Board of Trustees

Whittaker Mack III, MBA

Vice President, JP Morgan Securities LLC,
Division of JP Morgan
Chair, Board of Trustees
Board Trustee since 2002

WhittakerMackWhittaker Mack III is a Vice President at JP Morgan Chase, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, since 2010 and specializes in the management of high-net-worth clientele including both individuals and small business enterprises. Mr. Mack previously served at several top financial firms including Merrill Lynch, LPL, and Guardian.

Prior to his financial career, Mr. Mack held leadership positions for more than 19 years controlling operations and relationship management in the pharmaceutical industry at Barr Laboratories and Pfizer, Inc.

In addition to serving as Chair of the URI Board of Trustees, Mr. Mack’s community leadership is extensive and includes serving as Chair of the Next Level Educational Foundation Board of Trustees, President of the Westchester County Alumni Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Chair of the Duke University Alumni Advisory Committee, Orange and Rockland Counties. He is also a Lifetime member of the National Black MBA Association and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Mr. Mack holds a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Chemistry from Duke University.

Professional Licenses: Series 7, 66, New York; New Jersey Licensed Realtor
Professional Certificates: Pharmaceutical Business Management, Business Communication, International Business and Financial Planning


Vivian Y. Bright

Business Administrator, Berean Baptist Church
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
Board Trustee since 1969

VivianBrightVivian Y. Bright has worked as the Business Administrator for Berean Baptist Church in Brooklyn for 24 years. She has also served as a lobbyist for United African American Churches.

In addition, Ms. Bright’s professional career includes Community Outreach Development, the development and maintenance of Industrial Parks in the East New York area, the development and implementation of the “World of Work Program” for the high school students in the ENY community and coordinator of the “New Horizon Village” development of 255 new homes in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Ms. Bright has extensive leadership experience and community involvement as a Lifetime member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority – The National Council of Negro Women, President of Congressman Ed Towns Women’s Caucus and Business Manager of Concerned Women of Brooklyn, Inc.

Recognized for her dedication to her communities, Ms. Bright has received numerous awards such as Who’s Who of American Women, Congressional Record, The Sojourner Truth Award of the National Business & Professional Women’s Club and New Horizon’s Village Homeowners Leadership Award.

Ms. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science from Brooklyn College and a Master of Science from the New School For Social Research.


Adrienne Y. Peterson, MBA, CPA

IT Audit Manager, HSBC Bank
Treasurer, Board of Trustees
Board Trustee since 2013

adrienne_peterson_cropAdrienne Peterson is a career auditor and is currently an IT Audit Manager at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial institutions.

Ms. Peterson has held prior Operations and IT Audit management positions at other major financial institutions including Prudential Financial and Wachovia Corporation. Ms. Peterson was also as a Business Resumption / Disaster Recovery Officer for a subsidiary of the Industrial Bank of Japan and has separately worked in China as an Audit Manager.

Ms. Peterson has been engaged in community services for over twenty years. She has mentored and performed fund raising activities for economically disadvantaged youth, is benevolent towards senior citizens, and has volunteered at a hospice comforting and assisting terminally ill patients and their families.

Ms. Peterson’s professional affiliations include ISACA (formerly referred as the Information Security Audit and Control Association), Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).

Ms. Peterson received a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Accounting from Howard University, where she passed the CPA examination. She also has a Master of Business Administration Degree in Management Information Services from Long Island University.


Lisa A. Ross, MD, MBA

Director, Anesthesiology,
Harlem Hospital
Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesia,
Columbia University
Secretary, Board of Trustees
Board Trustee since 2011

LisaRossDr. Lisa Ross is the Director of Anesthesia at the Harlem Hospital and also serves as Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesia at Columbia University Medical Center.

Prior to her position at Harlem Hospital, Dr. Ross was the Program Director/Vice Chairperson of the Department of Anesthesiology at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center until its closure in 2010. She has presented at several anesthesia conferences around the country and continues to be involved in performance improvement and research at Harlem Hospital.

Since 1998, Dr. Ross has traveled on a yearly medical mission to Milot, Haiti as part of a team sponsored by the Order of Malta. She is a Lifetime member of the National Action Network and the Greater Metropolitan Chapter of Jack and Jill of America.

Dr. Ross holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Harvard University and received her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where she went on to complete anesthesia residency at Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Ross is in the first year at Fordham University’s accelerated Executive MBA program.


Portia Allen-Kyle, MA

Adjunct Professor, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Board Trustee since 2013

P_Allen-Kyle_cropPortia Allen-Kyle currently lectures at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY, where she teaches Ethnic Groups in American Society and Law & Society.

