Operating Board, 2020-21
Mr. J. Steven Beckett, Chair
“I am a lifelong Urbana guy, who also lived a number of years in Champaign. Public schools are a heart of the community. I am a proud graduate of UHS and feel that CUSF gives me an opportunity to repay all the men and women who were there for me in Urbana Schools.”
J. Steven Beckett is a criminal defense lawyer, but he likes to think of himself as a community person. He has practiced law in Champaign-Urbana since 1973 and appeared in the United States Supreme Court on two occasions. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law and served on the faculty there from 1987-2017.
Mr. Matt Kelly, Vice-Chair
“I serve on the CUSF board to bring the community labor force voice to the public school system. I hope to encourage young people to believe that even if their school career has not been typical, there are many valuable and fulfilling careers available in this area that will provide a wonderful life.”
Matt grew up in the Champaign schools, and was named to the News Gazette’s 2018 Class of 40 under 40 outstanding community business leaders. He is a strong labor advocate and has served as the President of Champaign County AFL-CIO since 2014. Matt Kelly currently serves as the Business Manager/Financial Secretary of Local 149 Plumbers and Pipefitters. Before becoming business manager, Matt worked as a plumber/pipefitter for the University of Illinois.
Dr. Kayla Banks, Treasurer
“Public education is a vehicle for all children to expand their horizons and reach their highest potential regardless of the circumstances they were born into. I am passionate about education and the role of the community in investing in the future of our students.”
Kayla Banks holds the position of Vice President of Women’s Health, Children’s Services and Medical Education for the Carle Health System and is adjunct faculty at the UIC College of Nursing and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. She has worked at Carle in various quality and leadership roles, with a clinical background in Neuro and Trauma Critical Care. She completed her BSN at University of Iowa, and MSN in Nursing Administration and PhD in Nursing Health Systems Sciences at UIC.
Ms. Anita Stein, Secretary
“It was an honor to be asked to serve on the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation Board of Directors and to have the opportunity to give back to my community in this way. I feel fortunate to have grown up in Urbana where I received a solid educational foundation through the public-school system. I believe that every child should have access to a quality education to provide them the tools they need to be successful in life and to be a positive force in their community.”
Recently retired, Anita had served as the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations at the University of Illinois College of Engineering. She has also worked at Will-TV in various capacities. Her community service activities include the Champaign Urbana Theater Company’s Penguin Project, and Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation’s Adult Theater Class. She is currently a member of Community Choices and was a member and past president of C-U Autism Network.
Ms. Andrea Ruedi, Past Chair
“Being active in economic development for our community, I know the importance that our area’s education systems have in attracting companies and employees to our area. The role of CUSF is critical in enhancing our area schools and our community. As a CUSF board member, I especially enjoy the exposure to the amazing teachers and administrators we have in our schools and witnessing the impact they are having on young lives.”
Andrea Ruedi is currently Senior Advisor for Integrated Strategic Development for the City of Urbana, IL. She is leading the City’s initiative to update the City’s comprehensive plan. Previously, Andrea was President and CEO of Fox Development Corporation, the managing member of Fox/Atkins Development, LLC, which is the developer of the University of Illinois Research Park. Andrea actively recruited Fortune 500 and high-tech firms to the Research Park. Andrea holds B.S. Degrees in Business Administration and Sociology from MacMurray College and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mr. Dennis Donaldson
“As a past student in the public schools, I understand the importance of the public school system within the community and I am aware of the funding deficiencies that occur from time to time. I feel that service to the community, in any capacity, plays an important role in the growth and success of that community. Whether you are employed and provide services to others, or volunteer your time, we all need to realize our potential to make a difference and have an impact.”
Dennis Donaldson is currently the Treasurer for the Village of Savoy. He served as their Director of Planning & Economic Development from May of 2013 until August of 2018, after spending the previous 26 years with Busey Bank.
Ms. Gayle Jeffries
“I am an advocate of the public schools system. I think that it is important that we support our educational system during these challenging times.”
Gayle Jeffries recently retired from Urbana School District 116, after serving as a classroom teacher, principal and administrator. She is a long-time member of Theta Lambda Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she is involved in service projects to the local community. Theta Lambda Zeta raises scholarship funds for women in Champaign County who demonstrate hardship for attending college. In addition, they mentor students and children, adopt a school annually, and support a family in need during the holidays.
Dr. Deserai Miller
“As a school social worker in Champaign Unit 4 Schools I saw firsthand the creative and innovative ways staff engaged ALL students in learning and many of these initiatives were supported by CUSF. Therefore, I understand the impact that CUSF has on student learning and I’m excited to be a part of that work.”
Before completing her Ph.D, in Special Education at the University of Illinois, Deserai Miller worked as a school social worker for 10 years, where the majority of this time was spent employed with Champaign Unit 4 Schools. Deserai’s work focuses on the provision of trauma-informed care through the delivery of special education services, which she has taught in undergraduate and graduate level courses in both the School of Social Work, and the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois and has presented at national and international conferences related to this work.
