At the December National Corvette Museum fourth quarter board meeting, four new board members were officially added with their terms starting January 1. Joining the team are Shannon Lamarche, Michael LaRocca, Jerry Mosbacher and Neil Watanabe.
The National Corvette Museum strives for diversity in everything we do – and one such aspect is the composition of our board of directors. As Past Board Chairman Leslie Gardner’s seat approached the time to be filled, she had her eyes set on someone with a strong business background, a history with GM, and who would represent our female enthusiasts well.
Shannon Lamarche’s story begins in college when she was studying to become a mechanical engineer. She had scored an internship at GM’s Van Nuys plant, which was building Camaros and Firebirds at the time, working there a semester followed by a summer internship prior to graduating. Unfortunately, GM had a hiring freeze at the time she graduated, and while Shannon wasn’t able to join the GM team as a full-time employee, she did meet her future husband, Jeff through her stint at the plant.
Shannon’s employment background is diverse, yet all connects back to her engineering degree and MBA. TV and movie producer, business owner, real estate, luxury travel planner… her career endeavors illustrate her organization skills and attention to detail. “I’ve been married to a GM executive for 33 years and worked for GM myself. I understand how a car company works, not that you’d need to know that to be an asset on the Museum board, but I’m looking forward to sharing any insights I can,” she said.
Shannon’s connection to the National Corvette Museum began in 2014 when her husband Jeff took the role of Plant Manager at GM Corvette Assembly. His first week on the job was the same as the Museum’s sinkhole – a day when Jeff was placed in front of tv cameras to share the news that GM would aid in restoring the cars, and he and Shannon personally donated towards the cause. Jeff served on the board during his year and a half stint in Bowling Green, with the couple becoming Lifetime Members of the Museum in 2015 and have stayed connected ever since.
“When I was in Long Beach at the Grand Prix race in April, Amy Hardin was telling us about the new initiative she was launching – Elfi’s Silver Pearl Sisterhood – and the goals of the group. I absolutely wanted to be a part of it.”
Shannon joined the ‘Sisterhood’ as member #6. The group voted at the Museum’s 25th Anniversary Celebration for their collectively raised funds to go towards a new Damsels of Design exhibit in the Museum.
“I think it’s important to have a female perspective. We add a really good balance,” shared Shannon. There are a lot of Corvette enthusiasts who are female, and we sometimes feel left out. A lot of people don’t know the history of female contributions to the brand. Sharing this history and becoming involved on the board might help women to better connect to Corvette.”
Shannon and Jeff live in College Grove, TN – just south of Nashville. They have two grown children and three grandchildren.
When it comes to Corvette ownership, Michael LaRocca is one of our newest enthusiasts, but he jumped right in with both feet and he hasn’t slowed down yet. “I always grew up a GM and Chevrolet guy, but it took some time to work up to a Corvette. My first car was a 1984 Camaro Z28.” His first Corvette was a 2019 ZR1 that he purchased in 2018, complete with the Engine Build Experience and R8C Museum Delivery. He has a 2020 Stingray with Z51 package on order.
What’s unique about Michael is that he included a couple of key sidekicks in his Corvette experiences. A dad of three boys and a girl, Michael invited his son Alex (who was 12 at the time) and son Nick (who was 10) to join him for the Engine Build. “We came down from our home in New York City, spent the night in Bowling Green, got to the factory around five in the morning, watched the safety video, had a presentation by Kai and Nora, and then spent the day building the engine with Andrew. It was awesome.” With the car being a two-seater, it was Nick who had the honor of making a return visit to take delivery with his dad at the Museum. “Of all the kids, he’s the most interested in cars. He likes working with his hands and takes pride in his work.”
Michael won tickets through a fundraising auction by the Museum to the Corvette Reveal in Tustin, CA – and it was a no brainer to bring Nick. “Nick was, by far, the youngest at the reveal, and he proudly sported a suit purchased hours before the event. We met Mark Reuss, Tadge Juechter, Kirk Bennion and others, all of which were so welcoming and happy to see us. What a special and unforgettable experience for a father to share with his son.”
Michael’s ZR1 Corvette became a part of his side business, Ready Motorsports, and is a dedicated track car that was prepared by Phoenix Performance and runs at the Monticello Motor Club. “I have a handful of cars, but the Corvette is the highlight of them. There aren’t a lot of cars at the track that can keep up with it. Between its visceral growl and its glowing ceramic brakes, it sure get a lot of attention!” The motorsports business started from Michael’s passion for high-performance driving, and his coming to the realization that there were many others like him looking to test their skills on a track in a capable car. “Little by little, the business has taken off. I’ve also started to get more into the marketing side of motorsports entertainment and have been able to market my primary business, Ready Computing, as well as its partners, through automotive events.”
