Meet our Board of Directors


Dr. Lonnie Johnson
Founder and Chairman of the Board

Dr. Lonnie Johnson is a former NASA engineer who helped develop some of our nation’s most advanced space systems.  Although he has devoted his life to solving   some of the world’s most complex technological problems, he is best known for his wildly popular invention, the Super Soaker water gun.  Dr. Johnson is a prolific inventor and holds more than 150 patents, which include advanced technologies in energy, consumer products and toys.   Dr. Johnson is founder and President of Johnson Research & Development (JRD), Johnson Battery Technologies (JBT) and Johnson STEM Activity Center (JSAC).  Dr. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Nuclear Engineering from Tuskegee University and honorary doctorates from Tuskegee University and the University of Indiana. 

Dr. Johnson, a bonafide rocket scientist, has worked on the Stealth Bomber, The Voyager mission, Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Cassini Mission to Saturn and the Mars Observer.  He has received numerous honors including two Air Force Commendation Medals, an Air Force Achievement Medal and a number of NASA awards.

Dr. Johnson is an inductee of the Engineering Hall of Fame by the State of Alabama, the first African American ever to obtain such an honor in the state’s history.  Popular Mechanics magazine awarded his invention, the JTEC, a “Breakthrough Award for one of the World’s Top 10 Inventions”.  He is a recipient of the Trumpet Award for his life’s work and his dedication to mentoring students.  His Atlanta based, Johnson STEM Activity Center serves thousands of students per year.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the FIRST Robotics program, is a Southeast Region Trustee of The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and a member of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta.  He has been featured in countless magazines and news articles and has appeared on numerous programs.


Mrs. Monica Kaufman Pearson        

Monica Kaufman Pearson is the first woman and first person of color to anchor the WSB TV daily evening news in Atlanta, where she worked for 37 years.  She has been awarded over 33 Southern Regional and local Emmy Awards for reporting, anchoring and interviewing.  When she retired in 2012, she was honored on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan delegation of the State of Georgia for her years of service for improving the lives of Georgians on and off the air.

Since her “retirement” she’s been busy!  At the age of 67, she completed her Master’s degree, Magna Cum Laude.  She is the author of the column, Monica Matters, for Southern Seasons magazine and taught at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.  She is a much sought after emcee and motivational speaker and currently freelances at KISS 104.1 FM radio station.  She is also one of three hosts of the Emmy nominated Georgia Public Broadcasting show, A Seat at the Table.   

Monica was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, the University of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the National Black Radio Hall of Fame.  She was inducted into Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame and inducted into the Trumpet Foundation International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. She serves as board member emeritus of Meals on Wheels, Atlanta.  Monica is also the first non-medical person to serve on the board of  Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association Foundation.  She was named the Woman of Purpose by Women United of the Greater Atlanta United Way.  The Jeanette Rankin Foundation named her their Shining Star for 2019.

Monica was the first African American to serve as Chairperson of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.  She was the first woman to serve as President of the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which presented the Naismith Awards to outstanding high school and college basketball players.  She served on the Board of Jurors for the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards and is a  University of Georgia, Grady Fellow.  Last year the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Monica the John Holliman Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award.  She is a recipient of the University of Georgia, Graduate School Alumni of Distinction Award.  Omicron Delta Kappa, The National Leadership Honor Society, presented her the Pillar of Leadership Award, Celebrating Excellence in Communications.

Monica is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and is a breast cancer and liver cancer survivor.   

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Dr. Sylvia Bartley         

Executive, leader, author, and champion of social change, Dr. Bartley is guided by a greater spiritual purpose rooted in mindfulness and intentionality and she is dedicated to eliminating economic, health and educational disparities.  She currently oversees volunteer engagement for 89,000 employees, in addition to disaster relief and patient empowerment initiatives at Medtronic Foundation.  Dr. Bartley uses her genuine leadership style to foster an environment of compassion and humanity.  She is a respected strategic executive who can shape and operationalize ideas and solutions. As a true globe trotter spanning across continents and cultures, she draws from her unique background armed with a doctorate and years of scientific research in neurophysiology.

Dr. Bartley is passionate about engaging volunteers and is devoted to improving the health, education and economic status of underserved communities.  She made significant impact as a board member and leader for prominent non-profit organizations including the African American Leadership Forum, the Association of Black Foundation Executives and The Black Women’s Health Imperative.  She is an advisory member for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and a newly appointed Regent for Augsburg University.  She is recognized as an impactful leader inspiring change as exemplified through her numerous awards including the Top 100 Most Influential and Powerful Black Briton, the Women in Business Award and Diversity in Business Award from Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Pollen’s 50 under 50 award, and a Bush Fellowship Award.  Her first book “Turning the Tide: Neuroscience, Spirituality and My Path Toward Emotional Health” describes the links between our brains and souls and it inspires readers to change the world.

