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Obama Foundation creates group to deal with inclusion, diversity

Barack Obama Foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt speaks during a news conference on May 12, 2015, when it was announced that the Barack Obama Presidential Center will be built in Chicago. | Paul Beaty/AP

WASHINGTON — A newly created Obama Foundation “Inclusion Council” met in Chicago for the first time on Tuesday. The 17-member group is focusing on diversity strategies as the pace of the foundation work picks up, with President Barack Obama having only a few months remaining in office.

“The Foundation is committed to maintaining an environment in which diversity and inclusion are valued and respected in all aspects of its operation, and the Inclusion Council will help us accomplish that goal. We are thrilled that these leaders from across Chicago have agreed to serve on our Inclusion Council and look forward to working with them,” Marty Nesbitt, chair of the Obama Foundation, said in a statement.

The leadership of the Foundation picked the members, and Obama signed off on their selection, a foundation spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times. Obama met privately with supporters of his foundation last Friday night when he was in Chicago. The Obama Center complex, to include a museum and library, will be built in Jackson Park on the South Side.

The three co-chairs of the inclusion/diversity council are Melody Spann Cooper, WVON radio chair; Connie Lindsey, a Northern Trust executive vice president, head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity and Inclusion; and William A. Von Hoene Jr., Exelon senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

The initial members of the council are:

  • Melody Spann Cooper, chairman, WVON Radio; co-chair
  • Connie Lindsey, executive vice president & head of corporate social responsibility and global diversity & inclusion, Northern Trust; co-chair
  • William A. Von Hoene Jr., senior executive vice president & chief strategy officer, Exelon; co-chair
  • Ken Bennett, senior adviser, Public Policy and Community Affairs, Choose Chicago
  • Marca Bristo, president & chief executive officer, Access Living
  • Ellen-Blair Chube, managing director & client service officer, William Blair
  • Jamie Citron, development chief of staff, The Barack Obama Foundation
  • Evelyn Diaz, president, Heartland
  • Sidney Dillard, partner & head of corporate investment banking, Loop Capital
  • Brett Hart, executive vice president, United Airlines
  • Perri Irmer, president, DuSable Museum
  • Weldon Latham, principal, Jackson Lewis; council lead attorney
  • Langdon Neal, principal & owner, Neal & Leroy, LLC
  • Nadia Quarles, assistant vice president for business development, University of Chicago
  • Laura Ricketts, owner, Chicago Cubs
  • Eli Williamson, co-founder & president, Leave No Veteran Behind
  • Bernarda Wong, founder & president, Chinese American Service League