GELF Board of Directors
James Pond has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership. As President of Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), he develops long-term strategies for strengthening early literacy in Tennessee, partnering with the Imagination Library and other outreach initiatives. His leadership role unites the efforts of GELF team; more than 700 statewide volunteers; corporate partners; municipal and state government; and other public and private organizations.
“By putting books in the hands of thousands of children each month, we are opening their minds and helping them become lifelong learners,” said Pond. “This work is a privilege, an honor and a great deal of fun.”
A native of Antioch, Calif., Pond previously served as Executive Director of Veteran’s PATH, which helps combat veterans find health and healing. He also spent 12 years working with organizations combatting sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. After serving eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Pond worked 10 years in corporate America before beginning his nonprofit career.
James earned a master’s degree in 2004 at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He and his wife Athena have three adult children and live in Nashville. He welcomed his first grandson — the family’s first Imagination Library book recipient — in 2018.
Dean Dorsey Hoskins joined Governor's Early Literacy Foundation as Vice President in the summer of 2012. She does a little bit of everything, from overseeing strategic planning and the foundation’s financial management to assisting the president in fundraising and county program support. Having spent much of the past decade as a motivational speaker and consultant to non-profits and financial services firms on matters of operations and internal communications, Hoskins also has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur. In 1998 she purchased a fabric and sewing shop in Nashville while simultaneously launching a wholesale fabric import company. Originally from Macon, Ga., she graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia with a B.B.A. in risk management and insurance.
Linda Kirkpatrick joined the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation team in May of 2014 as Executive Assistant for Administration and Outreach. Her job responsibilities include cultivating relationships with program leaders, donors, enrolled families and prospective enrollees and keeping the office running smoothly.
Senior Manager Philanthropy
Nissan North America
Parul Bajaj is Senior Manager, Philanthropy for Nissan North America, responsible for leading the company’s corporate giving and philanthropy strategy for the U.S. She also serves as executive director of the Nissan Foundation, overseeing activities related to the Foundation’s ongoing support of educational programs that celebrate and foster diversity.
Bajaj joined the Nissan Corporate Communications team in March 2016 and brings extensive experience from Bridgestone and FedEx.
Since then, she has held positions of increasing responsibility in corporate and manufacturing communications. Most recently, she completed an 18-month assignment with the Renault-Nissan Mitsubishi communications team, based in Paris.
Bajaj holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi.
Chief Financial Officer
Delta Dental of Tennessee
Jeff Ballard serves as Chief Financial Officer of Delta Dental of Tennessee.
Prior to joining Delta Dental of Tennessee in 2015, Ballard previously served as CFO of Franklin-based Magazines.com. Prior to that, he was a controller for Corrections Corporation of America and an auditor of Arthur Anderson.
Ballard holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Claire Jones joined the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation team in February 2016 as Communications & Marketing Outreach Coordinator. Her responsibilities include creating communications and marketing materials, planning special events with the First Lady’s office, and organizing media outreach to raise awareness of Tennessee’s Imagination Library. Jones previously served as Policy Coordinator for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Originally from Shreveport, La., she graduated cum laude from Louisiana State University with a B.A. in Political Communications.
Jennifer Colquitt serves as an Executive Assistant to the Frist Family, working closely with the family from their primary residence assisting with household, event, and financial operations. Prior to working for the Frists, she worked in Development at Vanderbilt University as the Program Coordinator for Community and Foundation Relations. Jennifer graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt with a B.S. in Political Science and Psychology. She went on to earn a Masters Degree from the Education Department at Belmont University.
Jennifer enjoys being an active volunteer. She currently sits on the board of Chi Omega House Corporation at Vanderbilt as Past President, as well as Sports Servants, an organization that promotes sports as a mission in Belize. She is also a seventh-year active member at the Junior League of Nashville where she has served in many placements focused on literacy and child health in the Nashville community. She is a member of Midtown Fellowship Downtown Church where she is a Women’s Ministry volunteer. She lives in Nashville and her favorite role is being “Aunt Ju” to her 2 nieces and 2 nephews.
Judge Brandon Gibson
Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
State of Tennessee
Brandon O. Gibson serves as a senior advisor to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. She was appointed to this position in January 2019. Prior to this appointment, she served as a Tennessee Court of Appeals judge for the state's western section and is a sixth generation Tennessean. She graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and Master’s degree in Agribusiness Management. She graduated from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 2000, practiced law in Texas for a year, and felt the pull back to West Tennessee, where she began practicing law in Jackson. She practiced at Pentecost & Glenn for many years until Governor Bill Haslam appointed her to the Tennessee Court of Appeals on December 26, 2013. Brandon was sworn in on September 1, 2014. She lives on a small farm in Crockett County, Tennessee.
