The Evolution of 20 Under 40

article by Liz Cawood | President, CAWOOD

The year was 2008. Ralph Parshall, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Eugene, had noticed that around the country there were events that honored a community or industry’s rising stars under the age of 40. He thought it was time to bring that to Eugene.

At the same time, Liz Cawood, president of CAWOOD, was working The Register-Guard to launch a new business publication called blue chip. Her firm was also Mercedes’ agency-of-record, and a conversation between Ralph and Liz lead to the concept of the 20 under 40 awards. Tony Baker, publisher of The Register-Guard, responded with a resounding “yes.” 

Every December blue chip featured the 20 under 40 honorees with a photo and story. After The Register-Guard was sold and blue chip was winding down, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce stepped forward to partner with Mercedes-Benz of Eugene in 2018. KEZI came on-board as the media sponsor.

Initially, Tony Baker and Ralph Parshall were joined by Gretchen Pierce, Hult Investments; Ada Lee, B&A International; and Mandy Jones, president of Oregon Community Credit Union as judges. That continued for two years, and then three different 20 under 40 alumni rotated as judges. Now, the chair of the Chamber Board sits on the judging panel. In addition to Ralph, this year’s judges included: Amanda Walkup, Chamber Board Chair and partner at Hershner Hunter; Ashley Espinoza, interim executive director, Lane Workforce Partnership; Erik Parrish, CPA, chief accounting officer of King estate Winery; and Sean VanGordon, mayor of Springfield.

The last 20 under 40 event was in 2019. This year’s event will be Wed., April 13 at 5:30 pm at Venue 252. Registration is now open, click here.

One constant through the past 14 years is Ralph Parshall’s consistent support for the event and recognition for people who will impact our community’s future. His positive, upbeat attitude is the driving force behind the 20 under 40 awards.

Visit to learn more and view past 20 under 40 award winners.

Published On: March 21, 2022
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