20 Questions


Lisa Updike

By Bonnie Blackburn
Lisa Updike is exactly the kind of person Fort Wayne needs. She’s young, bright, professional and committed to the community. So much so that she’s been elected president of the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, YLNI, the group founded in 2005 to develop a new generation of, well, leaders for the region.

A Huntington native, Updike, 31, graduated from Manchester College and finished law school at Indiana University in Indianapolis. She’s an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg, specializing in commercial finance, insolvency and restructuring, which means she’s been quite busy these last several years.

Apparently not busy enough, however, as she — in addition to her work at YLNI — also serves on Manchester College’s President’s Leadership Council, the Alliance’s Downtown Development Committee and the advisory board for the Northeast Indiana Regional Council.

In other words, Updike is one active citizen. Which is just what the community needs as the Baby Boomer generation begins its trek toward retirement. She and her cohorts in YLNI are grooming the next generation of community leaders and in doing so are turning conventional wisdom about young folk on its head. By actively working to address issues facing the community — from the rivers to the nightlife, YLNI in its brief history has gone a long way toward remaking Fort Wayne into a place young people want to live in, instead of flee from.

Which is not to say that the life of a YLNI member is filled with boring committee meetings and Saturday afternoons clearing litter. Try masquerade balls and get-out-the vote drives. Monthly social nights known as “Hot Spots” and Saturday morning farmers markets.

Find out how she balances a busy work life with the competing demands of her volunteer activities and how YLNI has grown and changed since its founding in 2005 as we play 20 Questions with Lisa Updike.


How did you get involved with YLNI?
It was suggested by one of the partners (at Barnes & Thornburg).

Why did you become an attorney?
I was a finance major (in college), and I wanted a professional career. I thought going to law school would open up more doors in the corporate world. (Law school teaches) a different way of thinking.

What’s your area of expertise?
Finance, insolvency and restructuring. I represent a lot of financial institutions. There’s a huge volume of work.

What do you bring to the presidency of YLNI?
I think I bring experience to the organization as treasurer for two years. That’s a good way to get a broad exposure because (the committees) all need funding.

What’s your vision for YLNI?
Sustainability. It’s a relatively new organization. We’ve recently transitioned our fiscal (relationship) from Leadership Fort Wayne to the Chamber of Commerce. Before, we had to be neutral. Now we can be more vocal and better representatives of our demographics. Our focus right now is sustainability.

What is your demographic? Can older people join?
It’s people in their 20s and 30s, but we don’t discriminate on age!

What’s YLNI’s role now— social, economic development, personal development, networking or all of the above?
Definitely all of the above. Social, community involvement and professional development — all three have been critical to our growth. Social events like our Hot Spots or the Masquerade Ball are how I got to know people like (me) who are passionate about the same things. YLNI The Vote is critical: we want to make sure our demographic is informed on the issues.

How has YLNI changed Fort Wayne?
YLNI has given (its) demographic a presence and a voice it hasn’t had before. It’s provided an opportunity for people to be identified in a group … and have a voice. Before YLNI, people wanted to have this voice, and I think people would have been more engaged in the community if they’d had something like this.

How do you see YLNI  changing itself?
A big change will be the advocacy. When we were (affiliated) with Leadership Fort Wayne, we had to stay neutral on (political) issues. Now we can make our opinion known.

The Barr Street Market has been one of YLNI’s great successes. Tell us about some other successes.
The Leadership Institute is a great success. The Masquerade Ball has had record attendance; we now have an event downtown (on New Year’s Eve). We’re providing opportunities that just didn’t exist before.

What about some failures?
We’ve had events where attendance has been low. We had a candidates event where there were more candidates than attendees. But we can’t make people care about politics.

Will there come a time when YLNI has outlived itself?
That’s why I’m working to make the organization sustainable. I hope the organization is always a part of the community. Members will cycle through as they age. We have new people coming in all the time. We have a presence at the universities so (students) know there are (young) people here.

If you became Queen of Fort Wayne, what would you decree?
That we’re going to develop our riverfront.

What will your costume be for this year’s Masquerade Ball at Parkview Field?
I’m getting a new one this year. I haven’t picked it out yet. Probably something to match my mask.

What’s your first memory of Fort Wayne?
I remember as a child going to Southtown Mall with my grandparents. It was a very different time then.

Have you always been a leader?
Yes. I was on student council, did sports. I ran cross country and played basketball. In college I ran track and I had a job on campus. I was president of the accounting and business clubs. I was a tour guide on campus.

What can a young person offer that an older person can’t?
Young people don’t have as much experience so they’re not so pigeonholed in their ideas. They’re willing to dream a little more. They have the ability to dream and hope for the future that hasn’t been impacted by …


What’s an ideal YLNI member?
Someone who is passionate about the community and the region, who wants to see it advance and grow, who is accountable and committed. We all have different parts of the organizations we’re responsible for. We can’t have people flaking out on their responsibilities.

What are you thankful for?
My family, my older sister in Indianapolis, my niece, my parents Terry and Connie. You don’t realize how great your parents are sometimes. They encouraged us. My parents were willing to take us to games and come to all my events. They’ve always been supportive of everything I’ve done.

Posted: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 2:34 pm
Last updated: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 3:13 pm