Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So it only took me 36 years, but I finally attended my first Aspen Business Luncheon.

And what a luncheon it was. Carolyne Heldman, the host of “Cross Currents” on Aspen Public Radio, helmed a conversation with a panel of people under the moniker of “Aspen’s Women of Influence.” The panel included: founder Nancy Spears; Kitty Boone, vice president/director of public programs at The Aspen Institute; Laura Welch, chief development officer for the Foundation for Social Change; and Catherine Anne Provine, executive director of The Buddy Program. All women of influence indeed.

Carolyne led the group through a discussion of how each of the women work in their respective industries. The conversation also touched on influences that helped these women become successful, gender discrimination issues they have dealt with, and advice they have for up-and-coming business women in the community.

What was striking was the bond that all of these women had between them. Though they don’t work together per se, they all seemed to share an optimism, a determination and a sense of self that made each stand out. And they all got along famously. Listening to the discussion was more like having a seat at an intimate luncheon with the four than sitting in an audience in front of a dais.

Perhaps more striking, however, was that this panel was even a part of the Aspen Business Luncheon. Thirty-six years ago, local legend Ron Krajian (the bridge with his plaque and name near the Art Museum is one of my favorite places in town) began a Friday men’s luncheon series that was designed to help foster community amongst locals and provide an interesting speaker. Incredibly, that luncheon remained a men’s-only affair until 2010 when current domo of the dining table, Todd Shaver, changed the name to the Aspen Business Luncheon and, appropriately, opened the doors to all.

The result has been a weekly gathering in the ballroom at the Hotel Jerome each Wednesday that generally sees a sold-out crowd. The speakers are drawn from the local community, and what a pool that is to draw from. In the last year there have been Olympians, Grammy winners, environmental icons, authors and more. There may not be a more vibrant community in America, particularly one the size of Aspen, from which to select more world-class speakers. It is fertile ground indeed.

The “Aspen’s Women of Influence” luncheon followed a familiar pattern. Lunch is served buffet style at 12:30 p.m.; around 1 p.m., Shaver tours the room with a microphone allowing attendees to introduce themselves and their businesses to the crowd. The speakers speak and then questions are taken from the audience. This week, the crowd was 70 percent female and they could not get enough of the panel.

You can find out more about future Aspen Business Luncheons, including who will be speaking, by going to their website at It’s a great way to see some old faces, meet some new ones and learn a little something over lunch.

For both men and women.

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