Aspire's Board

Aspire's board provides fresh, insightful and strategic thinking, thanks to their diverse backgrounds and unique blend of professional skills, perspectives and experiences.

Comprised of business and civic leaders, their work has advanced Aspire's mission and led to new initiatives and groundbreaking programs.The board has led Aspire to begin blurring the lines between the social sector and the private sector. The result is an exciting integration of social purpose with effective business approaches that will allow for new enterprises and exponential growth.We value the board’s dedication and effort to make Aspire performance-driven, creative, compassionate and forward-focused.

Aspire's Board of Directors

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    Gary Kobus
    Board Chair

    Gary Kobus is the President of Lincoln Advisory Group, Ltd., an investment advisory affiliate of Lincoln Property Company, and he has more than 24 years of real estate investment management experience. Gary is responsible for raising institutional investor capital, developing investment strategies for and partnership structures with institutional investors.  Gary also oversees the advisory company’s acquisition, disposition and portfolio management disciplines. Since 2001, Gary has overseen the acquisition of more than $1.0 billion and the disposition of more than $400 million of office and industrial real estate assets on behalf of a discretionary state pension fund.  Before joining Lincoln Property Company in 1998, Gary was vice president with Heitman Capital Management managing a $1.6 billion portfolio of pension fund assets and was a vice president at LaSalle Partners. Gary earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University’s J. L. Kellogg School of Management. Gary is a member of Pension Real Estate Association, the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries and the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association.

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    Christopher Leff
    Vice Chair

    Chris Leff is the Head of Regional Commercial Real Estate at The PrivateBank. Chris is responsible for managing the Bank’s real estate lending teams in the Atlanta, Denver, Michigan, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis markets. His teams focus on growing relationships with commercial and multi-family real estate investors and developers by lending on redevelopment and construction projects.

    Prior to joining The PrivateBank, Chris led a team at Harris Bank responsible for the credit oversight and workout strategies for Amcore’s nearly $2 billion loss share loan portfolio, after having managed the CRE workout group at Amcore before its failure in 2010. Chris has also managed real estate origination and underwriting teams at LaSalle Bank in the mid-2000’s, helped to launch a de novo community bank, and worked in commercial real estate development.

    Chris earned his bachelor’s degree in Real Estate and Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and currently lives with his wife and three kids in Western Springs.

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    Marguerite Aikens

    Meg Aikens joins Aspire’s Board of Directors and Finance Committee with 35 years of finance banking experience with industry leader Bank of America.

    Prior to her recent retirement, Meg served as Chief Financial Officer for Bank of America’s Global Markets Operations & Middle Office, overseeing the forecasting, planning, management reporting and business transaction analysis of the $750MM group spanning 52 countries with more than 5,000 employees.

    Meg has a broad range of finance banking experience, from CFO for Global Markets Technology, Global Risk Technology, Corporate Treasury & Corporate Investments Technology to internal finance support positions, such as Manager of External Reporting.

    An alumna of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Meg and her husband, Bob, live in Western Springs and have two kids. RC is 25 years old and lives and works in Chicago and Matt is 21 years old and a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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    Jeffrey G. Miller
    Executive Officer

    Jeff Miller serves as Chief Commercial Officer (COO) of Synchronoss Technologies. Jeff previously served as President for IDEAL Industries Technology Group, focusing on designing and delivering solutions for smart commercial buildings and spaces. IDEAL Industries is a century-old, professionally managed and family-owned business, based in the greater Chicagoland area. Jeff also serves on the Board of 1871, Chicago’s largest start-up incubator, and on the non-profit Boards of Aspire Chicago and Junior Achievement.

    Before joining IDEAL Industries in 2017, Jeff recently completed a 16-year career with Motorola, most recently as Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Operations in North America for Motorola Mobility, LLC. Previously, Jeff was Vice President of Sales for Motorola’s business with AT&T, T-Mobile, and 23-global wireless customers across North America, Latin America, EMEA and the Asia Pacific.

    Jeff also spent five years with Somera Communications, as the Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and he worked for AT&T for eleven years, holding various leadership positions in Sales Management, Marketing and Product Management.

    Jeff graduated with a B.S. degree from Miami University and later earned his M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He and his wife Susan have four children and reside in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood.

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    Gurpreet Singh

    Mr. Singh is responsible for delivering strategies that enhance growth, improve financial performance and leverage emerging technologies to gain competitive advantage. Prior to joining PwC, Mr. Singh was the Managing Partner for the Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences practice for Diamond Management and Technology Consultants. He has expertise in R&D, Pharmaceutical commercial operations (sales & marketing), IT Strategy/enterprise architecture and financial modeling. Mr. Singh advises senior executives on the business and technology implications of multi-million dollar decisions. He has extensive experience collaborating with Fortune 500 clients in the healthcare, financial services and insurance industry sectors.

