Chicago Board Successes

The Private Directors Association provides a national network where executives and professionals interested in board service can find and meet with those 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 can respond to these opportunities.  This page provides the "Success Stories" from those who, by virtue of their membership in the Private Directors Association, have been able to secure Board Positions.


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

One of our purposes in founding the Private Directors Association was to provide a nexus for independent directors and private companies that are seeking them. This capability is up and running. In July, Dennis Kessler passed a search inquiry from the Loyola Family Business Center through to members. I responded to that inquiry. In January, I joined the board of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (private, headquartered in Waukegan, IL) as chairman. 


Venita Fields
Pelham S2K Managers

In late 2014, I met Rod Johnson, a Vistage Chair, at a monthly Private Directors Association meeting. Rod and I met for coffee where I shared my credentials and my desire for board service. In March 2015, I was recommended by Rod to interview for a board position with Field Fastener, Inc. (private: headquartered in Rockford, IL), a multi-generational family owned distribution business. I interviewed for the position in May and joined the board as an independent director in July 2015.


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.


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.


M. Jay Heilbrunn
The Distributor Board LLC

The Loyola Family Business Center sent out an announcement 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.  Within a short period of time a phone interview was conducted and then I was asked to visit in-person with all of the Board members of the company and their family business advisor.  In December I was asked to join the Board.  The company is Top Notch Distributors located in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  The company has 3 other distribution centers in Missouri, Nevada and Massachusetts.  They are a leading B to B 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.