Board Successes


The Private Directors Association® provides a national network where board directors, executives and professionals interested in board service can receive director training and be connected with Private Companies interested in securing exceptional board members. On a regular basis, members of the Association are provided Profiles of Board Positions that are available and how they might apply for Board Opportunities. This is a national platform that the Private Directors Association® opens to Private Companies and Board Director Recruitment Firms in the process of searching for qualified individuals to serve as Directors. Listed below are Success Stories from individuals who have obtained Directorships as a result of the information provided to our members.

If you are interested in learning about Board Director Position Opportunities, CLICK HERE. Please note this benefit is provided to members only. If you are not a member of the Private Directors Association®, you can apply for membership with the following link CLICK HERE.


At Lead to the Future, LLC we work with privately held and family owned businesses in the areas of sustainability, succession planning and governance.  Our governance work focuses on building and refreshing fiduciary and advisory boards.  In the past two years we have filled over 20 fiduciary board positions with our clients.  The Private Directors Association has been a valued source for qualified and enthusiastic candidates.  We appreciate the ability to link to this pool of top notch candidates. 

Stephanie Olexa, PhD, MBA
President, Lead to the Future,


Ben Wilhelm, DBA
Managing Partner
Unscripted, LLC

As a founding member of the Charlotte Chapter, I discovered the PDA network expands far and wide. Thanks to referrals from friends within PDA, I was encouraged to pursue an independent board position with a $1 billion national commercial construction company. I was able to leverage my 25 years of leadership in commercial construction, previous board experience, and knowledge of employee-owned companies to be named to the board of this third generation, family-owned firm with a stellar industry reputation. This opportunity was exactly what I hoped for as a leadership consultant and construction executive.

I have the fortune and joy of serving on this board with Dennis Kessler and Tracey Cantarutti of the Chicago Chapter. I owe a debt of gratitude to Charlotte Chapter Chair, Mike Airheart, and Advisory Board member, Dr. Torsten Pieper, for their encouragement and support in pursuit of this opportunity.


Jose-Luis Bretones-Lopez
Business Owner, Managing Partner, LINAR Advisors
Independent Director, Griffith Foods Inc.

After more than 20 years as an executive working for publicly traded companies like AT&T, Lucent Technologies, McDonald’s and Castle Metals, I decided to found LINAR Advisors in early 2015; a manufacturing operations and supply chain consulting firm with clients across North America, Europe and Africa. I heard about PDA in late 2015 and decided to join as a member here in Chicago in early 2016. LINAR Advisors became a PDA Sponsor in 2017. PDA is a reliable source of valuable information and access to a broad network of experienced Corporate Directors and outstanding professionals across multiple industries. Additionally, a key benefit I enjoyed as a PDA member was the opportunity to work with Barry Cain and Bruce Werner. Barry and Bruce coached me and helped me understand the dynamics of applying and interviewing for opportunities to serve as an independent director in a privately held company. I am proud to share I was asked to serve at Griffith Foods in early 2019. I strongly advise joining PDA.


JoAnn Lilek
Experienced Corporate Board Director and Chief Financial Officer

In June 2019, I joined the Advisory Board of Milton’s Distributing and Gordon Logistics, jointly managed family business entities. Milton's Distributing is a multi-state importer and alcoholic beverage wholesaler providing transportation, warehousing, clearing, and distribution to multi-state retailers. Gordon Logistics is a 3PL serving all markets east of the Mississippi. I learned of the opportunity through Board Prospects which I was familiar with because of my involvement with PDA! Also, I was elected as an Independent Trustee and Audit Committee Chair of the Datum One Series Trust, a trademark of Northern Trust in March 2020. This opportunity came about due to a connection from when I Chaired the Lou Holland Trust mutual fund over 10 years ago! Back in 2004 before there ever was PDA, a Founding Member of PDA had introduced me to Lou Holland! The networking that organizations such as PDA provides is a great path to board seats for qualified candidates. 


Tammy Gianfortune
Executive Coach
Kensington a division of Keystone Partners

My membership in the PDA was a key factor in my being asked to serve on my first corporate board. I had significant C-suite and  P&L leadership positions in public and private companies and non profit board experience, but wasn’t  sure how to translate that into my first Independent Director role.

