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BusINess » 20 under 40

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20 under 40 class of 2010

Their accomplishments are varied, but the results are the same—success.

BusINess, for the sixth year, is proud to take readers into the world of 20 area business people under the age of 40 who have made their mark on Northwest Indiana.

James Anton - Anton Insurance Agency, Inc.
Shannon Burhans - The eState
Rachel Delaney - Humane Society Calumet Area
Elizabeth H. Depew - Purdue University North Central
Scott Dujmovich - Golden Technologies
Linda Galocy - Indiana University Northwest
Jennifer Heath - Barker Woods Enrichment Center
Douglas Holok - The Holok Group
David Janney - R.L. Millies & Associates
Kevin and David Lee - Intervention Services & Technologies Inc. and Sober Solutions
Eddie Melton - NIPSCO/NiSource Inc.
Joseph Merry - Prompt Ambulance Service
Cynthia Mose-Trevino - Calumet High School New Tech
Marc Nelson - The Alley Recording Company
Michael Rakers - Calumet Tech Services
Sharon Stanzione - Johnson & Bell, Ltd.
Tina St. Aubin - Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, Inc.
Robert Thorgren - Thorgren Tool and Molding, Inc.
Michael Tolbert - Hoeppner, Wagner and Evans LLP


Michael Tolbert

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Of all professionals, lawyers may have the worst public image: We’ve all heard lawyer jokes, and they are never flattering. Gary native Michael Tolbert, a partner at the law firm of Hoeppner, Wagner and Evans, is determined to prove the longstanding stereotype wrong, whether he’s working with clients and colleagues or volunteering to better his hometown.

“At a really young age, I felt a need to serve people,” says Tolbert, who graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law in 2000. “I didn’t even think of the money. I was more concerned with where I could make the biggest impact. The practice of law seemed to be the best fit to me.”

Although just 35, Tolbert has already been practicing for 10 years, mostly focusing on civil, bad faith insurance and employment-related litigation. But he’s been doing more than just representing Northwest Indiana clients at his Merrillville-based firm during that time—he’s dedicated much of his time to ensuring lawyers keep their knowledge base up-to-date and adhere to strict professional ethics.

“As lawyers,” Tolbert says, “we often forget that we’re in the business of serving people.” While president of the Porter County chapter of the American Inns of Court, a national organization dedicated to changing the general public’s perception of lawyers, he helped make sure area attorneys lead by example. “If we can talk about making sure we treat a client fairly, making sure we are cordial and professional with each other, then slowly and surely the perception of lawyers will change.”
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Rob Thorgren

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Rob Thorgren originally planned to become a physical education teacher and coach like two of his mentors. “I graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, the study of human movement, at mid-year. There were no teaching jobs to be had during Christmas break,” he recalls.

“My dad asked me if I could help him out with a project for a couple of months until I could get a teaching job. I stayed on with the company because I loved it,” Thorgren says. “I felt like I was contributing something that was important.” The company he has stayed with for the past 11 years is Thorgren Tool and Molding Inc., a Valparaiso-based manufacturing and distribution firm started by his great-grandfather and grandfather in 1946. The company creates injection molded plastic parts for the appliance industry.

“We estimate that every American home has at least four of our parts in it. We make fans and air movement parts for refrigerators and microwaves for almost all the major appliance manufacturers,” he says.
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Tina St. Aubin

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Last year, in recognition of the city’s efforts to revitalize itself without raising taxes, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce named Valparaiso “Community of the Year.” Tina St. Aubin had something to do with that honor, the first for a Northwest Indiana town: As executive director of Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, Inc. (VCFE) since 2008, St. Aubin has played a central role in ensuring that her city’s downtown remains attractive to families and businesses alike.

“Our goal is to continue to bring events to the community that everyone can support,” says St. Aubin, 37. “That’s what we do. If we can help businesses to succeed, that’s even better.”

As a lifelong resident of Valparaiso and member of a family of small business owners, St. Aubin would seem to offer the perfect blend of community passion and practical knowledge. “We do events that can help business be successful,” says St. Aubin, who has worked as operations manager at Duffy’s Place, the Valparaiso bar and restaurant her husband owns. “I understand their challenges; I understand the risks that they’ve taken.”

Formed in 1999, VCFE is dedicated to improving Valparaiso’s retail environment, initiating cooperative efforts and providing family-oriented recreational events. In practice, that means St. Aubin spends much of her time working closely with city officials and VCFE’s board of directors to plan and oversee a variety of annual events, many of which are familiar to Valparaiso residents. These include the long-running Popcorn Festival (Orville Redenbacher resided in Valparaiso), this year’s inaugural Valpo Brewfest, the Fall Harvest Festival and the VCFE Concert Series, which is a fundraiser for the organization. (VCFE is partly funded by the city, but it is an independent nonprofit.)
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Sharon Stanzione

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Sharon Stanzione grew up in Crown Point, Indiana and says that she always thought she would either become an actress or a lawyer in life, so she decided to combine the two and become a trial lawyer. “I get to use some of my thespian skills in my law work, during opening arguments and closing arguments,” says Stanzione.

