Gene Washington is an inducted member of the College Football Hall of Fame and was voted one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of All Time. Holding a BS and MS from Michigan State University, prior to his retirement, Gene served as the 3M Liaison to eleven professional organizations in the space of Diversity & Inclusion (1), the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, (2), the National Society of Women Engineers, (3), the National Society of Black Engineers, (4), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, (5), the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s, (8), the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, (9), the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, (10), the LEAD Program and (11), the Minnesota Business Leadership Network. On behalf of 3M, Gene managed and presented over twenty-two million dollars to Diversity & Inclusion initiatives over the span of his career. Now a retired business professional, he currently serves on the Volunteers of America—Minnesota/Wisconsin Board of Directors. As an athlete, Gene was a member of eight Michigan State University Championship Teams that included two consecutive undefeated Big Ten, two National NCAA College Football Championships, two Outdoor and one Indoor Big Ten Track title, and one Central Collegiate Conference Championship. He excelled both as a wide receiver and world class hurdler, achieving all America, all Big Ten and Academic All America honors in Football, Indoor and Outdoor Track. Gene joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1967 as a first round draft pick, making history alongside Michigan State teammates Bubba Smith, Clinton Jones and George Webster for the first time four players from the same school were drafted within the first eight picks. Playing for six seasons, he was named, on two occasions, to the National Football League’s All Professional team while the Vikings were winning three Central Division titles and the 1969 National Football League Championship. Gene led the team in receiving yards four consecutive seasons (1967 through 1970). Washing was the first Vikings wide receiver to be named to two straight NFL “Pro Bowl” Football Teams. Following foot surgery, Gene was traded to the Denver Broncos and retired in 1974 after having career ending surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. He now spends his free time enjoying life and giving back to the next generation of athletes and scholars.
Maya Washington is the award-winning Writer/Director and Producer of Through the Banks of the Red Cedar. Maya’s multi-media work has garnered fellowships and/or awards from Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Minnesota Film and Television, and others. Her award winning film CLEAR, about a woman connecting with her teenage daughter after a 16-year prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit, is currently making it’s rounds on the festival circuit, and communities nationwide. Her award-winning narrative film, White Space (starring ABC Family Switched at Birth’s Ryan Lane) recently aired on network television as a selection of African American Short Films. Maya began her creative career as a dancer turned musical theatre actor in the Twin Cities vibrant theatre community as a child performer. While at USC, she studied acting, directing, film and dramatic writing, which allowed her to explore her passion for storytelling in a variety of mediums, later pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University. Her background on stage/camera and behind the scenes has given her the opportunity to work on everything from live theatre, commercials and print ads, to web series, films and television, and regularly publishes creative writing in esteemed literary journals and reviews. She gives back to the next generation as a speaker and workshop presenter, focusing on the development of youth, arts, and education. As the Creative Director of Running Water Entertainment, LLC, Maya is dedicated to projects that have a sense of “purpose” in the world, selecting stories that illuminate some aspect of the human experience that is untold, rarely seen, or might benefit from new approaches to issues of Diversity & Inclusion, primarily in America. Her projects have had a global reach, including Toronto, Budapest, Hong Kong, Berlin, and Rome.