We are grateful to the following board members and trustees for providing time, energy & resources to support our mission.
Founder and CEO
Dr. Deborah Kenny
Dr. Andrew August
Judith Turner Hamerschlag
Board of Directors
Jonathan Gray, Chairman
John Legend, Vice Chairman
Jeff Mayer, Treasurer
Edward Lewis, Chairman Emeritus
Charles Bronfman, Emeritus
Thomas L. Kempner, Jr.
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 nearly $81 billion in investor capital under management. Blackstone’s portfolio includes hotel, office, retail, industrial and residential properties in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Mr. Gray currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Hilton Worldwide, Chairman of the Board of Harlem Village Academies, and is a board member of Trinity School. Mr. Gray and his wife, Mindy, 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.
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.
John Legend, Vice Chairman
It’s been a decade since John Legend released his debut album, Get Lifted, a platinum-selling breakthrough which garnered eight Grammy nominations and three golden statues for Best New Artist, Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Still one of the industry’s most innovative artists, whom fellow music pioneer Quincy Jones calls “a genius,” the singer, songwriter, pianist and producer continues to achieve new milestones.
Earlier this summer came his first #1 single, “All of Me,” which dethroned Pharrell Williams’ ubiquitous “Happy” and spent three weeks at the peak of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. “All of Me,” a devotional piano ballad and love song to his wife, Chrissy Teigen, marks Legend’s best selling and charting single of his career to date, with sales of more than four million in the U.S. and six million worldwide. The crossover hit single dominated airplay across five radio formats, hitting #1 on Top 40, Rhythm, Adult Contemporary (AC), Hot AC and Urban Adult Contemporary, and racking up over four billion in cumulative radio audience. It was also an international smash, reaching #1 on the official radio and sales charts in nine additional countries spanning the UK, Canada and Australia, and topping the digital charts in dozens more around the world. His current single, “You & I,” is building over multiple radio formats, its official video garnering nearly 14 million views on YouTube.
Both songs derive from Legend’s fourth solo studio album, Love in the Future, an immersive experience about romance, love, hope, commitment and optimism. Released in September 2013, Love in the Future has resonated with critics and audiences alike, debuting at #4 on the Billboard 200 and rising to #2 on the R&B Albums and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. The release adds to an already illustrious career that includes nine Grammys, five Soul Train Awards, the BET Award for Best New Artist, and the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. From the evolution of his recorded works to award show performances and sold-out tour dates worldwide, John Legend remains as vital as ever.
A native of Ohio, Legend got his first break while working toward a degree in English and African-American literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He was introduced to Lauryn Hill, who hired him to play piano on her track “Everything Is Everything,” and soon began playing shows around Philadelphia before expanding to New York, Boston, Atlanta and Washington DC. After college he met then up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, who quickly signed Legend to his G.O.O.D. Music imprint and hired him to sing vocal hooks on some of his music. Legend started gaining momentum through a series of collaborations, adding vocals to an impressive list of chart-topping hits including West’s “Never Let Me Down,” Jay-Z’s “Encore” and Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name.”
Legend’s 2004 debut, Get Lifted, quickly went platinum and scored eight Grammy nominations, going on to win the first three of his now-nine Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the hit single “Ordinary People.” Two years later came his second platinum disc, Once Again, with the Grammy-winning single “Heaven.” Legend snared his third consecutive top 10 album with 2008’s Evolver, spinning off the hit “Green Light” featuring Andre 3000.
Since Evolver, Legend has collaborated with Rick Ross (“Magnificent,” “Rich Forever”), among others, and teamed with The Roots on 2010’s Wake Up! The album featured reinterpretations of socially conscious songs from the 1960s and ‘70s, including Bill Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left-Handed.” Wake Up! netted Legend three more Grammys, including Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song for his original composition “Shine.”
His latest album, Love in the Future (G.O.O.D/Columbia), is a critically acclaimed collection produced by Legend and longtime collaborators Kanye West and Dave Tozer. The album’s lead single, the soulful and gritty “Who Do We Think We Are” featuring Rick Ross, shot to the top of the R&B/hip-hop charts. It was followed by a second single, “Made to Love” featuring Kimbra, a progressive blend of soul, classical and ‘80s/’90s Chicago house music, which also sonically guided Chevrolet’s recent ad campaign for Impala. The album’s third single, “All of Me,” co-written with Toby Gad, gave Legend his first #1, segueing to his current hit single, “You & I.”