So I joined PDA in 2018 and participated in the PDA Director Development & Referral program, which offered me one-on-one coaching, mentoring, and education related to Board roles and responsibilities, and résumé and interview preparation.

The board governance educational programming PDA offers helped me to learn the language of the board and increase the depth of my knowledge in areas where I haven’t had exposure. Also the networking is great at these events.

I have found the board opportunities PDA invites its members to apply for, is extremely valuable since there are so few ways to find these even for the  best networkers. I landed my first Corporate Board Director role through one of these  and have been elected to the Board of Plastek Industries, Inc, a world class, family owned plastics packaging manufacturer in Erie, PA.


Craig Jimenez​
Independent Director
Air Tractor, Inc. 

My first PDA meeting was Chicago in 2016; I may have been among PDA's initial trainees.  Dennis Kessler worked with me on board-oriented outreach and interview preparation.  This preparation was helpful in getting an invitation to join the Air Tractor board, and perhaps more important, in equipping me to assess the governance quality of the company and whether I'd enjoy serving on its board.  

Air Tractor is a TX-based manufacturer of aircraft for agricultural, firefighting, and tactical/ISR applications.  It is 100% ESOP (employee owned) and exports over half of its products.


Greg Hewitt
Lincoln Industries
Ancient Lore Village

At the Private Company Governance Summit in Washington DC in May  of 2018, I met several leaders of the Private Directors Association and was so impressed with their passion and purpose in helping private companies, boards, and members. I quickly joined and with a great group of leaders have helped launch the Nashville Chapter which is making a local impact at many levels and growing quickly. For several reasons, including assistance from members of the Private Directors Association®, I was fortunate to be asked to join the Lincoln Industries board, a great G3 private 67 year old industrial  leader and metal finishing company based in Lincoln Nebraska. The company  is growing and changing positively at an incredible rate. In addition, I have recently joined the Board of Ancient Lore Village a new themed resort nestled near the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee. I continue to get more opportunities to support other companies and leaders and feel my partnership with the PDA was a catalyst.


Venita Fields
Pelham S2K Managers

I joined the Private Directors Association four years ago to benefit from the association's networking opportunities  and  educational programs.   PDA's thought leadership provides current information on issues facing private companies including areas of cyber security, succession planning, marketing and governance.  PDA allowed me to leverage my board experience as a  private equity professional and fulfill my quest to become an Independent Board Director.   Since I became a member in 2015,  I have received board appointments with one public company, Superior Group of Companies, Seminole FL (NASDAQ: SGC) and three private companies, David's Bridal, Inc., Conshohocken, PA, Lifespace Communities, Inc., West Des Moines, IA and Derry Enterprises, Inc., Rockford, IL. 


Bill McNitt
Thurston Group

I joined Private Directors Association (PDA) to leverage my multi-industry background into a board role. This past June, I joined the SW White Board as an Independent Director. I will serve as Chairman of the Audit Committee. Without all the resources of PDA, I would not have been able to secure this position. Also, I recently joined the Advisory Board of the Primex Family of Companies. Primex is a small, family business  headquartered in Lake Geneva, WI. For over 50 years, Primex has grown its business from a company that sells clock and clock parts to a multi-division company with several international offices. It has expanded its offerings from clocks and clock parts to include time, temperature and weather products, as well as environmental monitoring and time synchronization technologies. I would have never become aware of this search were it not for Private Directors Association.


M. Jay Heilbrunn 
The Distributor Board, Inc.

The Loyola Family Business Center sent out an announcement via the Private Directors Association in June of 2016 on behalf of a 40-year old East Coast Distribution Company.  The specification was for independent directors for their board expansion program.  Given my background in running and working with family owned distribution companies I applied for the position.  In December I was asked to join the Board.  The company is Top Notch Distributors located in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  The company is a leading distributor of Architectural Hardware, including a wide selection of Residential, Commercial and Electronic Access Control products, parts, and accessories.  This is an assignment that I would not have been aware of were it not for the Private Directors Association.

