Kalamazoo Community Foundation Board Selects New Leadership

KALAMAZOO – The Honorable Carolyn Williams and Mary Harper will become the chairperson and vice-chairperson respectively of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) board of trustees effective in January 2019.

Williams, a retired probate court judge, replaces Si Johnson as chairperson. Harper, an attorney and former money manager at Robert W. Baird, Inc., replaces Frank Sardone as vice-chairperson.

Johnson, a retired Styker Corporation executive, and Frank Sardone, president and CEO of Bronson Healthcare Group, have served as chairperson and vice-chairperson since 2014. Both remain on the board.

Williams, a KZCF trustee since 2009, said "I am very honored to have been selected by my fellow Community Foundation board members to serve as board chair of one of the most important nonprofit organizations in Kalamazoo County. I am following in the very large foot steps of many distinguished leaders, including Si Johnson and Barbara James who have preceded me in this role."

Williams, who has also served as board chair of the Greater Kalamazoo United Way and Communities In Schools, said, "The strong leadership of Carrie Pickett-Erway and the excellent professional staff will continue to carry out the mission and vision of the Community Foundation to promote diversity, equity and inclusion so that every person in our community can reach full potential."


(L) Hon. Carolyn Williams, chairperson; (R) Mary Harper, vice-chairperson

Barbara James, a CPA who joined the board in 2006 -- serving seven years as vice-chairperson and then chairperson -- leaves the board after reaching the three-term limit. Prior to joining the board, she served on several board committees for 10 years. James' board seat is being filled by Von Washington, Jr., executive director of The Kalamazoo Promise, who joins the board in January.

Meanwhile, Sydney Parfet, an attorney with Lake, Parfet & Schau, has also been appointed to the board effective January, filling a new trustee position on the nine-member board. Parfet and Washington are the newest appointees since Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, president of Kalamazoo College, joined the board in 2017.

At its Dec. 10 meeting, the board accorded James it highest tribute as Cum Gratia "for her unwavering dedication and devotion" to KZCF and the people of greater Kalamazoo. The board also appointed James as chair of KZCF's Trustee Emeritus Council.


Barbara James

According to the board resolution honoring James, she has "continuously provided outstanding guidance, insight and wise counsel to her board colleagues and the staff of the Community Foundation" and for the past 22 years "has provided a community-based, financial sector perspective and expertise to board deliberations, offering authentic and honest insight into the needs of a broad-based citizenry."


Major milestones for KZCF during James' tenure as board chairperson include the launch of the six-year countywide initiative, The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo; the three-year Lifeline Initiative in collaboration with the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region; settlement of the W.E. Upjohn Prizes Trust litigation; the move to KZCF's current location at East Michigan Avenue; adoption of a new vision and investment priorities of equity and education; and hiring the first woman president/CEO.

"We're very thankful to Si and Frank as they transition from their leadership positions, and look forward to having Carolyn and Mary in those roles," says President/CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway. "Meanwhile, our organization owes so much to Barbara for her years of tireless efforts achieving great results in what can be very challenging work. Kalamazoo County will forever bear the fruit of her labors."

Pickett-Erway added, "Barb served as an incredible mentor to me when I assumed the CEO role. She inspires me as a woman in leadership to continually rise to challenges and lead with integrity."

Trustees also decided on new committee chairs: Amy Upjohn, community volunteer, will chair the Community Investment Committee and Jim Escamilia, president/CEO of Byce & Associates, Inc., will chair the Impact Investment Committee; and Sardone will chair the Audit Committee.

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