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Kentucky Derby Museum welcomes new board members

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Derby Museum welcomes three new members to its board of directors with the addition of Business First publisher Lisa Benson, philanthropist and Kentucky Derby Museum enthusiast Rhonda Jo Conner, and accomplished attorney Craig C. Dilger.

Board members Mark Bacon, W. Edwin Lewis and Chris Whelan are departing after completing their terms with the board.

Vice president of the museum, Katie Fussenegger, has been promoted to executive vice president, a role that heightens her rank and positions her for continued growth at the organization.

Fussenegger started at the Museum in February of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began. She hit the ground running, leading the organization through a museum closure and COVID-19 safety protocols that kept staff and guests safe.

As executive vice president, Fussenegger oversees various aspects of daily operations at the museum, provides leadership oversight, increases revenue for various departments, and oversees the proper execution of the museum’s overall budget. She’s also key in hiring, developing, and appraising staff. She is currently going through Leadership Louisville and is the Kentucky Travel Industry Association chair. Fussenegger has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Louisville.

The Kentucky Derby Museum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is governed by its 22-member board of directors, committed to the highest standard of business ethics. The museum board monitors museum operations, provides financial oversight, and helps guide the growth of the museum. The new board members will serve a three-year term starting in December.

About the new board members:

Lisa Benson

Lisa Benson is publisher and market president of Louisville Business First, a business-to-business media and events company that is part of American City Business Journals. Benson has 23 years of experience in publishing, joining ACBJ in 1999 at the Cincinnati Business Courier. She served in numerous positions over 16 years in Cincinnati, including digital editor and managing editor. She was promoted to editor-in-chief at Louisville Business First in 2015. She was named publisher in July of 2019, becoming the first woman and fourth publisher in the publication’s history. Business First has about 11,000 paid subscribers and averages more than 400,000 visits to its website each month.

Benson also serves as a board member for Greater Louisville Inc. and Impetus for a Better Louisville, and sits on the executive board for Bellarmine University’s W. Fielding Rubel School of Business and the advisory committee for the Young Professionals Association of Louisville. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism and was the recipient of the 2021 Sheldon Shafer Excellence in Journalism Award from the Public Relations Society of America’s Blue Grass Chapter.

Rhonda Jo Conner

After pursuing a telecommunications major at the University of Kentucky, Rhonda Jo Conner married U.K. Basketball star Jimmy Dan Conner. They have two children, James Daniel and Katelyn. Katelyn is married to Eric Bunning and they have two children, Alice Patton and James.

Professionally, she became an accomplished singer-songwriter as well as a professional motivational speaker. She has traveled across the United States and as far as Seoul, South Korea, where she entertained for American troops and their wives. She has performed for President George W. Bush twice as well as several generals and decorated U.S. military members.

A self-professed “Kentucky Girl,” Conner was raised in Lexington and she and her husband raised their children in Louisville.

An avid University of Kentucky fan, she and Jimmy Dan are U.K. Fellows, a society that recognizes donors for significant contributions to the university.

Known for her fundraising success, she was asked to head up fundraising for The Morton Center Event. She also served on the fundraising committees to benefit The Cabbage Patch and the Louisville Orchestra Fanfara.

Known for her philanthropy, Conner has supported numerous charities in the region, including Derby Divas, Women 4 Women, and The Speed Ball Committee. She and Jimmy Dan have been faithful supporters of The Kentucky Horse Park Foundation.

Conner served on the Kentucky Derby Museum’s board a few years ago. In the past, she served as co-chair and chair of the Kentucky Derby Museum Gala. Elevating the Derby Museum’s Gala is one of the proudest accomplishments she’s experienced.

After purchasing a second home in Big Horn, Wyoming, she loves to fly fish and hike as well as paint (oil) the beautiful surroundings. She most recently was asked to be on the National Alliance Committee to support the Bradford Brinton Museum in Big Horn. The Brinton Museum is a multifaceted institution that connects the past, present and future of the American West through its historic Circle A Ranch, Fine Art and American Indian Art Collections.

The Conners currently split their time between Kentucky and Wyoming.

Craig C. Dilger

Craig C. Dilger is a member in Stoll Keenon Ogden’s Louisville office and has been with the firm since 2001. He serves as chair of the Sports and Criminal Law practices, co-chair of the Health Care practice, and also focuses on complex commercial litigation. Having served as lead trial counsel on more than 60 jury trials and dozens of bench trials and administrative proceedings, Craig brings unique and critical experience to the representation of his clients.

Among the highlights of Craig’s distinguished career is his successful defense at trial of a Division I college football coach and athletic association against a student alleging improprieties in granting football scholarships. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the university and awarded no damages.

In the public realm, Craig serves as chairman of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Prior to joining SKO, Craig worked as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney and was the lead prosecutor in a number of high-profile cases, including a workplace violence trial that ended in convictions on two counts of intentional murder. Craig also served as one of two prosecutors imbedded with the Gang Violence Task Force.

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