MDF Presents Leadership Awards to Standout Alumni of Legacy Leadership Programs

Hallowell, Maine — June 11, 2024 Maine Development Foundation (MDF), is thrilled to announce the winners of our 2024 ICL (Institute for Civic Leadership) Distinguished Alum Award and Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award, which is presented to an alum of our Leadership Maine program. Both programs are celebrating their 30th anniversary. 

“These awards recognize the efforts of alumni who have given selflessly of themselves and demonstrated exceptional leadership in achieving extraordinary things for Maine while furthering systemic change toward equity and inclusion,” says Jan Kearce, Senior Team Leader for Workforce & Leadership with MDF. “Both of our awardees are leading actionable and scalable efforts to build a diverse Maine economy and to ensure Maine continues to be a great place to live and work for all.” 

MDF proudly bestowed the awards during the May 17th 30th Anniversary Leadership Alumni Celebration at Ferry Beach Conference Center in Saco to two standout alumni: 

2024 Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award to LuAnn Ballesteros, 2007 Leadership Maine Xi Class and Vice President of External & Government Affairs with The Jackson Laboratory. LuAnn is a longtime member of MDF’s Maine Economic Growth Council and serves on numerous advisory & policy groups including the Maine Innovation Economy Board, The State Chamber of Commerce Board, and Maine State Workforce Board. She is a tireless advocate for career opportunity and accessible education for all Mainers. LuAnn holds a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from Husson College and an associate’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Maine, Farmington. 

2024 ICL Distinguished Alum Award to Carolyn Nishon, 2012 ICL Tau Class and Executive Director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra since 2015. She is a compassionate, dedicated advocate for the power of live orchestral music, and for inclusivity, equity, and diversity in the arts – making them affordable and accessible to all. Prior to that role, she led the PSO’s artistic operations department from 2008-2015. In 2007 – 2008, she served as one of five League of American Orchestras Fellows, working alongside the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen (Colorado) Music Festival and School. While at the University of Michigan, she served as an intern with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Carolyn holds a B.A. in English and Psychology from the University of Michigan. 

“Throughout the Leadership Maine program I was introduced to and able to engage with, many of the State’s most prominent and effective leaders,” says LuAnn Ballesteros, winner of the Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award and Vice President of External & Government Affairs with The Jackson Laboratory. “As an alum, I’ve been able to leverage both the lessons learned and the relationships developed, to hone my own leadership skills and to share what I’ve learned with others.  And I’ve watched with admiration as my Xi classmates did the same…. that’s the power and the legacy of Leadership Maine. 

“I am deeply honored to receive the ICL Distinguished Alum Award. At ICL, we explored the power of facilitative leadership and the importance of agreeing upon shared ground rules to connect, listen, and learn from each other,” says Carolyn Nishon, winner of the 2024 ICL Distinguished Alum Award and Executive Director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. “These principles guide me each day, in and out of the PSO, in hopes of creating an environment where everyone is heard, valued, and we can collectively make the strongest and most thoughtful decisions possible.” 

To find out more about MDF’s Leadership Development programs and the broad range of other economic & community development programs, coalitions, and initiatives MDF leads, go to