Archives: Leaders

Helene D. Gayle MD, MPH

President / Spelman College

Dr. Gayle has been president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, since October 2017. Under her leadership, the Trust adopted a new strategic focus on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region. At the end of June 2022, Dr. Gayle will leave the Trust to become the 11th president of Spelman College.

For almost a decade, Dr. Gayle was president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. A public health physician with expertise in economic development, humanitarian, and health issues, she spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control, working primarily on HIV/AIDS. She worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, directing programs on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues.

Dr. Gayle was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. She earned a B.A. in psychology at Barnard College, an M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and an M.P.H. at Johns Hopkins University. She has received 18 honorary degrees and holds faculty appointments at the University of Washington and Emory University.

She serves on public company and nonprofit boards, including The Coca-Cola Company, Organon, Palo Alto Networks, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America, ONE Campaign, and Economic Club of Chicago. She chairs the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Council on Foreign Relations, American Public Health Association, National Academy of Medicine, National Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics. She has authored numerous articles on global and domestic public health issues, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and wealth inequity.

Mary Dillon

President & CEO / Foot Locker, Inc.

Mary N. Dillon is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Foot Locker, Inc., where she is responsible for overseeing all business operations and development on a day-to-day basis. Mrs. Dillon is also a member of the Foot Locker, Inc. Board of Directors.

Prior to joining Foot Locker, Inc., Mrs. Dillon served as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Ulta Beauty, Inc., the largest beauty retailer in the United States, from July 2013 through June 2021. From June 2021 through June 2022, Mrs. Dillon served as Executive Chair of the Board of Directors of Ulta Beauty. Prior to joining Ulta, Mary served as President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of United States Cellular Corporation, a provider of wireless telecommunications services, from 2010 through 2013. Prior to joining US Cellular Corporation, Mrs. Dillon served as Global Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of McDonald’s Corporation from 2005 through 2010, where she led the company’s worldwide marketing efforts and global brand strategy. Prior to joining McDonald’s Corporation, Mrs. Dillon held several positions of increasing responsibility at PepsiCo Corporation, including as President of the Quaker Foods division from 2004 through 2005 and as Vice President of Marketing for Gatorade and Quaker Foods from 2002 through 2004. Mrs. Dillon also currently serves on the Board of Directors of KKR & Co. Inc., a global investment company, and previously served on the Board of Directors of Starbucks Corporation.

Sean M. Connolly

President & CEO / Conagra Brands, Inc.

Sean M. Connolly is President and Chief Executive Officer of Conagra Brands. Sean joined Conagra Brands in March 2015.

Prior to joining Conagra Brands, Sean 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. Before leading Hillshire Brands, Sean was CEO for Sara Lee North American Retail and Foodservice, as well as President, Campbell Soup North America. He also managed numerous brands in the food and beverage division at Procter & Gamble. Sean 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.

Sean earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt University and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. Sean is a member of the board of SC Johnson, and is active on several non-profit boards, including Consumer Brands Association, Economic Club of Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Vanderbilt University.

Michelle L. Collins

President / Cambium, LLC

Ms. 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. 

John A. Challenger

Chief Executive Officer / Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

John A. Challenger is President and CEO of global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The firm provides high-end outplacement support to executives who depart from their companies and to the individuals at all levels, exempt and non-exempt, who lose their jobs in downsizings, layoffs, and business restructurings. The company also provides executive coaching for senior leadership, middle-management, and high-potential leaders. 

A recognized thought leader on workplace, labor, and economic issues, his insight is often sought out by major foreign and domestic broadcast and print media. 

Challenger is active in professional, industry and civic organizations.  He currently serves on the board the Economic Club of Chicago, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, and is a Senior Director at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He is a member of YPO Gold, Chief Executives Organization (CEO), and the Commercial Club of Chicago.  He was on the host committee of Chicago 2016, which sought to bring the Olympic Games to Chicago.  For the past fourteen years (2007 to 2020), Challenger has been listed among the Who’s Who in Chicago Business, published annually by Crain’s Chicago Business.

A graduate of Harvard University, Challenger is a member of the Harvard Alumni Association and served as Chair of the HAA Nominating Committee for the Board of Overseers in 2012, and he was President of the Harvard Club of Chicago. 

Sally Blount, PhD

Chief Executive Officer / Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Sally Blount is the CEO of Catholic Charities of Chicago, one of the largest human services providers in the Midwest – serving more than 500,000 people annually. She is also the Michael L. Nemmers Professor of Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where she is a proud alumna and former dean.
Blount is an internationally recognized thought leader in management and business education. Her areas of expertise are in organizational governance, growth and transformation. Blount has been regularly featured in news outlets such as the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, Economist, and Fortune. In 2012, she co-chaired the World Economic Forum on Latin America, and in 2017, she was named one of LinkedIn’s top voices in Management.

Blount sits on the board of two Fortune 500 companies, Abbott Laboratories and Ulta Beauty, as well as the boards of the Joyce Foundation, Economic Club of Chicago, and Misericordia Home. She is also a member of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where she is part of the team working with the Cardinal to re-envision leadership development for priests.

At Catholic Charities, she is leading the organization through a three-year capabilities building and strategic planning process that will reimagine Charities’ governance and deepen its impact — as they prepare to serve those in need in an increasingly polarized and economically unequal, post-pandemic world. 

Christopher T. Bertschy

Managing Partner / 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, Chris 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 VP and C-level roles in the portfolio companies of private equity clients and private investment firms.​

Chris 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 on the Board of Directors. 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. Chris was a founding Board member of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center and a member of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Board. ​

Chris also served on the Executive Board of Meals on Wheels for many years and is an active member of the University of Chicago CEO Roundtable. He is on the Board of the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC) and works with many organizations as an advisor on talent and organizational initiatives.

Sid Bala

President / Calcium

Sid Bala is President of Calcium and serves on the Board of Directors. Calcium believes a healthier world starts with healthier decisions. Their digital health analytics platform provides individuals with access to meaningful health data right at their fingertips, by employing easy, fun-to-use tools and personalized guidance that make healthier decisions easier. As a seasoned leader with more than 30 years of technology experience, Sid previously served as the Founder and CEO of alligatortek. Under Sid’s leadership, the company was recognized as a best-in-class partner, employer and innovator.

He also serves as Board Chair for Bookwallah, on the Quality and Cost Effectiveness Committee of the Board of Silver Cross Hospital and on the Membership Commission at The Chicago Club. He previously served on the Business Community & Culture Committee for P33 Chicago and as a Board Member of the Chicago Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO).

A Chicago native, Sid attended the University of Chicago for his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and went on to the State University of New York, Stony Brook for a graduate degree in computer science. He holds a master’s degree from MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program.

He has been an ECC member since 2005 and has served as Chair of the Reception Committee and as Chair of the Membership Committee. He is past Secretary to the Board of Directors.

Wednesday Test

Chairman and CEO / Ventas, Inc.

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.

Debra A. Cafaro

Chairman & CEO / Ventas, Inc.

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, 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 exceeded 20 percent for the 21 years ended December 31, 2020.  

In addition to her work at Ventas, Cafaro is broadly engaged across business, public policy, academic, sports and non-profit sectors.  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 Ex-Officio 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. (NYSE: PNC), the University of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and World Business Chicago.  She served successive terms on the Board of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust.  Cafaro is an owner and member of the Management Committee of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Champions.   


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