Keyt Consulting sent out an announcement through the Private Directors Association in July of 2018 on behalf of Primex Family of Companies in their search for an Advisory Board of Directors.  This is another Board opportunity that I would not have been aware of were it not for the Private Directors Association. In December I was asked to join the Board.  Primex is headquartered in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  The Company has offices in Canada, the UK and Hong Kong and its products are sold in over 35 countries across the globe. Its divisions include Klockit, Chaney Instrument, and Primex.  These are products related to accurate time and weather information.


Barry S. Cain
Managing Principal
Amuleto Advisory LLC

In October 2016 an East Coast board consultant and recruiter reached out to the Private Directors Association on behalf of a 60-year old family business seeking to add three independent directors to its Board. Not yet knowing the company, but having a reasonably good idea of the director attributes being sought, I applied for one of the positions. Subsequently I learned that I had cleared an initial screening hurdle, and the company was identified and more information was provided. A telephone interview was then scheduled, following which I was asked to travel to the company’s headquarters for an in-person interview with key executives and family representatives. Interviews were concluded in February 2017 and a bit later I was asked to join the Board. The Company is Gallagher Fluid Seals headquartered in King of Prussia, PA with a second facility in East Longmeadow, MA. It is a global distributor and manufacturer of fluid sealing products for OEM & MRO customers seeking technical solutions that solve sealing challenges. PDA was instrumental in helping to make this exciting opportunity a reality.

Viewing a late 2018 posting on the PDA website on behalf of a Northeast Pennsylvania company seeking four new directors to join its fiduciary board, I applied for consideration, believing that I possessed many of the attributes being sought. Following an initial telephone screening and then a full day of personal interview on site, I was fortunate to be elected along with two other PDA members. The company is Weiler Corporation (dba Weiler Abrasives Group), a global family owned and operated third-generation leading manufacturer, marketer and distributor of diversified industrial abrasive consumables for a wide range of industrial and retail customers. The company has its headquarters and primary manufacturing and distribution facilities in Cresco, Pennsylvania, wholly-owned foreign subsidiaries in Europe, Asia and South America and international sales offices in Mexico, Germany and India.

As of January 1, I joined the fiduciary Board of Directors of Plastek Industries, an Erie, PA headquartered international multi-generation family business. Plastek is a world-class manufacturer of plastics packaging for Personal Care, Home Care, Food & Beverage, Cosmetics and Pharmaceutical Industries. For me, once again, PDA was instrumental in helping to provide this Board Opportunity for me to pursue.


Marie Allen
Managing Partner
The Allen Group Executive Search

Prior to joining PDA, I served as an Independent Director for a large privately-held family-owned company. After eight years on a regional board of Directors for this company, I was promoted to the National Board of Directors three years ago. Desiring to further enhance my knowledge of critical governance skill sets, I looked to PDA to provide education, perspective, and networking opportunities. After three years of educational opportunities through my PDA membership, I have recently been promoted to a Board President position. In particular, I value the topic driven, candid, panel discussions featuring privately-held company leadership and their board members sharing key governance turning points that lead to their company to success. 


Barbara Ford
Phoenix Strategic Advisors

I joined PDA to better prepare myself for a Board role – and it worked!  All credit goes to PDA connections and strong networking relationships for connecting me with a CEO and company seeking an addition to their Advisory Board.

The PDA Director Development & Referral program was high value in preparing me for my search and interviews.  The program was both efficient and effective.  I was connected with several terrific individuals at PDA who provided coaching, counseling and mentoring that helped me leverage my marketing and not-for-profit Board work and experience.  In addition to the custom advice, the education materials were invaluable as I prepared for Board interviews. 

It is very clear to me that PDA is committed to their Mission of ‘creating, sustaining and enhancing Private Company value through the active use of Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards’.  Lots of resources, materials, programs and impressive leadership.


Kathleen Ross
Board Member

Celadon Group, Inc.

I joined the Private Directors Association to leverage my background in transportation and finance into a board role. Informational resources on the web site, meetings and webinars educated me about best board practices. The PDA Director Development & Referral program’s resume assistance, interviewing coaching and other generous advice through the board recruitment process prepared me for the board vetting process. I joined the board of a publicly traded transportation company, Celadon Group, Inc., in October 2017.


Bruce D. Werner
Managing Director
Kona Advisors LLC

Having served on several private company boards over the last two decades, I was delighted to join the Private Directors Association in late 2015. I was enthused to find an organization that caters solely to the needs of private company directors and advisors. Even though I had significant prior Board experience, I believed I could improve my board performance via PDA.

