Charles (Buddy) C. Miller III, Chair
Retired Vice Chairman of the Board, Level 3 Communications
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.
Neil Webber, Chair Elect
Chair, Webber Family Foundation
Board Chair, Breakthrough Austin
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.
Margot McClendon Pinto, Vice Chair
Margot McClendon Pinto has served on the Breakthrough national board of trustees since 2015.
Jennifer Ciresi, Secretary
Senior Vice President and Registered In-House Counsel, Jordan Park Group
San Francisco, CA
Jennifer Ciresi is a Senior Vice President and Registered In-House Counsel at Jordan Park Group. In this role, she leads the legal function for an SEC-registered investment adviser. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Jennifer was at Hall Capital Partners LLC, where she advised the firm on legal and regulatory matters, assisted with the compliance program and served on various committees focused on firm operations. Previously, 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 function of the Asian offices of a global hedge fund. Before joining Pine River, she was both a corporate and business litigation attorney at Robins Kaplan LLP. Jennifer began her career in investment banking at Lazard Middle Market working on mergers and acquisitions and representing sellers of middle market businesses. She previously served on 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 and enjoys spending time outdoors with her family.
Lucy Johns, Treasurer
Vice President, Portfolio Manager, Dodge & Cox
Lucy Johns is a Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Dodge & Cox, an investment manager. She 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 grew up in Oregon and currently lives in Marin County with her husband, Todd, and their two children.
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 www.geniusinchildren.org.
Tamra Mercado Anderson
Vice President of Human Resources, Parsons Electric LLC
Tamra has served as Director of Human Resources for two Minnesota manufacturing corporations, overseeing all aspects of HR from talent acquisition to employee relations to technical HR systems to leadership development. Her own leadership skills have been widely recognized with awards in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including that of Breakthrough Twin Cities. Tamra earned her BA in HR Management from Metropolitan State University and her MA in Organizational Leadership from Bethel University. She and her husband, Rick, have two adult children.
Thomas G. Beischer
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.
Human Resources Consultant, Allan Dowiak Consulting, Inc.
Long Valley, NJ
Allan Dowiak is a human resources consultant who helps businesses achieve their strategic imperatives by working with their senior leadership team on organizational effectiveness, talent assessment, development, coaching, performance management and training. Prior to starting his consulting company, Allan served as Senior Vice President of Human Resources for the Investments Group and corporate areas of New York Life and held a number of human resources roles at both ADP and Macy’s. Allan has a BA in Sociology from Rutgers University. He and his wife, Judy, have four teenage and adult children.
Deputy Director, K-12 Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Josh Edelman is deputy director, Place Based Delivery, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the K-12 Education team, working most closely with K-12 investments in Tennessee and Florida. Previously, Josh worked with DC and Chicago public schools to support the development of programs that would target student achievement and performance. He has also held various leadership positions at The SEED Foundation, first on the board of directors, then as principal of The SEED School, a public charter boarding school in Washington DC. Prior to SEED, Josh taught social studies for three years at Milton Academy in Massachusetts and seven years at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California where he was also the founder and executive director for RISE (Realizing Intellect through Self-Empowerment), a youth development program targeted at African-American youth. Josh has a bachelor’s degree in American history from Harvard University, a master’s degree in education from Stanford University, and a second master’s in educational administration with an administrative credential, also from Stanford University.
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.
Coral Gabels, FL
JuliAnne McDowell’s background is in corporate marketing and advertising as well as community volunteerism. After earning a BA in French Studies from Stanford and an MBA from INSEAD in France, JuliAnne worked for advertising agencies, as well as L’Oreal and McDonald’s. In her hometown of Miami, however, JuliAnne has focused on community engagement in educational and arts organizations, particularly in fundraising and friendraising. JuliAnne has served on numerous boards, frequently as Chair/Development Committee chair – serving in both capacities at Breakthrough Miami. JuliAnne and her husband, Derek, have three teenage and adult children.
Executive Director, Breakthrough Central Texas
Michael Griffith has close to 20 years’ experience as an educator and nonprofit leader. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas and a Master of Education degree from Texas State University, Michael started his career as an elementary teacher, honing his skills in teaching, learning, curriculum development, and student assessment. He earned distinctions for his teaching and took on leadership roles as a mentor teacher and team leader. He supported students in and out of the classroom to fulfill their potential, and envisioned a future career as a school and district administrator. He joined Breakthrough Central Texas as the Director of Programs in 2008. During his six-year tenure as Director of Programs, Michael managed a three-fold increase in students served, the organization’s first expansion to Manor ISD, the buildout of its college completion programs, and the creation of the a customized Salesforce database to monitor the progress of students on their path to college graduation. In 2011, Michael was honored by Bank of America with the distinction of Emerging Leader. In 2014, Michael took on the mantle of Executive Director at Breakthrough. Since that time, he has supported Breakthrough as it has expanded extensively to serve more students in multiple school districts in Central Texas. Michael has expertise in educational best practices, partnership development, research and reporting, project planning, and organizational leadership. Michael is a founding member of the Austin College Access Network and is widely respected in the Central Texas nonprofit community.
Executive Director, LearningWorks at Blake: A Breakthrough Program
Natalie Owens-Pike is the Executive Director of LearningWorks at Blake: A Breakthrough Program, where she is in her fourth year of leadership. Natalie is the incoming chair of the Affiliate Committee of the Board of Trustees, and serves on the Strategic Planning Team as well as the Development Committee. At LearningWorks, she previously served as the Director of Alumni and Community Outreach, a social studies Instructional Coach, and even as a social studies teaching fellow while in college. After graduating from Macalester College, she was a Teach For America corps member in the Mississippi Delta, where she taught Spanish in a rural public high school. Natalie is an active community board member in the Twin Cities, serving on the YMCA Camp Menogyn board since 2014, where she is co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is also a founding board member for the Boys and Girls in Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD/GOLD) program of the YMCA, which expands access to wilderness camps through programming and scholarships for students of color or students with economic need.
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.
Southeast Management Advisory Group, LLC.
Oak Park, 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.
Executive Director, Breakthrough San Francisco at SF Day School
Originally from New York, Andy taught at the Breakthrough sites in Long Island and Cambridge as an undergraduate and was immediately hooked. He subsequently taught sixth grade math and science in Oakland as a Teach For America corps member before returning to Breakthrough as Program Director at the Cambridge site. Andy has done short-term work for The Steppingstone Foundation, Aim High, and Summer Search, where he served as an Education Pioneers Fellow. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Brown University and was an Urban Scholars Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, receiving an Ed.M. in School Leadership. He lives in Berkeley with his wife and two daughters.
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, National Executive Director
Executive Director, Breakthrough Collaborative
Coral Gables, FL
An award-winning newspaper editor and media executive, Elissa Vanaver was vice president of human resources and assistant to the publisher for the Miami Herald Media Co (MHMC). MHMC publishes both print and online editions of The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, in addition to websites such as Miami.com and MomsMiami.com, and an array of niche publications. Her 25-year journalism career also has included management and editing stints at the Dallas Times Herald and the San Jose Mercury News. Elissa is the founding chair of the Board of Directors for Breakthrough Miami and former CEO of Breakthrough Miami. She has recently joined the national office as executive director.