Board of Trustees at Finlandia University

The Finlandia University Board of Trustees serves the university on a volunteer basis as they look to build upon the strengths of the century-old Upper Peninsula institution. Below are introductions to each of the board members.

Julie Badel, Board President

Julie Badel Finlandia UniversityFormer Partner (now retired), Epstein Becker Green

Julie Badel’s maternal grandparents immigrated from Kuusamo, Finland, in 1901. Fleeing the copper mines during the strike of 1913, her grandfather, Herman Hyrkas, moved his young family to Tapiola and began farming and working in the lumber camps. Her grandmother, Jenny, came from an educated family of professionals and imparted to the ensuing generations the importance of education. While Julie has had a long and interesting legal career in Chicago, her passions are all things Finnish, the Copper Country and her pack of German Shepherd dogs.

Julie Badel is a former partner, now retired, in the Chicago office of the national law firm Epstein Becker Green. She represented management in all phases of labor and employment law, including employment discrimination, wrongful discharge, wage-hour, unemployment, traditional labor law and unfair competition. She practiced before numerous state and federal agencies and defended employers in both single plaintiff and class action cases in federal agencies and courts. Also, she is a certified mediator.

Badel has served on the board since 2011.


Houghton County Commissioner

Glenn Anderson has had a successful municipal management, community development and economic development career with experience throughout Upper Michigan, working for the Village of Baraga, the Village of Ontonagon, and the City of Hancock. Glenn was born in Hancock and grew up and graduated from high school in Baraga. After retiring from the City of Hancock as the City Manager, Glenn was elected as Houghton County Commissioner, representing District 3, which includes the City of Hancock, the Village of South Range and Adams Township. Glenn is married to Mary Lou and they have three children, Stacy, Jacki and Glenn Robert.

Glenn’s maternal grandparents immigrated from the Vaasa Finland area in the early 1900’s. While employed at the City of Hancock, he traveled several times to Porvoo Finland, which has a sister city relationship with Hancock. In addition, Glenn has made several family trips to Finland to visit relatives.

Anderson has served on the board since 2020.

Shelby (Seaton) Hamar

Exercise Physiologist

Shelby Hamar was born and raised in Hancock, MI. Her mother, Lois Isaac Seaton, was a Suomi College graduate and her grandfather, Edward J. Isaac, was Suomi College president from 1952-1954. In addition, her father served on the Suomi/Finlandia Board of Trustees for many years. Her professional career as an Exercise Physiologist included work at a number of healthcare organizations in the Midwest, 2 years in the Peace Corps and 15+ years at Portage Health in Hancock. Shelby is an active member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock, singing in the church choir and serving on a number of committees. She is married to Doug and has 2 adult children, Leslie and Reid. She enjoys skiing, golf, Nordic walking and travel.

Ryan Heinonen

Chief Nursing Officer – UP Health System – Portage

Ryan Heinonen was born and raised in Atlantic Mine, MI. His mother, Lynda (Rautiola) Heinonen, was a Suomi College graduate in 1979. His professional career as a Registered Nurse includes work at Canal View Houghton County and UP Health System Portage. Ryan and his wife, Sarah, live in Calumet with their children, and run a small hobby farm.

Heinonen has served on the board since 2020.

Jeanne Kemppainen

Irwin Belk Distinguished Professor of Nursing

Dr. Jeanne Kemppainen, originally from Detroit, Michigan, has lived in New York, California, Mississippi, and North Carolina. She is an internationally recognized scholar and nurse scientist with extensive experience in both advanced practice nursing and higher education. Her groundbreaking work on symptom self-management in chronic illness, as well we the critical incident research methodology has been widely recognized through invited presentations, guest lectures, and publications in premier medical and multidisciplinary journals. Her international experience includes collaborative research and scholarly partnerships with nursing scientists in Japan and Finland. She is also an active member of an international collaboration of nurse researchers from around the world.

As a mental health nurse certified by the American Nurses Assoc., she served in a variety of leadership and advanced practice roles during a career with the Veterans Administration Health Care System. During her tenure with the VA, Dr. Kemppainen received a national appointment as a VA Postdoctoral Nurse Fellow. Within the realm of higher education, she served in academic leadership positions including assistant department chair and faculty chair in the School of Nursing at the Univ. of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). In 2011, she received an appointment as an endowed research chair and distinguished professor of nursing at UNCW. Jeanne is married to Pastor Dale Kemppainen. They have three sons (Jon A. Kemppainen, Karl M. Kemppainen, and Paul J. Kemppainen) and six grandchildren.

Kemppainen has served on the board since 2011.

