Founder/Board Chair Executive Committee
Sue Grant is a visionary whose passion to give the gift of literacy to struggling readers has fueled the formation and success of The Literacy Project. Grant is a native Californian born and raised in Orange County. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in The School of Human Services and Community Development from California State University, Fullerton. She also studied for her Master’s degree in Counseling and School Psychology.
The focus of her college education forged a desire to help troubled youth and thus began a lifelong journey to help those who needed it most. Throughout her career, she has been involved with bridging the literacy gap amongst these children dating as far back as serving on the PTA board of her own children’s elementary school. In 1988, she was recognized by the California Congress of the Parents, Teacher and Students, Inc. with the Honorary Service Award for her outstanding service to children and youth in literacy. In 2003 as principal of her own PR firm, OC Public Relations, Grant was hired by The Regents of University of California, out of the office of the president, to help raise funds and awareness for a new literacy pilot program. After the first year, she developed an irresistible desire to further this project and donated her time, resources and connections for the next six years. In 2009, when “The New Phonics Game™” came off the production line, Grant seized the opportunity to create a nonprofit organization to provide the highly specialized reading program to the most at-risk struggling readers in impoverished environments. What was once a lifelong career in OCPR to help nonprofit organizations strive became her own reality when she founded The Literacy Project to serve the purpose of solving reading problems amongst school-age children threatened to become illiterate adults. To date, Grant’s vision and leadership have helped “bridge the literacy gap” by serving over 10,000 children throughout Southern California and raising over $2.9 million for the cause. Grant has since become a founding member of the Coalition for Reading Excellence in Washington DC, a national voice promoting structured literacy. Her passionate career led her to be featured as one of “OC’s Top 50 Business Leaders with a Cause” in the ON PURPOSE publication (2012). Sue Grant’s lifetime interests have focused on serving school-age, at-risk children and literacy issues. She would tell you that there are many ways to save a life. The gift of reading is one of them.
Penny M. Fox
Penny M. Fox, CPA specializes in tax and accounting services, including tax planning and return preparation, bookkeeping, business consulting, retirement, divorce, estate, trust and bankruptcy planning. An expert in her field, Penny has been serving Orange County for more than 30 years.
Sinan Kanatsiz has effectively made his mark as an outstanding entrepreneur. In 1998, while studying for a master’s degree at Chapman University, he followed his entrepreneurial spirit and formed his first company, KCOMM, a Public Relations and Internet marketing agency. The company quickly evolved into a full-service marketing, government affairs and event marketing firm known for its Internet expertise and results-oriented approach. In less than ten years, Sinan grew the firm to several million dollars in revenue, opening business centers in Dallas, New York, Dubai, Istanbul, Montreal, London, Argentina and Delhi. Currently, KCOMM has over 65 employees and contractors in several countries, and has developed campaigns for over 1,000 of the most prominent companies throughout the world. These include organizations ranging from innovative start-ups to New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq listed companies such as Oracle, Sony, eBay, T-Mobile, HP and the University of Phoenix.
KCOMM’s dedication to strategic programs and results-oriented campaigns has earned the firm several PROTOS awards, the highest honor bestowed by Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The effectiveness of KCOMM’s strategies has become so widely-recognized that the firm’s clients have now extended beyond the realm of technology to include elected officials, municipalities, state and federal government and multi-national organizations. As a consummate entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sinan takes his community responsibilities very seriously. In addition to mentoring high school and college students, he is often asked to speak about entrepreneurship and the Internet. He has held engagements at several universities, including USC, Chapman University, UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Cal Tech. Additionally, he was a keynote speaker at the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) National Conference in San Jose and is often called to speak on a variety of topics including Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, Modernizing Government and the future of the Internet. Sinan’s belief in the power of entrepreneurism and politics led him to start Generation NeXt in 2004, a network of young business and community leaders committed to making a difference by empowering others for the betterment of the next generation. Additionally, he founded the Internet Marketing Association in 2000, a group that has grown to over 750,000 professional members worldwide. His philosophy is to make the association free to join and underwrite all events with corporate sponsors. Past events have included the founders of Google, SalesForce, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, St. Regis Hotel, Wahoos, Quest Software, Oakley and YouTube. Kanatsiz is currently expanding the group globally and involving technology leaders from Europe, the Middle East, China and India, creating the largest trade association in the world, which is defining standards for the Internet. Sinan holds a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a certificate in Human Resources, all from Chapman University. Sinan was designated Alumnus of the Year by Chapman University in the year 2000. He was also the recipient of the Community College of California Alumnus of the Year Award in 2005. Sinan was named in the Hall of Fame for Santa Ana College in the year 2006. He has also been named as 40 under 40 and a featured Entrepreneur of the Year by OC Metro Magazine. To this day, he credits his accomplishments to his Four Pillars of Success: personal integrity; coaches and mentors; family; and education. Kanatsiz, his wife, Kai, daughter Arden, and son Archer, reside in San Clemente, California. CEO, KCOMM www.kcomm.com Chairman and Founder, Internet Marketing Association (IMA) www.imanetwork.org Founder, International Executive Council (IEC) www.iecnetwork.org Founding Member of the Board of Directors, Pretend City Children’s Museum Member of the Board of Governors, Chapman University YMCA National Outreach Chairman, Youth and Government Member of the Board of Directors, Seneca
Paula Karcher is a philanthropist and public speaker with a strong connection to the Coachella Valley, as well as her roots growing up in Orange County. Along with her husband, Carl Leo Karcher, she has been involved in dozens of events, causes, and foundations, which have definitely benefitted her community.
