Master of Leadership Development alums recognized in 12 Under 40 award ceremony

November 10th, 2015 | SMWC

12 Under 40
Brandon Halleck, Stephanie Pence, SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D., Rachel Leslie and Susan Turner

Leading by example and making a difference in their current positions and communities, four Master of Leadership Development (MLD) graduates of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) were honored. For the inaugural year of the 12 Under 40 awards, young leaders in the Wabash Valley were recognized at an award banquet on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. Among the twelve honored were MLD alums, Brandon Halleck, Rachel Leslie, Stephanie Pence and Susan Turner.

“We always love to hear about the successes that our MLD grads experience after completing the program,” stated Susan Decker, director of the MLD program. “The MLD program is a results-driven program that encourages students to lead with integrity. Learning to identify and overcome obstacles in a classroom setting allows our graduates to inspire and motivate others in the workplace.”

Brandon Halleck, chief operating officer of Chances and Services for Youth (CASY), created the successful Dancing with the Terre Haute Stars fundraiser and has organized the event for the past nine years to raise money for CASY. A professional ballroom dancer himself, Halleck is also the owner of The Dance Studio in Terre Haute. Halleck graduated from the MLD program in 2011 and focused on not-for-profit leadership.

“When I was notified, I was surprised and humbled by being recognized. Not only for me, but for the other 11 on the good things happening in this community. It’s also great for the organization,” Halleck said about receiving the award. “I’m not originally from Terre Haute, but I’m proud to call Terre Haute my home and to be a part of all it has to offer.”

Rachel Leslie, chief external relations officer, and Susan Turner, senior director of advancement and alumni relations, both 2014 MLD grads, are co-creators of the Wabash Valley Leadership Institute (WVLI). The leadership, enthusiasm and drive of each of these women have greatly benefited SMWC and the Wabash Valley.

Leslie created a corporate giving program at the College and helped launch the $11 million Pomeroy Pride Campaign to build the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center. Additionally, Leslie worked at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and served as a founding member of Terre Haute Young Leaders. She currently serves on several boards including the United Way, Vigo County Education Foundation and Terre Haute International Airport Authority.

“I'm grateful to the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the Tribune Star for recognizing the young leaders in our community,” stated Leslie. “As someone who has chosen to raise her family in Terre Haute, I understand the importance of choosing to stay and giving in return. It's humbling to receive an award alongside great leaders. Terre Haute is a great place to live, but we must choose to strive for more for our community.”

Before bringing her expertise to The Woods, Susan Turner worked in marketing and public relations for UAP Clinic. Additionally, she has volunteered her time and talent to Junior Achievement, Downtown Terre Haute, United Way, The Essence of Red and Terre Haute Young Leaders. At SMWC, she provides leadership to the department of advancement, works closely with alumni, leads the SMWC Alumni Association and is the coordinator of the WVLI, which is holding its third cohort this month.

“Being named to the inaugural list of 12 Under 40 by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the Tribune Star is a huge honor,” stated Turner. “It is not lost on me that being one of the first 12 is special. I am blessed to live in the city I love and work for an institution I feel passionate about.”

Stephanie Pence, course manager for Police Technical, graduated from the MLD program in 2013 and has been involved with many organizations such as Terre Haute Young Leaders, Terre Haute Humane Society, Downtown Terre Haute and Junior Achievement. Pence also serves on the torch committee for the Terre Haute Bicentennial Celebration and volunteers with the Sugar Creek and Honey Creek fire departments to teach fire prevention and safety to children. She is also known throughout the Wabash Valley as owner of Hallie Hound Barkery, which she founded to provide homemade natural dog treats.

“I’m very honored to be a part of such a great inaugural group,” said Pence. “It just shows how outstanding these young people are to want to give time and effort to make Terre Haute such a great place.”

For more information about the award, please visit