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2024 Commencement speaker

JoAnne Brandes headshot

JoAnne Brandes

JoAnne Brandes, is a founder of the Leadership Excellence Center, an attorney, an outside Board member of several corporations, and speaker and consultant specializing in leadership development, corporate structure and governance, and cultural transformation.  JoAnne retired after a long career with the S.C. Johnson family of companies as the Executive Vice President, CAO, General Counsel and Secretary of JohnsonDiversey, Inc., responsible for all legal matters, Human Resources, Communications, Public Affairs and administration for the company and its over 65 international and domestic subsidiaries.  JoAnne was a member of the company’s management committee and had major responsibility for the company’s acquisition and integration within a few years of global companies adding over $2 billion in sales. In the midst of her career JoAnne was named “Working Mother of the Year” by Working Mother Magazine for her work in developing corporate child care and other family friendly programs for employees.


  • Director, Andersen Windows Corporation, 2005-present 
  • Director, Bemis Manufacturing Corporation, 2007-present
  • Director, Highlights for Children, Inc., Columbus, OH, 2009-present
  • Director, First Business Bank, Brookfield, WI, 2010-2017.
  • Director, Metrix, Inc., Waukesha, WI, 2007-2012
  • Director, Optique Funds (formerly JohnsonFamily Funds), Milwaukee, WI, 1998 – 2011.
  • Director, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Boston, MA, 1996 – 2008
  • Regent, University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, 1996 – 2003
  • Trustee, Carroll University, Waukesha, WI, 2007-2013
  • Trustee, UW – Eau Claire Foundation Board, 2006-present; President, 2011-2014
  • Director, Alternative Resources Corporation, Barrington, IL, 1994–2004
  • Director, St. Luke’s Hospital and Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI, 1995 – 1999


  • Graduated from Willamette University College of Law, May, 1978, with a Doctorate of 
  • Jurisprudence degree.  Comment Editor, Law Journal.
  • Graduated from the University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire, May 1975, with a B.A. degree in
  • Journalism and Political Science. Selected as Outstanding Senior, School of Arts and Sciences.

Awards and Honors:

  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Lifetime Excellence Award
  • State of Wisconsin Friend of Education Award 
  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Alumni Hall of Honor 
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Distinguished Service Award 
  • Franklin Friend of Education Award 
  • Named Working Mother Magazine’s 1994 “Working Mother of the Year” 
  • 1994 YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award for Business & Industry 
  • 1993 Professional Dimension’s Sacajawea Award 
  • 1991 UW-Parkside Focus on Women Award 
  • 1991 Recipient of H. F. Johnson Community Service Award 
  • 1984-85 State of Wisconsin Outstanding Young Career Woman, Wisconsin Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs

Past Community Activities:

Chairperson, Wisconsin High School Improvement Council; Member, Milwaukee International Film Festival Business Committee and Mayor’s Council; Member, Professional Dimensions; Member, Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Commission; Chairperson, Wisconsin Child Care Council; Member, Board of Directors of the National Child Care Action Campaign; Founder, Member, Franklin Education Foundation; Member, Association of Funding Organizations; Member, Board of Directors of Forward Wisconsin, Inc.; Member, Governor’s Commission on the Glass Ceiling and Chairperson, Education and Outreach; Past President, Board of Directors of Racine Area United Way; Member, Alverno College Board of Trustees; Member, Franklin Library Foundation; Member, Board of Directors of Racine Area Child Care Resource and Referral; Founding member and officer, Franklin 2000, Inc., a community foundation; Treasurer and member, Board of Directors of Racine Family Planning; Member, Franklin Economic Development Commission; Past President and member, Board of Advisors of Catholic Social Services and Program Services Committee; Member, Board of Directors of Racine CSS Child Care, Inc.; Member, Board of Directors of All Saints Visiting Nurses, Inc.; Member Board of Directors of Faith Development program to create a Racine inner city child development center; Member, Greater Milwaukee Corporate Work/Family Committee.

Willamette University


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