2020-2021 Executive Committee
Debra A. Cafaro is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Ventas, Inc., an S&P 500 company and real estate investment trust that owns approximately 1,200 healthcare, research and innovation and senior living properties in North America and the United Kingdom and serves as the premier capital provider to leading care providers and research institutions.
A recognized industry leader, Ms. Cafaro set and oversaw execution of a long-term strategy that drove Ventas’s market capitalization to $28 billion in 2019, from $200 million since her leadership began in 1999. The Company’s compound annual total shareholder return (TSR) has approximated 22 percent for the two decades ended December 31, 2019.
Widely-acclaimed for her strategic vision and enduring business success, Ms. Cafaro has received multiple professional recognitions. Ms. Cafaro has been twice named one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (Forbes Magazine), a list of global political, media, entertainment and business leaders; a “Top 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” for six consecutive years (Harvard Business Review); and the top female executive in the commercial real estate industry (National Real Estate Investor). She has also been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” six times (Modern Healthcare); highlighted in “The 70 Elite” real estate executives who shaped the industry for the past 70 years (Real Estate Forum); and selected multiple times to the “Top 25 Women in Healthcare” (Modern Healthcare) and the “All-America Executive Team” (Institutional Investor). Ms. Cafaro was named a “Top 50 Woman in World Business” (Financial Times), one of the Bankable 21 CEOs in Jim Cramer’s book Get Rich Carefully and one of nine “Game-Changers” in commercial real estate since 2000 (GlobeSt.com). To honor her contributions to her industries, she received the Industry Leadership Award from the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), where she previously served as chair, and was inducted into the ASHA (American Seniors Housing Association) Senior Living Hall of Fame.
In addition to her work at Ventas, Ms. Cafaro is broadly engaged across business, public policy, academic, sports and non-profit sectors. Ms. Cafaro is the chair of the Real Estate Roundtable, a public policy organization that brings together leaders of the nation’s top real estate firms to address key national policy issues relating to real estate. She is also the chair of The Economic Club of Chicago whose mission is to foster meaningful connections among the city’s leaders on important economic and social issues. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Business Council, and serves on the Boards of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., the University of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She served successive terms on the Board of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. Ms. Cafaro is an owner and member of the Management Committee of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Champions.
Prior to joining Ventas, Ms. Cafaro was president and a director of an NYSE-listed multi-family REIT, a practicing lawyer for 13 years and a judicial clerk for the Hon. J. Dickson Phillips, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Ms. Cafaro received her JD cum laude from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was named its 2011 Distinguished Alumna, and her BA magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame. She is married and has two children.
A 18-plus-year veteran at Google, Ted Souder is currently the head of industry, retail. In this role, he oversees a team that helps the largest retailers in the world make the transition from traditional to digital using various Google tools and platforms. The age of data and constant disruption is here and the status quo is no longer acceptable. Though the future isn’t always clear, Mr. Souder’s team helps business leaders cut through clutter and develop winning strategies that enable them to thrive in the digital age.
Prior to his role in retail, Mr. Souder lived in Paris, France as part of an exclusive rotation program for senior leaders in the company. While in Paris, he oversaw key efforts in Southern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa as the head of international strategic sales and operations. Mr. Souder also served as a regular industry speaker, an employee mentor and was a member of the executive management team for the region. Earlier in his career at Google, Mr. Souder held a number of different leadership roles in sales and account management and was responsible for helping open and run Google’s offices in Chicago, Dallas and Detroit.
Mr. Souder is an early adopter having worked in the mid-and-late 90s at early online brands AOL and Excite, as well as a groundbreaking social music start up, Echo Networks.
Currently he is vice chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors at both The Economic Club of Chicago and at 1871, the No. 1 technology incubator in the world.
Mr. Souder lives in Lincoln Park with his wife and two children.
Ryan S. Ruskin is the president & CEO of The Ruskin Group, a fourth-generation family packaging company founded in 1893. The Ruskin Group is recognized as a world leader in sustainability and e-commerce packaging. In its plastics division, The Ruskin Group recently launched a suite of revolutionary products, including ECLIPSE which makes most plastic products truly biodegradable, leaving nothing behind just like paper. Previously, Mr. Ruskin was a management consultant with A.T. Kearney, where his practice focused on supply chain and manufacturing strategy with many Fortune 100 companies.
At the beginning of 2015, Mr. Ruskin assumed the role of non-executive chairman of MyEco, a sustainability education business he helped found that uses technology and innovative products to help consumers break disposable habits through education, positive reinforcement, social engagement and financial incentives; and by creating a collaborative relationship between consumers, businesses and retailers to benefit the environment. In 2019, Crain’s Chicago Business named Mr. Ruskin to their annual list of “Notable LGBTQ Executives.”
Mr. Ruskin currently serves on the boards of the Field Museum, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Humanities Festival, Heartland Alliance, Princeton Club of Chicago and The Economic Club of Chicago. He is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Chief Executives Organization, 2012 Emerging Leaders Program of Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and 2013 Class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute. In 2015, he was appointed and confirmed as a member of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.
