continue to find ways to contribute to the community through economic development and community service. “It is important to me that I leave Baton Rouge better than I found it,” he says.
Jude Melville, 42
Then: No official title, yet-to-be-named startup that became Business First Bank
Now: President and CEO, Business First Bank
Unofficially, Jude Melville’s title was something like “Head Gopher” when he began the startup that would become Business First Bank. Today it’s more like “Head Honcho.”
Over the past 10 years his organization has been through much more than he ever expected. It received its charter just before the start of the Great Recession and has grown into a billion-dollar institution through turbulent and, sometimes, troubled times. “I’m most proud that we have continued adapting over time to meet circumstances and opportunities as they have arisen—organizational evolution is not always a given,” says Melville. “After 10 years, it still feels like we’re just getting started.”
Melville is proudest of the fact that he hasn’t yet lost sight of the need to balance work, family and spiritual needs. “I’m not always good at it, but I do recognize the importance and try my best,” he says. “Somewhere along the way, I think I accidentally grew up—a real job, responsible for real people, married, two kids, three dogs, a mortgage, a second mortgage.”
His aspirations for the future are pretty simple: Keep doing what he’s trying to do now—influence people and the community in positive ways while raising a healthy, happy family. “I have a feeling,” he says, “those are jobs that are never quite complete.”
Stan Levy, 39
Then: Senior regional marketing consultant, iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel)
Now: Founder/President and CEO, FUSE | Branding & Advertising Agency
The landscape of how people communicate and are exposed to messaging has drastically changed since Stan Levy was named a Forty Under 40 honoree, and through the years he has found the opportunity to help clients and brands on a deeper level. In 2011, he followed his entrepreneurial dream and started his own company. He and his wife had their fourth child, daughter Leighton, who was born with a rare syndrome, but is doing great. Then his house caught fire and his family of six—along with their dog—was displaced for a year while their home was being repaired. In other words, he’s been really busy.
He’s also excited about using FUSE’s firepower to grow alongside its clients. “Whether it’s creating campaigns for national brands like Powerade, helping amazing home-grown brands like Walk-On’s expand to a regional and national level, or driving growth for a beloved local business like Perkins Rowe,” he says, “we are always nimble enough to adapt to the changing needs of our clients, yet big enough to deliver world-class results.”
Being a curious and excited learner, Levy constantly keeps his finger on the pulse of what’s new and what’s next. “To be great and progressive at what you do, no matter the profession, you must be open to change the way you approach and look at things around you,” he says. “The door to what FUSE can achieve is barely cracked open.” Levy is now looking forward to throwing it wide open and seeing what else can be accomplished.
Whitney Breaux, 28
Then: Social media and public relations, Wright Feigley Communications
Now: Global diabetes brand manager, Eli Lilly & Company
It’s been five years since Whitney Breaux went to work for Eli Lilly & Company, and her experiences have included sales, IT, U.S. neuroscience marketing and global diabetes market research. She has relocated part-time to Indianapolis, where Eli Lilly is headquartered, and closely partners with the company’s teams in France, Italy and Spain. “I spend almost half of each month working virtually from Baton Rouge to do homework and practice soccer with my 8-year-old son, Jason Jr., and attend as many LSU home football games as possible,” says Breaux.
She will always consider her role as mom as her best accomplishment, and through her work she is able to expose her son to cultures around the world. “We keep track of our individual and shared travels on a giant world map in his room,” Breaux says. “Our goal is to always have visited more countries than our age!”
Although her work location now changes often, she still considers Baton Rouge the center of her world. “Everywhere I go and with everyone that I meet, I’m excited to share the pride that I have for my hometown—and of course talk a little futbol Americano,” she says. “I’m still trying to convince my European colleagues that the real football is played on Saturday nights in Death Valley!”
John Snow, 31
Then: Consultant, SSA Consultants
Now: Vice president and partner, Emergent Method
In less than a year, the startup consulting venture John Snow joined in 2013 added a third team member and underwent a name change to Emergent Method, which has now grown to 15 employees and has a client base that includes a diverse mix of private and public sector organizations.
“I’ve worked with quite a few organizations over the years in a consulting capacity,” says Snow. “If there was a way to rate the talent, expertise, work ethic and determination of our team at Emergent Method on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate ours a 43.”
Today, Snow has adopted a new life philosophy—focus. “In my early 20s, I wanted to be involved in anything and everything, but I’ve since realized that focusing on what is most important means you’re able to be as great as possible for what really matters,” he explains.
In order to focus more on serving his clients and community, Snow and his business partners made the difficult decision earlier this year to transition ownership of their beloved Taco de Paco food truck to a new operator.
His responsibility now is to continue doing his part to make this city as great as it can be. “Our community has had a difficult year, but I know we can and will bounce back. For me, Baton Rouge is home, and there’s a reason why it will continue to be home for years to come,” he says. Snow and his wife are expecting their first child in March. “That sense of affecting positive change for the next generation has taken on an entirely new level of importance for me.”
Sarah Broome, 30
Then: Founder and executive director, THRIVE
Now: Founder and executive director, THRIVE
Sarah Broome was a Teach For America corps member in a failing school when she attended a TFA summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011. That inspiring weekend led her to begin THRIVE, a free, college preparatory, charter boarding school for grades six through 12 that serves at-risk youth from East Baton Rouge Parish. It’s the only school of its kind in the state, and Broome remains at the helm.
Despite five years of taking on every type of challenge imaginable, Broome says she is more excited than ever for the potential of the city. “Running this organization has given me a chance to see the genuine desire to do good that exists in so many people here,” she says, “and it is those experiences that continue to inspire me.”
In that short time, Broome has also gained significantly more confidence in her ability to handle challenging and unforeseen situations. “I think you have to stare down catastrophe and survive a number of times in order to learn that you can, in fact, overcome the seemingly impossible—and that just takes time and experience,” she says.
One of Broome’s best accomplishments has been the completion of the first phase of construction, a 180-student dormitory. When she was named as a Forty Under 40 honoree, THRIVE was in its first year and had only 20 students in rented space. Now there are 140 students in a space custom-built for their needs. “Our eventual goal is to build two more buildings and enroll 350 students,” she says. “And now that we are somewhat out of the startup phase, I am looking forward to doing a better job of finding a work/life balance.”