Director, Global Public & Community Affairs
Eastman Chemical Company
CeeGee McCord is an instrumental part of Eastman's global public affairs and policy team. She has responsibility for corporate and Eastman Foundation investing, social innovation and impact initiatives, community affairs, and economic development partnerships. In addition to leading the corporate responsibility and education initiatives ream, she manages the corporate events and customer engagements organization. This involves responsibility for all executive and Board functions, sales and investor meetings customer outreach, conferences, and VIP visits to Eastman offices and sites around the world.
Prior to joining Eastman, McCord worked extensively in the nonprofit and public service sector. She earned her bachelor's degree in management from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a master's degree in public administration from Kennesaw State University. McCord has served in many volunteer leadership positions in philanthropic and service organizations. She has served as the chair of the State Government Affairs Committee of the American Chemistry Council as a board member for the United Way of Tennessee, chaired the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Board and the Commission of the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority. She currently serves as the secretary of the Kingsport Economic Development Board, is chair of the inclusion and diversity initiatives of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the Johnson City/Washington County Chamber, and a lifetime member of Leadership Tennessee. McCord and her husband, Jeff, have three adult children.
Senior Director, Community Initiatives
Dollar General Corporation
Denine Torr joined Dollar General in the fall of 1999. As senior director of Community Initiatives, she oversees corporate and foundation giving, employee volunteer engagement efforts, and cause-related partnerships for Dollar General's forty-four state market.
Mrs. Torr has designed and executed charitable initiatives for Dollar General that have raised more than $100 million for charity. She was instrumental in the creation of the Dollar General Employee Assistance Foundation. Under her leadership, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has flourished into a national thought leader and has helped more than 9 million individuals learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency or learn English.
Mrs. Torr received her Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Communications from Middle Tennessee State University. Prior to Dollar General, her experience includes network television production, freelance writing and public relations. Denine currently serves on the board of directors for the Nashville Public Library Foundation, Nashville Public Television and is board chair for ProLiteracy Worldwide.
Dr. Andrea Willis, M.D.
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Dr. Andrea Willis is the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. In her leadership role at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Dr. Willis ensures that all clinical initiatives and quality endeavors support the needs of our members, and contribute to the overall health and well-being of our communities. As the standard bearer for clinical excellence and positive health outcomes, she keeps quality care at the forefront of discussions with our customers, providers, regulators and stakeholders.
Meeting Dr. Willis means quickly recognizing her passion for better health and a better health care system, which stems from her early professional experience as a pediatrician. Within BlueCross, she has served as medical director, advising on care structures for many successful programs, including the CHOICES Long-Term Services and Support program for the state’s Medicaid population, and CoverTennessee.
Before joining our company, she served the State of Tennessee as director of CoverKids, helped develop Tennessee’s federally approved State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and served as deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health.
Dr. Willis is a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Tennessee Medical Association. She earned a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and a Doctor of Medicine from Georgetown University School of Medicine.
GELF Advisory Council
The Advisory Council is a governing body that provides Governor's Early Literacy Foundation with strategic advice and resources to help grow the Imagination Library program. It is made up of educators, stakeholders, donors, and partners who serve as connectors and ambassadors for Tennessee's Imagination Library statewide.
(Pictured left to right, front row: Dr. Shirley Raines, President of GBBF Theresa Carl, Governor Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam, Vicki Smith, second row: Mayor Jake Bynum, Laura Travis, Donna Noland, Byron Trauger, back row: Rachel Gatlin, Dr. Nancy Dishner, Not pictured: Calvin Anderson)
- Calvin Anderson, Former Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Chief of Staff, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation
- Mayor Jake Bynum, Weakley County
- Dr. Nancy Dishner, President and CEO, Niswonger Foundation
- Donna Noland, First Lady, East Tennessee State University
- Dr. Shirley Raines, President Emeritus, University of Memphis
- Vicki Smith, Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, Nissan North America Inc
- Byron Trauger, Partner, Trauger & Tuke
- Laura Travis, Associate Agent, Ron Travis Agency
- Dr. Michael D. Warren, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Family Health & Wellness at Tennessee Department of Health