Our grads star at 40 Under 40

Of this year's class of up-and-coming business leaders, 10 are alumni or current students of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

March 23, 2015

Call them the black-and-gold 10. A quarter of this year’s Denver Business Journal “Forty Under 40Forty Under 40” class represent the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, making a strong statement about how our graduates go on to successful careers while also giving back to the community.

Leanna Clark
Leanna Clark, vice chancellor of University Communications, delivers introductory remarks at the Denver Business Journal “Forty Under 40” awards on March 16 at the Seawell Ballroom in downtown Denver. Photos below by Kathleen Lavine, photographer, Denver Business Journal.

The annual luncheon celebrating the Denver area’s young and up-and-coming business leaders took place March 16 at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This year, the DBJ received a record 375 nominees, with the 40 winners chosen on the basis of community involvement, leadership, business recognition and overall accomplishments. The keynote speaker was Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize, a local incubator for entrepreneurs.

Winners who are alumni or current students from CU Denver are: Jason Battista (Mercy Housing), Erik Estrada (Level 3), Christopher Herndon (Denver City Council), Genia Herndon (CU Denver), Kynnie Martin (Xcel Energy), Erika Reyes Martinez (North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative), Brandon Mencini (HealthONE), Melinda Pollack (Enterprise Community Partners) and Grant Van Der Jagt (Denver Property Management). Tamaan Osbourne-Roberts, of the Colorado Medical Society, is an alumnus of CU Anschutz.

Leanna Clark, vice chancellor of University Communications, stepped onto the stage as an event sponsor to present framed certificates to this year’s winners. Clark, a previous Forty Under 40 winner and keynote speaker, also delivered introductory remarks, saying that each year the class serves as an inspiration. She said the university is proud to be a Gold Sponsor and that Forty Under 40 stands for what CU Denver is all about. “At CU Denver we believe in learning with purpose, and our goal is to produce graduates who go on to do great things in our community and in our world,” Clark said. “Each and every one of this year’s class does exactly that. You are role models who show that having a successful career and giving back not only can, but should, go hand in hand.”

Clark noted that 10 winners are either current students or alumni at CU Denver and CU Anschutz. “That’s a record for us, for which I’m very proud.”

Two winners, Genia and Christopher Herndon, are the first-ever married couple to be named Forty Under 40 winners in the same year. Genia Larson Herndon, assistant vice chancellor for university advancement and student engagement, is a CU Denver alumna of the Denver Community Leadership Forum (School of Public Affairs) and current graduate student in Political Science (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). Christopher Herndon, last year’s Forty Under 40 keynote speaker, is Denver councilman for District 11 and a CU Denver alumnus (master’s in public administration, School of Public Affairs).

Genia Herndon said education has always served as a catalyst in her life. She is proud to be part of the university’s administrative team as well as current student. “When I started my career I felt my direction was determined to lead me down one very specific path, but life experiences, along with my continued education at CU Denver, has taught me that your career is and should be a journey,” she said. “It is ultimately about taking what you have learned along the way and championing every opportunity that is presented.”

A few other winners from our university said they took away great business-career lessons from their higher-education experience. Van Der Jagt, president and CEO of Denver Property Management as well as owner of the law firm Starzynski Van Der Jagt P.C., said he was the youngest-ever student in the CU Denver Business School 11-month MBA program (age 20 or 21) at the time. He also served as class president in 2001. “If I boil my whole educational career down to a sentence or two, my MBA program told me that ‘I can do it,'” Van Der Jagt said. “That’s what I walked away with: ‘You can do it.'”

Mencini is vice president of business development at HealthONE, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at CU Denver in 2003. “I loved it. At the time, there was just a big parking lot next to the North Classroom. All of the development that has happened on campus since then is amazing,” Mencini said. “I talk highly about CU Denver all the time, saying how much of a great experience it was.”

Martin is finishing up her master’s degree in public administration, School of Public Affairs, while she works as senior recruiter, veteran and diversity, at Xcel Energy. “The program has been really great. The instructors have been really helpful and, with CU being a research-based university, it’s been great learning about the history and current policies around public administration and what’s going on in the community,” Martin said. “My professors are also active in the community, so they’re really great resources to use as far as networking goes and having real-world experience.”

Martin is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, and has found CU Denver to be a welcoming environment for veterans. “We have a wonderful Veteran Student Services center,” she said. “The programs are great (Boots to Suits, Veteran Student Mentor Program, Veteran Student Organization) and the individuals are really great to work with as well.”

Here are the winners from our university and their school and college affiliation:

  • Jason Battista – 2008 MBA, CU Denver Business School
  • Erik Estrada – 2002 BA, CU Boulder Arts & Sciences and 2006 MPA, CU Denver School of Public Affairs
  • Christopher Herndon – 2013 MPA, CU Denver School of Public Affairs
  • Genia Herndon – 2012 Denver Community Leadership Forum certificate, CU Denver School of Public Affairs and in-progress graduate degree, CU Denver College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Kynnie Martin – 2002 BA, CU Colorado Springs Arts & Sciences and 2014 PADM CU Denver School of Public Affairs
  • Erika Reyes Martinez – 1999 BA CU Denver College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Brandon Mencini – 2006 BA CU Denver College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Melinda Pollack – 2001 MPA, CU Denver School of Public Affairs
  • Grant Van Der Jagt – 1999 BA, CU Boulder Arts & Sciences and 2001 MBA CU Denver Business School
  • Tamaan Osbourne-Roberts – 2007 Medicine, CU Anschutz Medical Campus and 2010 RIF, CU Anschutz Medical Campus