LEADERSHIP

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.

Jim Dimitri Kales, CEO, Braille Institute of America, Inc.

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.

Chief Financial Officer: Debra J. Martin, CPA

Debra Martin brings over 25 years of non-profit finance and operational experience in higher education. She has extensive experience serving in senior leadership roles at NYU Law School, Caltech, Loyola Law School, and Mount Saint Mary’s University. Prior to joining the Braille Institute, she served as Vice President for Administration and Finance/CFO for Mount Saint Mary’s University where she oversaw an operating budget of over $125 million, a $160 million endowment. Debra has experience working with neighbor and governmental groups and has an appointment by the Governor of California to the California Educational Financing Authority Board. She has a strong commitment to service and has served on the board of Verbum Dei High School for over 10 years and sits on several non-profit audit committees.

Originally from Massachusetts, Debra has called Los Angeles her home since 2000 and currently lives with her husband Geoff in Pasadena. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and attained her CPA in Rhode Island while working for KPMG early in her career. She loves outdoor activities such as skiing, golfing, and biking and spending time in Maui.

Gary Jimenez wearing blue suit jacket with a light blue collard shirt

Vice President, Development: Gary Jimenez

Gary Jimenez returned 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).

Lisa Jimenez, Vice President, Programs and Services

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, People and Culture: William M. Nelson

Bill brings over 30 years of experience serving in a variety of human resource capacities. He has focused his professional goals on creating high performing, effective, and engaged teams starting with executive leadership development. Prior to joining Braille Institute, Bill worked with diverse organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors including most recently EdventureMore!, Westfield, University of Baltimore, UCLA, Amgen, and Eastman Kodak. In these roles, he had the opportunity to work and live in different countries and to experience the dynamics of cultural awareness, diversity, and inclusion first hand.

Bill has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Masters of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations from Loyola University of Chicago and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology (IRIT). He has been an active community advocate and currently volunteers with Ventura County Caregivers, Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, and has been a volunteer with the Ventura County Humane Society and the American Red Cross. He sits on the boards of directors for the Girls Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and EdventureMore! Outside work, Bill remains active in hiking, biking, tennis, photography, and travel.

Sandy Shin

Vice President, Marketing and Communications: Sandy Shin

Sandy Shin brings 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.

Anthony Joji Taketa

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.

Maria Valdivia

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, SafeCamp, LLC  

Madhu Ayyagari, PhD, Senior Vice President, Global R&D for Hoya Surgical Optics
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, Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair of Satellite Affairs, Vitreoretinal Surgeon, USC Keck School of Medicine
William J. Link, PhD, Managing Director of Versant Ventures, Managing Partner of Flying L Partners
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
Donald Whinfrey, Retired Financial Executive
Diane Wilkinson, Braille Institute Auxiliary 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)


For more information call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553) Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST).