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

Daniel Pianko

Donna Wilson

David Zwiebel

Board of Directors

Jeffrey Mayer, Chairman

John Legend, Vice Chairman

Jeffrey Verschleiser, Treasurer


Charles R. Bronfman, Emeritus

Katie Couric

Jon Gray

Hugh Jackman

Thomas L. Kempner, Jr.

Edward Lewis, Chairman Emeritus

Jane Och

Jeffrey Mayer, Chairman

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.

John Legend, Vice Chairman

Ohio-born John Legend is a critically acclaimed, multi-award winning, platinum-selling singer-songwriter. His work has garnered him ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, Golden Globe, the BET Award for Best New Artist and the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, among others.

Legend also serves as one of the principles for Get Lifted Film Co., a film and television production company based in Los Angeles. Get Lifted Film Co. serves as Executive Producers on the HBO documentary “Southern Rites,” Pop Network docu-series “Sing it On”, and WGN America’s series “Underground.”. Additionally, Get Lifted Film Co. has worked on several films such as “Southside With You” and “La La Land.” Along with his executive producing credit on “La La Land,” Legend appears in the film and contributed to its soundtrack with the original song “Start a Fire.”

Legend recently released his fifth studio album “DARKNESS AND LIGHT” to rave reviews which features his current anthemic hit “Love Me Now.”

From a young age, Legend aspired to use his position in the entertainment industry as a platform for social change.  In an essay competition Legend won at age 15, he wrote of his dream to become a star recording artist and to use his influence and resources to give back to his community.  And that is exactly what he has done – throughout his career, Legend has committed his time, energy, and resources to social justice and equality.  

Drawing inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King and his contemporaries, Legend believes that all children deserve a quality education, and with that, we will be closer to achieving equality. In 2007 Legend started the Show Me Campaign (showmecampaign.org), an organization committed to investing in solutions that have been proven to improve people’s lives and to give them the opportunities to survive, thrive and succeed.

The Show Me Campaign works to give every child access to a quality education as well as address systemic issues in our criminal justice system that disproportionately impact the poor, minorities, and disadvantaged.  Through the promotion of proven solutions and programs in education such as Teach for America, Teach for All, Harlem Village Academies, and New Profit, Legend hopes to elevate and celebrate teachers, the single most important factor for student achievement in our schools.  

In 2014, Legend launched LRNG (innovate.lrng.org) in partnership with The MacArthur Foundation and The National Writing Project.  LRNG is a movement dedicated to inspiring innovation in the learning process to one that better reflects the world we live in today. LRNG Innovators invests in educators who are building tomorrow’s education system today.

In 2015 Legend initiated the #FREEAMERICA campaign; a campaign designed to change the national conversation of our country’s misguided policies and to make a change in America’s criminal justice system.  The purpose of #FREEAMERICA is to provide a cultural strategy to support the national movement aimed at ending mass incarceration. The #FREEAMERICA campaign sets intentionally ambitious goals – to return incarceration rates back to their historic levels prior to the massive expansion of jail and prison systems, and redirect savings to support concrete investments in education, rehabilitation, and re-entry. As a respected artist, John Legend is using his platform to engage stakeholders from all areas of the criminal justice system to provide the background and guidance necessary to achieve that goal.

Legend serves on the Board of Directors of Harlem Village Academies, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Stand for Children and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

Jeffrey Verschleiser, Treasurer

Jeffrey is global head of Mortgage Trading and head of US Flow Credit and Municipals Trading. He serves on the Firmwide Risk Committee and Securities Division Executive Committee.

Prior to his role in Credit, Jeffrey served on the Firmwide Capital Committee. He joined Goldman Sachs as a partner in 2008. Prior to joining the firm, Jeffrey was a senior managing director at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., where he was the co-head of Mortgage Trading. Jeffrey first joined Bear Stearns as a summer intern in 1989, returned following graduation in 1991 and spent 17 years in their Mortgage Backed Securities department.

Jeffrey serves on the boards of Harlem Village Academies and the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. Jeffrey earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Vermont.

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.