Today she is a partner and shareholder with Johnson & Bell, Ltd., with offices in Chicago and Merrillville, Indiana and is licensed to practice in both Indiana and Illinois.

Stanzione attended Purdue University and majored in English and philosophy, graduating in 1993. She obtained her law degree from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1996. She was brought by her firm to the Northwest Indiana location to open a medical law branch in the region. “I concentrate my practice in civil trial and appellate litigation. I have dedicated my entire legal career to representing the medical community including hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers, doing so exclusively for the past 14 years. I was brought in to spearhead Johnson & Bell’s medical malpractice and health care law section in Indiana. Since then, the office has grown exponentially,” says Stanzione.

Her work has helped to establish law in the state of Indiana. She says, “I have successfully tried many difficult cases, and have argued on appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, resulting in published opinions that have helped shape Indiana health care law. Just recently, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in my client’s favor on a case of first impression in Indiana. This case has been published and has created favorable law for health care providers by protecting them from liability for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.” Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Rakers

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Michael Rakers grew up in St. Louis and attended school at Purdue Calumet where he studied information technology. While in graduate school at Purdue Calumet, also studying technology, Rakers was awarded a graduate assistantship and became an instructor at the school.

Shortly thereafter, he says that he and a friend, Jason Bockenek, came up with the vision to begin their own company. They started Calumet Tech Services, where Rakers serves as acting CEO and Bockenek is CIO.

Rakers recalls, “I was working at Lincoln Elementary School District as a tech assistant and they won a grant and needed someone to install 250 machines and servers, so we decided to start our own company to help the school district fulfill their grant. We completed that project and from there word of mouth spread about our work and we moved on to other schools, churches, and not-for-profits.”

Calumet Tech Services’ slogan is “IT solutions at minimum cost,” and Rakers says this is because they want to help bring technology to those in need, to make a big impact on the lives of students throughout their endeavors. They recently completed work for Hoover-Schrum Memorial School District 157 located in Calumet City, Illinois.
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Marc Nelson

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Music makes Marc Nelson’s world go ‘round, and this 28-year old Valparaiso resident works to nurture that love of the creative arts in others in Northwest Indiana.

His journey has taken Nelson far from the Porter County city where he grew up, and brought him back again. “I lived in Chicago and in Los Angeles,” says Nelson, recording engineer and a partner in The Alley Recording Co. in Valparaiso. “I had two mentors during that time who had a tremendous impact on me.”

Dennis Tousana was the chief engineer at the Chicago Recording Company and took on Nelson, a self-proclaimed 19-year old “hot head”, as an audio engineer. With Tousana’s tutelage, Nelson says he matured quickly as a professional and as a person.

“By the time I was 21, I was actually 26,” he says. “Dennis was a big, big influence in my life.” The move to L.A. brought Nelson in contact with Bill Schnee, a legendary producer and audio engineer. “He’s in the top three or four in the world,” Nelson says. “He trained me how to work in a multi-tasking environment and to never lose track of what I was doing.”
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Cynthia Mose-Trevino

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

From a young age, Cynthia Mose-Trevino knew she wanted to dedicate her life to giving back to her community. But it wasn’t until studying African-American history and culture at Indiana University at Bloomington that she realized she wanted to give back by ensuring all Americans have equal access to a quality education.

Throughout her education career, all of which has been at Gary’s struggling Calumet High School, Mose-Trevino has left her mark on students—first as a guidance counselor, then as a teacher, and now as an administrator. Although no longer working in classrooms, there’s no doubt that the 36-year-old Gary native and Calumet high graduate is dramatically impacting Calumet students’ future.

That’s because as Director of New Tech at Calumet—one of 23 schools statewide that have been on academic probation for six straight years and could face state takeover next year—Mose-Trevino is leading the charge to fundamentally remake the school and redefine how students learn there. “We took things and shook it upside down,” she says. “We want students to be prepared for positions in a 21st century society.”
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Joseph Merry

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

While he was still in high school in Plaistow, New Hampshire, Joe Merry started his career in emergency medical services with the second largest EMS company in the United States.

“I grew up north of Boston and, when I was 18 years old, I started working for American Medical Response,” Merry recalls. “I held various positions in the organization and received a well-rounded view of emergency medical response.”

The expertise Merry gained from his time with AMR included the areas of safety and rescue, billing and communications. He also learned how important community involvement is, he says.

“American Medical Response is very community-oriented. It was hugely important to me in my life,” Merry says. “It was corporate, too, so I learned about corporate organization.”
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Eddie Melton

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

(Photograph by Tony V. Martin.)

Early in life, Eddie Melton envisioned himself working with others to make the community a better place for all ages, but especially for future generations. That vision for his own future has led this Merrillville resident to the various facets of his career and to volunteer activities that bring out the best in others.

Melton grew up in Gary and was the quarterback for Horace Mann High School’s football team. “I went down to Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky after high school,” he says. “But I always knew I wanted to come back and work to better the community and to work with youth.”

Leaving KSU because he needed to financially support his family after one member had a stroke, Melton returned to Gary and started working with programs at Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living, a Gary-based mental health and addiction services facility. He ran an after-school program funded through U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky that brought together young people, mentors and activities.
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