Jason Eckert – Executive Director
Jason has 25 years of professional experience in the Blind and Vision Impaired community. He is widely regarded for his skills in working closely with providers and community partners to remove impediments to success and foster the development of innovative, goal-oriented programs. Jason began his career as a Rehabilitation Counselor providing career services at Lighthouse International (now Lighthouse Guild). In 2000 he joined the New York State Commission for the Blind, where he rose to become Downstate Regional Coordinator, a position he held for seven years prior to joining the team at Partners for Sight. Jason holds many postgraduate certifications in counseling, has completed several government executive training programs, and received many management and leadership awards. He has lectured widely on topics related to blindness and vision impairment across New York State. Jason earned an M.A. in Counseling and a B.A. in Psychology from The George Washington University.
Dianna Kelly-Naghizadeh – Grant Program Manager
Dianna manages the Foundation’s wide-ranging grant program including planning and implementation as well as compliance and grant reporting.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Foundation’s Board of Directors are passionate about improving the lives of blind and visually impaired individuals. They generously volunteer their time and expertise, bringing experience from a multitude of backgrounds, both professional and personal, to the Foundation’s mission. Our Board supports the Foundation in its efforts to effectively partner with grantee organizations to provide the tools and resources necessary for those they serve to live productive, independent lives. They also support the Foundation’s large print reading materials to ensure continued access to reading for individuals with low vision.
Matthew G. Krieger – Board Chair
Matthew Krieger is a technologist and executive with experience in IT, manufacturing and publishing. He is President at Cober, Inc. and previously held senior IT leadership positions at Time, Inc. and Reader’s Digest Association. Matthew is Chief Technology Officer and sits on the Leadership Team of the SCORE Fairfield County Connecticut chapter and is Chair of the Southern Connecticut State University Computer Science Technical Advisory Committee. Matthew is also on the advisory board of Cyber-Seniors and until recently served on the Advisory Board for the Baruch College Computer Center for Visually Impaired People, having been part of a team that successfully transitioned the Center to a new home. Matthew is a frequent presenter on topics of business and technology. Matthew is also creator of Whysper, a platform allowing the consumption of text content as high quality text to speech. Matthew is a member of the Finance and Investment and Governance Committees.
James Deremeik – Vice Chair
Jim is a Certified Low Vision Therapist and member of the faculty of the Lions Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. He holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Arkansas. Jim has served in a variety of leadership positions within AER (Assoc. for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), including Chair of the Low Vision Rehab Division. He has won several awards for his leadership in the field and has published and lectured widely. Jim is the Vice Chair and a member of the Governance Committee.
Rob Hilliard – Secretary
Rob is a digital technology executive with extensive IT and business transformation leadership experience managing and implementing digital solutions for large enterprises and start-ups. He currently works as Chief Information Officer for Academic Partnerships in Dallas, TX. Rob holds an MBA from Babson College. He currently serves as the Secretary and is a member of the Finance and Investment Committee.
John Krieger – Treasurer
John brings to the post a 35 year career in Financial and operations consulting, starting with Coopers & Lybrand, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He has Installed financial and performance measurement systems in many industries from banking and insurance to mining and manufacturing. His work includes acting as Financial Director a multi-company research program for the petroleum industry that spanned five currencies on four continents. John holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Hartford and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Angela C. Winfield, Esq.
Angela is a diversity, equity and inclusion executive specializing in developing innovative solutions and strategic initiatives to diversify key constituencies and enhance organizational culture. Angela currently is the Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at Cornell University. She is also admitted to the New York bar and is Of Counsel with Barclay Damon in its higher education, labor and employment and Commercial Litigation practice groups. Angela earned her J.D. from Cornell Law School and her B.A. from Barnard College of Columbia University.
Donna is a direct marketing professional with global expertise. Experienced at developing and launching new businesses, marketing, and communications. She currently works as Chief of Staff, Data Governance at Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets. Donna holds an MBA in Marketing Management from Pace University and a Digital Marketing certification from NYU. Donna serves on the Audit Committee.
William F. O’Connell O.D.
Bill is a Optometrist currently working with Low Vision veterans at the Hudson Valley V.A. Previously he served as Director of Low Vision Services at the Westchester Lighthouse, SUNY Optometry, and Montefiore Medical Center.
He is a Diplomate in Low Vision of the American Academy of Optometry and past chair of the Low Vision Section and Diplomate program. He is a past board member and Chair of the NY State Board for Optometry. He has lectured internationally on Low Vision to doctors and residents in Optometry and Ophthalmology for more than 40 years.
Elise has over 30 years experience working in the field of rehabilitation. For 23 years, she worked at the International Center for the Disabled with individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI), 13 of those years as Assoc. Director of the Cognitive Rehabilitation Program. For 8 years, she was Director of the Vocational Rehabilitation Dept. at the Lighthouse Guild, serving individuals who are blind and visually impaired. She conducted workshops at several Conferences across the state on the relationship between TBI and vision loss. Elise is currently retired. She holds a Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from NYU.
Mark G. Ackermann
Mark G. Ackermann comes to RDPFS with more than 40 years of experience in non-profit management, including senior management positions in healthcare, vision, and education organizations. Currently he is the principal of his own management and fundraising consulting firm that works with not-for-profit institutions. Previously Mark served as the chief executive of Lighthouse International and as executive vice president of its successor organization Lighthouse Guild, a leading not-for-profit organization addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. During that time, he was also chair of the VisionServe Alliance, the Vision 2020 Foundation, and the Macular Disease Alliance International. Mark currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the United States Association of Blind Athletes (A member organization of the Team USA Paralympic Organization). Mark holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Catholic University of America and a Master of Science Degree in Not-For-Profit Management from New York University. He has served as an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University; the Graduate School of Management and Urban Professions of the New School University; a Clinical Instructor in the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of New York University; and a Visiting Professor at Drew University. He is currently on the boards of Foundation for Justice and Peace in the Vatican and is a special advisor to the Path to Peace Foundation at the Vatican’s Mission to the United Nations.
Naima K. West
Naima West is an accounting professional with extensive experience in performing, planning, and managing complex audit assignments for not-for-profit organizations. After a twelve-year career in retail, Naima changed her trajectory to pursue a career in public accounting. She is currently an audit manager at Blazek and Vetterling, a Houston-based CPA firm specializing in audit and tax services for not-for-profit organizations. Her work at Blazek and Vetterling allows Naima to fulfill her passion for serving the nonprofit community while also engaging in a career that she loves. In addition to her role as audit manager, Naima is a founding member of the firm’s Community Engagement Committee, which identifies and organizes fundraising and volunteer opportunities that enable the firm to serve charitable organizations in Houston and the surrounding areas. Naima holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting degree from the University of Houston-Downtown.