Janice Way, a graduate of the 1987 Leadership Kentucky program, has served as the president of Leadership Kentucky since 2015. Previously, Janice worked for St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky where she was assistant vice president of development.
During her 25 years at St. Elizabeth and The St. Luke Hospitals (before the two hospital systems merged), she served as director of public relations and marketing, supervised community and legislative relations and led the St. Luke Community Foundation as vice president.
Janice has served as a member of the board of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. She is a member and former chair of the Northern Kentucky Board for KET.
Continuing his family’s legacy as an eighth-generation whisky maker, Rob Samuels sees his primary job as upholding the traditions of craft and quality established by his grandparents, who founded Maker’s Mark Distillery on Star Hill Farm in the 1950s. Since taking leadership of the distillery in 2010, Rob has remained true to the purposefully inefficient process that has defined his family’s brand, while also leading thoughtful expansion to share the unique taste of Maker’s Mark with a growing number of fans the world over. And he hasn’t stopped there. Rob is responsible for introducing innovative new whiskies such as Maker’s Mark® Private Selection, the industry’s first custom-barrel program, and for championing the distillery’s relentless exploration into the science of where flavor comes from with its Wood Finishing Series. Rob also introduced Maker’s Mark® Cask Strength, a double gold award-winner at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Beyond the bourbon itself, Rob has always had a passion for creating a distillery homeplace like no other. Under his guidance, the visitor experience at the distillery has been enhanced to include more interactive tour options, the Star Hill Provisions restaurant which was featured on Bravo’s Top Chef, and the work of dozens of visual artists who share the distillery’s commitment to handcrafted excellence, including permanent installations by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
With a keen sensitivity to environmental stewardship, Rob has led efforts for the entire distillery property that include a protected watershed, the industry’s only LEED-certified whisky cellar, and innovative research underway into forestry, grains and best practices in land management.
Rob holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina, and he is also an alumnus of the University of Chicago (CEI) and the Harvard Business School (GMP).
Joan Brannon is an artist, activist, arts-administrator who cares deeply about community. Her focus is arts and social change. In 1995, Brannon launched a film and video production company, known today as Brannon Media. Joan’s work put a lens on the extraordinary lives of Black people and voiced issues impacting women and youth. She is currently in production on Fire and Heart: A Blueprint for Liberation, which features organizers on the frontlines of Kentucky’s racial justice movement. Joan is a percussionist, performer and teaching artist with a focus on healing. In Louisville, she leads a program for young artist/entrepreneurs. As an arts administrator, Joan co-founded ArtsPower Lexington, was the project director for the re-opening of the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington and has served in other positions throughout Ky.
A native of Lexington, KY, Ashley C. Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She is the Co-founder and COO of Black Soil: Our Better Nature, a statewide agritourism company with a mission of reconnecting Black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture. Smith has worked for such brands as KentuckyOne Health, Bluegrass Hospitality Group, Community Ventures, NetGain Technologies, Smiley Pete Publishing, The Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center and Fayette Alliance.
Smith’s other professional involvement, leadership and accolades include: Ethical Redevelopment Salon member under the leadership of Theaster Gates, Secretary for Kentucky State University’s Extension and Research Advisory Council, and 2016 Scholarship Chair for the Bluegrass Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In addition, her leadership also includes serving on the Management Team for the crave food + music festival and Steering Committee member for the Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange. Her professional portfolio also includes voice over and Mistress of Ceremonies duties for City of Lexington 2017, 2018, and 2020 Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration, Stage Emcee for 2017 and 2018 crave lexington food + music festival. She earned an Emmy nomination for KET’s Kentucky Life episode, A Kentucky Christmas, voicing the work of Kentucky native, writer and poet, Effie Waller Smith.
Smith and Trevor Claiborn are the proud parents of Caroline and Trevor, Jr.