Board of Directors
Founder & Honorary Chair
Neal Ball founded American Refugee Committee (now Alight) back in 1978 and set the tone for what this organization would be right from the start - all about people helping people. After he had himself sponsored a Laotian refugee and his family to resettle in the U.S., Neal incorporated ARC in Chicago in December of 1978 as an organization reuniting refugee families and mobilizing everyday Americans to sponsor refugees and help them resettle and learn to live here in the U.S.
It wasn't until October of 1979 - and seeing the camps in Thailand for himself - that Neal and ARC's first Executive Director Stan Breen sent a volunteer medical team to Ban Vinai refugee camp in northern Thailand and ARC actually began its international programs... programs that now span many countries around the world ...and have touched dozens of other countries and millions of people through the years.
Dr. Brenda Cassellius
Dr. Brenda Cassellius has spent three decades as an educator devoted to helping all children succeed and thrive. Throughout her career she has had many accomplishments in school systems in Minnesota and Tennessee, including redesigning programs to put students first and leading an integration and achievement agenda. She also implemented the Minneapolis Secondary Redesign and reformed school districts in Tennessee, resulting in accelerated gains, narrowed achievement gaps, and the end of corporal punishment.
Most recently as Boston Public School Superintendent she led the district through three school years impacted by the global pandemic. A respected educator throughout her profession and across partisan lines, Dr. Cassellius is best known for her unrelenting advocacy and commitment to ensuring all children are given an equitable and excellent education. Leading for equity, Dr. Cassellius passed historic admission policies at the nation’s oldest public school and raised college and career graduation requirements for all high schools, garnering the highest graduation rates on record. Dr. Cassellius also worked alongside three Mayors to invest 110 million dollars in annual ongoing funding and a 2-billion-dollar investment in capital funding. Dr. Cassellius is credited with prioritizing, listening to the community, and implementing practices and policies that systemically improve equitable student outcomes.
As Minnesota's commissioner of education from 2011- 2019 Dr. Cassellius worked to enact comprehensive education reforms that benefited every child throughout the state. Her straightforward, community-driven approach resulted in a remarkable list of accomplishments, including historic new funding for schools, the enactment of all-day kindergarten, state-funded preschool for 25,000 three- and four-year-old children, and the highest high school graduation rates on record. She is most proud of the work she did regarding equitable policies such as reforming Achievement and Integration aid, American Indian Education Aid, School Lunch Aid, Anti-bullying legislation and the development of a Transgender Toolkit.
Dr. Cassellius has been married to Jason for 23 years. She is the proud mother of three children, Christian Michel (33), Ani Grace (22), and Charles Justice (21). Outside of work, she enjoys playing amateur women’s hockey, water skiing, writing, and spending time with family and friends.
Governor Mark Dayton
Mark Dayton served as Minnesota’s 40th Governor from 2011 to 2019. Among his most significant accomplishments were: He raised personal income taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans, which helped turn chronic state budget deficits into surpluses that were used to fund all-day kindergarten statewide, greatly expand early childhood learning opportunities, and bring the federal Medicaid program to over 500,000 uninsured Minnesotans.
Mark also championed marriage equality and signed into law the right of every Minnesotan to marry the person he or she loves. He increased protections for Minnesota’s lakes and rivers from contaminating runoffs and other pollution. And he protected essential social services from drastic cuts by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Previously, Mark was elected as both State Auditor and United States Senator. He was one of just 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. As a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he visited Minnesota soldiers in Iraq three times, on Korea’s DMZ twice, and in Afghanistan once. He also obtained the first federal funding for Minnesota’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program,” which supported returning war heroes and their families.
Before elective office, Mark taught for two years in a public school on the Lower East Side of New York City, and worked as a runway house counselor and financial administrator for a Boston social service agency.
He was born in Minneapolis in 1947 and grew up in Long Lake. He graduated from Blake School in Hopkins, where he was president of the Student Council and an All-State hockey goalie, and from Yale University, cum laude, where he played Division I hockey.
Mark is devotedly married to the former Ana Orke; they live in Minneapolis. He is the proud father of two grown sons, Eric and Andrew, and a grandfather of three wonderful grandsons. He also loves his two German shepherds, Wanamingo and Itasca.
N. Lynn Hiestand
N. Lynn Hiestand is a retired partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. During her almost 30-year tenure at Skadden, she helped develop the firm's Corporate Restructuring Department, transforming the practice from a litigation-based practice to one that takes a multidisciplinary, transactional-oriented approach to addressing challenges faced by distressed companies. She focused on the international aspects of restructuring, as well as advice to senior management on all facets of operating within a restructuring environment. Lynn relocated to Skadden's London office to found and lead the firm's corporate restructuring practice in Europe, specializing in troubled company M&A transactions, complex financial restructurings involving clients with global operations, and reorganization proceedings in multiple jurisdictions around the world.
