Steering Committee

Early Childhood Funders Collaborative Leadership

Jessie Rasmussen

President 

Buffet Early Childhood Fund

Rasmussen is President of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, an organization she joined in 2007. Since its founding in 2005, the fund has invested approximately $150 million in early childhood practice, policy and research.

Before joining the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Rasmussen spent the first two decades of her career as an early childhood educator and administrator. From there, she moved into the government sector, first as a Nebraska State Senator, then as Human Services Director for both Nebraska and Iowa. Rasmussen also served as a policy director at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. Rasmussen is a Board Member of Educare of Washington DC, where her biography also highlights her key role in the passage of Nebraskan legislation establishing a $60 million early childhood endowment funded through a public and private partnership.

While Director of the Department of Human Services, Rasmussen dealt with some serious issues and adversity. In 2002, a mother named Lori Teska sued her after a social services dispute, claiming that Rasmussen did not properly train personnel working under her. The court vindicated Rasmussen, but the incident certainly seems to have impacted upon her. In a 2009 hearing in front of the House Labor and Education Committee, Rasmussen emphasized the importance of professional development. “As we talk more and more about the importance of the early learning in the first five years and understanding child development. . . we need to get more and more people who are trained in that body of knowledge,” she stated in that hearing. In that same address, she also stated bilingualism, especially in Spanish, as a key skill that childhood care professionals should possess. Rasmussen also discusses the need for teachers and officials working in related fields to erase the differentiation between the concepts of “childcare” and “early education,” as they ought to operate as a seamless and unified environment of support for children.

 

Gerry Cobb

Director

Pritzker Children’s Initiative

Gerry Cobb serves as Director of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a national initiative of the JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation focused on improved state policy and investment for children prenatal to age three and their families. The focus of the initiative particularly emphasizes healthy beginnings, high quality early care and education and support to families of infants and toddlers.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Cobb served as State Services Director for the BUILD Initiative for nearly seven years and was the primary liaison to states in supporting their efforts to build comprehensive early childhood systems.  She also worked for 13 years for North Carolina’s Smart Start Initiative, creating the Smart Start National Technical Assistance Center (NTAC) while there and supporting states around the country that wanted to learn from North Carolina’s experience in the development of its own statewide comprehensive early childhood system. 

Prior to her move into the early childhood realm, Ms. Cobb was Executive Director of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, a program officer for The Asia Foundation and Legislative Assistant to a Member of Congress.

Ms. Cobb is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2010, she took a sabbatical to travel and volunteer around the world, visiting every continent (including Antarctica) and nearly two dozen countries. Her volunteer efforts that year ranged from working with children with special needs in India, teaching English to orphans in Cambodia and looking after lions in Zambia and kangaroos in Australia.  

Pam Howell-Beach

Executive Director 

Stranahan Foundation

Pam began her career in philanthropy in 1987 as the first full-time Program Officer for the Toledo Community Foundation and later served as President of that organization from 1990 to 2003. 

In 2004, Pam moved into her current position as the first professional CEO for the Stranahan Foundation.  In that role, she has worked in concert with the Board to successfully engage family members from across the country in the work of the Foundation, transition leadership to the fourth generation and create two national grant making programs: 

  • the Community Stewardship grant program engages family members from across the country in a broad range of
          grant making opportunities in the areas of human services, education, the environment, arts/culture and
          physical/mental health;
  • the vision of the Early Childhood Education grant program is that all children birth to five, particularly low-income
          children, will experience high-quality learning in early childhood that puts them on a trajectory for success in school
          and life. To that end, this grant program is tightly focused on workforce issues and strategies that support and
          advance high-quality teaching and learning in early childhood settings.

Pam obtained a BA degree from the University of Toledo and a M.S.S.A. degree from Case Western Reserve University (concentration in nonprofit planning and management).

Professional affiliations have included leadership roles with Philanthropy Ohio (formerly the Ohio Grantmakers Forum), where she served in various capacities over the years, including chair of the Program, Membership, Long-Range Planning and Merger Committees, as well as Chair of the Board of Trustees.  She has also served as 2018/2019 Chair of the Early Childhood Funders’ Collaborative Spring Meeting Planning Committee.

In addition, Pam has volunteered time to nonprofit organizations in the Toledo area, including the Boards of the Ability Center, Ability Center @HOME and the Mercy Health Partners.  She has been honored in her local community as the 1996 recipient of the “20 Under 40” award and the 2011 “Milestones: Woman of Achievement Award”.  

She and her husband Bob, an artist, writer and retired marketing consultant, live in Toledo, Ohio.

Wendy Lewis Jackson

Managing Director, Detroit Team

The Kresge Foundation

Wendy Lewis Jackson is managing director for the Detroit Program. She co-leads The Kresge Foundation’s efforts to revitalize Detroit and to strengthen its social and economic fabric. Her work supports organizations providing economic opportunity for low-income people and addresses the needs of vulnerable children and families.

