Jonathan Gray, Chairman
Jonathan D. Gray is Global Head of Real Estate and a member of the board of directors of Blackstone. He also sits on the firm’s Management and Executive Committees.
Since joining Blackstone in 1992, Mr. Gray has helped build the largest real estate platform in the world with more than $50 billion in investor capital under management. Blackstone’s portfolio includes hotel, office, retail, industrial and residential properties in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Major holdings include Hilton Worldwide, Equity Office Properties, Brixmor shopping centers and London’s Broadgate office complex.
Mr. Gray received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School, as well as a BA in English from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He currently serves as a board member of the Pension Real Estate Association and Trinity School and is Chairman of the Board of Harlem Village Academies. Mr. Gray and his wife, Mindy, recently established the Basser Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine focused on the prevention and treatment of certain genetically caused breast and ovarian cancers.
John Legend, Vice Chairman
Nine-time Grammy® Award winner, John Legend is a multi-talented artist known for his signature vocals and songwriting style which has earned him legions of worldwide fans along with a string of Top 10 platinum-selling albums. His albums Get Lifted (2004), Once Again (2006), and Evolver (2008) each reached #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop charts. He has collaborated with some of the best in the business and has written for numerous artists on bestselling recordings by artists including Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
John’s debut album, Get Lifted, earned eight Grammy nominations; won Best New Artist, Best R&B album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for Ordinary People while selling more than three million copies worldwide. His follow-up album, Once Again, earned an RIAA platinum certification and a Grammy award for “Heaven”, which also won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. In 2008, John released Evolver, his third Top 10 album and embarked on an extensive world tour with his ten-piece band.
Most recently, John and the band The Roots released Wake Up! (2010), a compilation of music from the 60′s and 70′s all with an underlying theme of awareness, engagement and social consciousness which won two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. The album is highlighted with tracks like “Little Ghetto Boy” by Donny Hathaway and Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ “Hard Times.” Wake Up! also includes John’s original composition “Shine,” which won a Grammy award for Best R&B Song and is featured in Oscar award winner Davis Guggenheim’s domestic education reform documentary Waiting for ‘Superman.’
Throughout his career, John has worked to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2007, John Legend launched the Show Me Campaign (ShowMeCampaign.org), an initiative that uses education to break the cycle of poverty.
Edward Lewis, Chairman Emeritus
As the chair and founder of Essence Communications Inc., Ed Lewis has guided the ongoing prosperity of one of the country’s largest African-American multi-media organizations, reaching over seven million African-Americans. In 1968, he founded Essence Communications Inc. publishing Essence magazine. The magazine’s first issue was launched in May 1970. Today, Essence is regarded as the country’s leading lifestyle magazine for African American women. The company produces the Essence Music Festival, the annual celebration of African-American music and culture held in New Orleans. It also has brand licensing agreements for Essence Eyewear and Essence Books. Essence ranked seventh on Advertising Age’s 2003 “A-List,” which is the first time that an African-American targeted publication has received this honor. In October 2000, Mr. Lewis engineered a partnership with Time Warner, and Essence was sold to Time Warner in 2005.
Mr. Lewis has been honored as the recipient of the Henry Johnson Fisher Lifetime Achievement award. He has been cited by Crain’s New York Business as one of New York’s ten most powerful minority business leaders. He currently serves as Chairman of Latina Media Ventures and Senior Advisor at Solera Capital, and sits on the boards of numerous organizations including New York City Partnership, the Central Park Conversancy, A&P, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. As a strong advocate of civil rights and community involvement, he has contributed personal time and financial support to a number of civic, educational and arts organizations.
Mr. Lewis received a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in Political Science and International Relations at the University of New Mexico. He is a graduate of Harvard’s Small Business Management Program.
Dr. Deborah Kenny, Founder & CEO
Deborah Kenny is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Harlem Village Academies, and is widely regarded as one of the most influential educational entrepreneurs in the country. Under her leadership, HVA has become a national model for education reform.
Oprah Magazine named Kenny one of the most powerful women in the country, calling her a “visionary educator,” and Esquire selected her for its annual “Best and Brightest” issue. She is featured regularly on national television and print media, such as the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CBS Evening News, NPR, Morning Joe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Huffington Post, and others.
Kenny holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in comparative international education and a B.A. Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential. Kenny is the mother of three grown children and she lives in New York City.