Thursday, November 7, 2013

The NEA Foundation Names Board Vice Chair, Five Members

Crystal Brown, Vice Chair; Sean Patrick Corcoran, Christian Duffus, Peter Heckman, Julian Vasquez Heilig, and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, Members

WASHINGTON, DC  (November 7, 2013) – The NEA Foundation announced today that Crystal Brown, chief communications officer and executive director of communications at the University of Maryland, will serve as the new vice chair, while five new members will join its board of directors.

“Crystal brings deep expertise in the education field and in public relations, having represented education clients from the public, non-profit, and corporate sectors,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Her guidance and leadership are especially important, at a time when education and communications changes in the education sector are occurring so rapidly and the tools used to support and discuss education are changing at the same pace. We welcome her leadership as we undertake bold efforts to reconceptualize the focus and role of educators to prepare students to thrive in this rapidly changing global economy.”

Crystal Brown is a public relations, marketing, and communications veteran who has developed successful media relations programs, branding strategies, and award-winning campaigns for corporate, nonprofit, and foundation clients. Previously, Brown held the position of senior vice president for the PK-12 practice at Widmeyer Communications. In this role, she oversaw strategy for the firm’s largest clients, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Brown also served as senior vice president of E-Luminate Group, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in education technology and education policy. During her 10 year tenure, she successfully raised the national profile of many long-term clients, including the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Dell, LeapFrog, Blackboard, NEA Member Benefits, the Institute for Museums & Library Services, 3M, and the National Council on the Aging. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications Skills. 

“The NEA Foundation’s efforts to improve outcomes for students will depend in part on our ability to share knowledge and to engage education leaders to help advance our work,” said Brown.  “I am delighted to accept this leadership role during a pivotal time in our history. Public support of education will be key to the future of our children, our communities, and our nation.”

The NEA Foundation also announced the names of five new board of directors members: Sean Patrick Corcoran, associate professor of educational economics at New York University; Christian Duffus, founder of LEAF College Savings; Peter Heckman, former president and CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation; Julian Vasquez Heilig, associate professor of educational policy and planning at the University of Texas at Austin; and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, executive vice president of sales at Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions.

“Not only are they savvy and strategic experts in their fields, each of our new board members offers a unique perspective on public education drawn from their experience and relationships within the academic, public, non-profit, and private sectors,” Sanford said. “The Foundation will greatly benefit from the impact of their work and commitment to education reform, as they move into new leadership roles on our Board.”

Sean Patrick Corcoran is associate professor of education economics at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and an affiliated faculty of the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He has been a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, since 2004, and was visiting scholar in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2005. He is currently conducting several studies on the high school choice behavior of middle school students in New York City.

Christian Duffus is the founder of LEAF College Savings, LLC, an education focused, digital payments company that makes it simple and secure for parents, family, friends, and organizations to contribute to a child's college savings. Additionally, he founded the Scholars Club (now part of Florida Gulf Coast University), a leading extracurricular student organization promoting a peer culture of accomplishment and academic excellence among “at-risk” students throughout Southwest Florida. Duffus began his career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. He earned a MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and a BS from Florida A&M University.

Peter Heckman is the recently-retired president and chief executive officer of The Horace Mann Companies, the largest multiline insurance group focusing on the personal insurance and retirement needs of the K-12 educational community. Heckman also served on the Board and as Treasurer of the Springfield Public Schools Foundation. He received his MBA degree (with distinction) from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.  He is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Warfield Center for African and African American studies at the same institution. Since 2007, he has served as an associate director for the University Council of Education Administration. He blogs at Cloaking Inequity. He obtained his Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis, and a master’s degree in Sociology from Stanford University. He also holds a Masters of Higher Education and a bachelor’s degree of History and Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Carmen Ortiz-McGhee is executive vice president of sales for Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions, a division of Aon, the leading global risk management, reinsurance and human capital resources consulting and outsourcing firm. In this role, she leads the sourcing, vetting, and development of joint go-to market strategies with Women and Minority-owned firms who operate in the same verticals as Aon.  Ortiz-McGhee also drives Aon Cornerstone revenue generation and oversees all Cornerstone activities throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States.  She is a Dean’s List graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in psychology.  

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About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives.We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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