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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    Larry Hartley

    Larry Hartley is the Executive Vice President, Warehouse Operations, for KeHE Distributors, LLC. KeHE is an employee owned, national distributor of natural, organic, specialty and fresh food products headquartered in Naperville, IL. Larry is responsible for the U.S. distribution centers and the e-commerce business.

    Prior to joining KeHE, Larry was the Senior Vice President, Supply Chain at Office Depot/OfficeMax. He led the supply chain initiative to hire, train, and retain adults with developmental disabilities.

    He is on the board of trustees for the Naperville Education Foundation (NEF) in addition to the board of Aspire. Larry holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from the Johnson School at Cornell University.

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    Dr. Lisa Thornton
    Vice Chair

    Dr. Thornton has more than 15 years of hands-on medical experience with a practice dedicated to the care and treatment of children with disabilities. Currently, she is the Medical Director of Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation for KidsRehab, a joint program between LaRabida Children’s Hospital, and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition, she is an assistant professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Surgery at the University of Chicago ’s Pritzker School of Medicine. She is a frequent contributor and expert on the Today Show. She has also appeared on The Steve Harvey TV Show, The CBS Early Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and ABC Nightly News.

    Lisa is the founder and director of C.A.M.P. Schwab (Children with Adapted Mobility Play), whose mission is to encourage athletic participation among children with disabilities.

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    Gary Kobus

    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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    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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    Glenn Quaiver

    Glenn Quaiver serves as Vice President of Inventory Management at Essendant (formerly United Stationers), a wholesale distributor and leading supplier of workplace essentials headquartered in Deerfield, IL.

    With 20 years of experience, Glenn has broad, executive level experience in the areas of operations, logistics, sales and supply chain, and a proven track record of high performance team leadership. At Essendant, Glenn develops and supports the vision and strategy of the Inventory Management Shared Services department to align with the objectives of the business units. He leads the expansion of the company’s recognition as a supply chain leader and innovator by manufacturers and dealers in the industry, as well as the broader Supply Chain Management community.

    Glenn received a degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. In addition to serving on Aspire’s Board of Directors, Glenn is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He lives with his family in Deer Park, IL.

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    Bernardo Lacayo
    Past Board Chair

    As Managing Director and Head of Loan Syndications for The PrivateBank & Trust Company in Chicago, Bernardo (Bernie) Lacayo is responsible for the structuring, approval and distribution of the bank’s multi-bank credit transactions. Prior to joining The PrivateBank & Trust Company, Bernie worked for Charter One Bank and LaSalle Bank. Throughout his professional career, Bernie has been responsible for many facets of volunteerism, including monitoring community lending, setting guidelines for investment criteria, approving grant distribution and strategic planning for charitable organizations and initiatives. He is currently the Associate Board Treasurer for the Brain Research Foundation in Chicago.

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    Nancy Buchanan

    Nancy Buchanan has been a disabilities advocate since the birth of her daughter, Rachel, in 1994. Rachel has Down syndrome and has been the pioneer of inclusive practices in every school she has attended.

    Nancy is a founding board member of the Belle Center of Chicago, which has become Aspire Kids Chicago, and was on the board at the Belle Center, serving two years as President and two years as an Interim Executive Director. During that time, she received the Inclusion Award from Kids Included Together, a national organization that promotes inclusive practices in schools.

    Nancy, together with two other women, worked with Chicago Public Schools to establish a cluster program at Alcott College Prep High School that works to fully include students with disabilities into all aspects of student and academic life at that school. This is the only program of its kind in CPS at the moment.

    Nancy is co-owner of a personal stylist business, NAC for Style. She has two other children and lives with her husband on the north side of Chicago.

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    Janet Pioli

    Janet A. Pioli is a Shareholder in Brinks Gilson & Lione’s Chicago office. Her intellectual property law practice encompasses strategic counseling involving large patent and application portfolios in a variety of disciplines, patent clearance and due diligence, patent prosecution supervision, litigation, and advertising review and clearance. Janet has a large and successful practice of appeals before the Patent Trial and Appeals Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, including numerous oral arguments before both. Her practice also includes pro bono appeals to obtain disability benefits for United States veterans before the Federal Circuit.

    Ms. Pioli also provides leadership in the community. She is a past president of the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago, the oldest and one of the largest intellectual property law associations in the country, is the Secretary of the Federal Circuit Historical Society, is an international delegate from the Licensing Executive Society, USA-Canada to that society’s international branch, served as the Secretary and a board member of the Richard Linn American Inn of Court. For five years, Ms. Pioli was a contributing author of Claim Construction in the Federal Circuit, a West publication.  Ms. Pioli serves on the Board of Visitors for Northern University College of Law and the Board of Directors for her firm.

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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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    Dan Moceri

    Dan Moceri has 38 years in the electronic security, fire alarm and life safety industry. He is co-founder and executive chairman for Convergint Technologies, a global systems integrator he started in 2001 with a longtime business partner. Convergint Technologies has grown to be the fifth largest North American based systems integrator and provides service and solutions for electronic security systems, fire alarm systems and HVAC control systems. Convergint Technologies employs over 1900 people throughout the US, Canada, Asia Pacific and the UK. Prior to starting Convergint Technologies, he was the president of Siemens Building Technologies Security Division for North America. Dan has recently entered into real estate development building large multi-unit residential projects in downtown Chicago with his son and another business partner. He earned his Electrical Engineering degree in 1976 from MSOE and a Masters in Management from Northwestern University in 1985. Dan is an avid cyclist is also involved in local charities. He and his wife have three grown children.

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    Jim Kallas

    Over the past 25 years, Jim Kallas has held a number of management positions within Eurest on both region and division levels. Currently as Central Division President, Jim’s sphere of responsibility includes Café and Staff dining rooms for many of the Fortune 500 companies of America with operations reaching several states across the United States. He manages over 450 staff dining rooms with revenues in excess of $400 million.

    Jim began his career in foodservice in the Chicago area and the eight years prior to his career with Compass Group he was involved in the resort and restaurant industry on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

    Kallas is a proud member of the Washburne Culinary Institute Advisory Board and Vice Chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association. His philanthropic work centers on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Aspire. He is also a member of the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management, Union League Club, Les Amis d’Escoffier and Disciples Escoffier International USA.

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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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    Christopher Leff

    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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    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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Ken Gaul
Chief Financial Officer
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Selena LeSure
Vice President of People
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John McIlwain
Vice President for Advancement
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Bill Dwyer
Vice President of Aspire Living and Aspire Careers
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Herbert K. Washington, Jr.
Vice President of Aspire Kids
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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 professionals between the ages of 22 and 30 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 John McIlwain at

McKenzie Koss Simmons
Maggie Bobus
Sarah Haque Ansari
Nate Christensen
Tom Curran
Julie Findlay
Emily Freeman
Eric Choragwicki
Anna Harris
Elizabeth Cozzi
Justin Cruz
Schaffer Degen
Billy Donovan
RC Aikens
Jesse Flint
Ben Panfil
Martin Goodlett
Colby Harison
Kelsey Smith
Elizabeth Stoiber
Adam Ansari
Julie Kallas
Erica Karp
Brittany Kottler
Jordan Kovalsky
Taylor Maples
Katie Oeltgen
Brendan O’Shaughnessy
Lorena Ramos
Jenn Rotblatt
Tim Uihlein
Kym Wehrle
Claire White
Emily Wren