Advisory Board


Cynthia Berenson

Cynthia Berenson’s strong commitment to social justice, human rights, and gender equality issues have guided her involvement in the educational and service mission of Brandeis University for almost two decades.

In 1995, she established the Director’s Office in the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), where she co-chairs the National Board of the WSRC and the Scholars Program. With her husband, Theodore Berenson, she endowed a Faculty Chair within the University’s Department of Fine Arts. Berenson and her family, including sister-in-law Helaine Allen, also endowed the Allen-Berenson Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Women’s Studies within the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, where Berenson has served on the board for the past 11 years.

In 2008, Berenson and her husband donated the Cynthia and Theodore Berenson Center for Advanced Endoscopy at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She chaired the Lion of Judah event for the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs in 1998, where she also served for four years as Education Chair on the Women’s Division Board. Berenson previously served on the boards of the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Guide Dogs of the Desert.

Katie Ford

Katie Ford is the founder and CEO of Freedom For All (formerly The Katie Ford Foundation), an organization dedicated to the eradication of slavery. The not-for-profit foundation works with partners in India, Brazil, Ghana, the United States, and the Philippines. Their efforts focus on encouraging and facilitating systemic changes within these countries, freeing and advocating for enslaved victims, and supporting governments in their long-term strategies to improve justice, social welfare, and educational systems.

Ford previously served as Global Ambassador for Free the Slaves. She is the former CEO and Chairman of Ford Models. During her leadership, she expanded the agency with offices in France, Brazil, and Canada. In 2008, she resigned from Ford Models to focus on the abolition of slavery.  

Michele Kessler

Michele Kessler is the director of community relations at The Kessler Group and co-founder and director of the Kessler Family Foundation. She is on the board of overseers of Babson College in Boston, a trustee of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and serves on the boards of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Leadership Council for Psychiatry. She also serves on the boards of the William J. Clinton Foundation, The American Ireland Fund, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Civic Association, and the American Cancer Society of Palm Beach.

Kessler is the global ambassador of the measles initiative for the American Red Cross and is the Honorary Consul of Monaco in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2011, Kessler and her husband Howard announced the creation in Boston of the Kessler Center of Excellence at Partners HealthCare, which fuels various initiatives at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In 2012, the Kesslers were awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, honoring their commitment “to creating a better world for us all.”

Jonathan Lavine

Jonathan Lavine, a philanthropist and prominent Boston-based businessperson, is managing partner and chief investment officer of Sankaty Advisors, the credit affiliate of Bain Capital.

Before starting Sankaty in 1997, Lavine worked in Bain Capital’s private equity business, McKinsey & Company, and at investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. Lavine sits on the Board of Trustees of Columbia University, serves as the chairman of the Columbia College Board of Visitors, and is a member of the boards of several Boston area organizations, including City Year, Children’s Hospital Trust, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Stand for Children, and the Dana Hall School.

In 2012, as part of its centennial celebrations, the Anti-Defamation League of New England honored Lavine with its highest honor, the Distinguished Community Service Award, in recognition of his “immense civic leadership and influence to affect positive change in our community.”A director and member of the ownership group of the Boston Celtics, Lavine was named in 2004 as one of Boston Business Journal’s 40 outstanding Bostonians under the age of 40.

Lavine received his MBA, with Distinction, from Harvard Business School, and a BA, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Columbia College, which awarded him the 2008 John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement.

In June 2013, Lavine was an inaugural recipient of the Columbia College Dean’s Leadership Award.

Julia Ormond

Julia Ormond is the founder and president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET), a counter-human trafficking organization that is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and Humanity United’s Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking.

Based in California, ASSET was the original sponsor for the groundbreaking California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657), a law which requires large retailers and manufacturers in California to disclose any policies they have in place to safeguard their supply chains against slavery.

Ormond is an award-winning actress whose film credits include “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Che,” among many others; in 2010 she won an Emmy Award for her supporting role in the HBO film “Temple Grandin.” She executive-produced the documentary “Calling the Ghosts: A Story about Rape, War and Women,” which won a CableACE Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. In the 2004 HBO film “Iron Jawed Angels,” which focused on the American women’s suffrage movement in the 1910s, Ormond played a leading role along with Hilary Swank, Frances O’Connor, and Anjelica Huston.

Ormond is a former UN Goodwill Ambassador for anti-human trafficking initiatives.

George Packer

George Packer, an author and staff writer for The New Yorker since 2003, writes often about foreign affairs and politics.

His most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America,” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012), which iTunes Bookstore named one of 2013’s “Ten Books You Must Read This Summer.”

His previous New York Times bestseller, “The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), was named one of that year’s ten best books by the New York Times and won both the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award and an Overseas Press Club Book Award.

