Rory Thomas is the President of MMDC. He leads the team and all functions of the organization. A Memphis native, Rory previously served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center which was housed at Southwest Tennessee Community College and has a background in finance. He has been recognized by the National Black MBA Association, America's SBDC Network and the Memphis Business Journal. He finds inspiration in his faith, family, love for the Memphis community, and work to ensure the Medical District is thriving. When he is not at work, he is spending time with his wife and kids, attending or watching sports events, going to the movies, streaming a good series, or trying new restaurants.
Rhonda Brown is a Program Manager for MMDC. She leads business recruitment and retention for the Medical District. Her expertise in corporate America and the local City Government includes economic and business development, franchising, business lending, government contracting, and being a small business owner. She has a passion for empowering small business owners, and showing her daughter the value that comes in building up the community that you live and work in. When she is not working, Rhonda enjoys traveling, reading biographies, volunteering, mentoring, and spending quality time with her daughter and fur baby, Lola.
Haley Gentner works on our Communications and Engagement team and provides support to fundraising and grant writing efforts. Before moving back to her hometown of Memphis in 2020, she worked for River City Company, an economic development nonprofit for Downtown Chattanooga. Haley loves seeing the impact of the organization during her neighborhood walks. When she is not working, she loves yoga, baking, catching up on the newest show or movie, and trivia with friends!
Emily Harris Halpern is a Program Director for MMDC. She leads our communications and engagement program and oversees public art efforts in the Medical District. With a passion for enhancing the connections between people and places, she has over 15 years of experience working in communications, programming, and community development for organizations such as Crosstown Arts and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. In addition to her time in Memphis, she has lived and worked in New Orleans, New York, and abroad. Emily is a yoga practitioner, biking and walking enthusiast, art and design lover, and mother of two boys.
Latasha Harris is MMDC’s Anchor Programs Director. She oversees our Buy Local and Hire Local programs to bring local goods and workforce opportunities to the district. For over 15 years, Latasha has been a passionate leader in the education and workforce development landscape in Memphis, working for organizations such as Porter-Leath and Communities in Schools of Memphis. Her favorite part of the Medical District is the people. She is fascinated by the stories of the residents, business owners, employees and visitors to the district and the potential to help them achieve the life they want. When she is not working, Latasha spends time in her flower and vegetable garden and loves music, especially live concerts, entertaining friends, and kayaking. And if you challenge her in a game of Star Wars trivia, she will win.
Ben Houghtailing is the Operations Manager for MMDC. He leads our ambassador team, setting the ambassadors up for success, and keeping the district looking great. Before his time at MMDC, he worked in the culinary field, leading restaurant teams in Missouri and Vermont. He loves seeing the difference the ambassador team is making. Some of his favorite places in the district are Health Sciences Park and the Edge Triangle dog park. When he is not at work, he is outside fishing, hiking, and working on his goat farm. Even though he no longer does it for a living, he enjoys cooking for others.
Keesa Rayford Mitchell is the Vice President of Operations at MMDC. She is responsible for overseeing the operation activities at the Medical District, which include finance and human resources and she is involved in business development for the organization. She brings over 25 years of experience working at organizations such as Global Impact, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Baptist Memorial Hospital, UT Health Science Center, and Hospital Corporations of America. She loves being a part of a diverse and thriving community like the Medical District. Keesa enjoys traveling, shopping, and trying new restaurants. She is the happiest when she is spending time with her three amazing daughters.
Tammy Partee is the Executive Assistant and Office Manager for MMDC. She has over a decade of experience supporting organizations and senior leadership in finance, office management, and administrative support. One of her favorite things about the Medical District is the food and has never tried a restaurant in the District that she has not loved. When she is not working, she is creating - she loves reading, crafting, building, and writing.
Ben Schulman is MMDC’s Vice President of Real Estate and Economic Development. In this role, Ben is charged with expanding the ecosystem of developers and businesses working, investing, and building in the Medical District. Ben's career has always been centered around space and place. His writings on architecture, urban planning, and policy, have been featured in outlets such as Architect, CityLab, Metropolis, and New Geography, among others. In prior roles, he served as the communications director for the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In the latter role, he concurrently was the editor-in-chief of Chicago Architect magazine and the design section of Newcity Chicago. Before joining MMDC, he helped build, launch, and voice Small Change, an equity crowdfunding platform focused on impact-oriented real estate. A Next City Vanguard Fellow, Ben has presented and lectured at numerous conferences and universities, and consistently contextualizes place through a variety of mediums: as the founder of Just Place, a platform that makes meaning of place through poetry and photography; the host of “Drowned in History,” a podcast finding hidden histories embedded in the landscape of Memphis, TN; and the freeform radio show, “The Other Side,” on community radio station, WYXR Memphis. He is currently a board member of Community LIFT, and the board president of BLDG Memphis.
Travis Tinnin is a Program Coordinator for the Real Estate team. Travis supports real estate efforts in the District, building project ideas to reality. While he is not originally from Memphis, his vantage point and worldview has always stemmed from a community of connectedness and culture, especially in the built-environment. His favorite thing about the District are all the makers and developers that embody District buildings and places, such as Inkwell and Ben Colar, Chef Tam's and Tamra Patterson, and so many others. When he is not working, Travis enjoys anything that brings people together. Whether it is with food, drinks, or music as a DJ on WYXR, he likes to help curate a space for connection. He also loves kicking back with his wife, Kalin, and sweet daughter, Kennedy.
Kirkwood Vangeli is a Program Associate for the Quality Public Realm and Community Engagement teams. Kirkwood first came to Memphis as an undergraduate at Rhodes College where he was a part of the Mellon Innovation Fellowship. After graduation, he won the Louise and Ward Archer Sr. Award for Creativity, which led to an internship at Archer Malmo, a Memphis marketing agency. He also ran his own skateboard company and artist coalition called Fluxus Skateboard Co. Most recently, Kirkwood was a case manager at the Law Office of Russell, Oliver and Stephens. Currently, he supports the strategy and implementation of streetscape improvements and maintenance, public space enhancements and management, and community engagement support. When he is not working, Kirkwood enjoys exercising with his partner, skateboarding, biking around the District, experiencing delicious Memphis cuisine, and traveling. He has a passion for the arts and is driven by positively impacting residents, business owners, anchors, and citizens of Memphis.
Arika Williams is a Program Associate for the Hire Local team. She has supported the Hire Local program for over two years, working to connect Medical District residents with living wage positions at health and education institutions. She is passionate about helping to make the District thrive and enjoys the activities and restaurants it has to offer, all within walking distance. When she is not working, she loves to do makeup, travel, and spend time with family and friends.