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Speaker Bios

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

Johnny C. Taylor JrNamed one of the “Power 100” by Ebony Magazine in its list of the 100 most influential African Americans a year after assuming the role of President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. leads the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the only national organization representing nearly 300,000 students attending this country’s 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). With approximately 80% of all HBCU students attending TMCF member-schools, Mr. Taylor leads an organization responsible for providing this country a robust and diverse pipeline of talented workers and future leaders. Immediately prior to assuming the presidency of TMCF in 2010, Mr. Taylor worked as a senior executive for IAC/InterActiveCorp – first as its Senior Vice President of Human Resources and then as the President & CEO of one of IAC’s operating subsidiaries. Before joining IAC, Mr. Taylor’s career spanned nearly 15 years as Litigation Partner and President of the human resources consulting business for the McGuireWoods law firm; Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary for Compass Group USA; General Counsel & Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Viacom’s Paramount Pictures Live Entertainment Group; and Associate General Counsel & Vice President of Human Resources for Blockbuster Entertainment Group. Mr. Taylor, an Isaac Bashevis Singer Scholar and honors graduate of the University of Miami, went on to earn a Master of Arts With Honors from Drake University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence With Honors from the Drake Law School, where he served as Research Editor of the Drake Law Review and argued on the National Moot Court Team. He is licensed to practice law in Florida, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Mr. Taylor, who currently serves on the corporate board of Gallup, a leader in organizational consulting and public opinion research, also volunteers his time to several not-for-profit boards, including serving as: Former Chairman of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one of the world’s largest professional associations with 250,000 members in over 100 countries; a member of the National Board of Directors of the YMCA; and a member of the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Union, one of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning, dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture, and engineering. He is also a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Dr. Noah D. Drezner

Dr. Noah DreznerNoah D. Drezner is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and Program Director of the Higher and Postsecondary Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, founding editor of Philanthropy & Education (Indiana University Press), and Visiting Professor of Education and Philanthropic Studies at Beijing Normal University.  He is internationally known as a leading researcher on educational philanthropy. His research interests include philanthropy and fundraising as it pertains to colleges and universities, including higher education’s role in the cultivation of prosocial behaviors. Currently, Dr. Drezner’s work is based in identity-based philanthropy. In other words, he is researching how a person’s social identities affect their giving to higher education and how colleges and universities can engage their alumni in more inclusive ways. He is the co-PI for the National Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Alumni, a multi-institutional mixed methods project, and recently completed a population-based survey experiment, The National Alumni Giving Experiment, that evaluates how a person’s social identities affect their propensity to donate and at what level when exposed to different types of fundraising solicitations. Dr. Drezner has published numerous articles and six books and given several international presentations on related topics.

Phillip L. Clay

Phillip L.ClayPhillip L. Clay is the Class of 1922 Professor of City Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as MIT’s chancellor from 2001 to 2011 and before that held other positions there, including associate provost and head of the department of urban studies and planning.

Widely known for his work in U.S. housing policy and community-based development, Clay is chairman of the board of The Community Builders Inc., the nation’s largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing, and has been involved in several studies that received national attention.

He is also a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Aga Khan University, and serves on the board of directors of the MasterCard Foundation.

Dr. Felecia Commodore

Dr. Felecia CommodoreFelecia is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Foundations and Leadership at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.  Felecia’s research focus areas are leadership, governance, and administrative practices with a particular focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions. Her current work focuses on board practices, composition, and decision-making processes, specifically in the HBCU sector. Felecia’s research interests also lie in how leadership is exercised, constructed, and viewed in various communities, and the relationship of Black women and leadership. Felecia has currently has work relating to this research published in the Journal of Multicultural Education and the Journal of Negro Education. She is also contributor to HBCULifestyle.com, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Noodle.com. She is co-editor of the book Opportunities and Challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Graduate Education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): A Student Perspective.

Felecia has a background working as an admissions counselor and academic advisor at Trinity University, Washington, D.C. and University of Maryland, College Park respectively. Felecia received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education where she also worked as a Research Assistant for the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She also obtained an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD and a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Sociology from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.

Lee Bynum 

Lee Bynum Lee Bynum, senior program associate and associate director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, has been with the Diversity program since August 2012.  Prior to assuming this role, he served as program associate for Scholarly Communications and Information Technology at the Foundation.  Before joining the Foundation in 2011, Mr. Bynum served as the assistant director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, where he was responsible for the administration of the Latino/a, Asian American, Native American, and comparative ethnic studies programs.  He also spent a year as a visiting scholar at Caritas College in Hong Kong. 

In addition, Mr. Bynum has been active with a number of nonprofits, having served on the boards of the BLK Project, The Dream Unfinished, and Diaspora Community Services, and as the founding artistic director of the Harmony Theatre Company in New York City.  His historical research on ethnicity, immigration, and American popular culture has been published by the university presses of Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, New York University, University College Cork, Alberta, and University Autònoma de Barcelona, as well as Salem Press, Sage Publications, and Taylor and Francis.  He currently serves as the staff historian for WeAre2042.

Mr. Bynum is a graduate of Columbia University.  At the Foundation, Mr. Bynum administers grants to minority-serving institutions, as well as to diversity programs at liberal arts colleges and research universities.