His book “Blood of the Liberals” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), which explores the legacy and future of American liberalism through the three generations of Packer’s politically active family , won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Parker has contributed numerous articles, essays, and reviews on foreign affairs, American politics, and literature to the New York Times Magazine, Dissent, Mother Jones, Harper’s, and other publications.

Packer's play, “Betrayed,” ran in Manhattan for five months in 2008 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. He taught writing at Harvard, Bennington, and Columbia, served in the Peace Corps in Togo, and was a 2001-02 Guggenheim Fellow.

Mariane Pearl

Mariane Pearl is an award-winning journalist and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Sunday Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour magazine, Self magazine and more.

After the murder of her husband by a militant group in Pakistan in 2002, Mariane Pearl wrote the New York Times bestselling book “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Daniel Pearl” (Scribner, 2003). Pearl’s memoir has won international praise, has been translated into 15 languages, and was made into a 2007 movie starring Angelina Jolie.

Her second book, “In Search of Hope: The Global Diaries of Mariane Pearl,” (Powerhouse, 2007) is a collection of Pearl’s columns from Glamour magazine that profile inspiring women around the world.

Pearl has received multiple awards and honors, including the National Headliners Award for magazine writing, the American Women in Radio and Television Award, Glamour’s Woman of the Year Award, and the French Prix “Vérité” award for excellence in nonfiction writing.

She currently serves as the managing editor of Chime for Change, a global journalism platform focusing on women and girls, in partnership with the International Herald Tribune and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Alexandra Schuster

Alexandra Schuster is a journalist now working as an associate producer at Huff-Post Live, the Huffington Post’s live-streaming network dedicated to creating “the most social video experience possible.”

Schuster joined the Huffington Post after working as a production associate for ABC’s Nightline. Schuster worked at the White House Office of Legislative Affairs as an intern following her graduation summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she wrote her senior thesis on “domestic minor sex trafficking in American urban centers and the commoditization of sex.”

She is the granddaughter of Founding Benefactors Elaine and Gerald Schuster.

Elaine Schuster

Elaine Schuster, along with her husband Gerald, is the founding benefactor of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Schuster is a visionary community leader whose commitment to education, health care and human rights has improved the lives of the disadvantaged. She co-founded Operation P.E.A.C.E. (Partnerships in Education and Community Enrichment) in Atlanta and Boston to provide mentoring, tutoring and life-skill training for inner-city children.

As president of the New England Kidney Foundation, Schuster led efforts to pass legislation to display organ donor information on driver’s licenses. She and her husband, Gerald, also established the Schuster Transplant Center and the Schuster Transplantation Research Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to improve outcomes for transplant recipients. She is a board member of the William J. Clinton Foundation and belongs to the invitation-only International Women’s Forum, which works to better global leadership today and cultivate women leaders of tomorrow. She also served as a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for eight years.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve as a public delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. There she convened a high-level panel of experts, including a representative from the U.S. Secretary of State’s office, to continue to publicize the plight of human trafficking victims and develop policies to end the practice worldwide. She has been recognized for her work by numerous organizations, including Franciscan Hospital for Children, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

In 2013, Schuster was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Brandeis University, which cited her work as “a true reflection of the social justice ethos that has inspired Brandeisians past and present.”

Gerald Schuster

Gerald Schuster is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Continental Wingate Company, Inc., a holding company which owned and operated businesses specializing in financial services, real estate development, property management, and health care.

He served as a specialist on multifamily interests before various committee members of the U.S. Congress and was an advisor on President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Inner City Banking.

With his wife Elaine, Schuster founded the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, the Gerald and Elaine Schuster Fund to Support Faculty Development and Active Citizenship at Tufts University, and Operation PEACE.

Schuster serves on the Trust Board at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, is a trustee of the Clinton Library Foundation, and board member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Tom Shadyac

Tom Shadyac is a Hollywood director, writer, and producer of comedies and the author of “Life’s Operating Manual: With the Fear and Truth Dialogues” (Hay House, 2013). His movies include the blockbusters “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Nutty Professor,” which he co-wrote with Eddie Murphy, “Liar, Liar,” “Bruce Almighty,” and Golden Globe-nominated “Patch Adams.”

He helped launch the career of actor Jim Carrey, who starred in several of his hit movies, and was the executive producer to the ABC TV series “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

In the aftermath of a severe bicycle accident, Shadyac turned his creative talents and attention to exploring the deeper meaning of life, producing and directing the documentary “I AM.” In the film he explores “human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit” through interviews with some of today’s most profound thinkers, including scientists, religious leaders and philosophers such as Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn. All proceeds from the film go to The Foundation for I AM to fund various causes and to educate the next generation about the issues and challenges explored in the film.

In 2004, Shadyac formed HtoO, Hope to Others, a bottled water company that donates 100% of its after-tax profits to charities around the globe.