The American Writers Museum Board of Trustees is committed to creating a Board that is representative of our country’s diverse population and the audience that the museum serves. Click here to see the AWM Board Diversity Statement.
Jane Irwin | Chair
Favorite American Author: Jon Krakauer
Jane Irwin joined the American Writers Museum Board in 2014 and currently serves as Vice Chairman and Chair of the Board’s Development Committee.
Jane retired as Senior Vice President Administration at PotashCorp, a mining and chemical manufacturing company where she lead human resources and administrative services and was a member of the executive leadership team. Prior to this position, she was a partner and managing consultant at Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting firm. Jane began her career as an associate attorney, specializing in ERISA and employee benefits law at firms in Chicago and Detroit.
Other board positions Jane currently holds include S&C Electric Company, Chicago IL, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and University of Michigan Law School’s Development and Alumni Relations Committee.
Jane has a B.A. in Multidisciplinary Social Science – Pre-Law from Michigan State University and a J.D. from University of Michigan Law School.
John W. Estey | Immediate Past Chair
Favorite American Author: Frederick Douglass
John Estey is Chairman of S&C Electric Company, a Chicago-headquartered global supplier of equipment and services for electric power systems. Mr. Estey joined S&C in 1972 and held a number of responsible positions before being elected President in 1988, President and CEO in 1997 and Chairman of the Board in 2015.
He is Lead Director of Southwire Company, a member and Past Chairman of The Adler Planetarium Board of Trustees, and is a Director of The Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples, FL.
John was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and holds the degree of Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Ellen Boates Clark | Treasurer
Favorite American Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Ellen Boates Clark has been a member of the American Writers Museum Board of Trustees since 2019. She is the former Director of the Wilmette Public Library, a position she held for twelve years after being a member of the reference department for fifteen years. Her previous experience included reference and consulting services in corporate, academic, and private libraries. She also served on the board of the Congregational Library in Boston.
Ellen has a bachelor’s degree in French from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in library services from Rutgers University.
Edith Falk | Corporate Secretary
Edith Falk is Principal of Falk Consulting LLC, providing consulting services to nonprofit organizations in fundraising, marketing and governance. Previously, she was co-founder and CEO of Campbell & Company, the national consulting firm providing capacity building services to a broad spectrum of nonprofit organizations in the arts, education, healthcare and conservation, across the country.
Edith has served as president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chicago Chapter, member of AFP’s National Board and dean for two years of the Executive Leadership Institute, and is past Chair of the Giving USA Foundation, the publisher of the annual Giving USA report on philanthropy. In 2015, she was awarded the Rosso Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at the University of Indiana.
As a volunteer, Edith is Vice Chair of the American Councils for International Education, which promotes language immersion, cross-cultural education and research through international exchange between the United States and 80 other countries. She is also a Board member of the International Women’s Forum, Chicago.
She earned her B.A. degree at Oberlin College in Ohio and her M.B.A. degree at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, both with honors.
Joan E. Clifford | Vice Chair
After a career in Education, Joan went on to open travel agencies both in Chicago as well as London. She currently works as Firm Administrator for Clifford Law Offices.
She has been a docent at The Chicago History Museum for several years.
She is the immediate Past Chairman of The Goodman Theatre and still very involved
Currently serving as Benefit Events Leadership Chair. She serves on various philanthropic Boards in Chicago as well as Naples, Florida where she has a second home.
She earned a BS degree in Education as well as a Masters in Education Administration, both from DePaul University.
Jay Hammer | Vice Chair
Palm Beach, FL
Favorite American Author: Wallace Stevens
Jay Hammer was present from the creation of the Museum’s first advisory council in Washington DC, working with Founder Malcolm O’Hagan and Founding Vice Chair Werner Hein to develop the Museum’s business plan and fundraising strategy.
Since its founding in 2002, Jay has served as CEO and President of Theralogix, the nation’s leading online seller of physician-referred nutritional supplements. Jay received his B.A. in English from the University of Chicago, did graduate studies in English Literature at Johns Hopkins, and received his MBA from Harvard Business School. Jay grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and attended New Trier West.
Grove Mower | Vice Chair
Favorite American Author: Elmore Leonard
Grove Mower has worked in the securities business in New York and Chicago since 1982, and is presently the Managing Partner of Hummer Mower Associates, a financial advisory and planning firm in Chicago, Il. He joined the board of the American Writers Museum in 2019, and is also a trustee of The Ragdale Foundation, an artist residency in Lake Forest, Il. He resides in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife Brooke, is the proud father of two twenty-something sons, Chapin and Ned, and a corona rescue puppy aptly named Vino. Grove holds dual degrees in English and Political Science from Brown University. He is the author of the coming-of age novels Forty Rod Road and Hope.
Carey Cranston | President
Favorite American Author: James Baldwin
Carey Cranston has been President of the American Writers Museum since 2016. He was previously President of Fox College, a private career college in Chicago, and held leadership positions at PR firms Hill & Knowlton and Kemper Lesnik. Carey has taught writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University. He serves on the Board of Fox College.
Carey holds a B.A. in English from DePaul University, an M.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.S. in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana.