Lynn retired from the firm and in 2011 moved to Iraq to serve first as Legal Programs Director and then as Iraq Country Director for Heartland Alliance International. Heartland is a human rights organization that works in several countries around the world to serve the needs of marginalized populations. It has been working in Iraq since 2004 to strengthen the rule of law and human rights protections by providing legal, mental health and other services to vulnerable Iraqis throughout the Kurdistan Region and Southern Iraq. In addition to her board service, her most important job is caring for three young grandsons and elderly mother.
Currently, Lynn is a trustee for JUSTICE, a London-based law reform and human rights charity, working to reform the UK justice system with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized. Lynn is a founding director and president of Common Threads Project Inc., whose mission is to help women heal from the enduring psychological effects of sexual and gender-based violence in the context of war and displacement. Common Threads Project focuses on building local capacity through training, launching scalable interventions, and promoting efficacy research.
Lynn graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Georgetown Law Center. She lives off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and is part of Kiawah Island's Turtle Patrol, which protects loggerhead turtles. In addition to her non-profit board service, she helps care for her three grandsons and elderly mother.
Vanessa is a dynamic brand leader and marketing strategist with an established track record of creating, launching, extending and growing global brands. She is known for creating visually-led, deeply immersive and emotionally resonant integrated omnichannel brand experiences, incorporating innovative partnerships and generating multimedia content, that enriches and nurtures customer relationships and adds long term value.
Having held roles such as Chief Marketing Officer of J. Crew, Editor in Chief at lifestyle bible Martha Stewart Living, Senior Vice President at homeware mecca West Elm, and founder of recently launched creative collective community Soul Safari – Vanessa Holden’s resume doesn’t have much spare room. At J. Crew she led creative, brand, public relations, social and performance marketing teams to create integrated omnichannel brand communications and experiences across all owned, earned and paid channels. Engaged as strategic partner and functional lead on a transformation team that successfully delivered in Q2 2018 the first positive comp growth at J. Crew Group in over 15 consecutive quarters. This Sydney native made New York City her permanent home after relocating in 2004 to be the Creative Director of Real Simple magazine.
Martha (Muffy) MacMillan
Muffy has served as a Director on the board of Cargill Inc. and as a Director on the Cargill Foundation, her family business. She serves on many international, national and local boards, such as; Chairman of the American Federation of Arts (New York), Chairman of Global Minnesota, and Director on the boards of Opportunity International, including chairing their $50,000,000 agriculture capital campaign and currently chairing Women and Girls Leadership Initiative, Ellis Island Honors Society (New York), Opportunity International Colombia S.A. Compañía de Financiamiento (OI Bank Colombia), The Economic Club of Minnesota, The Walker Art Center, Twin Cities Public Television, PACER Center, Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee), and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
In 2015, Muffy was honored to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The EIMH is given to individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate, doing so while acknowledging their debt to their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America. In 2015, Muffy also received the Pioneer Award from The Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization, at the United Nations, which honors distinguished women who are leaders and innovators with inspiring accomplishments. In 2019, Muffy received the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist honor from the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
For the past 25 years, she has been a board member, donor, fundraiser, and/or volunteer for many organizations such as; Minnesota Children’s Museum, Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Blake School, Governor for Eleven Who Care, ARC and Minneapolis Institute of Art. Through her non profit work, Muffy has been privileged to spend time in over twenty five countries, including extensive time throughout Africa, India, Colombia, to mention a few. She is an active participant who enjoys being fully engaged with each organization’s mission and brings experience, leadership, energy and financial support to help reach their goals and objectives. Her passion for family and raising 5 children always remains in the forefront.
Owen is a recognized Global Hearing Health advocate with over 15 years of experience in the Ear and Hearing Healthcare industry. Representing Starkey, Owen has forged strategic collaborations across diverse platforms – including the private sector, governments, NGOs, and key industry stakeholders. His relentless efforts center on developing and institutionalizing public-health strategies for sustainable ear and hearing healthcare programs, particularly in regions such as Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and the Caribbean.
A fervent believer in community-based Hearing Healthcare, Owen is dedicated to eradicating barriers and facilitating access to quality hearing healthcare for the underserved. His transformative initiatives have touched the lives of thousands across the globe, providing them with the gift of sound and significantly improving their quality of life. Owen's contributions extend to his close association with the World Health Organization's program for the prevention of deafness and hearing loss. Here, he has been pivotal in spearheading and supporting groundbreaking initiatives aimed at enhancing global access to crucial hearing healthcare.
In his current role as the Vice President of Sales and Operations for Latin America and Africa and supporting Strategic Global Initiatives under Starkey Cares at Starkey Hearing Technologies, Owen's commitment to the cause remains unwavering. He continues to advocate for hearing health and remains at the forefront of championing revolutionary technologies that promise to elevate the life experiences of those with hearing loss.