I had found my prior board seats through existing relationships. Knowing that I would be seeking additional seats in the future, I completed the  coaching program to help market myself.  Six months later, Burke Distributor Holdings solicited candidates, through the PDA, for their first outside directors. The PDA coaching helped me prepare for this competitive process.

As one of three new outside directors, I was able to influence the development of their major governance processes and outcomes. Having an impact is a key motivator for being an outside director. The interaction I have had with my fellow directors has also benefitted the other boards I currently serve on.

The story comes full circle, as I am now a PDA coach, helping members sharpen their board skills and market themselves.


Liz Levy-Navarro
CEO & Managing Partner
Orrington Strategies LLC

My membership in the PDA was instrumental in my being asked to serve on three private company boards.  Before serving on my first board, I participated in the PDA Director Development & Referral program, which offered me one-on-one coaching, mentoring, and education related to Board roles and responsibilities, and résumé and interview preparation. This program was highly effective.  Additionally, I found the board opportunities PDA invites its members to apply for, as appropriate, to be of high quality and seldom available through other channels.  Lastly, the board governance educational programming PDA offers helps me to continue to build and keep my skills sharp.


David L. Kirshenbaum
Senior Vice President 
Hilco Real Estate

One of the reasons I joined the PDA was to prepare for future private board seats. I have been a member for the past 18 months and I was lucky enough to get access to the PDA Director Development & Referral program which allowed me to prepare materials that would help me to secure a board seat. In addition to the materials, I had one on one mentoring over the course of the past year which was critical to my search. I was told that a key to securing a Board Seat is networking and ultimately, I encountered a business associate who was seeking to fill one of seven board seats in his fiduciary board. My PDA inspired board resume and related materials helped to win over the company’s CEO and demonstrated that I was a serious candidate. I was able to secure the board seat with one interview and the PDA Director Development materials on interviewing proved to be on point and helpful. I am grateful for the organization in helping me to achieve my personal goals in a reasonable amount of time.


Cathy Carroll
Legacy Onward, Inc.

I credit my membership in the PDA for helping me prepare for board interviews.  As a result, I was invited to join the board of Just Born, Inc., maker of Peeps®, Mike and Ike®, HotTamales® and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews®.  My PDA affiliation has also helped professionalize the governance of another board I advise.  With access to governance best practices, we significantly improved our decision making and board effectiveness.


Lorraine Herr
Strategic Account Director
Matrex Exhibits

In 2012, I met the Verde founder, then working out of 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for start-ups.  As our friendship evolved, I invited the founder to attend meetings as my guest. In 2016, I accepted an independent director role on Verde’s newly formed advisory board.


Mark A. Zorko

Brentwood Advisory Group

When colleagues and students reach out to me for coaching or networking assistance I try to offer a meaningful response and recommendations for their consideration. I find Board work very meaningful and enjoy the work. Since most positions, so I’m told, are filled through referrals, I have also reached out to colleagues and friends to make my availability known. I was recently appointed to the Board of Westell Technologies, Inc. through an introduction by a colleague (and friend) who became aware of the Company’s need and thought it might be a fit with my background and interests.


Shepherd G. Pryor IV
Independent Director

I have served on boards since the early 1980s. Networking with multiple sources is an all-important activity for anyone seeking board assignments. One of our purposes in founding the Private Directors Association was to provide a nexus for independent directors and the private companies that seek them. This capability is up and running. In 2015, Dennis Kessler passed a search inquiry from the Loyola Family Business Center through to members. I responded to that inquiry. In January 2016, I joined the board of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. (private, headquartered in Waukegan, IL) as chairman. After serving a two-year assignment, I left the board and in January 2018 joined the board of Equipoise Corp (private owner of Truck dealerships in Minneapolis, MN.) We sold the company in July 2019 to a larger industry player, and I joined the board of Land O’Frost, Inc. (private sliced meat processor/packer in Munster, IN.) I remain Chairman of the board of Ulteig Engineers, Inc. (since 2009: private Fargo, ND based engineering company) and director and Chair of the Audit Committee of Devon Bank (since 2014: private community bank in Chicago, IL.)