Favorite American Author: David Sedaris
Olivia is a trusted advisor on civil litigation matters, especially regarding intellectual property. She has represented individuals and corporations across the country in complex technological matters. She helps clients protect, enforce, and defend intellectual property rights, including patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks. An experienced trial lawyer, Olivia has litigated and tried significant cases before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and other federal courts around the country, and has also briefed and argued patent appeals before the Federal Circuit. Before practicing law, Olivia spent five years as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, gaining extensive experience regarding the use of procedures available before the USPTO.
Olivia is active in the Chicago community. Among other interests, she currently serves as the Chair of the Attorneys Subcommittee on the Membership Committee for the Economic Club of Chicago; serves as the Executive Director and past President and Founder of the Richard Linn American Inn of Court; serves on the Local Patent Rules Committee at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; and serves on the Board of the American Writers Museum and as past President of its Chicago Council.
Favorite American Author: Willa Cather
Marion Cameron has been President and CEO of Sipi Metals Corp. since 2007, where she has served in various executive functions since 1992.
Prior to Sipi, Ms. Cameron was associated with international metals trading companies in New York.
Ms. Cameron studied Electrical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, where she grew up, and graduated with an MBA from Pace University in New York.
Ms. Cameron is a member of the board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago where she chairs the investment committee and is a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Favorite American Author: Mark Twain
Carolyn Curiel has worked as a journalist and an educator and served as a public servant at home and abroad.
On her way to becoming White House Senior Speechwriter and Special Assistant to President Clinton, she drafted noted speeches on race, including the “mend it, don’t end it” speech on affirmative action, the apology for medical experiments on Black men in Tuskegee, and remarks in Memphis to Black religious leaders. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her as Ambassador to Belize in Mr. Clinton’s second term. Before returning home in 2001, she delivered long-stalled agreements on regional security, the environment, and economic cooperation.
In more than a decade at The New York Times, she was an editor and writer on national and global news that included presidential campaigns, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the crackdown at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. On The Times Editorial Board, she directed the newspaper’s influential election endorsements, prompting another newspaper to call her “the most powerful person in New York politics.” She previously was Producer-Writer at ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel, and an editor at The Washington Post.
At Purdue University, Ambassador Curiel served as chief of staff for the institution, then turned to experiential teaching as a professor of civic communication who regularly engaged her students directly with top journalists, public officials and others who steer public dialogue. Crain’s NewsPro magazine recognized her in 2017 as one of the nation’s 10 top journalism instructors in higher education, even though Purdue lacked a journalism program.
Elissa Hamid Efroymson
Favorite American Author: Kurt Vonnegut
For over twenty years Elissa Hamid Efroymson has been involved in the civic community of Chicago. Ms. Efroymson is passionate about arts and education. She currently serves on the boards of ChiArts (Chicago High School for the Arts), Drake Center for African and African American Studies at Roosevelt University, Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association, as well as the Committee on Learning and Interpretation at the Art Institute Chicago. Ms. Efroymson was a previous trustee of the Museum of Contempory Art Chicago and Chicago Public Media.
Ms. Efroymson holds a Bachelors degree from Loyola University of Chicago, as well as Masters degrees from Depaul University and the University of Chicago.
Elissa and her husband, Adnaan Hamid, live in Chicago with their two children.
M. Hill Hammock
Favorite American Author: Mark Twain
Hill Hammock served as Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of LaSalle Bank at the conclusion of his Commercial Banking career. He then served as Chief Administrative Officer of Chicago Public Schools from 2007 until 2009. Hill is currently Chair of the board of the Cook County Health and Hospital System. He was previously Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, and was Founding Co-Chair of the American Writers Museum. Hill earned his MBA from The University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Georgia Tech. Cheryl and Hill have two sons. They enjoy both the arts and traveling in their leisure time.
Favorite American Author: George Saunders
Werner Hein has been an AWM trustee and officer from the outset when, in 2010, Founder Malcolm O’Hagan began his efforts to establish the Museum. He is currently Senior Counsel at the law firm Mayer Brown where he has worked much of his legal career. Werner co-founded two transatlantic policy organizations and continues to be engaged in them. Werner has his law degree from Columbia law school and the University of Bonn, Germany.
Ivan P. Kane
Favorite American Author: Mark Twain
Ivan Kane joined the AWM Board in 2016 and served as the first chairman of AWM’s Program Committee. He practiced law for 35 years at Mayer Brown LLP. He holds a BA in English Literature and a JD (law) degree, both from The University of Chicago, where he serves on the Humanities Council.
Favorite American Author: Toni Morrison
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman is a novelist, short story writer, and journalist. Her works of fiction include The Dark Path to the River and No Marble Angels. She is editor of The Journey of Liu Xiaobo: From Dark Horse to Nobel Laureate. A former reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, Joanne is a Vice President Emeritus and former International Secretary of PEN International. She serves on the boards of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, the International Center for Journalists, Words Without Borders and Refugees International. She an emeritus board member of Poets and Writers and Human Rights Watch and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and PEN American Center, where she served as a trustee.
