Grand Victoria Foundation Board of Directors
Grand Victoria Foundation is governed by a diverse board of visionary leaders committed to the vision of a strong, livable and equitable Illinois where every resident has the opportunity to thrive.
Philip M. Kayman
Eric T. McKissack
Channing Capital Management
Nicholas J. Pritzker
Tao Capital Partners
Dr. Ushma Shah
Illinois School District U-46
Grand Victoria Foundation Staff
Sharon has over 20 years of nonprofit and business experience. She joined Grand Victoria Foundation in 2013 as Senior Program Officer and Director of Elgin Programs, was promoted to Managing Director in 2016 and appointed as the Foundation’s second executive director in 2018.
Sharon strongly values the economic and social contributions of the nonprofit sector. Throughout her career she has worked to ensure that the sector promotes equity and is highly capable of serving individuals and families throughout the Chicago region and the state. She has designed, led and participated in innovative collaborations that have resulted in the creation of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, a 12-member donor-advised fund; employment of over 5,000 public housing residents; and a $3 million-dollar federal award to improve the performance of the Chicago area’s workforce development system.
Sharon serves on the board of directors of Mikva Challenge Illinois and African American Legacy. She is an advisor to Willie’s Warriors, a leadership development initiative of Chicago Foundation for Women and to Greater Good Studio, a human-centered design firm that builds the capacity of communities to solve old problems in new ways. Sharon was an Association of Black Foundation Executives Connecting Leaders Fellow. She also is a former co-chair of Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy and the 2017 recipient of its Champion of Diversity Award. She has been a featured op-ed columnist in Crain’s Chicago Business on diversity and leadership.
Sharon was born and raised in Chicago. She earned a BS in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Master of Public Administration from Roosevelt University.
Oswaldo Alvarez leads the Foundation’s Elgin and Engagement grantmaking programs.
He has over 10 years of experience in the nonprofit field – ranging from ground-level program implementation to philanthropy and public policy implementation. He comes from the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, where he led the agency’s strategy on immigration, adult education, and apprenticeship programs – designing local programs that connect entry-level workers to training and education. Prior to this role, he was Program Officer at the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation managing the foundation’s Employment program. From 2007 to 2012, he directed workforce development initiatives at Erie Neighborhood House, guiding the program from a pilot with no budget to a fully-staffed department providing vocational education across three industry areas.
He holds a Master’s in Social Policy and Administration from the University of Chicago and a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Neeta leads the Foundation’s Economy grantmaking program. During her time at the foundation, she has actively worked to identify and support a portfolio of grantees focused on community-driven systems change. Through her grantmaking she helped to build and support the Illinois Digital Learning Lab, a platform for educators who work with adult learners to direct their own leadership and skill building through exploring the role of technology in teaching and learning. She also launched the Early Learning Leadership Circle, a group of local early learning collaborations in Illinois actively working to build their leadership capacity to support children and families in their communities.
Before joining Grand Victoria Foundation, Neeta worked in several roles that allowed her to support community leaders and organizations to realize their dreams. At the Charter School Growth Fund, she supported charter school leaders around the country to build strong, sustainable school models that give families more educational options. Prior to that, she worked with special education leaders in the New Orleans charter school system to develop support for solutions to challenges they saw in the system. Her work led to the launch of a new therapeutic school model in New Orleans that plays a key role in the education fabric of the community.
Neeta holds a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University Business School and a BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is an alum of Education Pioneers and the Broad Residency in Urban Education through which she earned a Master’s in Education Leadership.
Fanny Diego Alvarez
Fanny leads the Foundation’s Education grantmaking program.Prior to this role, Fanny led the creation of the Sustainable Community Schools project at Chicago Public Schools. This effort was born out of a grassroots community education campaign and a contract negotiation between the school district and the Chicago Teachers Union. The jointly created initiative supports neighborhood schools by investing in wraparound support services, restorative justice practices, high-quality teaching, inclusive leadership, culturally relevant curricula and family engagement.
From 2004 to 2017, Fanny worked at Enlace Chicago, a grassroots community-based organization on the city’s west side. Some of her roles included education organizer, director of education, and associate director. Under her leadership, Enlace expanded and deepened its work in out of school time programming, social emotional learning development, post-secondary readiness, family engagement, and collective impact and resident led strategies.
Fanny is a proud graduate of neighborhood public schools. Fanny earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an AM in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.
Mary Kay Francel
Finance and Administration Director
Mary Kay manages the finance, administration, and talent systems of the Foundation. She is responsible for managing efficient operations that reflect our values and developing and executing strategy that strengthens and maximizes the human resources and capacity of the organization, ensuring that we are well-positioned to invest in our people and grantees.
During her tenure, Mary Kay has been instrumental in the development and implementation of two key initiatives – CommunityWorks and Vital Lands Illinois. Mary Kay coordinated grants for each of the programs as well as regional and annual meetings of the grantee and partner networks.
She joined the Foundation in 2003, from the corporate sector where she was Assistant Vice President for a premium finance company. Previously, she was an analyst for a construction escrow company and a family office. Mary Kay holds a Master of Business Administration from DePaul University, a Master Certificate in Accountancy from Keller Graduate School of Business, and a professional certificate in Human Resources from DePaul University. She enjoys the different seasons—football, basketball, baseball, and hockey—that Chicago offers.
Mary Ellen Prischman
Mary Ellen joined the Foundation in 2009 working as Manager of Accounting and Office Administration. Now as Program Associate, she provides support to our Economy, Elgin and Engagement programs and the Vital Lands Illinois Network. Her responsibilities include supporting research and analysis on issues related to the programs, grant analysis necessary to help manage the programs and grant budgets and organizing meetings and other relevant administrative support.
Mary Ellen has enjoyed working as a volunteer ESL teacher in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. She was a participant of the Crossroads Fund’s Giving Project, which brings together community building, political education, fundraising, and grantmaking for the benefit of groups organizing for racial, social, and economic justice.
Mary Ellen came from the graphic arts sector where she started as a technician in photography and lithography and moved into the graphic design field as an office manager.
Manager of Grants and Program Administration
As the Manager of Grants and Program Administration, Jeanna is responsible for managing and improving the Foundation’s grants process and helping to better understand the impact of our work.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Jeanna worked as the Manager of Operations and Development at 3Arts, a nonprofit arts service and grantmaking organization that advocates for Chicago’s women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities.
She is currently in her third year serving as a steering committee member for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, a nonprofit organization working to advance accessibility and inclusion across the Chicago region’s vast cultural space.
Ada is responsible for providing administrative, research, and communications support to the executive director. She manages the website and foundation-wide communications with grantees and partners.
She joined the Foundation in 2014 where she was the Program Administrator for the Elgin grantmaking program and a founding member of Elgin Gives, a collaboration between nonprofits, the City of Elgin, and the business community to create a giving day for the city. She is co-chair of Peak Grantmaking Midwest chapter membership committee and former co-chair of its communications committee.
Ada was raised in upstate New York and later moved to Chicago working to support the passage of the Illinois Clean Water Act. She found a niche working in family owned and operated businesses with strong community ties. Her roles supported executives leading operations, sales, marketing, and customer service teams.