    Mr. Singh holds an MBA from the Executive Master’s Program at the J.L. Kellogg School of Management and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University where he held a fellowship.

    Mr. Singh lives in Clarendon Hills, IL with his wife (Amrit), who serves on Aspire’s Big City Night Gala Committee, and two boys.

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    Kristen Vitale

    Kristen A. Vitale is a Senior Vice President and Investment Program Manager at Chicago-based First Midwest Bank. Kristen has spent over 20 years in the financial services industry as an individual contributor and in various leadership roles. Kristen joined First Midwest in 2003 and is responsible for the overall direction of the bank’s retail investment and insurance business. In her role as Program Manager, Kristen leads a team of Financial Consultants in providing financial advice, planning, investment and insurance solutions to help business owners and retail clients reach their financial goals.

    She holds the Series 7, 63, 65 and 24 securities licenses and Life and Health insurance licenses. Kristen has received recognition by the financial services industry magazine Bank Investment Consultant, having been named to the list of Top 20 Program Managers in 2015 and 2016. She has a proven track record of success in developing and executing sales strategies while maintaining a strong client focus.

    Kristen is an active member with the First Midwest Bank Women’s Business Resource Group and the Advisor Council of LPL Financial. Previously Kristen served as a board member of the First Midwest Charitable Foundation, the Hephzibah Women’s Auxiliary Board, the Board of Directors of the Professional Women’s Network and as a loaned executive to the March of Dimes. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

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    Jessica Curry Christensen

    Jessica Curry Christensen is Director of Sales at providing integrated digital advertising solutions to top tier clients in both Minneapolis and Chicago. She possesses over six years of media strategy and activation experience across key retailers and CPG business. Prior to joining Teads, Jessica began her career as a Media Associate & Supervisor at Spark Communications in Chicago, a division of Starcom Mediavest Group, before transitioning to a sales role at Mode Media for nearly four years.

    Previously, Jessica was President of the Aspire Associate Board for two years, re-establishing the Associate Board’s commitment to Aspire and helping share Aspire’s message in the Chicago community. She first gained interest as a disabilities advocate in her tenure at DePauw University as a participant in the Best Buddies program and has since continued her interest in the disabilities community.

    She is originally from the Northwest Suburbs and currently lives in the Chicago West Loop with her husband and two rescue Chihuahuas.

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    Doug Deputy

    Doug Deputy joins Aspire’s Board of Directors with over 20 years of sales and marketing experience with Chicago-based Anixter Inc. Doug has spent a significant amount of his career working in global accounts, global business development, as well as internal and external marketing efforts.

    Most recently, Doug has assumed a role as Vice President of Anixter’s Global Learning & Development team supporting the skill and knowledge acquisition of several thousand employees and leaders internationally.

    Doug earned a BS degree in Telecommunications and an MS in Information & Communication Sciences from Ball State University where he was also an active member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. He has lived in a variety of geographies, including Philadelphia, Detroit, and Indianapolis until settling in Chicago in 2011. Doug and his wife, Angela, reside in the northern suburbs of Chicago with their two teenage boys.

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    Debbie Sainte-Rose

    Debbie L. Sainte-Rose has worked in human services for nearly 15 years. She worked at Job Path Inc., a non-profit organization in New York City that enables people with developmental disabilities to lead full and satisfying lives. She held several positions of increased responsibility such as coordinator and director of various programs working within high schools, with employers, government partners and in community outreach.

    She later worked for the Aramark Corporation in Philadelphia, her latter role being director of a hospitality training program, which provided hospitality and food service training to youth aging out of the foster care system. She later continued this work with her following employer, Goodwill Industries of Philadelphia.

    Debbie lived abroad with her family in Turkey and Belgium for 7 years and relocated back to the U.S. August of 2015. She is married to husband, Stevens and currently focuses on raising her 3 children: Camille, Deven and Quincy.

    Debbie attended the State University of New York College at Oswego and received a Bachelors of Arts Degree in English Writing Arts and Spanish and a Masters of Arts degree in Special Education from New York University.