Paul Knuti

Owner/Operator, The Knuti Farm

Mr. Knuti was born in Biwabik, one of Minnesota’s Iron Range communities. His family were pioneer farmers and loggers in the Aurora area. Mr. Knuti lived in the Chicago area during most of his business career. He and his wife, Carol, now live in Embarrass, Minnesota, where they run a beef cattle operation. They have four children: Erik, Kirsten, Ethan, and Ingrid, and six grandchildren.

Knuti worked for Illinois Tool Works, Booz, Allen, Hamilton consultants and served as Vice President of Human Resources for Rollins Burdick Hunter Co. and The First National Bank of Chicago, a position he held for more than 10 years before starting the Knuti Farm in 1997.

Knuti has served on the board since 2011.

Mike Lahti

Mike Lahti Finlandia UniversityBusiness Owner and Real Estate Developer

Mike Lahti has been a businessman in the Hancock area for over 40 years. He graduated from Hancock Central High School and Northern Michigan University. He served as a member of the Hancock School Board, the Houghton County Board of Commissioners where he served as chairman, and as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives. Mike enjoys spending time with his family, playing tennis, and following sports, politics and history. He is married to Sharon (Pardini) Lahti. They have six children and 14 grandchildren. All four of Lahti’s grandparents emigrated from Finland.

Lahti has served on the board since 2011.

Daniel Niemi

Small Business and Individual Financial Planner

Daniel J. Niemi (’74) is the son of Rev. Leslie E. Niemi. Rev Leslie E. Niemi graduated from Suomi College Theological Seminary in 1954. Leslie was on the Board of Trustee and Presidents’ staff.

Athletics has always been apart of Dan’s life: All State of Michigan in basketball playing for Munising H.S. Michigan, All Regional at Suomi College, coached and pitched men’s fast pitch softball at the University of South Florida and Clearwater Florida, currently does fast pitch clinics for local high schools.

Daniel is married to Tanya Jennings and they reside in Marquette Michigan. They have five children and six grandchildren.

Dan has served on the board since 2017.

Stephen Nikander

Investment Manager

Stephen (Steve) Nikander is the great-grandson of Finlandia University founder Rev. Juho Kustaa Nikander as well as the grandson of its former president Dr. Viljo K. Nikander. Steve is a 1987 graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, with a major in Actuarial Science, initially following in the career footsteps of his uncle John Nikander. However, he had many talents and also considered potential careers as a cartoonist or sports writer, having his own editorial column in the college newspaper. After a few summers of semi-pro baseball post-college, Nikander settled into a finance path, putting his applied mathematical skills to work as an investment accountant in Los Angeles, California.

For the past twenty-five years, Nikander has accumulated diverse finance experience in the investment banking and insurance industry. As a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), he is a specialist in investment administration, fixed income analysis, and treasury management as well as a project manager with experience in implementing back office investment accounting and front office analytical solutions, having worked on both the buy side and the sell side for large institutional firms. In these positions, he managed and traded a multi-billion dollar fixed-income portfolio, evaluated a trillion dollar notional derivatives hedging program, recommended insurance capital allocation mix, implemented several large investment systems, while serving in the role of a chief investment operating and accounting officer. Steve has also served as the chief finance executive for a captive insurance division and as a pension actuarial analyst. He has published credits as a subject matter expert for the CFA study curriculum and serves as President on the regional board of directors for the Insurance Accounting & Systems Association (IASA).

Steve resides near his parents, Peter and Margot, and brother Mark in Santa Clarita, California along with his wife, Anna, and two children. The family is active in their community through their church and their children’s school, athletic and scouting endeavors. Steve loves being outdoors hiking, biking, and skiing, and continues to play multiple sports recreationally and dabble in his drawing.

Nikander has served on the board since 2018.

John Niska

John Niska Finlandia UniversityEducational Consultant

Raised in a bilingual home on a beef farm in a Finnish-American Community near Ontonagon, MI, John learned basic Finnish and Finnish cultural traditions as a child. All four of his grandparents had emigrated from Finland in the early 1900’s and instilled in both their children and grandchildren the value of education, the importance of hard work, and pride in their heritage.

John’s comfort with other cultures and enjoyment of helping younger students learn began to broaden while in college at Michigan State. He spent his senior year as an exchange student to Ecuador, South America, where he taught a sixth-grade class and ran recreation programs for rural youth. This experience was augmented with seven summers spent as a leader and cross-cultural facilitator to countries in all parts of the world including Finland. A career in education followed – classroom teacher, guidance counselor, assistant high school principal, middle school principal, and state executive director, concluding with a 15-year stint directing a middle-level teacher training college program in the East.

Dividing his time now between his home in Providence, RI, and his cottage near Ontonagon, he continues to travel worldwide, study the Finnish language, cycle, cross-country ski, and enjoy film and photography. He recently reconnected with relatives in Finland and is conducting genealogical research with them. He also continues to engage in some educational consulting.

Niska has served on the board since 2018.

