Charles (Buddy) C. Miller III, Chair

Retired Vice Chairman of the Board, Level 3 Communications

Atlanta, GA

Charles (Buddy) C. Miller III was an executive in the telecommunications industry from 1988 to 2014. In June 2013, he retired from his executive position at Level 3 Communications, a global provider of high-capacity communications services to businesses. Buddy had been vice chairman since 2000 with duties including corporate strategy, M&A, business development, marketing and information services. He retired from Level 3’s Board of Directors in 2014. Before Level 3 Buddy was an executive officer at BellSouth Corporation from 1987-2000, his roles included senior vice president, corporate strategy and development, as well as president-BellSouth International. Buddy received A.B. and J.D. degrees from Harvard. Before his telecommunications career he practiced law at Ropes & Gray in Boston and King & Spalding in Atlanta. He and his wife Pinney Allen reside in Atlanta and are also active supporters of Breakthrough Atlanta.


Thomas G. Beischer, Vice Chair

Architectural History and Theory Lecturer, Stanford University

San Francisco, CA

Thomas Beischer is a lecturer in architectural history and theory at Stanford University. He received a B.A. in art history from Stanford University, a M.A. in art history from Williams College, and a Ph.D. in history, theory, and criticism of architecture from MIT. Thomas has been involved with many community and national art and education groups including serving on the Board of Trustees for San Francisco Performances and on the National Board for the modern architecture preservation group, Docomomo. Thomas grew up in North Carolina and currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, Lily, and their two children.


Jason McCune, Treasurer

Principal, Hall Capital Partners LLC

San Francisco, CA

Jason McCune is a principal at Hall Capital Partners LLC in the Absolute Return/Credit and Cross Asset Research & Strategy groups, where he is responsible for research, identification, due diligence, and monitoring of various credit and distressed strategies. Jason joined the firm in 2005 as a generalist in the Research Group. He previously worked in the Corporate Strategy group at Citadel Investment Group in Chicago, where he evaluated opportunities for the firm to expand into new investment strategies. Before Citadel, he was a consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton. Mr. McCune graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a B.S. in industrial engineering. He earned an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


Jose Davila, Secretary

Partner, Archpoint Consulting

Mill Valley, CA

Jose Davila is a global human resources leader with more than 25 years of experience in retail, consumer goods, manufacturing and sales. He specializes in strategic human resources planning, organization design, change management and talent acquisition. Most recently, Jose served as the international human resources leader for Gap in London. During his career with Gap, Jose led the human resources function for Banana Republic as well as the Tokyo-based Gap Inc. Japan. Prior to Gap, Jose was responsible for driving the people integration agenda for Diageo during its acquisition of the Joseph E. Seagram business. He holds a master’s degree in Adult and Workplace Education from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University. He lives with his family in Mill Valley, California.


Rick Ackerly

Educational Consultant

Chicago, IL/San Francisco, CA

Rick Ackerly is a nationally-recognized educator and speaker with 45 years of experience working in and for schools and the author of “The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity, and Creativity in Children.” With a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, Rick has devoted his career to building thriving learning communities. He has served as headmaster of four independent schools and has been a consultant and coach to teachers, school leaders and parents for many years. Rick speaks to parent and school groups across the country and presents at numerous education conferences. His articles about education and diversity have appeared in several newspapers and magazines and he publishes a new essay each week on his blog


Jennifer Ciresi

Deputy General Counsel, Hall Capital Partners LLC

San Francisco, CA

Jennifer Ciresi advises the firm on legal and regulatory matters in coordination with the General Counsel. Prior to joining the firm in 2015, Jennifer served as Deputy General Counsel and Compliance Officer-Asia in the Hong Kong office of Pine River Capital Management L.P., managing the legal and compliance programs for an SEC-registered investment adviser. She previously practiced law in Minneapolis as an Associate at Robins Kaplan LLP for five years. Her practice focused on corporate finance and securities, transactional, and business litigation matters. Before attending law school, Jennifer worked on mergers, acquisitions and other transactions at Lazard Middle Market. She is a member of the Board of Advisors of the University of Minnesota Law School. She also served as a member of the AIMA Hong Kong Regulatory Sub-Committee for two years. Jennifer graduated with highest distinction from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a B.A. in Economics and Spanish and earned a J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children.


Mark Desjardins

Headmaster, St. John’s School

Houston, TX

Mark Desjardins is headmaster of St. John’s School in Houston, host institution to Breakthrough Houston. Mark taught, coached and performed administrative duties at Hotchkiss School and Cushing Academy; served as assistant headmaster, then headmaster, at Texas Military Institute where he led a very notable turnaround, and; served as headmaster of Holland Hall in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He joined St. John’s last year. Mark serves on the Executive Committee of the Southwest Preparatory Conference, as a trustee of the Independent School Association of the Southwest, and as President of the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools. He has also been involved with KIPP for ten years, having served as a founding board member of KIPP Tulsa and currently serving on the Executive Board of KIPP Houston. Mark, who was a distinguished student-athlete at Bates College and graduated with a B.A. in East Asian studies in 1989, earned a Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Virginia in the history of American education. Mark is also a Klingenstein Fellow.