Michael’s fleet includes his prized ZR1, a 1969 Camaro pro-touring resto-mod known as “Luminous,” and a 1999 Mazda Miata MX-5. The 2020 Stingray will soon be added, as will a 2020 Global MX-5 Cup car built by Long Road Racing.
“Summer of 2019 we put on an event for Ready Computing and its defense contractor partners who, together, serve the Veterans Affairs. It was a weekend event, which not only included the Santana concert at Bethel Woods, but also a full day of track time at Monticello Motor Club. Each participant was in his or her own car with a private instructor, and one by one also got to ride right seat for hot laps in the ZR1.”
With Michael’s experience and business acumen through Ready Computing and Ready Motorsports, he’s ready to put his skills to use for the Museum and MSP. “I’m excited to join. There are a lot of ways I can help on the technology and marketing side, and I’m ready to contribute and make a difference.”
They say there are three stages of a fulfilling life: Learn, Earn and Return. And for Jerry Mosbacher of Houston, TX he is in the return stage, which led him to join the NCM Board. “I want to do things to give back to the community and give back to society.”
During the ‘earn’ portion of his career he managed and owned a number of businesses, but it was racing that he’s always had a passion for. “We are a car family. My brother was a Corvette owner and racer early on, and I’ve been racing my whole life, since I was four years old.”
Jerry got his start on motorcycles and raced at motocross tracks around the country, and road courses around the world. His first Corvette was a 1974. “I have had every series of Corvette except the C8, so I still yearn for some things!” Currently in his collection are a 1966 Corvette Convertible, a 1970 Big Block Convertible, and a C7 Z06. “I race all over the country in Corvette – probably a couple events a month,” shared Jerry. “Road racing, tracks like at NCM… Laguna Seca is my home track in California. I also enjoy Road Atlanta, located in Georgia. I participate in time attack racing where you try to get the fastest lap against other drivers.”
Prior to moving to Texas, Jerry lived in California, and prior to that lived in Louisville, Kentucky where he bought one of the first C5s. “I picked it up and drove it to Bowling Green to the front of the Museum. It was 1996 and the very first place I took my Corvette. That’s when I became a member.”
Being an avid racing fan, a bucket list item for Jerry was to travel to Le Mans for the 24-Hour race. His wife, Debbie, and daughter, Lauren, joined him for the 2019 Museum in Motion: Le Mans trip, his first trip with the Museum. “2019 was a historic race because it was the last Le Mans race for the C7.” Upon returning from the trip, Jerry and Debbie upgraded to Lifetime Membership.
Jerry is passionate about both the Corvette brand and the NCM. “The NCM in Bowling Green, is where you go to live the brand. Nobody has what you the NCM has created. That’s why GM is so lucky to have the Museum. It’s America’s brand and America’s place to see the brand. If you’re thinking globally – it’s where the world goes to see the brand.”
A goal for Jerry’s time on the board is to help draw new visitors and members to the NCM and Bowling Green. “I’m looking forward to bringing passion to the brand and exposing and bringing in new ideas and new people to experience the brand and continue to keep it vibrant. Old things keep it buoyant. New things keep it successful. The stalwart Corvette folks who have been carrying the flag, now it’s time to give them a hand and bring in more people.”
Neil Watanabe has lived in Southern California for most of his life, having graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles. A car enthusiast who has owned and loved Corvettes over the years, he has a family connection to the brand through his cousin, Larry Shinoda.
“I admired Larry and looked up to him as an entrepreneur and genius,” said Neil. “He was passionate about automotive design and often shared how important it was in his life.”
Neil recently served as CFO of US Auto Parts, Inc., one of the largest e-commerce aftermarket automotive parts resellers. “This position allowed me to keep in touch with the automotive industry sector, as well as all of the related contacts in the industry, which could be useful to the Museum.”
Neil has an extensive background in retail operations, strategic planning and operational management with over 35 years of finance, accounting and operational experience for both public and private national retail companies.
Prior to US Auto Parts, Neil served as EVP and CFO of Anna’s Linens, Inc., the leading home textile specialty retailer with hundreds of locations across the United States. He has also held various other retail executive positions, including serving as the COO of National Stores, Inc., Motherhood Maternity and Sears Health and Nutrition. Neil has held CFO positions at Mac Frugal’s Bargain Closeout, Petsmart, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas and Shoe Pavilion. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.
“My extensive business experience has been centered on both financial and operational management in both retail store and e-commerce,” shared Neil. “I have a large network of professional contacts in business, which I believe would be beneficial in assisting the National Corvette Museum achieve its goals of both membership, sponsorship and professional assistance in various areas to achieve the future objectives.”
Neil brings a wealth of experience working with successful brands and has a proven track record of helping businesses grow revenue. He is also looking forward to being a West Coast contact for the Museum.
“I am pleased to continue to support the National Corvette Museum from the West Coast with our large contingency of Corvette lovers! I look forward to sharing and updating all interested parties on the great things that the National Corvette Museum is doing for those that are passionate owners.”