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    Lakshmi Nagaraj

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    Stacey Brown

    Chief Labor Counsel & Vice-President, Labor and Employee Relations

    Stacey is Chief Labor Counsel and Vice-President of Labor and Employee Relations for Walgreens. Within this role, she oversees the relationship and collective bargaining with all of the unions representing Walgreen’s team members. Stacey also heads the Labor Counsel for Walgreens, which consists of the executive leaders for each functional area of the organization, ensuring cross-functional collaboration in the execution of the labor strategy. Additionally, in Stacey’s role as Vice-President of Employee Relations, she oversees a large team of employee relations experts in their duties of providing retail, supply chain, and office team member support. In this capacity, Stacey is charged with ensuring a positive workplace and exceptional engagement for over 250,000 Walgreens team members.

    Prior to joining Walgreens, Stacey served as Vice-President, Human Resources, Labor & Government Relations for Albertson’s-Safeway. In the divisions of the company in which she served (Jewel-Osco and Safeway Eastern), Stacey not only devised and executed on the labor strategy, but also on talent management, succession planning, compensation and legislative activity.  Before joining Albertson’s-Safeway, Stacey was employed as General Counsel for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Chicago, Illinois. Within this role, Stacey negotiated multiple collective bargaining agreements, arbitrated and litigated a variety of issues, and provided legal guidance to the administration. In the earlier years of Stacey’s career, she was employed as a litigation attorney in Dayton, Ohio.

    Stacey received her J.D. from the University of Dayton, School of Law, and her B.S. at Ball State University.

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    Adam Beringer

    Adam Beringer currently serves as a Shareholder at Vedder Price and is a member of the firm’s Global Transportation Finance team.

    With a focus on commercial aircraft finance, Beringer has significant experience representing operating lessors, commercial banks, finance companies, manufacturers, private equity funds, hedge funds and other aircraft investors in all manner of aircraft finance transactions. Beringer also has experience representing aircraft investors in bankruptcy proceedings involving several airlines, as well as investors and commercial banks in business aircraft finance transactions.

    Prior to joining Vedder Price, Beringer served as general counsel to Q Aviation, a global aircraft-operating lessor. At Q Aviation, Beringer advised senior management in the establishment of the company (from inception), the buildup of its initial $1.5 billion aircraft portfolio and the subsequent divestiture of that portfolio. In addition, Beringer had primary responsibility for all legal matters at Q Aviation and was key in developing portfolio and risk management processes and procedures.

    Beringer graduated cum laude with his B.A. from the University of Dayton in 1996 and earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law in 1999.

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    McKenzie Simmons

    McKenzie Simmons first developed her passion and commitment as a disabilities advocate during high school and college. She was an active volunteer at Youth Challenge, an organization that provides sports and recreation for children with physical disabilities, and served as both a nonmedical and medical buddy at Fresh Air Camp, a recreational camp for children who are ventilator dependent.

    During medical school, Simmons worked in data collection and as a mentor for Opening Doors: Project Adventure to cultivate programming and research for inclusive recreation. She continued her investment in disabilities advocacy upon moving to Chicago by joining the Aspire Associate Board in 2014 and serving as its president from 2015 to 2017.

    Simmons has built her skills as a researcher, both at the lab bench and in the clinical setting. Her projects have focused on endothelial permeability, genomic stability, immune response pathways as well as the acute and late effects of childhood cancer and its therapies.

    Simmons is an alumna of Ohio University and Harvard Medical School. She is originally from the suburbs of Cleveland and currently resides in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago with her husband and rescue dog.

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    David Catherall

    David L. Catherall is managing director and industry manager for GCIB Wholesale Credit at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Catherall is responsible for managing a team of 25 credit professionals responsible for originating, structuring, underwriting and monitoring credit exposure related to loans, derivatives, cash management, leasing and other banking solutions for more than 150 large corporate clients in the Industrials sector. The sector consists of clients in an array of industries including automotive, airline, aerospace & defense, building products, chemicals, construction & engineering, environmental services, machinery, packaging, road & rail etc. The portfolio generates over $1Bn in bank revenues on $56Bn in credit exposure.

    Prior to his current role, Catherall spent 19 years working in credit covering Consumer & Retail clients in Chicago and Kansas City at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Catherall graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia College in 1993 with a B.S. in Business Administration. In 2004 he earned the CFA designation and also holds Series 7 and 63 licenses.

    He currently resides in Palatine, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago, with his wife and two children.

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    Erin Nahumyk

    Erin Nahumyk is the Managing Director & Chief Accounting Officer of Harrison Street and is a member of the firm’s Management Committee. She is the department leader overseeing all reporting, accounting, tax and treasury functions of the firm’s real estate funds. She is also responsible for the optimization and productivity of the group’s activities, including development of finance strategy. Her team manages quarterly accounting and reporting, annual year-end audits and tax filings.