Lucy Johns

Vice President, Portfolio Manager, Dodge & Cox

Larkspur, CA

Lucy Johns received her B.A. degree (magna cum laude) from Williams College in 1996 and her M.B.A. degree from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2004. Prior to graduate school, she worked for approximately two years each at Merrill Lynch as a financial analyst, Dodge & Cox as a research assistant, and NBC Internet as a Senior Product Manager. Lucy rejoined Dodge & Cox in 2004. Lucy is a shareholder of Dodge & Cox and sits on the firm’s two fixed income investment policy committees. She currently lives in Marin County with her husband, Todd, and their two children.


Harold Levy

Executive Director, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Lansdowne, VA

Harold Levy is the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides the largest scholarships in the United States to outstanding students from low-income families, eighth grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. He is best known for having been chancellor of New York City schools, where he served for three years starting in 2000, a period which included 9/11. Prior to serving as chancellor, he was director of global compliance and associate general counsel at Citigroup. He holds a B.S. from Cornell University in industrial and labor relations, a M.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from the University of Oxford, and a J.D. from the Cornell Law School. He also holds honorary degrees from Baruch, Bard, and St. Francis colleges.


Margot McClendon Pinto
Denver, CO

Margot McClendon Pinto has served on the Breakthrough national board of trustees since 2015.


Julie McGuire

Community Volunteer

San Francisco, CA

Julie McGuire has dedicated her career to children’s education. She holds a B.A. in history from Yale University, as well as an M.B.A. and M.A. in education from Stanford. Julie began her career at SCORE! Educational Centers, directing a tutoring center for children. After graduating from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Julie worked in management consulting and then went on to join the executive leadership team at Spark, a national nonprofit providing mentoring opportunities to under-resourced middle school children, where she led development for the organization. She currently lives near San Francisco with her husband and three young children.


Greg Morrow

Divisional Vice President and General Manager, Coronary Division, Abbott Vascular

San Jose, CA

Greg Morrow is the vice president and general manager for Abbott’s Silicon Valley-based Vascular business. He joined Abbott in January from nearby Invisalign, where he led its consumer-focused clear braces business. Before that, he spent many years in marketing and general management leadership roles at Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola, Novartis Consumer Health, and Procter & Gamble. He has worked on an impressive array of brands during his career including Folgers Coffee, Hawaiian Punch, Pringles, Powerade, and Acuvue. Greg started his corporate career at KPMG as a CPA after completing his military service in the U.S. Navy. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf. Greg graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MBA from the University of Maryland. He enjoys traveling with his two grown daughters and his wife of 26 years.


Bilal Musharraf

Director of Strategic Partnerships, Edmodo

Palo Alto, CA

Bilal is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Edmodo, a global education network that connects all learners with people and resources needed to reach their full potential. He has experience in both education and financial sectors. Previously he was the Dean of Translations at Khan Academy and the VP of Development for an international network of private schools. His financial background includes working in venture capital and hedge fund management for firms including One Market Capital, ePlanet Ventures and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Bilal began his career as an actuary. Bilal has an MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University and a BS in Actuarial Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently serves on the board of Learning Equality, a nonprofit that builds and supports open-source educational software designed to increase learning opportunities for communities with limited or no access to the Internet. Bilal lives in Palo Alto with his wife and two children.


Eve Niquette

Community Volunteer

San Francisco, CA

Eve Niquette taught middle- and high-school mathematics in the Piedmont Unified School District for seven years. She holds a B.S. in computer science, as well as, a B.A. and an Ed.M. in mathematics education from Boston University. Since starting a family, Eve has devoted considerable time to the Bay Area Discovery Museum – initially serving on the Discovery Council for four years and then serving six years on the Board of Trustees, where she was board president. Eve additionally served on the Board of Lone Mountain Children’s Center and is actively involved in her daughters’ school where she serves on the Board of Trustees. Eve grew up in Vermont and currently resides in San Francisco with her husband, Charles Pohl and three daughters. Eve and Charles have supported the important work of the Breakthrough Collaborative for the last decade, with Eve recently completing three years as board chair of Breakthrough National.


Chris Porter

Governance Consultant, The Governance Group

Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN

Chris Porter has been widely recognized for her communications work and facilitation skills. In 1976, she founded Writing Consultants, a national firm focused on improving organizational communications and facilitating communications training. There, her clients included Delta Airlines, Wells Fargo, IBM, and Prudential Insurance, among many others. After selling the firm in 2002, Chris founded The Governance Group to assist nonprofit boards in successfully leading their organizations. She has received excellence awards for her facilitation skills, and has served on many boards, including those of Breakthrough Twin Cities, the American Society for Training and Development, Gillette Children’s Hospital, Mounds Park Academy, Children’s Home Society of Minnesota, the Waldorf School of Minneapolis, and Unity Church Unitarian. Her background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in English language studies.


