Women Named to Top Leadership Posts at 9 Major Chicago Nonprofits

Women Named to Top Leadership Posts at 9 Major Chicago Nonprofits

From Chicago Botanic Garden to Chicago Urban League, some of the area’s most visible nonprofits have new leaders, and they’re all women. These women have much in common — experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, the admiration of the boards that chose them, and fierce dedication to their work. Here’s a look at who’s new and where they’ve taken the helm.

Jean M. Franczyk, president and CEO

Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe

Jean Franczyk - Chicago Botanic Garden
Jean M. Franczyk

Franczyk, who took the top post at Chicago Botanic Garden on April 1, returns to her native Chicago from the United Kingdom, where she was most recently deputy director of London’s Science Museum. “She is well-positioned to strengthen the Garden’s reach and reputation not only in the U.S. but also internationally,” says Robert Finke, Chicago Botanic Garden board chair, in a statement announcing her appointment. Franczyk grew up on the South Side and holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies.

Bridget Coughlin, CEO

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago

Bridget Coughlin - Shedd Aquarium
Bridget Coughlin

On April 11, Coughlin took the reins at Shedd from Ted Beattie, who has retired after 22 years at the aquarium. Before heading to Chicago, Coughlin was vice president of strategic partnerships and programs and adjunct curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Coughlin was chosen for the post at Shedd after a global search; she becomes only the fourth president and CEO in the organization’s 85-year history. Coughlin holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Iowa.

Shari Runner, president and CEO

Chicago Urban League, Chicago

Shari Runner - Chicago Urban League
Shari Runner (Photo: ©2015 Powell Photography, Inc.)

Runner brings both financial and nonprofit experience to Chicago Urban League. She served as its interim president and CEO, and before that, vice president for strategy and community development, before being tapped to lead the 99-year-old organization. “We are confident that Shari is the right person at the right time to drive the Chicago Urban League’s growth strategies and build upon the services we’ve been providing the community for nearly 100 years,” says Maria C. Green, chair of Chicago Urban League’s board of directors, in a statement announcing Runner’s appointment. Runner worked in banking, at First National Bank of Chicago and ABN/AMRO, before joining Chicago Urban League in 2010. She holds an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Mimi LeClair, president and CEO

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago

Mimi LeClair - Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago
Mimi LeClair

LeClair, who has 25 years’ experience in nonprofit leadership, was vice president of advancement at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls in Chicago before taking the top job at Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago in March. In her new role, she will focus on increased resource development, donor relations and expansion of services to more youth in more communities, according to a press release announcing her appointment. LeClair also brings business experience to the job: She was an investment director at a commercial real-estate firm, and has also worked in advertising. LeClair holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

Celena Roldán, president and CEO

American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois, Chicago

Celena Roldán - American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois
Celena Roldán

In March, Roldán took the helm from another formidable nonprofit force: Fran Edwardson, who retired in January after a decade at the organization. Roldán, a native of Oak Park, comes to American Red Cross after serving as executive director of Erie Neighborhood House, a social-services agency in Chicago. “The American Red Cross is there for what so many call the worst day of their lives — when they are in desperate need of a blood donation or financial support after a disaster has taken their home,” says Roldán in an interview with Make It Better. Roldán holds a master’s degree in early childhood administration from National Louis University, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Teresa Garate, president and CEO

Anixter Center, Chicago

Teresa Garate - Anixter Center
Teresa Garate (Photo: Chicago PhotoPress)

Garate, known as “Tere,” took the top post at Anixter Center after serving in senior roles at Newmann Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools. Garate is the first woman, and the first Hispanic, to lead Anixter Center in its 97-year history. Her focus at Anixter Center, which she joined May 30, 2015, is on increasing services as well as the number of people served by the center, one of the largest in Chicago to serve people of all ages, with all types of disabilities. “My goal is to decentralize services and push them out into the community,” says Garate in an interview with Make It Better. She holds a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Monique Brunson Jones, president and CEO

Evanston Community Foundation, Evanston

Monique Brunson Jones - Evanston Community Foundation
Monique Brunson Jones

Jones comes to Evanston Community Foundation from the Chicago Foundation for Women, where she was director of programs. She joined Evanston Community Foundation on Nov. 2, 2015, replacing retiring president and CEO Sara Schastok. “On the eve of the Foundation’s 30th anniversary, Monique brings the right combination of experience, skills and passion to lead the Foundation into its next exciting period of growth and development,” says Evanston Community Foundation board chair Mike Brody in the announcement of Jones’ appointment. Jones, also a former member of the Woman’s Club of Evanston, holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Arkansas, and a nonprofit finance certificate from Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University.

Evelyn Diaz, president

Heartland Alliance, Chicago

Evelyn Diaz - Heartland Alliance
Evelyn Diaz

Diaz, formerly commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, joined Heartland Alliance last September. Diaz “brings a wealth of experience and passion to the work we do, both here and abroad,” says Linda T. Coberly, Heartland Alliance board chair, in announcing Diaz’s appointment. Before Heartland, Diaz also served as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and as an individual practitioner, provided counseling to victims of domestic violence and managed programs for homeless women in shelters, among other services. “I’ve been driven … by fundamental beliefs that people can transform their lives, and that great organizations, like Heartland Alliance, can help to make that transformation possible,” says Diaz in the statement announcing her appointment. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

Dara Munson, CEO

Chicago Child Care Society, Chicago

Dara Munson - Chicago Child Care Society
Dara Munson

Munson steps into her new post with a decade of experience working with children. Most recently, she was chief operating officer of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, and was president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2007 to 2014. Munson “brings deep experience and commitment to working on behalf of children and at-risk youth as well as dynamic energy and enthusiasm,” says Julia Beringer, board president, Chicago Child Care Society. Munson, a Detroit native, has a master’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University, and currently serves on the board of trustees of Eastern Michigan University Foundation.