O’Merrial Butchee is a firm believer that even in Northwest Indiana, changes that we dream about can come to be without waiting on a political group or organization to say “this is what it’s going to be.”
“I think it will be the responsibility on each and every one of us to make it happen,” says Butchee, the honoree of this year’s Public Service Award.
Butchee has been making things happen in a lot of places for a long time. She is the former treasurer of American Can Co. where she managed a portfolio that covered six manufacturing facilities, as well as most of the major automotive companies that used aluminum and aluminum products in their cars and SUVs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“I negotiated finance agreements that included but not limited to land agreements; the construction and financing of a new plant for Chrysler; the remediation of landfills; developed their first technological driven cash management system; and served as one of the chief credit representatives for the second largest secondary aluminum smelter in the country,” she says.
With a lifetime of experience as an entrepreneur, author, business and community leader, Butchee started a training and consulting organization, Visionamics, Inc., where she experienced best practices and innovative works of clients such as Johnson Controls, McDonald's Corp., Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“After training for McDonald' s Corp. for approximately four years and receiving some of the best evaluations that they had ever received for any workshop, they contracted me to develop their Career Professional Women's Development Program for their U.S. employees,” she says. “In 2009 I created and developed the standard training program used for developing future senior female leaders at McDonald's. To the best of my knowledge, they are still using it today. The broad-range of products, services and benchmarking techniques gave me the experience, knowledge and examples from these global companies to better equip my face-to-face and online students with timely and meaningful training.”
While simultaneously closing down her lucrative training business after 14 years, Butchee began teaching as an adjunct at Ivy Tech. For the last 17 years she’s taught several business courses and technical writing for engineers at ArcelorMittal.
“Presently I teach union apprentices technical writing for the bricklayers, plumbers and sheet metalworkers unions,” she says. “I also developed the first course in the Ivy Tech system directed at teaching business skills and related matters to non-business majors.”
Butchee’s fondness for Ivy Tech and observing the college living up to its mission "changing lives … making Indiana great" sparked a sense of wanting to do more for the community she loved.
“I then pursued my full-time interest at Ivy Tech and landed the position of Director of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center at Ivy Tech Community College Northwest where I serve seven counties and Ivy Tech's four campuses located in Gary, East Chicago, Michigan City and Valparaiso,” she says.
When what is now known as the One Region effort began several years ago, Butchee launched the “Dare to Dream” project made possible by a Knight Foundation grant that allowed a team of seven sister universities and colleges, 30 community groups and organizations and “highly motivated people” to communicate how they would be "better together."
“The goal was to discuss how our seven counties had the power of friendly conversations to improve our ability to collaborate and move the region forward,” she says. “I firmly believe that our future mandates a spirit of cooperation for sustainability in this global economy.”
She also put “leadership legs” under an idea created by former Ivy Tech Chancellor Guadalupe Valtierra, as well as her assistant director, John Davies, and moved the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana into becoming a premier organization for discovering and celebrating innovative thinking. Butchee served as the interim chair of The Society prior to the election of Richard Sussman of ArcelorMittal.
Butchee is a member of several boards and is especially fond of her membership with the Gary Chamber of Commerce because “it’s more than a meeting.”
"I’d rather be at a meeting where we spend an extra five to 10 minutes where everyone has an opportunity to introduce themselves and tell the group what they are about and what they do,” she says. “An old fashioned format where people get a chance to know each other.”
Butchee says she is committed to lifelong learning. At first she was embarrassed when The Times ran an article last year announcing her as the recipient of a $500 award from Centier Bank for the best entrepreneur plan written in an Indiana University Northwest master's program.
“I was able to accept it once I recognized the fact that this award was evidence of my lifelong learning commitment,” she says. “I take pride in ‘walking my talk.’”
Davies says Butchee is one of those charismatic leaders who populate our everyday lives, and when she walks into a room “you pay attention.”
“Part of this is her voice,” Davies says. “It’s distinctive and clear, not muddled.”
Davies says Butchee is fiercely loyal to her team, her college and her community.
“She creates a culture around her in which all flourish, even the least of us,” he says. “She makes us better and while we may do amazing things, we’re really part of a culture branded by O’Merrial that states ‘We can do anything we put our minds to do.’”