Karcher continues to connect with her community and those in need around her through her many philanthropic efforts with her husband Carl. They have been the recipients of the Annenberg Award for Leadership Giving, the YMCA Benefactor of Youth Award, the Spirit of Giving Award for the Grieving Teens/Youth for Christ organization, and recognized by the Tocqueville Society. The Karchers are members of United Way of the Desert, and have been recognized as a couple by the Desert Arc Foundation which bestowed their Queen of Hearts Award to Paula and Carl. Paula has also served as an “Aunt” for The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation since 2007, has been a Board Member of Grieving Teens in Palm Desert for high school students since 2006, and has been a Board Member of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert since 2006. In addition to her philanthropic endeavors, Paula, in her 20’s was working in the medical industry and recognized its deficiencies, which led her to form two companies dealing with medical consulting and faith-based counseling. She still remains an active advocate in the medical field lobbying for safety and new and more progressive treatment modalities in the areas of orthopedic, cosmetic, and preventative medicine. Paula was a teacher for the Over Comers Program for mentally challenged adults for four years, and has been involved with Melodyland Christian Center embracing mental, as well as spiritual fitness. She has spoken at schools, community organizations, churches, and non-profits presenting a wide range of topics including her passion for charitable giving. Paula resides in Palm Desert with Carl and their two sons, Michael and Max. She enjoys all family and children activities, is passionate about philanthropy, travel and golf.
Chairman, Angels Baseball
Dennis Kuhl enters his 16th year with the Angels in 2019 after joining the club on Nov. 10, 2003. He was initially appointed as the Angels’ seventh president before being promoted to club Chairman on Nov. 14, 2009. Kuhl continues to oversee the administration, along with a renewed effort in the area of civic affairs and community outreach. He also played a key role in working with Major League Baseball in the Angels hosting the 2010 All-Star Game.
Kuhl is also actively involved in several Southern California charities. He serves as president of the “Light the Night” event which supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is a founding board member of The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation/Lott Trophy. Kuhl is a member of the Board of Governors at Chapman University, along with the board of directors for several nonprofits, including: the Los Angeles Sports Council, Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim, Tiger Woods Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County. Additionally, he serves on the advisory board for the Irvine Public School Foundation and the Angels Baseball Foundation Board of Directors. A Boonton, N.J. native, Kuhl graduated from the University of Arizona in 1970 with a degree in business administration. In 2009, he was named the ‘Business Man of the Year’ by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. He currently resides in Newport Beach.
Senior VP, Bank of America / Private Bank
Scott has more than 25 years of business, leadership and management experience, working with business owners, individuals, and their families. He is part of a collaborative team that strives to help high net worth clients manage the complexities of their financial and legacy planning, and to develop an integrated wealth strategy tailored specifically to their goals and aspirations. Scott can also offer clients access to banking, credit and lending opportunities from Bank of America, N.A.