Mr. Ruskin earned a BA in History and American Studies from Princeton University, an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and an MEM from its McCormick School of Engineering.
Dr. Mohan Rao is the chief executive officer of Expression Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company that is focused on developing therapeutics for hemophilia, oncology, and primary immunodeficiencies.
Dr. Rao is also chairman of Epsilon Economics, an economics consulting firm that specializes in providing economic analysis, strategy, and analytics to life sciences and high technology companies. He previously taught at Northwestern University and UCLA, was a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and was the head of Navigant Economics, a global economics consulting firm.
Dr. Rao serves on the board of directors of the Children's Hospital of Chicago, the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute, The Economic Club of Chicago, on the board of trustees of the Rotary/One Foundation, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and North Shore Country Day, and is a member of The Chicago Club.
McCarthy Bertschy & Associates, Inc. Founding Partner Chris Bertschy has been an executive search consultant since 1997 following a career in management consulting with McKinsey & Company and KPMG Peat Marwick, where he co-founded the National Transportation Consulting Practice.
With an educational background that includes a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Mr. Bertschy has successfully completed search engagements across a broad range of industries and functional disciplines. Representative assignments include corporate and divisional leadership roles, corporate staff positions in public and private companies, senior line and staff level searches in professional services firms and a variety of roles in the portfolio companies of private equity clients.
Mr. Bertschy is very involved in the Chicago civic community. He is an active member of The Economic Club of Chicago where he attends numerous events and serves as secretary of the Executive Committee. He authored part of Metropolis 2020, an initiative of the Commercial Club of Chicago designed as an update of the Burnham Plan and a guidebook to government and growth for the Chicago region. Mr. Bertschy was a founding board member of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center and a member of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Board.
Mr. Bertschy also served on the Executive Board of Meals on Wheels for many years and has been an active member of the University of Chicago CEO Roundtable. He led the successful completion of a pro-bono search for the Illinois Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and works with many organizations as an advisor on talent and organizational initiatives.
Before his role at the Economic Club, David Snyder was Chief Operating Officer of Chicago CRED, a pioneering initiative targeting gang-affiliated men most at risk for being perpetrators or victims of gun violence.
Chicago CRED focuses on street-level violence prevention/interruption, intensive trauma-informed counseling, education and workforce development. As a 501(c)3 Private Foundation, CRED runs or oversees multiple sites on the city’s South and West Sides and is the largest funder of anti-gun-violence initiatives in Chicago. Founded and led by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, CRED is an affiliate of the Emerson Collective, the Palo Alto-based social impact entity established by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs.
In his role as COO, Mr. Snyder oversees CRED’s business operations, strategic planning and grant-making. He also works closely with Managing Director Arne Duncan on all aspects of CRED’s work.
Prior to joining CRED in early 2017, Snyder spent more than three decades in various roles--most recently as Publisher--at Crain’s Chicago Business, the nation’s leading local business newspaper and website. Earlier in his Crain’s career, he served as Editor and later launched and led Crain’s digital presence.
Mr. Snyder is on the board of directors of the Polk Bros. Foundation, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Window on the World Communications (parent of Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW), The Commercial Club of the Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago. He’s also a trustee of Beacon Academy, a private Montessori/International Baccalaureate high school in Evanston, IL.
A native of Easton, Pa., Mr. Snyder is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., where he received his degree in business administration.
As Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, Mellody Hobson is responsible for management, strategic planning and growth for all areas of Ariel Investments outside of research and portfolio management. Additionally, she serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust—the company’s publicly traded mutual funds. Prior to being named Co-CEO, Ms. Hobson spent nearly two decades as the firm’s president.
Outside of Ariel, Ms. Hobson is a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy. She has conducted extensive research on minority investing patterns and pens a column for Black Enterprise Magazine. Her leadership has also been invaluable to corporate boardrooms across the nation. She currently serves as vice chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation; a director of JPMorgan Chase; and a director of Quibi, a short-form video content company. She previously served as chairman of the board of DreamWorks Animation until the company’s sale and was also a long-standing board member of the Estée Lauder Companies.
Ms. Hobson’s community outreach includes her role as chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago non-profit that provides area teens with high-quality after school and summer programs. Additionally, she is vice chair of World Business Chicago; co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art; and a board member of the George Lucas Education Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. She also serves on the board at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Ms. Hobson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Investment Company Institute.
Ms. Hobson earned her AB from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy. In 2019, she was awarded the University’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented annually to a Princeton graduate whose career embodies a commitment to national service. She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Southern California. In 2015, Time Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world.
Michelle Collins has been president of Cambium LLC, a business and financial advisory firm since 2007. In 1997, she co-founded Svoboda, Collins LLC, a private equity firm, where she served as managing director from 1998 to 2006; she is now a member of the firm’s advisory board. Prior to that, from 1992 to 1997, she was a principal in the Corporate Finance Department at William Blair & Company, LLC, where she focused on specialty retail, catalog and distribution businesses in corporate finance.