William F.L. Moses 

William F.L. MosesWilliam F. L. Moses serves as managing director for The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program, which supports postsecondary access and success for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. The key architect of Kresge’s education programming, Bill leads the team’s continuum of domestic and international grant activities from developing program strategy, reviewing preliminary ideas, and helping grantees develop proposals or initiatives, to awarding funding and monitoring existing grants. Since his arrival at Kresge, Bill has served as a program officer and senior program officer, was instrumental in developing Kresge’s Green Building Initiative and has spearheaded the foundation’s grantmaking in SouthAfrica.

Before joining Kresge, Bill served as executive director of The Thomas J. Watson Foundation in Rhode Island and as a senior analyst at the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington, D.C. He also worked as a research officer at TechnoServe and held various administrative positions in Alaska’s state legislature and the federal government, including the U.S. Embassy in Cape Town, South Africa.
A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Bill holds a master’s degree in international relations from Yale University. He is the author of “A Guide to American State and Local Laws on South Africa” and co-author of “Corporate Responsibility in a Changing South Africa.” He was the co- chair of the seven-foundation Partnership for Higher Education in Africa and serves on the steering committee of the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group, an organization he co-founded. He also is a member of the National Advisory Board of The College Promise Campaign.

Scott Dalessandro

Scott Dalessandro As a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success strategy, Scott’s work focuses on strengthening and supporting the Frontier Set, a set of diverse higher education institutions and partner organizations who seek to accelerate student success. He also manages the foundation’s investments in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Prior to joining the foundation, Scott worked for the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, managing a regional program in Southern Africa to improve the flow of HIV prevention information for policy makers, health service providers, and program managers.  He earned a B.A. in French and Spanish from Hope College, and Master’s degrees from the University of Washington’s Information School (MLIS) and the Evans School of Public Policy (MPA). He has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and Africa, including as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher and teacher trainer in Bangladesh.

Lorenzo L. Esters

Lorenzo EstersAs Strada Education NetworkSM vice president, Philanthropy, Lorenzo L. Esters is responsible for grant making in support of Strada Education’s focus on Completion With a Purpose®. He reviews funding requests and ensures the achievement of the goals envisioned in Strada Education’s grant projects.

Esters’ primary focus is on areas that foster comprehensive and innovative strategies for colleges and universities to better support low-income and first-generation college attendees.

Prior to joining Strada Education Network, then known as USA Funds®, in 2014, Esters was vice president for student success and enrollment management at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Ky.

He previously served as vice president for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ Office of Access and the Advancement of Public Black Universities. Esters also served as senior adviser to the president of Dillard University in New Orleans and as a management and program analyst in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

His research and scholarly publications examine higher education leadership and equity, access and completion in higher education, with a specific focus on low-income and underrepresented students. Esters has served as an adjunct professor of English at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., and at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. He currently is a member of the board of trustees for Martin University in Indianapolis, and he is the former vice chairman of the board of trustees at Northern Virginia Community College, near Washington, D.C.

Esters is a summa cum laude graduate of Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss.; holds a master’s degree from Jackson State; and received a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Morgan State University in Baltimore. 

Eric Hart

Eric HartEric Hart began his tenure at Guilford College after spending the past seven years as senior associate athletic director at Delaware State University. Eric has worked in higher education for 17 years with the last 12 centered around athletic administration. He currently serves as a major gifts officer for the College with a particular focus on the Quaker Club. Hart is a former student-athlete at Appalachian State University as earned a degree in elementary education. He has graduated from both the NCAA’s Ethnic Minority Male and Female Leadership Institute and the Pathway’s Program for senior level athletic administrators with aspirations of becoming an athletic director. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in global sports leadership development from East Tennessee State University and is married to Erin Hill Hart, associate vice provost for enrollment at North Carolina A&T State University. He and Erin are the proud parents of a son, Ethan Daniel. 

Rob Henry

Rob HenryRob Henry is vice president of education at CASE where he is responsible for creating an overall global strategy for achieving CASE’s vision and mission related to talent management and for guiding conference programming, diversity/inclusion initiatives, research and the CASE Library.

Formerly an active CASE volunteer speaker and adviser, Rob joined the CASE staff in 2006 as head of emerging constituencies, later adding the responsibility for online educational programs. He previously held advancement management positions at Yale University, the University of Connecticut Foundation and Michigan State University.

Rob is a graduate of Murray State University and has a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. In 2006, he received the prestigious CASE Crystal Apple Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Dr. Danette Howard

Dr. Danette Howard

Danette Gerald Howard is Chief Strategy Officer at Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation focused solely on increasing student access and success in postsecondary education. Dr. Howard oversees several key areas designed to increase Americans’ attainment of high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials, including strategic work in both state and federal policy, and postsecondary finance. She also leads the Foundation’s efforts to mobilize and engage employers, metropolitan areas, higher education institutions and other key actors with a stake in increasing attainment, and efforts to build the learning infrastructure that is needed to facilitate the postsecondary ecosystem of the future.

Prior to joining Lumina, Howard served as Secretary of Higher Education in Maryland, leading the state’s postsecondary education coordinating agency, the Maryland Higher Education Commission. As secretary she oversaw Maryland’s statewide financial aid program, approved new academic programs and institutions seeking to operate in the state, and advised the governor and legislators on higher education policies and initiatives.

Dr. Howard earned her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University. She also received her master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and her Ph.D. in higher education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.

She resides in Indianapolis with her husband and children