2022 Wolverine Venture Battle Judges
Dan Creston ’81
Mr. Creston graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. While on campus as a student, Dan interviewed with Borg-Warner Chemicals and was hired for a position in Sales Management, a job he remained at for six years. In 1987, Dan started at Alpha Packaging, Inc. where he became Chief Operating Officer and Partner. He partnered with the CEO to open nine plastic packaging plants and took sales from $400K in 1987 to $230M in 2015. They sold the company twice to private equity firms and Dan remains a shareholder today. Currently Dan is the Founder and Owner of Creston Consulting, LLC (small business mentoring and angel investing), which he started in 2015. He judges start-ups for grants and investment potential with two nonprofits…Arch Grants (www.archgrants.org) and St. Louis Arch Angels (www.stlouisarchangels.com).
Pete Durfee ’80
Mr. Durfee has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical sciences industry. He was formerly employed at Gilead Sciences, Inc. (“Gilead”), a publicly held, research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need, from 1997 until retiring in 2012. During his tenure, Mr. Durfee served as Senior Director of Corporate Engineering and Facilities Operations (CEFO) which was responsible for the strategic and operational direction of Gilead’s engineering pursuits. While at Gilead, Mr. Durfee was responsible for directing Engineering, Validation, Maintenance/Facilities Operations, Manufacturing/Contract Manufacturing, Environmental Health & Safety, Corporate Real Estate, Site Services and Security. Mr. Durfee received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering and completed the required coursework for a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Penn State before moving to California in 1988. Peter and his wife Susan (Peshek ‘81) are retired, live, and play in Montreux, Nevada.
RJ Fryan ’08
Dr. Fryan is a dynamic leader who has spent most of his career working in the manufacturing industry. RJ grew up in Canton, Ohio, where he started working in the steel industry while still in college. RJ has served in various functions within the steel industry throughout his career, including operations, marketing, supply chain, and sales. Currently, he is the CEO of Kind Special Alloys US and Lake Park Tool and Machine in Youngstown, Ohio. RJ earned his MBA from Anderson University and his DBA from George Fox University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife Laura (Koller ’11) and their two children, Raymond and Emma.
Matthew W. Gordon
Mr. Gordon earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting and Finance from Slippery Rock University. While at SRU, Matthew was a starting pitcher for the “ROCK” baseball team. He was selected to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference first team during his senior season. Upon graduation, Matthew was hired as a Core Associate at F.N.B. Corporation in Pittsburgh. While working for FNB, he completed the requirements for his MBA, also from SRU. In 2020, Matthew joined Davevic Benefit Consultants in Grove City, PA, his family’s business now in its 3rd generation. Davevic is a full- service benefit consulting agency who strives to be on the cutting edge of insurance products, services, and strategies with particular attention to detail when working with clients. Matthew resides in his native town of Grove City where he is a board member on the Chamber of Commerce. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, attending sporting events for his favorite Pittsburgh sports teams, and spending time with his fiancé, Stephanie, his friends, and his family.
Jordyn Kemats ’03
Jordyn Kemats, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales Strategy & marketing at S&T Bank, has over 19 years of experience in the banking and financial services industry. Her background includes enterprise-wide strategic planning, development of specialized sales strategies and process, building training programs and sales coaching. In her current role, Jordyn leads the marketing and sales strategy teams, working with a cross-functional team to advance the overall customer experience while evolving the product and service offerings for all business lines within the Bank.
Jordyn serves as a financial coach for Christ Community Chapel and is a board member for Cornerstone Community School.
A graduate of Grove City College, Jordyn has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and is a graduate of the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) Executive School.
Jordyn resides with her husband and two children in Silver Lake, Ohio.
Jeff Moxie ’80
Mr. Moxie received a BA in Accounting and has over 40 years of financial expertise. Most recently, he was the CFO for PSI Services, a worldwide computer-based testing company based in Glendale, CA, where he was responsible for the oversight of all of PSI’s accounting and finance activities, Human Capital, Legal, and Facilities (4,400 locations worldwide) functions. During his 12-year tenure at PSI, revenue grew 1,200% while profitability grew over 1,500%. Prior to PSI, Jeff was CFO of Sunkist Growers, Inc., Virgin Entertainment Group, Inc. and Kinko’s, Inc. as well as other finance roles for various organizations. As part of his role as the senior finance person Jeff completed over 45 mergers and acquisitions including First Interstate Bank’s sale to Wells Fargo for approximately $13 billion, as well as the rollup of Kinko’s from 135 separate entities into one entity just prior to its sale to FedEx. On the nonprofit/volunteer side, Jeff has been involved in many different organizations including the Friends of the Island Fox as Treasurer, Simi Valley Non-Profit Spay and Neuter Clinic as a Board Member, U.S. Masters Swimming where he served as President, Treasurer and Board Member of the national organization and in various other local positions, Conejo Valley Multi-Sport Masters as co-founder and coach, and as a Board Member of the USA Swimming Foundation. In addition, Jeff and his wife Lori provide support for the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (“CJD”) Foundation, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Venice High School Alumni Association, Carousel Ranch (Equestrian therapy for physically challenged children) and the Saving Grace Maternity Home. While at GCC, Jeff was captain of the Varsity Swimming Team and a two time All-American. In addition, he was President of ODK and participated in the Accounting Society.
