SSTI Board


The Honorable Tom Ridge
Following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Tom Ridge became the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and, on January 24, 2003, became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, serving until February 2005. The creation of the country's 15th Cabinet Department marked the largest reorganization of government since the Truman administration and another call to service for the former soldier, congressman and governor of Pennsylvania. During his DHS tenure, Secretary Ridge worked with more than 180,000-plus employees from a combined 22 agencies to create an agency that facilitated the flow of people and goods, instituted layered security at air, land and seaports, developed a unified national response and recovery plan, protected critical infrastructure, integrated new technology and improved information sharing worldwide. Mr. Ridge previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives for six terms from 1983 to 1995, and was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania, serving as the state's 43rd governor from 1995 to 2001. Governor Ridge's aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances in economic development, education, health care and the environment. Secretary Ridge is currently president and CEO of Ridge Global, an international security and risk management advisory firm, headquartered in Washington, DC. In March 2013, Secretary Ridge co-founded with former White House cyber czar Howard Schmidt the strategic advisory firm, Ridge Schmidt Cyber, an executive services firm that helps leaders in business and government navigate the increasing demands of cybersecurity. An engaging and dynamic speaker, Secretary Ridge regularly addresses audiences on a range of issues, including international business, security and leadership. Additionally, he serves on the boards of the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and other private and public entities. He is currently chairman of SSTI's Board of Trustees, the National Organization on Disability and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's National Security Task Force, and along with Gen. Tommy Franks (Ret.) serves as national co-chairman of the Flight 93 National Memorial Fundraising Campaign. Secretary Ridge earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967. After his first year at Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After returning to Pennsylvania and to Dickinson, he earned his law degree.


Robert Atkinson is the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based technology policy think tank. He is also author of the "State New Economy Index" series and the book, "The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth". He has an extensive background in technology policy, he has conducted ground-breaking research projects on technology and innovation, is a valued adviser to state and national policy makers, and a popular speaker on innovation policy nationally and internationally. Before coming to ITIF, Dr. Atkinson was vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute and director of PPIís Technology & New Economy Project, where he wrote numerous research reports on technology and innovation policy. Previously Dr. Atkinson served as the first executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, a public-private partnership including as members the governor, legislative leaders, and corporate and labor leaders. Prior to that he was project director at the former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rebecca O. Bagley joined the University of Pittsburgh in April 2015 as Vice Chancellor for Economic Partnerships and works with senior leadership at Pitt to develop a strategic plan for the university in economic development. She also will develop and oversee effective public and private partnerships that connect and advance the university and have regional and national impact. Another key aspect of her position will be serving as a liaison with government, community leadership and the business community on matters pertaining to economic development. Ms. Bagley was formerly the President and Chief Executive Officer of NorTech, a technology-focused organization that worked to strengthen Northeast Ohio's economic vitality by accelerating the pace of innovation in the region. NorTech used its expertise in emerging industries to foster an innovation environment that provided companies of all sizes, higher education and research institutions, and individuals of diverse backgrounds with new opportunities for collaboration that created jobs and attracted capital having a long-term, economic impact. NorTech also connected with government leaders and other influencers to raise the visibility of Northeast Ohio's assets to position the region as an innovation hub and to attract resources. Prior to joining NorTech, Ms. Bagley served as Deputy Secretary for the Technology Investment Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). She previously served as Director of the Venture Investment for DCED and managed venture and real estate investment programs. Before joining DCED, Ms. Bagley worked for several investment banks, most notably JPMorgan Chase, where she advised energy and technology companies on mergers and acquisitions and raising capital in the high yield bond group and oil and gas group.

Michael Cassidy is Director, Emory Biomedical Catalyst at Emory University, where he provides vision and leadership for the center's promotion of biomedical innovations. Mr. Cassidy was the President and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization that expands research and commercialization capacity in Georgia’s universities to launch new companies, create high-value jobs and transform lives, for 18 years. He is a co-founder of the GRA Venture Fund, LLC, a private investment fund created to finance promising companies that emerge through the Alliance’s commercialization programs. Before joining the Alliance, Mr. Cassidy managed the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia's technology incubator. Prior to that he worked for the IBM Corporation where he held various staff and management assignments. Mr. Cassidy serves on the Board of Directors of the State Science and Technology Institute, the Health Care Ethics Consortium, Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures, the Global Center for Medical Innovation, Atlanta Emerging Markets Inc., the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the Technology Association of Georgia. Mr. Cassidy holds a Master’s degree in Technology and Science Policy from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.B.A. degree in Marketing from Georgia State University.

Marnie LaVigne has spent more than 25 years in both the private and public sectors creating new products and start-up businesses, driving innovation and economic growth especially in technology-based industries. In 2014 she became the President and CEO of Launch NY, a venture development organization that she co-founded with other regional partners. Previously, she moved from her co-founder roles in two health informatics start-up companies with initial public offerings into the nonprofit arena, which included leading economic and business development efforts for nearly 10 years as the University at Buffalo as Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Director of Business Development for the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. Dr. LaVigne created numerous programs supporting technology-based economic development among startups and established companies, yielding as much as 60:1 return in economic impact. She serves on numerous boards for private, public, profit, and non-profit organizations and journals. Dr. LaVigne has a bachelor's degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in clinical psychology, both from the University of Rochester.