Along with “Shine” from Wake Up!, which was featured in Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim’s domestic education reform documentary Waiting for Superman, John Legend’s soundtrack credits include two 2012 box-office hits. For the film version of Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, Think Like a Man, the singer/songwriter contributed the Grammy-nominated “Tonight (Best You’ve Ever Had)” featuring Ludacris. Legend took a more bluesy turn on “Who Did That to You?,” an anthem heard in Quentin Tarantino’s critically acclaimed film Django Unchained.
In 2007 Legend founded his own music imprint/production entity, HomeSchool Entertainment, whose roster includes Motown-signed singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe, the songwriting duo Phatboiz and management client/producer DJ Camper. More recently he extended his creative oeuvre with the establishment of Get Lifted Film Co., a film and television production company whose partners include Mike Jackson and Thias Stiklorious (The Human Contract, The Lather Effect). To date, Get Lifted has sold nine TV projects to networks including HBO, Showtime, NBC, Fox and USA, and entered into an overall television deal with Universal Cable Productions. Concurrently, Get Lifted is developing a slate of film projects, which include The Black Count, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Tom Reiss, to be adapted and directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sundance winner Sin Nombre); The Lazarus, to be produced with Forest Whitaker’s Significant Productions; and The Wedding Party, to be directed by Jamie Foxx.
Giving back is another constant in John Legend’s life. He serves on several boards, including the Equality Project, Stand for Children, Teach For America and PopTech, a unique innovation network dedicated to accelerating the positive impact of world-changing people, projects and ideas. He doubles as national spokesperson for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that assists the next generation of minority business leaders. In partnership with Samsung, he supports education initiatives with a special focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year honoree, among other accolades, Legend launched his own education-based organization, the Show Me Campaign (ShowMeCampaign.org), in 2007.
Jeffrey Mayer, Treasurer
Jeffrey Mayer is the Senior Managing Director of Residential Mortgage Investments at Cerberus Capital Management, where he is responsible for Business Development for the Residential Mortgage hedge fund complex.
Previously, he served as the Executive Chairman of FirstKey Holdings, a Cerberus portfolio company, where he guided the business strategy and oversaw the corporate activities of the firm. Before joining FirstKey, Mr. Mayer was Head of Corporate Banking and Securities in North America at Deutsche Bank AG, where he ran the Corporate Finance and Markets divisions in the US and Canada.
Prior to this, he served as Executive Chairman and Head of Global Fixed Income of Currencies and Commodities, at UBS. Mr. Mayer began his career at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., where he spent 19 years playing a significant role in the growth and expansion of the firm’s Global Fixed Income Franchise.
Mr. Mayer received his BA in Business and Economics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. Active in nonprofit organizations, Mr. Mayer serves on the Board of Directors at Citymeals On Wheels, and is a Founding Board Member of Harlem Village Academies.
Edward Lewis, Chairman Emeritus
In 1968, Mr. Lewis co-founded Essence Magazine and later, Essence Communications Inc., which has become one of the largest African American multi-media organizations. Essence was acquired by Time, Inc. in 2005. Mr. Lewis also co-founded in 1986, Latina, the first lifestyle magazine that exclusively addresses the interests of U.S. Hispanic women.
During his 35 years as Chairman, CEO and Publisher, he nurtured Essence into a media powerhouse. The brand included the Essence Awards TV Show and the Essence Music Festival, a four day event in New Orleans during the Fourth of July, which attracts over 400,000 attendees annually. He also radically changed the perception of Madison Avenue regarding Black women and awakened corporate America to their achievements and massive multi-billion purchasing power.
In 1997, he became the first African American Chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America. In 2014, he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Previously, he was a recipient of the Henry Johnson Fisher Award, considered the “Oscar” in publishing and also received the Henry Luce Award from Time, Inc.
His political activism led to President Barack Obama appointing him to the Board of Advisors for the Initiatives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and current Mayor Bill de Blasio have each appointed him to serve various roles.
Mr. Lewis currently serves as Chairman of Latina Media Ventures and is a Senior Advisor to Solera Capital.
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.