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Tonya York Dees, President/Owner, York Management

tonyaAs it turns out, Tonya’s previous work experience made her uniquely suited for life heading an event and business strategy company. For 13 years, she served in a variety of positions with Greater Louisville, Inc., Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce. There, she headed The Center for Small Business, working with small and medium-sized privately owned businesses, as well as corporate service providers and partners. She raised grant and sponsorship money, developed the popular “Business at Breakfast” series, planned conferences and conducted training sessions for small businesses. Her job was to attract, develop and advocate for the small business, both in Louisville and throughout the region. She moved up to Vice President of Membership Services, managing a staff of 15 and a $1.5 million budget, all with the goal of creating events and membership development services to the area’s businesses. She also oversaw the GLI annual dinner, fly-in trips to Washington DC, the GLIDE trip, annual tradeshows and more.

She holds undergraduate degrees in both Advertising/Public Relations and a Masters Degree in Humanities from the University of Louisville. Tonya also studied Economics, History and Literature at Oxford University in England, and graduated from the Institutes for Organization Management at UCLA in Los Angeles. Her continuing education certifications are numerous, including obtaining her CCE (Certified Chamber Executive).

She has been involved with numerous civic and charitable activities including:

  • University of Louisville — Board of Overseers, University of Louisville, 2005-present; Alumni Association Board of Directors, 2011-present; Past Chair, Honors Mentoring Program; University Club Board of Directors, 1998-2001
  • Co-founder & Co-chair along with her sister, Tammy, of York Sisters LLC — Creates and produces events to benefit charities. Includes Annual Derby Prelude Parties in Nashville & LA, and the Derby Rose Gala on Derby Eve 2012
  • Mint Jubilee Gala (now Julep Ball, benefiting the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville) — Co-chair 2010 Julep Ball; Executive Committee, 2006 to present; Chair and Co-founder Mint Jubilee Derby Eve Gala, 1997 and 2005
  • Gilda’s Club Louisville (benefiting Cancer survivors) — Board of Directors, 2004-2009
  • Blessings in a Backpack, providing food to needy children nationwide — Assisted with expansion of program in New York City and Los Angeles as well as fundraisers nationwide
  • March of Dimes, Louisville — Board, 2004 to 2009, Board Chair 2002-2004, March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala, 2002-2008


Past charitable activities include:

  • Louisville Science Center — 2003-2006 Co-Chair Mad Scientist Ball
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation — Board of Directors, 2002-2006, Co-Chair Mama Said Gala, 2002-04
  • Caritas Doctor’s Ball — Committee, 2003
  • Leukemia Society of Kentucky — Co-Chair, “Christmas in the Capitol” event
  • Venture Club of Louisville, a civic organization supporting local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — Founding Board Member, 1999-2001
  • American Chamber of Commerce Executives Small Business Council — Chair, 1994-95; Chairman, National Conference, 1992 & 1994; Board of Directors, 1992-1998
  • Louisville Homeless Benefit Ball — Co-founder 1989, Chair 1992-93
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Kentucky — Board of Directors, 1992-93 for Louisville Ballet Dance benefitting the Society
  • Kentucky Derby Festival — Basketball Classic Committee, 1988-1992
  • University of Louisville Student Activities — Founder & President of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, 1981-84; Student Government Association Senator & Director of Special Projects


Honors & Awards:

  • Graduate, Leadership Kentucky
  • Community Health Charities Volunteer of the Year
  • Forty Under 40 award for top Louisville Leaders
  • Graduate, Leadership Louisville
  • University of Louisville Lawrence Grever Award for Outstanding Alumni
  • Inc. Magazine/Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for Support of Entrepreneurship, 1994
  • Award of Merit, American Society of Association Executives, for Louisville Growth Company Study
  • Award of Excellence in communication and direct mail, American Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Helen Haller Award for Outstanding Alpha Omicron Pi Graduate Student in US
  • Graduate Dean’s Citation, University of Louisville Graduate School