Beyond his professional pursuits, Owen's dedication to societal well-being is evident in his role as a board member of Alight and the Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation. Moreover, his support and involvement with myriad hearing health organizations on a global scale is a testament to his commitment to creating lasting, positive change in the lives of countless individuals.
Owen embodies the spirit of advocacy, innovation, and global collaboration, always striving for a world where sound healthcare is accessible and transformative for all.
Gregory R. Page
Greg Page is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cargill. Page joined Cargill in 1974 as a trainee assigned to the Feed Division. Over the years, he held a number of positions in the United States and Singapore. Page worked with the start-up of a poultry processing operation in Thailand, the beef and pork processing operations of Cargill’s Excel subsidiary in Wichita, Kansas, and the Financial Markets Group in Minneapolis.
Page serves as a member of the board of directors of Eaton Corporation, Deere & Company and 3M. He is non-executive Chairman of the Board of Corteva Agriscience. He is past-chair of the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, past president of the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America and continues to serve on both boards as well as the board of Alight (formerly known as the American Refugee Committee).
Page received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of North Dakota. He was born in Bottineau, N.D.
Virginia is the Vice President of Global Purpose Communications at NIKE, Inc. In this key enterprise leadership role, she leads a communications team that elevates and advances Nike’s purpose in the company and in the world. Working across the NIKE, Inc. portfolio, Virginia drives the holistic storytelling and engagement across Nike’s sustainability, social and community impact, and diversity and inclusion efforts. This includes the publication of Nike’s annual Impact Report.
Previous roles Virginia has held at Nike include serving on the Global Sustainability Leadership team driving Engagement and Advocacy, and leading global partnerships for the Girl Effect and the Nike Foundation. Before joining Nike, Virginia owned her own consulting firm advising philanthropists and major foundations. She has experience in both the public and private sectors including roles at Bloomberg LP, the American Embassy in London, and serving in the Clinton West Wing for Legislative Affairs.
Virginia is a current board member of Alight, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization and was previously on the Chatham House North America Advisory Board and a US-UK Fulbright Commissioner.
Mary Farnham Whitney
Educated and trained in Early Childhood Education, Family Relations and Social Work, Mary first worked for the Children's Home Society of Minnesota in the then emerging area of Post-Legal Adoption. She has since done consulting work in the philanthropy sector and Interior Design. Mary participated in a broad array of public engagement activities while her husband served as the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, living in Oslo for 3 ½ years. She has been an active and engaged member of the board at numerous non-profits including the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, the Persephone Foundation, the Children's Museum of Oslo project, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and most recently Alight, formerly American Refugee Committee. The co-owner of a Gallery of Art and fine Craft, her hobbies include design, community volunteering, and her family.
Whitney Williams has worked on the front lines of domestic and global development for two decades. Her core skill is forging teams of divergent, unlikely, and powerful players to advance the common good worldwide.
She established williamsworks to serve individuals, foundations, and advocacy organizations by bringing clients’ goals into sharper focus and by guiding action to achieve those goals. Whitney’s deep experience in strategy, government relations, and grassroots advocacy inform and develop solutions that are creative, unique, and appropriate to the needs of clients.
Whitney is personally involved in developing strategies, positioning clients, and devising and delivering international and domestic learning experiences. Her in-depth understanding of the complexity of working worldwide and her knowledge of uncertain political environments ensure that clients’ grant-making and advocacy succeed.
Whitney also serves as co-founder and vice-chair of the board for the Eastern Congo Initiative, the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-making organization focused solely on working with and for the people of Eastern Congo. In this role, she oversees millions of dollars in grants to dozens of local Congolese community-based organizations, as well as a broad U.S. and international advocacy agenda to foster sound public policy for the DRC. Believing in the transformative power of storytelling to shape culture and history, Whitney founded Snowbird Stories where she helps bring historically underrepresented communities’ stories to life. Before founding williamsworks, she served in pivotal roles, on the senior staff, of Casey Family Programs and in the White House for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Whitney is the Founder of Snowbird Fund which is a first of its kind fund giving direct financial support to Montana Native families conducting community searches for their missing loved ones. Dedication to the common good and public service runs in Whitney’s family. Her mother, Carol Williams, was the first woman elected both majority and minority leader of the Montana Senate, and her father, Pat Williams, served as Montana’s distinguished congressman for nine terms. In 2020, Whitney was a candidate for Governor in her home state of Montana.
Whitney is a graduate of the University of Montana in Political Science and Wilderness and Native American Studies. She, and her English Shepard Seamus, live in Missoula, Montana, where Whitney is an active volunteer, serves on the Board for Alight, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana.