Inaugural Carmel Leadership Day set for Oct. 1


Richard M. Markoff developed a vision in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2020, CarmelFest was forced to cancel everything but the fireworks.

“We learned if CarmelFest was not held, the Carmel Rotary Club did not have a branded event,” Markoff said. “Furthermore, there was a tremendous need to educate the public and private sectors to grow personal and public leadership skills for people here in the community. Plus, we wanted to do something to develop the next generation of leaders in Carmel.”

So Markoff, who is retired but has held several leadership positions, including executive vice president of the Simon Youth Foundation, had the idea to create Carmel Leadership Day. The Rotary Club of Carmel agreed to hold it for two years on a trial basis.


The first Carmel Leadership Day will be from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at 1 Civic Square. The sold-out event is a combined effort of the Rotary Club of Carmel, Hamilton County Leadership Academy, iTeam (Think Tank), Carmel firefighters and Carmel Clay Schools.  Markoff, who turns 75 the same day as the leadership conference, is the event chairman.

“Leadership counts. More than ever, we need leadership,” said Markoff, who also was an advisor to the IUPUI chancellor and taught classes on organizational leadership at IUPUI. “For whatever reason, I think a lot of us have not gone out of our way to develop the kind of leadership that communities need to be successful. We need to not only talk about it but step up our game by bringing the best leadership possible together for our community. That includes developing the next generation of leaders.”

Markoff became a member of Rotary Club when he moved from Toledo, Ohio, to Indianapolis in 1995. He became a Carmel Rotary member in 2016 after moving to Carmel in late 2015.

“The mission is to maximize the Carmel Rotary’s impact by creating a visible and exciting program to enhance civil awareness and strengthen community leadership,” Markoff said.

Markoff said there will be 36 speakers, including three panels. The keynote speaker will be Ivy Tech President and former Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann. Markoff said Ellspermann will speak on building Indiana’s future leaders and their educational, business, civic and community responsibilities. The closing speaker will be Dr. Aaron Cohen-Gadol, a neurosurgeon from IU Health and professor of neuroscience at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who will speak on “Getting Serious about Leadership — Yes it is Brain Surgery.”

“What Aaron talks about is leadership in the operating room when you literally only have fractions of seconds to make life or death decisions,” Markoff said. “He just mesmerizes audiences. It’s a great way to begin the conference and a great way to close it.”

Markoff said the Lunch with a Leader portion at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Carmel will have 18 tables for small-table discussions with a local leader, including Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, during the designated lunch hour.

“The 18 leaders will talk about how COVID impacted their view on leadership,” Markoff said.

Each table will have a limited number of seats for a more beneficial interaction with the leader, along with a table moderator. There will be 75 ProAct Indy students, including 50 Carmel High School seniors, at the lunch.

Markoff said each leader has local ties to the community and a heart for service.

In addition, Leadership in Action Day is Oct. 29. Markoff said there will be a joint service project among the Rotary Club of Carmel, the Carmel Fire Dept., Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation, Carmel High School students and ProAct Indy students. Participants will come together for a civic project, performing community service along Carmel’s Monon Trail.

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