Ms. Allen-Kyle has also taught courses such as Race Relations and Criminology at Rutgers University, and has served as a program assistant with the Street Law Program at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark.

Following her passion for social justice, Ms. Allen-Kyle recently co-founded ‘Why Race Still Matters’.  This social commentary blog and social media endeavor is dedicated towards highlighting the salience of race in the 21st century, and sparking conversations on progress towards racial equality.

Ms. Allen-Kyle has received a number of fellowships, including an Education Pioneers Fellowship where she worked with the NYC Department of Education, and an Equal Justice America Fellowship where she designed the curriculum and taught for a civic legal education and youth development program.

Ms. Allen-Kyle holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Africana Studies from Wellesley College, and a Master’s degree in African-American Studies from Columbia University.  She is currently pursuing a joint J.D./Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers University, where she is a fellow at the Pre-Doctoral Leadership Development Institute.  Ms. Allen-Kyle plans to become a professor of law and sociology.


John L. Burnett, MBA

Business Consultant and Political Commentator
Board Trustee since 2011

JohnBurnettJohn Burnett is a financial industry professional with over 20 years of experience and has held leadership roles in risk management, compliance and operations at some of the world’s top financial services and business information companies; such as Citi, McGraw-Hill Financial, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.
In his various corporate roles, John developed risk assessment programs that captured intrinsic and residual risks coupled with mitigating controls to maximize enterprise value. Additionally, John managed operational controls for structured financing and investment products, mutual funds, unit trusts, annuities, CDOs, corporate and individual retirement plans, bank financing and investment instruments to include CDs, HELOC, corporate financing and cash management.
His practical business acumen is matched only by a strong sense of civic responsibility, lending his time to several community-based organizations and advising the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. John is currently servicing his community through active membership in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alumni – Alpha Gamma Lambda Chapter based in Harlem, NY and as a board trustee of The Urban Resource Institute.
Additionally, John has previously worked with P.E.N.C.I.L. (Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning) via a corporate partnership program and is a founder of the Summit Academy Charter School in Red Hook, NY. John is also a member of New York University’s Alumni Board.
John holds a BS degree with honors in Leadership and Management Studies from New York University, and is the recipient of a Founders’ Day University Honors Scholar Award. He also holds an MBA from The Johnson School of Management at Cornell University. He is a resident of Harlem, NY.


Leonard Ferguson, MBA

Administrative Project Manager – New York City Department of Design and Construction
Board Trustee since 2011

LeonardFergusonLeonard Ferguson is a Project Management Professional and a Communications Specialist, with over 25 years of experience in both the Communications and Construction industries. He has functioned as a change management agent, with a reputation for resurrecting and reviving failing organizations. Currently he is an Administrative Project Manager for the NYC Department of Design and Construction (NYC DDC). Mr. Ferguson is responsible for decision making processes that impacts capital budget and construction. Directing a large workforce of professional, construction and technical staff, including consultants, he is engaged in overseeing the execution of capital construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects for the NYC Public Libraries.

Mr. Ferguson worked as a Project Manager for Empire City Subway (ECS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon Communications NY Inc. Throughout his career in telecommunication he has held several leadership positions contributing to the evolution of NY Telephone to NYNEX to Bell Atlantic and through the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE which became Verizon, helping it to become the leader in the industry. Additionally, he served as a Project Officer for the New York City School Construction Authority. In his tenure with the NYC School Construction Authority he has had oversight of the new construction and capital improvements of numerous schools in the Bronx.

He is known for his mentorship and community service. His commitment to building a safe learning environment conducive to the education of young minds has never wavered. He is a member of Consortium of Telecommunications Executives (CITE) and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Mr. Ferguson’s education is inclusive of a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and Economics, and Master of Business Administration, both from the State University New York Empire State College. He also received a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from The George Washington University.


Corinna C. Grant

Associate Director, Volunteer Services, King’s County Hospital Center
Board Trustee since 2012

CorinnaGrantCorinna C. Grant has devoted her personal and professional career to public service experiencing a long, fruitful career at King’s County Hospital Center, first as the Principal Liaison Worker to the then East New York Neighborhood Family Care Center, and then as the Associate Director of the Department of Volunteer Services.

Ms. Grant’s accomplishments are many, under her leadership 598 units of housing were completed in the East New York community, including 182 units of housing for senior citizens (Vandalia Houses) and transportation for the frail and handicapped. She was instrumental in the opening of the East New York Industrial Park, now designated as an Economic Development Zone. Ms. Grant was involved in the development of the East New York Skills Training Center and in the rehabilitation of the New Lots Avenue Branch, in addition to many parks throughout the community, including Livonia Avenue Playground and Highland Park.

Ms. Grant graduated from the New York Institute of Technology.