Van Sapp

Southeast Management Advisory Group, LLC.

Chicago, IL

Van Sapp is an owner, advisor and consultant at Southeast Management Advisory Group, LLC. In addition,Van is working to create the next generation of marketers as an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Concordia University Chicago. Van’s career began in the MBA development program at Kraft which led to several executive roles at PepsiCo. After retiring from PepsiCo, he focused on launching and growing smaller entities when he joined TCC Global to lead their North and South American units as President. Van has participated in many organizations over the years, particularly those that benefit youngsters and students. He has served on several boards: the Greater Chicago Junior Achievement, educating students on financial literacy; the Illinois Make-A-Wish Foundation for children with life-threatening medical conditions; and of course, the Breakthrough Collaborative where he served from 2010 to 2016. A graduate of Tuskegee University, Van went on to earn his MBA in Marketing from Clark-Atlanta University. As a lifelong learner, he is currently a PhD candidate at Concordia University Chicago in the field of Organizational Leadership. Van lives with his wife of 26 years, Donata; they reside in Oak Park, Illinois. They have 2 sons and a daughter, all currently attending college.


Nisha Somani
Hillsborough, CA

Nisha Somani was most recently the chief of staff to the chief marketing officer at Visa Inc. where she worked on global projects for the marketing function across multiple businesses, products, and geographies. During her eleven year career at Visa, Nisha worked in a variety of roles across marketing, strategy and product, building a strong background in technology, and product innovation. Prior to joining Visa, Nisha worked in the private-equity industry at General Atlantic and Swiss Re Capital Partners. She also serves on the board of early-education focused nonprofit Family Connections. Nisha earned a B.A. in economics from Stanford and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. She lives in Hillsborough with her husband and two young boys.


Elissa Vanaver

CEO, Breakthrough Miami

Miami, FL

Elissa Vanaver, a long-time newspaper editor and media executive, became CEO of Breakthrough Miami in 2013 after several years as founding board chair and board member. Before joining the Breakthrough staff, Elissa was vice president of human resources and assistant to the publisher for the Miami Herald Media Company. She directed several of the Herald’s signature community programs, including the Silver Knight Awards, the Herald Charities’ Wish Book and Operation Helping Hands. Prior to 2002, Elissa was managing editor in the Miami Herald newsroom, where she was part of a Herald team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. Elissa holds a bachelor’s degree with high distinction from the University of Virginia, and a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and holds a certificate from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management’s Advanced Executive Program.


Lisa Webb

Interim Dean of Student Affairs, College of Marin

Marin, CA

Lisa Webb is the interim dean of student success at the College of Marin. In addition to serving as the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of student life at Southern Methodist University, Dr. Webb’s previous positions include dean of student affairs at Menlo College, associate dean of students and director of multicultural affairs at Lewis & Clark College, and assistant dean of graduate studies at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Webb also worked at Stanford University, where she first served as an undergraduate residence dean and then as assistant dean of multicultural graduate student affairs in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Originally from Chicago, Lisa received her Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College in Massachusetts with a major in sociology. She received her Masters of Education degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a Doctorate of Education with an emphasis in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco. Dr. Webb was also a Fulbright Scholar Award recipient where she studied higher education in Germany. Her nonprofit experience includes working at the Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) and serving as a board member at the Interstate Fire House Cultural Center in Portland, Oregon.


Neil Webber

Chair, Webber Family Foundation

Board Chair, Breakthrough Austin

Austin, TX

Neil Webber is chair of the Webber Family Foundation which was formed in 1999 and has distributed over $11 million in grants to organizations targeting the educational needs of under-resourced youth. Neil has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from MIT and has worked at a number of technology startup companies throughout his career, culminating with Vignette Corporation where he was the co-founder and chief technology officer. He is the current board chair of Breakthrough Austin.


Talia Winokur

Executive Director, Breakthrough Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM

Talia Winokur received a Bachelor of Science in Spanish from Georgetown University and holds a Master in Education with a bilingual certificate from Loyola Marymount University. She first worked with Breakthrough at Kent Denver School in the late nineties, and co-founded and continues to be involved with a preschool in La Paz, Bolivia. Talia is the co-director of Breakthrough Santa Fe where she has been a part of the director team since 2009.


David E. Jackson, Ed.D.

National Executive Director, Breakthrough Collaborative

San Francisco, CA

Dr. David E. Jackson is the former head of school for the San Francisco Day School, which is known for its academic rigor and child-centered education. At SFDS Dr. Jackson led the effort to expand the Breakthrough program at SFDS from a two-year program for fifth and sixth graders to an eight-year program serving students from fifth grade through high school graduation and matriculation into college. Previous to his position at SFDS, Dr. Jackson has served as head of the Park School of Baltimore and as a public school teacher, school principal, and superintendent of schools.