For more than a century, Braille Institute has been guided by the wisdom and tireless expertise of a generous Board of Directors. The support of the Board, combined with a capable and knowledgeable staff, has enabled us to become an organization that brings hope and confidence to thousands of people who are blind or visually impaired.
Chief Executive Officer: Jim Dimitri Kales
Jim Kales is a leader in the non-profit sector with more than 25 years of experience working for organizations such as United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He most recently served as CEO of Aspire, one of the Midwest’s leading non-profits serving people with intellectual disabilities. Aspire was named one of the 101 Best and Brightest Places To Work in the United States seven times.
Jim was born in Santa Monica and spent his early childhood in Los Angeles while his parents worked as psychiatrists in the UCLA Health system. He graduated summa cum laude with honors from Bucknell University and received his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. Jim is fluent in four languages including Spanish, French and Greek.
Vice President, Development: Gary Jimenez
Gary Jimenez returns to Braille Institute in 2018 after several decades of successful fundraising and nonprofit leadership. He brings a breadth of experience working for regional and national organizations in senior fundraising and managerial roles. Most recently, Gary served as Chief Development Officer at Jumpstart for Young Children. He began his career at Braille Institute in 1989 where he worked with the youth program and ultimately developed an interest in program sustainability and fundraising. He has since worked for education reform and mentoring programs, colleges and universities, and scholarship granting organizations. Gary is a native of Southern California and has been active with the Rotary Club of Los Angeles (LA5) since 1997. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California (USC).
Vice President, Programs and Services: Lisa Jimenez
Lisa Jimenez has been serving those who are visually impaired at Braille Institute for more than 30 years. She began her work as a counselor working with both students and families. She has served in many roles including Educational Programs Coordinator, Regional Manager and Executive Director. Lisa has responsibilities for programming and oversees six of the regional centers including Anaheim, Laguna Hills, Coachella Valley, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara. She has served as a Board Member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, President of Women Leaders Forum, Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of Leadership Coachella Valley, 2013-2014.
Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts from University of Northern Iowa in Psychology and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Illinois State University. She also has a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of California, Riverside.
Vice President, Programs and Services: Sergio Oliva
Sergio Oliva has a strong program development and design background and is especially well-versed in building strong teams to match program goals. His overall experience includes administration and reporting on grant-funded projects, strategic planning and identifying and measuring program outcomes. He believes in developing leadership talent within the organization to help support the advancement of Braille Institute’s mission. Sergio was hired in 2013 to lead and grow long-standing national programs focusing on braille literacy (The Braille Challenge and Special Collection) and orientation and mobility (Cane Quest) for school-aged youth. Over the years, his responsibilities have expanded to oversee Youth Services, Child Development, the adult Orientation and Mobility program, Library Services, Vision Connect (customer service) and the Los Angeles Center. Sergio served as the Secretary on the international board for the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Currently, he serves as a board member for the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB) and the California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEBVI).
Sergio was raised in Inglewood, CA and holds his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Public Administration from Cornell University. Sergio loves traveling and reading used books.
Chief Financial Officer: Rezaur Rahman
Reza Rahman was born in Bangladesh and received his early education there before coming to the United States in 1981. Here, he earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from the University of Central Oklahoma. In 1985, Reza moved to Los Angeles in search of work. He loved the weather and soon found work as an accountant for a life insurance company. While working, he studied for his certification as a Certified Public Accountant and received his license. Then he saw an ad by Braille Institute for an Assistant Director of Financial Services. He applied and was hired immediately. His excellent work in this area for a number of years has resulted in him being named Chief Financial Officer.
Vice President, Marketing and Communications: Sandy Shin
Sandy Shin joined Braille Institute in 2018, bringing over 25 years of marketing and communications experience with highly recognized brands that include IBM, Disney, Southern California Edison, UCLA and USC. As a well-respected professional she has developed comprehensive marketing campaigns and programs utilizing both traditional and digital channels of communications. She has overseen brand management and has raised the visibility and reputation of several organizations. She has been responsible for creating customer engagement and enhancing the customer experience across all touch points. She obtained her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing from the University of Southern California (USC) and her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a native of Southern California.
Corporate Secretary and General Counsel: Anthony Joji Taketa
After receiving his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law in 1983, Anthony ‘Joji’ Taketa, a Los Angeles native, began a 24-year litigation career, handling a wide variety of cases but focusing primarily on trust and probate matters, real estate, construction, and business disputes. He has represented many nationally recognized companies including restaurant chains, contractors, and financial institutions. In 1988, he joined the law firm of Poindexter & Doutre, Inc., becoming a shareholder in 1996. He was successful appellate counsel in the published decision D’Orsay International Partners v. Superior Court (Stone), 123 Cal.App.4th 836 (2004), concerning the availability of mechanic’s lien rights for a design-build contractor when actual construction did not commence. After nearly two decades of experience representing nonprofit organizations in trust, probate, and business matters, including Braille Institute, Joji left private practice to become General Counsel at the Institute in 2007.
Vice President, Technology and Business Solutions: Maria Valdivia
Maria Valdivia joined Braille Institute in 1991 and has played a vital role in ensuring the organization’s continual technological development and growth. She has improved Braille’s infrastructure and centralized several business processes, while reducing operating costs and improving the customer experience. She and her team support data analytics, cloud and mobile technologies. Maria has implemented a security awareness program to decrease the organization’s vulnerability to external threats.
Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Computer Methods from California State University, Long Beach. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, travel, and exploring new technology.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair – James J. Rhodes, Designed Protection Insurance Services
Patricia Bramhall, Principal, Tydak Consulting Services LLC (retired)
Michael C. Corley, Partner, KPMG LLP
Percy Duran III, Esq., Retired Attorney
James H. Jackson, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Alisal Guest Ranch
Linda A. Lam, MD, MBA, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair of Satellite Affairs, Vitreoretinal Surgeon, USC Keck School of Medicine
William J. Link, Ph.D. Managing Director of Versant Ventures, Managing Partner of Flying L Partners
Richard A. Nelson, Civil/Geotechnical Engineer, Retired
John G. Nuanes, Esq., Retired Attorney, Community Volunteer
Jeanne Olenicoff, Community Volunteer
Harvey Strode, Principal, UCBB Capital & Transition Solutions LLC
Lester M. Sussman, Senior Practice Director, Resources Global Professionals
George E. Thomas, Thomas Partners Investments, LLC
Diane Wilkinson, Braille Institute Program Review Committee Chair
CLINICAL ADVISORY BOARD
Chair – Linda A. Lam, MD, MBA, Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair of Satellite Affairs, Vitreoretinal Surgeon, USC Keck School of Medicine
Mark Humayun, MD, PhD, Director of Research USC Roski Eye Institute; Professor of Ophthalmology, USC Keck School of Medicine; Inventor of Argus Implant (Retina)
Don Kikkawa, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice-Chairman; UCSD Department of Ophthalmology; Chief, Division of Oculofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (Oculoplastics)
Bartly J. Mondino, MD, Chairman, Jules Stein Eye Institute (Cornea)
Bibiana J. Reiser, MD, Associate Professor, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (Pediatric Glaucoma and Cornea)
James C. Tsai, MD, MBA, President, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt Sinai; Professor and System Chair, Ophthalmology (Glaucoma)