Charles F. Gergel

Attorney and Partner, Cullen and Dykman, LLP
Board Trustee since 2013

CharlesGergelCharles F. Gergel, a partner in Cullen and Dykman’s Corporate department, regularly advises clients on corporate matters. In the area of mergers and acquisitions, he has represented clients, both for-profit and tax exempt, in mergers, acquisitions and divestitures of a broad range of businesses including electric generation, HVAC, printing, engineering, insurance brokerage, water utility, home health care, magazine and newspaper publishing and distribution, music recording, wholesale and retail apparel and many others.

Mr. Gergel has extensive experience advising both taxable and tax exempt clients on entity formation and governance matters including selection of proper entity type and all matters relating to the rights and obligations of board members, shareholders, members, partners, etc. In addition, he assists such clients in the negotiation and drafting of a wide variety of commercial contracts and regulatory matters related to business operations. He has provided counsel to clients (mainly energy clients) in matters of corporate and project financing and synthetic and leveraged leasing, as well as the purchase, sale and development of land and local permitting matters.

Mr. Gergel holds a Bachelor of Art from New York University and a Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law.


Bernadette A. Smith, P.C.

Attorney, Law Offices of Bernadette A. Smith, P.C
Board Trustee since 2013

Bernadette_A_Smith_cropBernadette A. Smith established the Law Offices of Bernadette A. Smith, P.C., in lower Manhattan in New York City, in 2001. She practices in the area of employment discrimination and is currently a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association of New York and the Bronx Bar Association. Bernadette has also done pro bono work with InMotion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing legal services to women and Bronx CLARO: Consumer Legal Advice and Resource Office, providing assistance in consumer debt cases.

Bernadette A. Smith attended Touro Law Center in Huntington, New York and graduated in the top quarter of her class in April 1991. In August of that year, Bernadette joined the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office where she prosecuted felony cases in the Trial Bureau.

When Bernadette left the District Attorney’s office, she continued her work in criminal law and served as a Principal Court Attorney to the Hon. Patricia Anne Williams, an Acting Supreme Court Judge sitting in the New York State Supreme Court Criminal Term.

Bernadette is admitted to practice in the United States District Courts of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. She is an alumna of the Metropolitan College and has served on the Board as a Trustee since 1996.


Carmen J. Smith

Vice President, Creative Development and Inclusive Strategies, Walt Disney Imagineering and Parks and Resorts
Board Trustee since 1985

CarmenSmithCarmen Smith is the Vice President of Creative Development for Walt Disney Imagineering. Ms. Smith is responsible for developing a diverse pipeline of product and people to enhance Imagineering’s consultant talent and its creative processes. Prior to joining Disney Theme Parks and Resorts World-Wide, she served as the Vice President of the Talent Development Programs for the Disney/ABC Television Group.

Ms. Smith was selected as the ABC, Inc. Black Achiever in Industry for 2000 and received the 2005 Theresa’s Haven Award from the Family Support Systems Transitional Housing Services of New York for improving the quality of life for homeless families in New York. Ms. Smith was also listed in 2009 Diversity MBA Magazine’s Top 100 Executive Leaders and the 2011 Uptown Professional Magazines Top 100 Executives in America.

Ms. Smith graduated from Hunter College with a degree in communication arts. She also holds a Master of Public Administration, International Administration and Development from New York University and completed the Simmons Graduate School of Management Certificate Program for Developing Managers and the Harvard University Women and Power Executive Education Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2007, Ms. Smith received an Honorary Doctorate from the Metropolitan College of New York.


Althea Vyfhuis

Senior Virology Sales Specialist, Janssen Therapeutics, Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson, Division of Janssen Biotech, Inc.
Board Trustee since 2011

AltheaVyfhuisAlthea Vyfhuis is a Senior Virology Sales Specialist for Janssen Therapeutics, Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson, a Division of Janssen Biotech, Inc. Since 2006, she has been managing the sales and promotion of HIV treatments, facilitating physician and patient education, and providing other resources to support the HIV community. Ms. Vyfuis’ efforts are focused in the communities of the Bronx, Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

Prior to Janssen, Ms. Vyfhuis worked at Abbott Laboratories as an HIV Specialist in Brooklyn and the Bronx. She has worked with Novo Nordisk, specializing in diabetes with a focus in the Brooklyn community, and with Merck, specializing in asthma management, pain management, osteoporosis and GERD.

Ms. Vyfhuis is from Washington, D.C. and since moving to New York, in addition to her professional career, she has been training and working as an actress in theatrical productions, film, television, commercials and voice-overs.

Ms. Vyfhuis has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Howard University. She earned a three-year Merck Fellowship and worked in Merck’s Central Engineering and Environmental Engineering department.