Kristen Kellner: 39
Founder and President, Kellner Consulting, LLC
Before embarking on her own business, Kristen Kellner said that her professional history was long and varied. “I worked pretty much in the media and finance industries,” she explained, from Wall Street to NBC, where she was an operations manager, to producing special projects for Star Jones.
After a stint in the venture-capital world, another of those career twists and turns, Kellner was recruited to be billionaire businessman Ted Forstmann’s personal project manager, where she oversaw many facets of his estate. “It was a pivotal point in my career to work for someone like him,” she remembered. “He was a brilliant businessman and leader, and that’s where I first got my sense of how powerful philanthropy is, in finding a passion and then doing something with it.”
During that time with Forstmann and in her first years back in Western Mass., Kellner experienced a series of life-altering events. She was misdiagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and was one day away from chemotherapy before she discovered the truth. “I realized then that life is too short,” she said.
Working at MassMutual, she and her husband were looking forward to their first child, but, “14 weeks into my pregnancy, we found out that our son had Trisomy 18 — three chromosomes. It’s not compatible with life,” she said.
But, Kellner proudly added, “I’ve been able to take adversity and traumatic experiences and turn them into something positive, by finding their special meaning.” What that translated into was an enduring involvement with the March of Dimes, where she is now vice chair of the board, and the successful implementation of an internal program at MassMutual designed to help with issues of pregnancy in the workplace.
She noted that her desire to help others wasn’t learned from Forstmann alone. She gives credit to her parents, Anne Marie and Ralph Ferraro of Springfield, 2003 winners of the Servian Award from the Italian Cultural Center for services to the community. “I’ve learned so much from their example,” she said. “I want to acknowledge them for who I’ve become.”
— Dan Chase