    Prior to joining Harrison Street, Nahumyk held the position of EVP, Chief Accounting Officer of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL Americas) where she led the corporate finance and accounting departments, as well as oversaw finance operations. Nahumyk started her career at Ernst & Young (Chicago) in the real estate assurance practice. She is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Illinois.

    Nahumyk received her B.A. in Accountancy from Michigan State University.

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    Jim Kales
    Aspire President and CEO

    Jim Kales is CEO of Aspire, a non-profit recognized throughout the Midwest as a leader in providing bold, pioneering and uncompromising services to kids and adults with developmental disabilities like autism and Down syndrome. Each year Aspire helps more than 1,000 kids and adults with disabilities and their families through its ground-breaking enterprises – Aspire Kids, Aspire Careers, Aspire Living and Aspire CoffeeWorks.

    Since Kales took the helm in 2007, Aspire’s private fundraising has doubled, helped by a strong emphasis on corporate partnerships. Aspire has embraced social entrepreneurship and social media, launching its own coffee company, Aspire CoffeeWorks. Aspire coffees are sold in all Chicagoland Whole Foods stores and numerous corporate offices and were featured nationally on TODAY.

    Prior to joining Aspire, Kales served as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lake County where he helped forge mentoring partnerships with Fortune 500 companies such as Baxter, CDW, HSBC and Macy’s. Kales also served as the director of communications for the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.

    Kales graduated summa cum laude with honors from Bucknell University, and received his Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Aspire’s Leadership Team


Jim Kales
President and Chief Executive Officer
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Serena Alaily
Chief Financial Officer
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April Dislers
Vice President of Aspire Living
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Herbert K. Washington, Jr.
Vice President of Aspire Kids and Aspire Careers
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Executive Steering Council

The Executive Steering Council is a group of business leaders who help guide Aspire through strategic decision-making and expand Aspire’s network of supporters by connecting us to friends, neighbors and colleagues.

John Berghorst
Managing Director at The Private Bank
Jeff Chan
Founder and President of Chan Management Consulting
Don Drews
President at Courageous Marketing
Adjunct Marketing Professor at Loyola University Chicago
Kevin Garvey
Vice President of Sales at Garvey’s Office Products
John Ide
Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase
Mark Kirstein
Midwest Regional Practice Director at PwC
Tim Ninonski
Northwestern Mutual
Neil Pendleton
Senior Managing Director of Project Management Group at CBRE
Janet Pioli
Shareholder at Brinks Gilson & Lione
Scott Tisdale
Senior Director of Transportation at Univar USA
Hartwig Zakin
Executive Director at Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (gBCAT)
Jerry DiCola
Senior Manager, Facilities and Operations at Horizon Pharma USA
Mike McLeod
Chief Operating Officer at Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
Karl Maurer
First Vice President at Wealth Management
Rick Fox
President/Founder at Riverside Strategic Communications
Adam Ansari
Partner at Ansari & Shapiro
Sarah Ansari Haque
Assistant Inspector General at City of Chicago
Tom Latourette
Managing Partner at M3 Learning
Pete Eddington
Senior Account Manager at The Synergy Companies, Inc.
Kristen Vitale
Senior Vice President, Program Manager, First Midwest Bank

Associate Board

Founded in 2011, the Associate Board is a dynamic group of young professionals who support Aspire through fundraising events, volunteerism and awareness campaigns. Monthly meetings are held at different locations in Chicago for brainstorming, planning and organizing. Board members represent a wide range of backgrounds and professional expertise, and interested candidates are welcome. For more information about the Associate Board, please contact Hayley Formolo at

Emily Freeman

Danny Ahye

RC Aikens

Dara Bernstein

Kathryn Boehmke

Eric Choragwicki

Elizabeth Cozzi

Tessa Culbertson

Madona Cumar

Tom Curran

Schaffer Degen

Katie Doan

Billy Donovan

Joe Eames

Jesse Flint

Tiffany Florczak

Deanna Frey

Mrinalini (Mia) Ghoshroy

Kait Glass

Nathan Hampton

Julie Kallas

Erica Karp

Birttany Kottler

Jordan Kovalsky

Diane Less

Casey Mog

Brendan O’Shaughnessy

Katie Oeltgen

Ben Panfil

Spencer Phillips

Meghann Polevoi

Jenn Rotblatt

Monir Sarkarati

Eli Stoiber

Laynee Viniotis

Lauren Watson

Kym Wehrle

Patrick Wehrle

Claire White

Julie White

Maddie Williams

Taylor Wilson