Rich Lunak has distinguished himself as a successful serial entrepreneur, corporate executive and investor. He is currently President and CEO of Innovation Works, one of the nation’s most active early stage technology investors, where he leverages his experience as a successful serial entrepreneur to provide strategic business advice to high-growth technology companies in Pittsburgh. Since 2000, Innovation Works has invested in more than 170 technology startups, which have gone on to raise more than $1.4 billion in venture investment and represent the fastest growing companies in southwestern Pennsylvania. From 2008-2012, more than 70% of the Pittsburgh region’s venture capital investments went to companies that previously had received Innovation Works’ seed capital and the Pittsburgh region was recognized by the National Venture Capital Association for being the second fastest growing venture capital market in the country in 2009. Prior to joining Innovation Works in 2005, Mr. Lunak was a successful technology entrepreneur/inventor who helped lead a healthcare robotics company from a three-person startup to a $65 million acquisition by McKesson Corporation, the nation’s 16th largest company. As Group President, McKesson Automation, he led five autonomous business units that served more than 13,000 customers, generated hundreds of millions in revenues and managed more than 1,800 employees with operations in four states. He was responsible for all aspects of the businesses including acquisitions, sales, marketing, R&D, manufacturing and service. A technologist as well as an entrepreneur, Mr. Lunak is a guest lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, a member of numerous boards of directors, and holds several U.S. patents. He is a winner of the 2012 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the 2008 Carnegie Science Center entrepreneur’s award. Mr. Lunak received a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

Bruce Mehlman is a technology industry leader in Washington DC, helping high tech players understand, anticipate and navigate the public policy environment and trends likely to impact the global marketplace through his firm, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. His largest client is the Technology CEO Council, where as Executive Director he works with the CEOs of Applied Materials, Dell, EMC, IBM, Intel, HP, Motorola, NCR and Unisys to promote innovation leadership and tech-led economic growth. Mr. Mehlman previously served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy. At Commerce, Mr. Mehlman worked closely with leaders from industry, federal labs, universities and governments on issues impacting technology creators and users including innovation policy, broadband, biotechnology, tech-led economic growth, technology transfer, nanotechnology, and workforce policy. Mehlman worked as telecommunications policy counsel for Cisco Systems, policy director at the House Republican Conference, general counsel of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and as a commercial litigation attorney in a major Washington law firm. He serves on the Board of One Economy Corporation, and the Advisory Boards of the NanoBusiness Alliance and the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

Sandra Watson brings more than 20 years of economic development leadership experience to Arizona. She and her teams have successfully attracted to Arizona hundreds of companies that have invested billions of dollars in capital and created more than 75,000 quality jobs. During her tenure with the Arizona Department of Commerce, and now the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Ms. Watson served in positions with increasing responsibilities and results. She has led Business Attraction, Business Development, Innovation & Technology, Workforce and Marketing. She also served as Executive Director of the Governor’s Council of Innovation & Technology. Ms. Watson worked tirelessly to implement the new vision for the ACA and its aggressive 5-year business plan promoting the state’s pro-business, competitive value proposition. She provided invaluable leadership during the organization’s transition from the Department of Commerce into one of the nation’s first state-based public-private partnerships focused on economic development. Under her direction, the ACA leads statewide efforts assisting companies to locate, expand and grow – bringing high-wage jobs and capital investment to Arizona. Ms. Watson holds an Honors Bachelor of Commerce degree, and completed the Global Leadership Certification program at the Thunderbird School of Management.

Chairman Emeritus

John Engler is president of the Business Roundtable (BRT), an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations with a combined workforce of nearly 16 million workers and more than $7 trillion in annual revenues. A former three-term governor of Michigan, Gov. Engler assumed the leadership of Business Roundtable in January 2011 after serving six years as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Prior to joining NAM, he served as president of EDS State and Local Government and vice president of EDS Government Solutions of America. Several of the innovative technology-based economic development initiatives Gov. Engler launched during his time in office have provided models replicated or envied across the nation. Most notably, perhaps, are the creation and quasi-privatization of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; the $1 billion portfolio of programs to establish and sustain the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor; and, the $50 million NextEnergy Initiative focusing on alternative energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells. During his last term in office, Gov. Engler served as chairman of the National Governors Association. He currently is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and serves as a director on the boards of Delta Airlines, the Munder Funds and Universal Forest Products. He also is a distinguished fellow for the Council of Competitiveness. Gov. Engler earned a degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University and a degree in law from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Chairman Emeritus

Dick Thornburgh is currently counsel to the international law firm of K&L Gates LLP, resident in its Washington, D.C. office. He previously served as Governor of Pennsylvania, Attorney General of the United States under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, during a public career that spanned over 25 years. While Governor from 1978 to 1986, Mr. Thornburgh implemented widely-recognized economic development, education and welfare reform programs, including the Ben Franklin Partnership that is recognized as a national model for cooperation between research universities and the entrepreneurial community and responsible for countless new future-oriented Pennsylvania businesses and increases in employment in the advanced technology area. He was the founding Chairman of SSTI. Mr. Thornburgh was appointed Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations from 1992 to 1993. Previously, he served three years as Attorney General of the United States from 1988 to 1991 in the Cabinets of Presidents Reagan and Bush, and during his career he served in the Justice Department under five Presidents in various roles.