John Perras

Principal, Pinnacle Wealth Advisors, LLC

A native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, John J. Perras resides in suburban Grand Rapids, MI, with his wife Pam. They are the parents of two grown daughters and a grandson. His firm has provided quality employee benefits, insurance, and financial services since 1982. John is a registered investment advisor and his professional specialties include personal and business life insurance, employee benefit plans, pre-retirement planning, education funding programs, and estate planning. His personal interests include golf, hunting, and biographical reading.

Perras has served on the board since 2010.

Ross Rinkinen

Ross Rinkinen Finlandia UniversityFinancial Associate, Thrivent Financial

Ross Rinkinen is a 2004 graduate of Finlandia University’s International School of Business and is a founding member of the varsity men’s ice hockey team (2000–2004). Upon graduation, Rinkinen joined Finlandia’s Office of Admissions and continued with the men’s ice hockey program as an assistant coach. Together with head coach Joe Burcar, they went on to lead the Lions to an MCHA Playoff Championship in 2007. From 2005 to 2011, Rinkinen fulfilled many development roles for Finlandia, including serving as director of annual giving and major gifts before launching his own Thrivent Financial practice. He specializes in retirement planning, life insurance, wealth management, and end-of-life financial needs from his office in Hancock.

Ross founded the Copper Country Walleye Association in 2011 and is president of its board. The Association has assisted in planting 6.5 million walleye in the region, and is responsible for the annual Angler-Young Angler Tournament in partnership with Lund. Ross serves as the second vice president on the Chassell Lions and enjoys working with fellow Lions during the Copper Country Strawberry Festival each July.

Ross resides in Chassell with his wife, Shannon, and two children. Together they operate Chassell Bay Cottages vacation rentals. In his free time, Ross enjoys walleye fishing, spending time at camp in Escanaba, playing “old-timers” hockey, and coaching youth soccer, baseball, and hockey.

Rinkinen has served on the board since 2018.

Peter A. Vorhes

Retired Lutheran Pastor

Pastor Vorhes is married to Liz Siivola, a retired nurse. He has two children (Erik, B.A., St. Olaf College 1999; and Kirstin, B.A., 2002, M.S.N., 2011, Pacific Lutheran University) and four grandchildren. Peter is an avid cross-country skier and he has completed 24 American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Races. He also enjoys biking and snowshoeing.

Vorhes has served on the board since 2013.


Board of Trustees News


  • Ken Seaton completes pledge to Finlandia University

    Accompanying students as they uncover their vocation, or calling, is at the core of Finlandia University’s vision: to advance expansive learning that best prepares students for the 21st-century workplace and world. As an institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Finlandia focuses on helping students discern their purpose by asking big questions like, “who am I going to be?” along with “what am I going to do?”. The Seaton Center for Vocation & Career guides students in uncovering [...]

  • Alumna Kathleen Harmon (’86) named Chief Clinical Officer of PatientSafe Solutions

    PatientSafe Solutions, an innovation leader in mobile Clinical Communication & Collaboration (CC&C) solutions, announced today that Kathleen Harmon, MS, RN, CENP (’86) has joined the company as Chief Clinical Officer. Bringing more than 30 years of nursing and executive experience to PatientSafe, Harmon will be responsible for setting the clinical vision for the company. Her unique, holistic and outcomes-driven approach will help transform care delivery through mobility initiatives that can improve an organization’s financial health, [...]

  • Bob Ubbelohde left a lasting mark

    This summer the Finlandia University community was devastated to learn former president Bob Ubbelohde had passed away at the age of 75.

    The former president is still fondly remembered on campus, especially by employees walking behind the Hoover Center to the area where he was often found and available for the kind of casual conversation you just can’t have in a board room. While those memories are exciting, Ubbelohde will always be remembered for two incredible accomplishments – Advancing Suomi College [...]

  • Niska Named New Leader of Finnish Council of America


    The Finnish Council of America elected John Niska as its new president this past May. Niksa was raised on a beef and horse farm in Green, MI, just west of Ontonagon. His parents were bilingual and often spoke Finnish in his home, shared in Finnish customs and were very proud of their Finnish heritage. Niska went to Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree and worked in the education realm until his retirement from

  • Finlandia Introduces five new Board of Trustees

    In 2018 Finlandia University officially welcomed five new members to its Board of Trustees.

    “This new cohort reflects those qualities that have marked those who have served in the past: a tenacious resolve and unyielding dedication to advance Finlandia’s vision and see it thrive,” Finlandia University President Philip Johnson said.

    The latest additions bring to Finlandia’s governing body a promising blend of professional acumen, leadership experience and deep personal affinities.

    Stephen Nikander

    Stephen Nikander, the great grandson of Rev. Juho Kustaa Nikander, who served [...]

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