Mr. Eric Minor
“Public schools are a key and historical part of living in Champaign-Urbana. These great schools have been a part of educating and developing the children of this community with many of them going on to being leaders in this same community.”
Eric Minor is the first and current Chief Marketing Officer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he leads campus-wide efforts to tell the UIUC story of excellence in research, teaching, public engagement and economic development. Prior to this role, he worked in various marketing posts at companies including The Libman Company, SC Johnson, HJ Heinz, and Pepsico.
Dr. Gioconda Guerra Pérez
“We are far away from being a society where equity and equality are the pillars of our future. Public education is one of the few institutions that can help us to achieve this goal. I believe public education helps to secure a more equitable society because individuals are given the opportunity to receive an education and this contributes to the betterment of the larger community.”
Gioconda Guerra Perez is currently the Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity at the University of Illinois. Previously, she served as the Assistant Chancellor for Diversity and earlier in her Illinois career, as the Director of La Casa Cultural Latina and Native American House. Before coming to Illinois, Gioconda was a visiting assistant professor at Indiana University.
Dr. Evangeline Pianfetti
“I serve on the board to make a meaningful impact in our community through our public schools – to help provide opportunities for our future leaders.”
Evangeline S. Pianfetti is the Outreach Associate for Grants and Fellowships for University of Illinois Extension, Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center (EPECC). She’s worked at the University of Illinois for more than 20 years in a variety of administrative roles related to the impact of technologies and digital media in learning environments and looking at applied sciences for supporting teachers and students across the lifespan. Evangeline was the Professional Development Coordinator for the Illinois Shared Learning Environment for the Illinois State Board of Education for the Race to the Top grant. In addition, she is a Smithsonian Laureate for classroom innovation in technology and was elected to the Champaign City Council in 2017.
Ms. Prudence Runkle
“As a kindergarten teacher in Unit 4 Schools, I was able to enhance my students’ learning experiences thanks to generous support from the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation. I am grateful for the additional boost through the years which allowed for meaningful hands-on learning for my students. And now it is time for me to give back.”
Prudence Runkle is a retired Unit 4 Kindergarten teacher. She was the Kindergarten Grade Level Chair for several years and the PTA President at her sons’ elementary school (BTW). She wrote curriculum in the areas of science, social studies, and the performing arts. For three summers she was the Aquatics Coordinator for the Champaign Park District. Enthusiastic about community enrichment, Prue was a founding member of the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company and produced many of the company’s shows. She also directed theatre productions at Central High School.
Mr. Daniel Thies
“As Edmund Burke reminds us, ‘to be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.’ In our democracy, these ‘little platoons’ have often been prominently associated with our local schools, reminding us that community education is the key to cultivating the civic pride, patriotism, and other ‘public affections’ that make democracy possible. This mission is increasingly urgent today, and I’m delighted to be a part of it in some small way through the CU Schools Foundation.”
Daniel Thies is a graduate of Champaign Central High School, and has ancestors who have lived in the county since the early 1830s. After beginning his legal career in Chicago, Daniel has returned to Champaign with his wife Page to raise their four children in one of the best communities in the country. Daniel is an attorney at Webber & Thies, PC, a Champaign-Urbana law firm founded by his great-grandfather.
Dr. Susan Zola, Superintendent, Champaign Unit 4
“Public Schools are a cornerstone of any community. They provide a common platform to ensure all children have access to a strong academic and social emotional curriculum. I am excited for the work ahead and our partnership with CU Schools Foundation.”
Superintendent Susan Zola began her career as a first-grade teacher in Urbana School District 116. In 1990, she joined Champaign Unit 4 School District and became the Principal of Dr. Howard Elementary School. She later served as the Director of Title I/Literacy, Director of Choice, Principal of Jefferson Middle School, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Zola most recently served the District as the Assistant Superintendent for Achievement, Curriculum, and Instruction. After 27 years in the Champaign School District, she started her duty as Superintendent on July 1, 2017, leading Unit 4’s 10,000 students and 1,900 staff members.
Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, Superintendent, Urbana District 116
“A public-school education helps us prepare students for the real world, for college, a career or a skill. We provide students diverse opportunities to learn 21st Century skills in a multicultural environment. We are pleased to have a strong partnership supporting our teachers and students with CUSF.”
Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum began her career at Urbana School District #116 in 2005 as principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, and then advanced to her position as Urbana School District #116’s Deputy Superintendent in 2013. In 2017, she transitioned into her role as Assistant Superintendent for Champaign Unit 4. After two years, Superintendent Ivory-Tatum returned to Urbana School District #116 to assume the role of the district’s Superintendent in May 2019. Superintendent Ivory-Tatum is continuing her transformative work with Urbana School District #116, including the 6th-12th grade restorative practice initiatives she first introduced to the district during her appointment as Deputy Superintendent.
Click HERE for a complete list of past CU Schools Foundation Board Chairs.