This year we honor these two history makers
Growing up in Flint, Kevin Conroy was offered the opportunity to experience diversity on a scale most kids in America never get to know. That was all an elemental part of his early years at Civic Park Elementary, and exploring the neighborhoods of the city. Not only did he get the chance to participate in sports at a high level, he met kids from backgrounds as wide as the city limits and beyond.
From there, he took his estimable academic talents on to Michigan State University, and prepared to take on the world in the same manner he took on and embraced his own youth growing up in Flint and Genesee County.
To say he did so with tremendous success would be to understate the reality by magnitudes of order. Conroy is now the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Exact Sciences. You might not recognize that name, but you will likely recognize the product that his team developed: Cologuard. You've probably seen the walking, talking box on the ubiquitous TV commercials.
If you’re of a certain age you most assuredly have some familiarity with the product. And if you don’t know, understand that it is a vanguard product that is the very first medical device or diagnostic to receive simultaneous FDA approval and national Medicare coverage. Since that approval in 2014, millions of Americans have used Cologuard to screen for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States.
That’s an incredible achievement and legacy, and one that was propelled forward with maximum velocity when Conroy became CEO in 2009. His tight knit team transformed Exact Science in to the premier world class cancer diagnostic company it is now, with more than 6500 employees worldwide.
The early detection of cancer has been a major driving force and passion in Conroy’s executive and leadership career. Before taking over at Exact Sciences he was CEO and President of Third Wave Technologies, a molecular diagnostics company that developed a breakthrough cervical cancer screening test before being acquired by Hologic in 2008.
Like a true Flintstone he is doing it with focus and grit, and like so many of our cities favorite sons, he remembers where is from and the city and community that helped craft him in to the kind of a man that can leverage his unique gifts and talents to improve our world.
Linnell Jones Mckenney
She is a burst of fiery energy, exploding like a supernova of positive thinking as she enters the room. She is Linnell Jones McKenney, and her story is one for the ages. She decided at an early age that unlike most of her family she didn’t want to work in one of Flint’s GM factories when she graduated from high school. She wanted to be a professional basketball player. Only problem is she was a girl. And there were no girl hoops teams, anywhere least of all a professional league. But she persisted and she played with the boys- in schools that housed some of the best boys in the state. And she beat them out. Finally getting a chance to play with a girls team she excelled in a major way.
To say it worked out would be an understatement. Linnell went on to become Flint’s first female professional basketball player, Senior Olympic Champion, local legend, and Italian athletic folk hero for scoring 84 points in a game in Italy, Jones-McKenney is a ground breaking, barrier shattering, positive force of pure energy. In 1980, Jones-McKenney qualified for the U.S. Olympics, but it was boycotted that year so she couldn’t compete. After college, she was drafted fourth overall in 1980 by the St. Louis Streaks of the Women’s Basketball League. She was named the Italian league’s Most Valuable Player three times, earned five All-Star nods, and scored 84 points in a single game.
You are in for a treat when you have the opportunity to listen to Linnell, who is one of the most mesmerizing and motivational speakers we've ever had the privilege of meeting. By the time she's done, you'll be ready to run out and and conquer the world! Or at least finish your next project...