Ms. Collins is a member of the boards of Health Care Service Corporation (Finance Chair, member of Audit and Compliance and Governance/Nominating Committees), Ulta Beauty (Governance Chair and Audit Committee member); Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (Audit Committee member); CIBC Bancorp US, Inc. (Audit Chair, Risk and Compensation Committees) and Strategic Marketing, Inc. (Audit Committee member). She previously served on several other corporate boards.
Ms. Collins is a member of the boards of the Commercial Club of Chicago (Civic Consulting Alliance and Executive Committee) and The Economic Club of Chicago (Executive Committee). Professional affiliations include The Chicago Network, National Association of Corporate Directors and Black Corporate Directors. She serves on several non-profit boards, including Chicago Public Library Foundation, National Louis University and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Sean Connolly is president and CEO of Conagra Brands. Mr. Connolly joined Conagra Brands, formerly known as ConAgra Foods, in March 2015.
Prior to joining Conagra Brands, Mr. Connolly was president and CEO of The Hillshire Brands Company from the time of its formation as an independent company in 2012, to its sale to Tyson Foods in August 2014. Prior to his Hillshire Brands leadership, Mr. Connolly was CEO for Sara Lee North American Retail and Foodservice, as well as president of Campbell Soup North America. He also managed numerous brands in the food and beverage division at Procter & Gamble. Mr. Connolly has used his general management, marketing and innovation skills to improve business performance across a diverse range of food and beverage categories and channels of trade, with a focus on innovation and disciplined execution.
Mr. Connolly earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Vanderbilt University, and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a director of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, and The Economic Club of Chicago.
The possibilities are beautiful with Mary Dillon as CEO of Ulta Beauty. The Chicago native has 35 years of experience leading consumer-driven brands in a diverse range of industries, with the common thread being her passion for leveraging customer insights and leading through the lens of culture to build brand engagement and drive results.
Since she began leading Ulta Beauty in July 2013, Ms. Dillon and her team have more than doubled the company’s revenues and vaulted Ulta Beauty to the Fortune 500. Ms. Dillon leads an associate base of more than 45,000, 92% of whom are women, and, under her leadership, the board of directors has become one of the most gender diverse of any large public company in the nation. Ms. Dillon believes strongly in creating common purpose, removing barriers to inclusion and driving associate engagement through valuing the perspectives of her diverse team.
Ms. Dillon was one of 30 leaders named to Barron’s 2019 list of the “World’s Best CEOs.” She serves on the board of directors for Starbucks Corporation and KKR, Inc. and is the chairperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. She is also a member of The Business Council.
Ms. Dillon championed the establishment of the Ulta Beauty Charitable Foundation, which has donated more than $20 million to nonprofits supporting women and their families since 2016, and serves on the board of directors for Save the Children, the Executives’ Club of Chicago, The Economic Club of Chicago and World Business Chicago. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and Asian studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
John M. Holmes is president, chief executive officer and board member of AAR, a leading aviation services provider to commercial airlines and government customers worldwide.
Mr. Holmes joined AAR in 2001 as director of mergers and acquisitions and progressively assumed responsibility for the businesses that comprise Aviation Services - Parts Supply, Integrated Solutions, and MRO Services. Mr. Holmes led AAR’s expansion through the acquisition of Airinmar®, a component repair cycle management company, and Premier Aviation, which added Canada to AAR’s leading MRO network. He also launched AAR Digital Services to support the continued growth and modernization of parts supply and distribution.
After driving double-digit growth and building a strong leadership team, Mr. Holmes was appointed president and chief operating officer in 2017. In 2018, he was named president and chief executive officer of AAR, the third since the company’s founding in 1955.
Charles R. Matthews was named president and CEO of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas in June 2015.
In this role, Mr. Matthews oversees the daily operations, strategy, growth and administrative activities of WEC Energy Group’s two Illinois utilities that collectively provide natural gas service to nearly 1 million customers in the city of Chicago and 54 communities within the northern suburbs.
Mr. Matthews possesses more than 30 years of energy industry experience in operations, finance, marketing, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to taking the helm at Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, Mr. Matthews spent nine years in executive and leadership positions at We Energies and served as senior vice president – wholesale energy and fuels and customer solutions.
While at We Energies, Mr. Matthews was responsible for the procurement of natural gas, coal and other commodities used in electric generation, long-term wholesale marketing activities, and the management of the relationships with the company’s largest commercial and industrial customers.
Prior to joining We Energies, Mr. Matthews served as president and CEO of Jamaica Public Service Co. Limited, a subsidiary of Mirant Corp. He helped structure and then led the company’s transition from government-owned to private ownership.
Mr. Matthews earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Talladega College and a master’s degree in finance from Clark Atlanta University School of Business. He also completed the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School’s executive program in utility finance.
Mr. Matthews is a member of the boards of directors of BMO Financial Corp., BMO Harris Bank N.A., Chicago Urban League, Economic Club of Chicago, Illinois Utility Business Diversity Council, Navy Pier, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Talladega College and World Business Chicago. He also is active with several organizations and nonprofits in Chicago, including Chicago United, Commercial Club of Chicago and its Civic Committee.