Favorite American Author: Mary Oliver
Dominique Raccah is the entrepreneurial Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, the company she founded from her home in 1987. Originally a source of financial information for bankers, Dominique has lead a continuously growing, pioneering general book publishing house that happily produces everything from adult and teen fiction, to top titles in children’s books, to baby names and college guides. The publisher has created scores of New York Times bestsellers, hundreds of national bestsellers, and #1 selling titles in perennial categories. Sourcebooks today has over 150 employees, publishes more than 400 new titles each year, and is proud to be one of the top book publishers in America. It is the largest woman-owned book publisher in the country as well as the largest trade book publisher in Chicago. Dominique has been widely recognized as a leader in innovation in book publishing – Sourcebooks has won every innovation award that the industry gives – as well as in the field itself, being named Publishers Weekly Person of the Year in 2016. She is also a member of The American Writers Museum Board of Trustees.
Dominique is deeply interested in expanding readership, creating a world of readers, and connecting authors and readers in new ways. Sourcebooks works with its retail partners to experiment and develop new ways to inspire and delight their customers, and create books that have extraordinary impact. An inspiring and passionate presenter, Dominique speaks internationally on innovation, the future of book publishing and entrepreneurship, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, The Chicago Tribune, NPR, and The New York Times.
Favorite American Author: David McCullough
Roberta Rubin is a Founding Board Member of the AWM, joining the museum after 40 years as a bookseller and 32 years as the owner of The Bookstall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka. The Bookstall was named one of the top 10 bookstores in America by USA Today and Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Roberta has been involved with numerous Boards and philanthropic activities, including the Ragdale Foundation and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Roberta enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, attending Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, playing tennis, walking with her dog Rosie, and swimming in Lake Michigan all summer and into the middle of October.
Western Springs, IL
Favorite American Author: Shirley Jackson
Michael A. Scodro is a partner in the Supreme Court & Appellate Practice at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago, having previously served as the Illinois Solicitor General. Michael teaches courses on the U.S. Supreme Court and the role and practice of state attorneys general as a Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and he speaks regularly on appellate practice and the Supreme Court. A member of the American Law Institute, Michael also serves as president of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and is a past chair of the ABA’s Council of Appellate Lawyers.
After graduating from Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, Michael was a law clerk to Judge José A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York, NY
Favorite American Author: Patti Smith
Sally Wood is Chief Operating Officer of the Council for Economic Education (CEE), a non-profit organization focused on personal finance and economic education for students from kindergarten through high school.
Prior to joining CEE, Sally was a co-founder of an online investing platform. She previously held senior management roles at Pearson Education, Simon & Schuster, and Bantam Doubleday Dell (now part of Penguin Random House), where she ran online and multi-channel businesses in the education, media, and financial categories.
Formerly a board member of Agatha Christie Ltd., Sally was also a producer of Crooked House, a feature film based on Christie’s novel. Additionally, Sally served as co-chair and as a longtime Board member of the James Merrill House, the former home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet which hosts a writer-in-residence program. She received a BA in English from Bennington College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She has two adult children who love to read, one of whom is a poet married to a poet and novelist.
S. Leigh Pierson Conant
Importance of diversity for the AWM Board of Trustees
The American Writers Museum’s exhibits, public programs, and youth education program present the diversity of American writers, including many writers from historically underrepresented groups, such as women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ writers. The AWM’s leadership is inspired by these writers, and their profound influence, to create a Board that is also representative of our country’s diverse population and the audience that the museum serves.
As the decision-making body at the highest level of organizational leadership, the Board of Trustees plays a critical role in creating a museum that prioritizes, supports, and invests in diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equity.
As the nation’s only museum dedicated to American writers and their influence on our history, our culture, and our daily lives, we embrace and celebrate our common humanity, and the inherent worth of all people. In celebrating all voices, we must also acknowledge that a climate of intolerance and inequity is a challenge to our values and ideals. The complex issues and dynamics at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, national origin, and religion call for proactive thinking within a museum that uses its platform to celebrate all writers and the relevance of their work.
We believe that the AWM is better able to do this work effectively and with authenticity when it is led by a Board of Trustees that is:
The individual leaders who compose the AWM Board are a reflection of our values and beliefs about who should be empowered and entrusted with the most important decisions. We believe that we can better fulfill our mission by drawing on the skills, talents, and perspectives of a broader and more diverse range of leaders, and that the diversity of viewpoints that comes from different life experiences and cultural backgrounds strengthens board deliberations and decision-making.
By cultivating an inclusive culture, we aim to ensure that all board members are encouraged to bring their perspectives, identity, and life experience to their board service. To create an inclusive board culture, we welcome and celebrate differences and ensure that all board members are equally engaged and invested, sharing power and responsibility for the museum’s mission and the Board’s work.
The Board plays a critical role in prioritizing resources and strategies to ensure that the AWM is accessible and relevant to everyone. With an understanding of current cultural inequities, the Board has a powerful opportunity to strengthen the museum’s impact, relevance, and platform for dialogue.
The AWM Board of Trustees commits to filling vacant Board seats with Trustees who better represent the diversity of the American population, and to have a Board that is significantly more diverse by 2025.