A-Z Index

News Release

Aug. 18, 2023

Northwest Foundation welcomes 7 new members

The Northwest Foundation Inc. has appointed seven new members to its Board of Directors to help guide the University’s advancement and grow private support.

The new members, who joined the Board in July, are Jody Athen, Dr. Terry Barnes, Jennifer Hewitt, Susan Johnson Hockensmith, Mike Kelly and Rebecca Sullivan. Additionally, Matt Gaarder joins the Foundation Board while serving as the 2023-24 president of the Northwest Alumni Association.

The 2023-24 Northwest Foundation Board is led by President Leisha Beckemeyer Barry, a 1984 graduate from Liberty, Missouri; President-Elect Ted Place, a 1999 alumnus from Kansas City, Missouri; and Immediate Past President Dr. Robert Burrell, a 1970 graduate from Denver, Colorado.

The Northwest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, develops and stewards philanthropic resources for the benefit of Northwest Missouri State University and its students. It is governed by a 36-member volunteer board and staffed by members of Northwest’s Office of University Advancement. Board members may serve up to two three-year terms.

Additional information about the new Board members is provided below. For more information about the Northwest Foundation, visit

Jody Athen

Jody Athen, a resident of Hamburg, Iowa, is retired after a career in accounting and human resources manager roles. She worked with her husband, Don, in the family business, Athen Equipment, which, through mergers and acquisitions, became A&M Green Power and then AgriVision Equipment Group. After her retirement, the business continued to grow through a joint venture to become AVE-PLP, LLC, a John Deere dealer group with more than 30 locations in the Midwest.

She and her husband are active supporters of Northwest and initiatives including renovations to the McKemy Center for Lifelong Learning to support agricultural systems management, the Agricultural Learning Center and the establishment of the Don and Jody Athen Scholarship. She attended the University of Montana, is a certified public accountant and has a human resource generalist certificate from Creighton University.

Dr. Terry Barnes

Dr. Terry Barnes is a resident of Columbia, Missouri, and retired in 2016 as the assistant provost for community college partnerships and a graduate school professor in the College of Education—Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri—Columbia. His 46-year career included numerous other higher education roles, including as president and chief executive officer of Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Missouri; as assistant commissioner for community colleges and technical education with the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education; and as assistant vice president for academic affairs at Northwest from 1988 to 1992. He began his career in Northwest’s admissions office in 1970.

Coming from Albany, Missouri, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from Northwest in 1970 and a master’s degree in business from Northwest in 1972 before completing a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Southern Illinois University in 1979. He was active as a Northwest undergraduate student in the Bearcat Marching Band, Concert Band and Jazz Band; the Pi Beta Alpha business club; and he served as a resident assistant.

Matt Gaarder

Matt Gaarder is a Maryville resident and owner of Rapid Elite, a provider of printing and shipping services. Previously, in addition to working as news and sports director at KNIM radio in Maryville, he broadcast Bearcat football and basketball games for 20 years as a partner with Northwest’s Bearcat Radio Network. He continues to serve as the public address announcer for Bearcat football, basketball and baseball games.

A native of Macomb, Illinois, he received a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from Northwest in 1997. As a Northwest student, he was active with National Public Radio affiliate KXCV-KRNW and the University’s student-managed radio station, KDLX.

Jennifer Hewitt

Jennifer Hewitt resides in Lenexa, Kansas, and is a principal consultant with New Jersey-based NICE System Inc. Previously, she worked for 28 years in director and manager roles with Sprint.

A native of Rosendale, Missouri, she graduated from Northwest in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and data processing while holding memberships in Delta Zeta sorority and the Computing Society. As an alumna, she is active with the Northwest Alumni Association’s Kansas City Alumni and Friends Chapter, and she is a member of the Bearcat Booster Club.

Susan Johnson Hockensmith

Susan Johnson Hockensmith resides in Manchester, Missouri, and has owned Lakeside Children’s Academy since 1992. Additionally, she operates Pony Bird, an organization she and her husband, Dana, co-founded in 1977 for non-ambulatory children.

A native of Atlantic, Iowa, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northwest in 1972 and was active in the Madrigal and Tower Choir in addition to serving as a resident assistant. She has remained engaged with the University as a member of the Northwest Alumni Association Board and co-founded the Alumni Association’s St. Louis Alumni and Friends Chapter. In 2015, she received the Alumni Association’s Turret Service Award.

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly, a resident of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, retired in 2020 after 35 years with Thomas McGee Group, a division of Risk Strategies, in Kansas City, Missouri. Previously, he worked in supervisor and management roles with insurance agencies that are now part of Travelers.

A native of Princeton, Missouri, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Northwest in 1978. As an undergraduate student, he was active with Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and served as a Homecoming parade committee chair. He remains active with the fraternity’s alumni association.

Rebecca Sullivan

Rebecca Sullivan resides in Leawood, Kansas, and retired in 2016 after 23 years with Lockton Companies as senior vice president and healthcare team leader. She spent a total of 43 years working in a variety of roles in the insurance industry.

As a native of Maryville, she attended Northwest from 1969 to 1973 before completing her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Avila University. While at Northwest she was active with Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215