Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.
Press Release

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Announces Mary Ellen Stanek as Board Chairwoman and adds Dr. Joan Prince and Charles Harvey to Board of Directors


By - Mar 2nd, 2023 09:16 am
Mary Ellen Stanek. Photo courtesy of Summerfest.

Mary Ellen Stanek. Photo courtesy of Summerfest.

MILWAUKEE, WI (March 2, 2023) – Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) announced today that the Board of Directors has named Mary Ellen Stanek as the new Chairwoman of the MWF Board. She currently serves as Managing Director of Robert W. Baird & Co and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Baird Advisors, and President of the Baird Funds.

In 2020 and 2021, Stanek was named to Barron’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance. Stanek serves on the boards of Baird Financial Group, Northwestern Mutual, and WEC Energy Group (NYSE:WEC). She also serves on the boards of All-In Milwaukee, Boys and Girls Clubs (past Board Chair), Children’s Hospital Foundation, Faith In Our Future Trust, Froedtert Health, Greater Milwaukee Committee (past Chair), Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and Medical College of Wisconsin (past Board Chair) and was elected Trustee Emeritus at Marquette University (past Board Chair).

“I am honored to be the incoming Chairwoman of the MWF Board of Directors. I look forward to working with the staff and Board at MWF to fulfill the mission of the organization, bringing the community together through music and special events,” said Stanek.

She will succeed Howard Sosoff, who has served as MWF Board Chairman since 2018. Sosoff, who has been an integral part of MWF for over 40 years, will become Chairman Emeritus. Under Sosoff’s leadership, MWF completed its largest project to date, the $51.3 million dollar renovation of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, which was 100% privately financed. He also navigated the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic and spearheaded the redevelopment of the children’s area into the Northwestern Mutual Community Park, which opened in 2021 and is accessible to the public throughout the festival season.

In addition to Stanek’s appointment, MWF also added Dr. Joan Prince, Vice Chancellor Emerita– The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and US Ambassador Emerita, General Assembly of the United Nations, to the MWF Board of Directors. Prince is Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s appointee to the Board.

Finally, the Board also approved the appointment of Charles Harvey as an at-large member. Harvey is a retired executive with Johnson Controls and has served as an officer of the MWF Board in the past.

MWF announced that Howard Schnoll, who has been a MWF Board member for over four decades, will become an Honorary Board Member, and Michael Lauer will be leaving the Board, after serving two terms.

“I am pleased to welcome Mary Ellen as our new Board Chairwoman, and Dr. Joan Prince and Charles Harvey to our Board of Directors. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise to our organization. I am also deeply grateful to Howard Sosoff, Howard Schnoll, and Mike Lauer for their vision and dedication to MWF and the community. On behalf of the entire MWF Board, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to them for their dedicated service and leadership,” said Don Smiley, CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.

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About Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. is an independent, private 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1965 that produces Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, a three-weekend music festival featuring over 800 artists across 12 stages. Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. also maintains and improves Henry Maier Festival Park, located on 75 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI. In addition to Summerfest, Henry Maier Festival Park hosts a variety of ethnic and cultural festivals, concerts, walks, runs, and other special events. The mission of the organization is to promote an understanding of different ethnic cultures, the histories and traditions of various nationalities, harmony in the community, civic pride as well as to provide a showcase for performing arts, activities, and recreation for the public and employment opportunities for the youth of the community. For more details, visit,, Twitter: @Summerfest or Instagram: @Summerfest.

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