Scott has a passion for all things New Mexico; he grew up north of Santa Fe and attended the University of New Mexico. Helping the state move up the rankings in Economic Development and Education is a passion of his. He is also Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and competes regularly. He is active in the innovation ecosystem in Orange County and believes the region is on the cusp of tremendous deal velocity and increased entrepreneurial success stories. Scott is a former Marine Corps jet pilot and public affairs officer and has an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Founder And CEO, Passco Companies
William O. Passo is a true professional in the real estate investment industry. He completed his first purchase of a multifamily investment project in Anaheim, California in 1976.
During his career, which has spanned nearly four decades, Mr. Passo has directed the formation of more than 200 private and public limited liability companies, Tenant in Common programs, limited partnerships and Delaware Statutory Trusts. He has also directed the acquisition, entitlement, management, leasing and/or disposition activities of over 250 retail, office, multifamily and land properties, raising more than $1.4 billion in investor funds. He was the first to present to the IRS the concept of the Tenant-In-Common (TIC) investment structure through which individuals were given the opportunity to complete a tax deferred exchange under IRC section 1031 by acquiring an undivided interest in Real Estate. Following that presentation the IRS in 2002 validated the business, which became an industry by the passage of Revenue Procedure 2002-22, which specified the requirements for obtaining a Private Revenue Ruling on an individual Tenant in Common/1031 offering. As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Passco Companies, he is responsible for the creation of a firm that is now recognized nationally as a leading real estate operating company that has acquired, managed, and/or developed well in excess of $3 billion in real estate investments with properties in 21 states. Mr. Passo holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He practiced law from 1967 to 1985, specializing in real estate syndications and related tax and securities matters. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with honors from California State University, Long Beach. A registered representative and principal of Passco Capital, Inc., Mr. Passo has been a member of FINRA since 1998. He holds registered representative and general principal licenses, and has been a licensed California Real Estate Broker since 1974. Mr. Passo is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the Alternative & Direct Investment Securities Association (ADISA) and the Building Industry Association (BIA), and is a former Director of Catholic Charities Retirement Homes, Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts and Western Medical Center Satchel Group. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Santa Ana.
Former Chairman & CEO, Funrise, Inc.
Arnie Rubin was in the toy industry for over 50 years, starting as a bubble mixer at Chemical Sundries in 1965. In 1969, he co-founded Imperial Toy Company and in 1987 he formed Funrise Toy Corporation. Funrise is best known for its Tonka “light and sound” emergency vehicles with working sirens and lights, which it has manufactured under license from Hasbro since 1999. Funrise produces the popular Gazillion® Bubbles line, which has grown to become the #1 Bubble Brand in the Nation (NPD Group) and has many popular licenses.
Rubin is the past Chairman of the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Toy Industry Association (TIA). In 2009, he was named to the Toy Safety Certification Program’s Oversight Council and was elected as president of the International Council of Toy Industries and is a member of the ICTI Care Board of Governance. In 2012, Rubin was named the 2012 Toy Industry Hall of Fame inductee. The official announcement was made by Carter Keithley, President of the Toy Industry Association (TIA). Established in 1984, the Toy Industry Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have significantly contributed to the growth and success of the toy industry. Rubin was recognized for his outstanding contributions and service to the toy industry during the T.O.T.Y. (Toy Of The Year) Awards ceremony held on February 11, 2012, in New York City. Rubin joined former inductees including: Alan Hassenfeld and Al Verrecchia, Hasbro, Inc.; John Lasseter, Walt Disney Company/Pixar Animation Studios; Sam Walton, Walmart; Neil Friedman and Charles Lazarus, Toys ‘R’ Us to name a few. In addition to his support of the Toy Industry Foundation, Rubin has served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Braille Institute, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Families of Blind Children. He organized the Toy Run for Kids benefiting Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, which has brought donations of more than $100,000 annually.
President, Spinnaker Investment Group
Joe Stapleton is a Co-Founder for Spinnaker Investment Group. In this role, he assists businesses and individuals achieve what is most important to them by bringing in line their goals and desires with their financial resources. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona.
Spinnaker Investment Group, LLC is a privately owned, boutique investment company that cares deeply about our clients and is committed to helping them realize financial independence. The Spinnaker team has the autonomy to advise you on the best way to achieve your financial objectives by building strategies and portfolios that suit your personal goals.