Prior to joining Kresge in 2008, Wendy was a program director for Children and Family Initiatives and executive director for education initiatives at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in Grand Rapids, Mich. She taught at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and has co-authored and assisted in the publication of several reports and publications that address community needs and problem solving.

Wendy is an American Marshall Memorial Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States; the Association of Black Foundation Executives named her an Emerging Leader in 2008. Wendy earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Michigan. She also holds a master’s degree in social work from U-M, with a concentration in community organization and social policy and planning.

Lynn Merz

Executive Director

Mimi and Peter Haas Fund

Lynn Merz is the Executive Director of the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund. She has served in this position for the past 10+ years.  Prior to joining the Fund, Lynn was Vice President and Chief Organizational Officer at the Peninsula Community Foundation. Previously, Lynn served as the first Director of Child, Youth and Family Services for the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the Executive Director and Director of Development for Family Council of Half Moon Bay.

Before coming to California, Lynn worked as the Director of Education for residential and day-schools for emotionally troubled adolescents in Massachusetts. During her career in the Boston area, she was a principal in a consulting and counseling services practice that served independent high schools as well as adolescent clients and their families. Lynn also taught at Harvard University’s Extension Program and Tuft’s University. Lynn has a B.A. from Boston University, a Masters degree in Human Services Administration and Community Education from the University of Massachusetts; and a Masters degree in Counseling and Consulting Psychology from Harvard University. 

The Mimi and Peter Haas Fund is an innovative family foundation with a deep commitment to early childhood issues. The Fund supports activities that provide San Francisco’s low-income children ages two to five years of age and their families with access to high quality early childhood programs that are part of a comprehensive, coordinated system. The Fund recognizes the importance of connecting the work of its early childhood direct service grants to improvements in public policy, and seeks specific opportunities to share and collaborate with other nonprofit organizations. In 2015, the Fund seeded the first shared services alliance in the Bay Area and continues to support this effort.

The Mimi and Peter Haas Fund also supports trustee-initiated grant-making to arts, education, the environment, public affairs, and health and human services organizations.  Over the past decade, the Fund has made $60 million in grants within the ECE field in San Francisco.

Mary Louise McClintock

Director of Education Programs

The Oregon Community Foundation

Mary Louise McClintock is the director of The Oregon Community Foundation’s Education Programs. In that role, she oversees the Foundation’s investments in education from birth to post-secondary. She has been with OCF since 2008. Mary Louise has an undergraduate degree from Lewis and Clark College and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Mary Louise previously served as Child Care Coordinator for the State of Oregon, having been appointed to that position by Governor Neil Goldschmidt. She also has worked for the U.S. Congress, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning, the Oregon Legislative Assembly and as an independent consultant.

Rashanda Perryman-Stiff

Program Officer, Community Stewardship

Vanguard

Rashanda Perryman-Stiff is a Program Officer at Vanguard in the Corporate Philanthropy Division. She was former Program Officer at the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, PA. Rashanda has spent 20 years in early learning and has worked her way through the field starting as a preschool teacher in a community based child care center and a caseworker in child care subsidy management. For the last decade she has worked in early childhood public policy at both the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, IL and the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, DC.

Jeff Sunshine

Program Officer & Manager

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation

Jeff Sunshine joined the Packard Foundation in 2007. He is a program officer and manager of the early learning and after-school and summer enrichment grantmaking portfolios in the Children, Families, and Communities program. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jeff was director of programs at Community Foundation Silicon Valley overseeing its domestic and global grantmaking activities and initiatives. He also served as the executive director of the Volunteer Center of Alameda County and as director of volunteer programs for the Archdiocese of the City and County of San Francisco. Jeff is trained as a special education teacher and as a mental health clinician. He practiced as a family therapist for fifteen years both in Boston and in the Bay Area. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in education from State University of New York at Buffalo, an Ed.M. in counseling psychology from Tufts University, and a Ph.D. in human and organization development and public policy from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara.

Sara Vecchiotti

Vice President, Research and Program Innovation

Foundation for Child Development

 

Dr. Sara Vecchiotti is the Vice President of Research and Program Innovation at the Foundation for Child Development and is responsible for research, program and grant development and monitoring, as well as communications strategies.

Prior to this position, Dr. Vecchiotti served as the Chief Operating Officer for Lutheran Social Services of New York, overseeing all social service programs including, early care and education, special education, immigration services, homeless housing among other issues. Dr. Vecchiotti also held several leadership positions at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services within the Division of Early Care and Education, including Associate Commissioner of Child Care Operations. Dr. Vecchiotti completed the Society for Research in Child Development Congressional Fellowship in the Office of Senator Jeff Bingaman working on early care and education policy and the Executive Branch Fellowship in the Office of Child Care at the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the Administration for Children and Families. She also held fellowships at the Foundation for Child Development, Yale Child Study Center, Columbia University, Teachers College and the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. She holds a doctorate in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University and law degree from New York Law School.