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Mrs. Vela Mitchell Thomas

Ms. Thomas is the Founder and CEO of VIMM Global, LLC headquartered in Atlanta.  She is a serial entrepreneur having started and sold several million dollar companies.  Her expertise encompasses a wide array of industries and is equally matched by her energy and enthusiasm.  She was one of the first women in the country with direct responsibility for missile sales to the U.S. government and has expertise in product development, distribution, corporate turnarounds and international expansion. 

Ms. Thomas ran Georgia International Travel successfully for 10 years until she sold the business to Direct Travel in 2016.  Before forming her company, VIMM Global, her business career included Director of Industry Sales Programs at Northwest Airlines and Manager of Strategic Defense Systems Business Development for Hughes Aircraft Company.  She has served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Global Travel Supplier Solutions Group at Worldspan.  Under her management, Worldspan’s sales grew to more than 500 airlines, 50,000 hotel properties and 40 car rental companies globally.  Ms. Thomas and her team were also responsible for contracting significant customers, including Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Site 59.  When she left Worldspan, her influence was responsible for more than $600 million dollars of Worldspan’s revenue, and the company’s global online bookings market share had grown to more than 60 percent of the total market.

Ms. Thomas began her career on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide to former U.S. Congressman John Jenrette from her home state of South Carolina.  She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University, a MS from Howard University and a BS from Claflin University.  Vela earned certifications in Global Enterprise Management and Strategic Business Management from Kellogg College at the University of Oxford and from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Mr. Tim Richardson  

Tim Richardson is a seasoned non profit professional and consultant on public-private partnerships. Tim served as consultant to Johnson STEM Activity Center (JSAC) and navigated significant partnerships with the Forever Young Foundation, Hughes Spaulding Children's Hospital, Local Initiative Support Corp and NFL Players Association (Atlanta Chapter).  Prior to his appointment to the JSAC board of directors, Tim also served as its interim director. ​

Over a 28 year career with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), Tim served as Vice President of Military Affairs and International Projects and a host of other leadership positions. At BGCA, Tim brokered collaborations with a diverse spectrum of companies and agencies that improved the lives of America's youth.  NIKE, the Department of Defense, National Recreation Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, NFL Youth Football Fund and the Women’s Sports Foundation are just a few of the organizations impacted. The value of grants and funded projects Tim has secured exceeds $41 million. ​

Legacy International, Tim’s consulting firm, has helped a number of organizations reach their goals and maximize their resources, including the United States Tennis Association Foundation, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, C.A.R.E. (Patsy Collins Trust Fund Initiative), The First Tee, Department of Defense, State Department, Behind the Bench (NBA Wives Association), Bridge to Cross (South Africa), General Organization for Youth and Sports (Kingdom of Bahrain) and Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals to name a few. Tim has served on the board of directors for the National Recreation Foundation, United States Olympic Committee, National Guard Youth Foundation, and Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation. 

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Mr. Richard B. Taylor, CPA 

Richard is the President of Avid Wealth Management Group, LLC and has been helping clients increase and preserve their financial net worth for over 40 years. Richard started the boutique style firm in order to provide clients with a personalized investment experience and a comprehensive approach to managing investment needs. A cum laude graduate of Andrew College, Richard received his BBA from the University of Georgia.
Richard has been featured in Atlanta Magazine where he was named a Five Star Best in Client Satisfaction Wealth Manager. The prestigious award recognizes the top wealth managers in the Atlanta area as identified by consumers and other financial service professionals. Richard is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Georgia Society of CPAs.

Richard is a director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, and HLB-USA. He is a member of the economic development committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and is actively involved in the German American Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the board of trustees of Andrew College and the strategic planning committee and board of advisors for the School of Accountancy at Kennesaw State University. He is a member of the board of advisors of the University of Georgia Athletic Association. He is also a former president of Pinetree Country Club, former director of the University of Georgia Alumni association, and former director of North Cobb Christian School.

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Ms. Renee Barber 

Renee Barber is responsible for establishing and implementing the enterprise account management structure, strategic business processes, and performance rigor to grow Medtronic business with +130 accounts representing $16B in revenue with our most critical customers. 


Renee has more than 22 years of Operations and Supply Chain management experience with an emphasis in Lean/Six sigma, sourcing, capital planning and new business development. She has spent 11 years in the healthcare industry driving lean practices at GE Healthcare, providing Capital planning and operational rigor to the quality, sourcing, and service asset management teams. Renee’s applied her experience to build a new business models in Radiology, including customer segmenting, deal cycle, resource planning, and budget management, generating a $1B revenue pipeline and $250M in customer operational savings.


She joined Medtronic in 2016 leading Americas Operations support for the Integrated Health Solutions business, responsible for leading and developing strategic business processes, growth strategies, and supporting ongoing business operations in the US, Canada, and Latin America.


Prior to entering the healthcare industry, she has experience in the industrial sector beginning her career in the Automotive industry production supervision, EHS, process, improvement, and implementing best-in-class lean manufacturing concepts.


Renee is Six Sigma greenbelt certified and black belt trained.  Renee is a board member of the Johnson STEM Activity Center in Atlanta, and a commercialization partner with University of Arizona’s Tech Launch program.  She holds an Executive MBA from UNC Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Marquette University.