Rick Newton ’86
Entrepreneur, consultant, and coach, Rick Newton is deeply inspired and led by his Christian faith to help others advance the Kingdom of God, bringing Heaven to Earth, outside the four walls of the Church. He is especially passionate about helping entrepreneurs and emerging leaders become transformational agents, bringing redemption and restoration to every facet of society.
After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science from Grove City College and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, Rick worked at various regional corporations long enough to decide that he wanted to create a company very different than most – one that integrated and reflected his faith by serving customers, employees, and the communities in which they live.
In 2003, he founded Newton Consulting (now Aspirant), a global management consulting firm, which subsequently led to launching two more companies: Newton Talent, a professional recruiting firm, and the Newton Institute, a company focused on creating purpose-driven tools for purpose-driven leaders. These companies have won (and continue to win) numerous local and industry awards for customer service, culture, growth, and leadership excellence.
Having sold a majority stake of Aspirant to his management team this past year, Rick now focuses his time and energy within the Newton Institute pursuing his calling and passion to build practical tools and training solutions to help leaders, teams, and organizations fulfill their God-given purpose by first understanding and embracing their God-given design.
Rick and his wife, Terrie (Wright ’85) have 5 children and 8 grandchildren, all of whom live close by and are actively involved in a multi-generational vision to see their community and region transformed through the redeeming power of God’s love.
Elisabeth O’Brien ’16
Elisabeth O’Brien ’16 is a dynamic product leader with 5 years of experience building digital products in the financial services and hospitality industries. Currently employed at IHG: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Elisabeth is responsible for the successful delivery of an industry-leading mobile booking experience for IHG’s re-launched mobile app that serves over 6,000 hotels across 17 brands. Prior to joining IHG, Elisabeth spent time in the financial services industry, as both a product manager and consultant servicing some of the world’s largest financial institutions. She is a passionate team player and enjoys collaborating with cross-functional teams to drive towards delivery. A veteran entrepreneurship competitor, Elisabeth is grateful to be a part of the judging panel and is rooting for everyone to do well in the Wolverine Venture Battle!
Paul Passaro’s career began on Wall Street at the municipal bond firm Roosevelt & Cross, Inc., and he has subsequently served as the Chief Financial Officer or Chief Operating Officer of a number of enterprises with as many as 1,400 employees, including Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resorts, Corporate Realty Advisors (now part of Jones Lang LaSalle), 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition, DunnWell (now a part of Cintas Corporation), and East West Partners Club Management. Paul’s management responsibilities have included leading finance, operations, strategic planning, human resources, and business development. In addition to three years of full-time mission work in South Africa, Paul has helped plant churches and has served on the boards of privately-held businesses and non-profits in the US and overseas, including Thrive Farmers International. He is a cum laude graduate of Williams College with an MBA from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Paul and his wife, Kristi, are the parents of three children (including Annie ’22) and reside in Chapel Hill, NC, where they are members of Christ Community Church (PCA).
Mark Pentz ’81
Mark Pentz earned a BA in Business Administration and is the owner and president of Calvin Group Inc, a used asphalt paving equipment dealer in Windsor, Colorado that reaches customers around the world. Mark’s passion for paving equipment started when he was a young boy in Pennsylvania when he went to work for his father, who ran an equipment dealership. Mark founded Calvin Group in 1996 and the company has since expanded to selling paving equipment around the world. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Cheri (’79), and two dogs. He has three adult children and five grandchildren.
Michael Pentz ’06
Michael Pentz earned a BS in Business Management and is the vice president of Calvin Group Inc, a used asphalt paving equipment dealer in Windsor, CO that reaches customers around the world. He joined his father in the company in 2009 to manage the day-to-day activities of the company. Prior to that Michael worked in marketing and product development for startups, nonprofits, and brands such as LG, Apple, and Specialized. Michael lives in Colorado with his wife, Yvonne (’06), and three children.
Bill Smith ’69
After earning his BA in Business Administration and launching his career with companies such as RCA Computer Systems, Xerox Data Systems, and Rockwell International Corporation, Mr. Smith co-founded Smith Micro Software, Inc. in 1982. Guided by his visionary leadership and savvy business acumen, Smith Micro developed a reputation as a trusted software solution provider to wireless carriers and cable companies. Throughout the company’s 39-year-history, Bill has overseen more than 25 strategic acquisitions and has built Smith Micro into a multi-national company positioned for sustained success in the rapidly evolving global telecommunications industry. Bill has served as Smith Micro’s President and Chief Executive Officer since its inception and as Chairman of the Board since the company’s successful IPO in 1995 (NASDAQ: SMSI).
Ben Tobias ’19
Mr. Tobias graduated with his B.S. in Entrepreneurship from Grove City College in 2019. Ben is passionate about the startup process and participated in a variety of competitions hosted by Grove City in his tenure as a student. He also engaged in international opportunities to compete through the European Innovation Academy in Italy. He is currently employed as an analyst supporting the department of defense and various intelligence agencies as a private government contractor, and runs his own small business in the geospatial and telecommunications industry from his home in Florida with his wife Courtney (’19). Ben currently volunteers his time on a Classical Christian School advisory board, and has a heart for international missions as a member of a missions committee through the Presbyterian Church in America.