President And Chief Revenue Officer, Yext
Jim joins Yext following two years at InsideSales, the industry’s leading sales acceleration and predictive analytics company. Previously, Jim served as President & Chief Customer Officer for Salesforce, where he had a remarkable 12-year run, helping grow Salesforce’s revenue to over $5B when he left in 2015. With his new position, Jim will oversee Yext’s entire revenue organization, including direct sales, partner sales, customer service, account management, and professional services.
“We could not be more excited to have Jim join our leadership team,” said Howard Lerman, Yext co-founder and CEO. “He is one of the most admired and accomplished sales executives in technology, with over 35 years of global sales and management experience at Ariba, IBM, InsideSales, and Salesforce. As we continue to expand globally, I could think of no better leader to help fuel our long-term growth.” Jim is a Park City resident, works in New York City and interested in a second residence in Newport Beach in the near future. He and his wife Amy are active philanthropists for various causes in both Manhattan and Park City. Jim is a former national board member of Junior Achievement and now sits on the board of Park City Community Foundation. He has great passion for educational causes and believes he can bring national awareness to The Literacy Project.
Steve Tollefsrud is a retired Engineer with a background in the Semiconductor Industry. He has been an advocate of numerous social and environmental causes, including funding blindness research for Fight For Sight (NYC), supporting disaster response as a PRO Team volunteer for the American Red Cross (NYC), delivering meals and doing outreach to the homeless for the Coalition For The Homeless (NYC), mentoring underprivileged children for The Cambodian Family in Santa Ana, helping homeless adults achieve self-sufficiency at The Friendship Shelter in Laguna Beach, and supporting efforts to protect the beauty and integrity of Laguna Canyon through the Laguna Canyon Foundation, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, and is a co-founder of CANDO, the Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization.
Christopher Trela is Artistic Assistant Professor of Public Relations and Advertising at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. He began teaching at Chapman University as an Adjunct Professor in 2011, and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2019. Christopher is the Owner and President of ArtsPR, a boutique PR agency that specializes in public relations services for arts organizations. Current and past clients include Pacific Symphony, The Laguna Playhouse, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Festival Ballet Theatre, Irvine Barclay Theatre, Chance Theater, Classical Mystery Tour, Balboa Performing Arts Theatre, and many more. Duties performed for these organizations include media relations, PR campaigns, writing and distributing press releases, pitching stories, maintaining websites and social media, as well as other related PR services.
Christopher was the Editor of the Newport Beach Independent newspaper from November 2012 through July 2019. He transitioned to Lifestyle Editor and contributes dining (Off the Menu dining column), arts and charity articles. In December of 2017, Christopher became the Executive Dining Writer for the Orange County Business Journal. As a writer, Christopher has had more than 3,000 articles published over the past 30 years in publications throughout Southern California, including Coast Magazine, OC Metro Magazine, OC Register, Metro Menus, OC Family, Performing Arts Magazine, Westways Magazine, Dining Out Magazine, and many others. He also wrote the coffee table book “Newport Beach Centennial: Celebrating a Century,” in 2005. He spent two years (2004-2006) under contract with Disneyland to write scripts, script treatments and VIP correspondence for the Special Events department during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration. Christopher is also a playwright and founder of New Voices Playwrights Workshop, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. He has written and directed more than 20 short and full-length plays that have been produced in Orange County, Los Angeles and New York. As a photographer, his work has appeared in the L.A. Times, The Orange County Register, OC Weekly, OC Metro, OC Wine/OC Menus, Coast, Newport Beach Independent, and many other publications throughout Southern California. Christopher is a member of the Orange County Press Club, Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He served four years as President of the Orange County Press Club, and four years as an Arts Commissioner for the City of Newport Beach. Christopher received a PROTOS Award from PRSA for Best PR Campaign for Laguna Playhouse, Platinum and Gold MARCOM Awards for PR programs, a gold HERMES award for Outstanding Press Release, and several Awards of Excellence from PRSA. He has received numerous awards for news and feature writing from the OC Press Club including first, second and third place in the 2020 OC Press Club Journalism Awards, as well as awards for photography and for his famous chocolate chip cookies.
Michael T. Travis
Partner, Parker & Covert LLP
Michael T. Travis serves as general and special legal counsel for schools, colleges, and educational agencies throughout the state of California. Specializing in education law for more than 14 years, he provides cost-effective, practical, and forward-thinking legal solutions for clients in the areas of governance, labor and personnel, business and facilities, transparency, and litigation issues. Michael is passionate about literacy and access to education for all.