Press Release

Illinois Humanities Council Adds Six Members to Board of Directors

CHICAGO, IL- July 3, 2013— The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) Board of Directors is pleased to announce that effective July 1st, six distinguished Illinoisans: Julia Kennedy Beckman, Susan Eleuterio, Nancy Shepherdson, Cecilia Vaisman, and Kiki Stathakis joined the board. 

Each will begin a three-year term, and be eligible for two more terms. Julia and Nancy both are Gubernatorial appointed members of the IHC Board. 

Julia Kennedy Beckman is a Job Coach with Challenger, Gray and Christmas and Associates, a premier outplacement company headquartered in Chicago.  She holds a B.A. Degree, Phi Beta Kappa, in Music Education from the University of Iowa and a M.S. degree in Industrial Relations with Distinction from Loyola University of Chicago.   Julia has served twenty years as member of the Board of Education for Community High School District 99 in DuPage County, ten as President.  She also represents the district on the board of the School Association of Special Education in DuPage County (SASED), and is a former Chairman of the Legislative Education Network of DuPage (LEND), an advocacy consortium representing the interests of public education in Springfield.  She maintains her involvement in music by directing her church choir. Julia began her tenure with the board this April.    

Susan Eleuterio is an independent folklorist, educator, and consultant to non-profits working in the Midwest. She has conducted fieldwork and developed public programs and professional development programs for organizations around the Midwest and country. She is the author of Irish American Material Culture: A Directory of Collections, Sites and Festivals in the United States and Canada (Greenwood Press: 1988). She formerly served as the Director of Ethnic and Folk Arts, Literature and Presenters Programs for the Illinois Arts Council and has co-developed two non-profits, South Shore GRANTS Inc. which provides organizational development skills to nonprofit organizations and Company of Folk, which documents and showcases the folk and local culture of the southern shores of Lake Michigan including Chicago. Eleuterio holds an MA in American Folk Culture from the Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY/Oneonta) and a BA in English/Education from the University of Delaware. 

Mae Hong is the Director of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ (RPA) Chicago office. In this role she is responsible for building RPA’s presence in serving individual donors, foundations and corporations throughout the Midwest. Bringing 15 years of nonprofit and philanthropy experience to RPA, she previously served as Program Director at the Field Foundation of Illinois. She is past chair of the board of Chicago Foundation for Women. Current board service includes Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and the Daystar Center. She completed her graduate work in social service administration at The University of Chicago. Prior to entering the nonprofit sector, she worked in the publishing industry following her graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Nancy Shepherdson is an award-winning author and freelance journalist. In 2012, Nancy won the American Society of Journalists and Authors service book of the year (honorable mention) for Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition, written with Ann Rhoades, one of the co-founders of JetBlue Airways. She is the Illinois State Central Democratic Committeewoman, 8th district, and is a delegate to the Northeast Illinois Labor Council, AFL-CIO. She has served on the boards of many civic and professional groups and launched a well-respected writers’ conference called Writers and Editors One on One that operated for 15 years. She has also taught journalism courses for the University of Chicago, UCLA, and the University of Denver adult education programs, both in person and online. Nancy holds an MA, Economics, University of Michigan and MBA, Marketing and Finance, Northwestern University, and is a native of Peoria, Illinois. 

Cecilia Vaisman is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the Medill School, Northwestern University, and a public radio and multimedia producer based in Chicago. Her radio features and documentaries have been broadcast on All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Living on Earth, Latino USA, Radio Bilingüe, and many other public and community broadcasting outlets throughout the Americas. An award-winning journalist, Vaisman worked on staff at NPR in Washington for several years before co-founding the independent media cooperative, Homelands Productions. Cecilia is a graduate in Latin American Studies at Barnard College and holds a Masters of Education from the University of Illinois Chicago.  Prior to joining the Medill faculty, Vaisman was Project Editor at WBEZ and taught courses in political science, and in Latino and Gender Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Notre Dame.  

Kiki Stathakis is the Producer for Getting to Know, Inc., an educational media production company based in Chicago. She has been an independent representative for many television commercial production companies in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

“We are so pleased to add these wonderful Illinoisans to our board of directors,” said Kristina Valaitis, IHC Executive Director. “They each bring a deep appreciation of the humanities, knowledge of the state, and individual creativity and expertise to the IHC and our work throughout the state.”  

With these additions, 36 members now comprise the Illinois Humanities Council Board of Directors. They are: 

Deborah Epstein (Chicago), Chair; Danielle Allen (Ex Officio); Josh Andrews (Chicago); Julia Kennedy Beckman (Darien); H.O Brownback (Ashland); Elizabeth (Betsy) Cadwallader (Wilmette); Michelle L. Collins (Chicago); Marvin J. Dickman (Highland Park); Michael C. Dorf (Chicago); Susan Eleuterio (Chicago); Maria L. Finitzo (Wilmette); Virginia Gerst (Chicago); Adam P. Green (Chicago); Alton B. Harris (Chicago); Mae Hong (Chicago); Jane A. Hays (Champaign); Joel F. Henning (Chicago); J. Paul Hunter (Chicago); Falona Joy (Chicago); Dwight A. Mcbride (Chicago); Grayson Mitchell (Chicago); Anita Nagler (Chicago); James M. Newcomb (Wilmette); Gregory N. Petrowich (Carbondale); Robert P. Scales (Chicago); Karen Schmidt (Bloomington); Nancy Shepherdson (Lake Zurich); Kiki Stathakis (Chicago); Gerald Skoning (Chicago); Arthur M. Sussman (Chicago) Roger L. Taylor (Galesburg); Maria (Nena) Torres (Chicago); Kay Torshen (Chicago); Cecilia Vaisman (Chicago); The Honorable George Van Dusen (Skokie); and Theodoros G. Zervas (Chicago). 

The IHC accepts public nominations for new Board members throughout the year. For more information about the IHC, call 312.422.5580 or visit

About the Illinois Humanities Council  

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.  

Media Contact:
Carlos Velázquez
(312) 422-5580, x233