Meet The PYP Chicago Members
Katherine E. Banich
A Chicago native, Katherine attended Carleton College, where in 2005 she received a B.A. in psychology, magna cum laude, and then attended Columbia University in New York where she earned a M.S. in Journalism. She worked at Chicago Magazine and later at Groupon as a staff writer. In 2012, she had her first daughter and became a stay-at-home mom. Katherine is formerly a member of the Junior League of Chicago, and now serves on the Board of Directors for Willow Wood Preschool. In 2019, she chaired the Willow Wood Ball, raising $40,000 for Willow Wood Preschool. Her true passion is for WINGS, an organization that provides shelter, support and counseling to those fleeing domestic violence. She lives in Winnetka with her husband and two daughters. In her free time, she plays tennis and paddle tennis, and also loves to cook and read.
Dominique Birchmeier was born and raised on the Northshore. She attended Texas Christian University where she gained a Masters in History. Upon graduation she decided to move to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. She started her career at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank where she concentrated on creative development in the live action film division. She spent 10 years working on dozens of films such as The Kid and National Treasure. In 2005, she decided to move back to the Chicago area and fulfill her dream of getting into the interior design business. She landed a job at the leader in luxury bath design Waterworks. There she master the art of bath design. In 2010 after having her daughter Brette, she started her own interior design company DFB Designs. Dominique has become a leader on the Northshore in luxury interior and bath design. Dominique has served on several boards across the Northshore including Ravinia and Winnetka Community House Woman’s Board. Dominique loves to travel and cook with her husband Brad and Brette.
Julie M. Brandt
Julie grew up in the Chicago area and just moved back to Winnetka in 2019 from living in Hong Kong for 3 years with her husband and 2 daughters. Julie holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing & international business and an MBA from Kelly School of Business, Indiana University. Julie is currently appointed Vice President, Chief Transformation Officer at Otis Elevator Company. Julie leads the global transformation initiative preparing the organization to be a standalone company, separating from United Technologies. She has over 24 years of experience driving organizations to profitable growth. Prior to her current job, she served as the Managing Director for Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan where she led a $400M business with over 2,300 employees. Earlier in her career, she held positions of increasing responsibility across multiple functions, including sales & marketing, service, and general management in North and South America. A person always in pursuit of being a “Do-Gooder”, she has focused on ensuring her organization is focused on Corporate Social Responsibility within the markets they are present. In Hong Kong she was a strong supporter of Greenshoots program which was an initiative focused on providing training on elevator & fire safety to children with autism. Julie was on the Board of Directors, for American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Hong Kong. Another platform that she is very passionate about is female leadership and diversity in the workforce and is often speaking out and mentoring within her organization, around the world to encourage more women to take on larger roles within the corporation.
Monika Cheney is originally from the Silicon Valley, and spent the majority of her years there until she and her husband and two children moved this past year to Winnetka. Since 2003, Monika has served as Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors of the Gruter Institute for Law & Behavioral Research, a not-for-profit think tank, where she leads research and fundraising initiatives at the intersection of law, innovation, economics and human behavior. She is excited about the Institute’s contributions to topics such as the roles of intellectual property and regulation in innovation, trust and cooperation in markets, and human behavior and leadership. Before joining the Gruter Institute, Monika practiced law for six years, most recently in the intellectual property and technology transactions group at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, Rosati, in Palo Alto.
Monika is passionate about several not for profit causes outside of her day-job. Some of her projects have included: serving for a decade as capital campaign Co-Chair for Windmill School LaureL Family Education Center, which culminated in successfully raising $10M, purchasing land in an idyllic spot in the heart of the Silicon Valley and developing it into a new preschool and community center campus; serving as founding Co-Chair of the PANS Volunteer Action Committee at Stanford Children’s Health, which in its first year has helped raise over $6M for research relating to autoimmune encephalitis); serving for over a decade as a Board Member of the Berger Institute at Claremont McKenna College; and recently joining the Board of the Center for Lyme Action to help grow federal funding for Lyme disease diagnostics and therapies. Monika is excited to see what projects lie ahead in Chicagoland!
Monika earned her J.D. in 1998 from Georgetown University Law Center, and her B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and International Relations from Claremont McKenna College in 1995. In her free time, Monika loves to travel with her family and friends, play tennis, hike, and hang out with her family’s Bernese Mountain Dog, Marley.
Carolyn grew up in Massachusetts and earned her BS in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. During her 20-year career, she has advised Fortune 500 companies as a consultant and managed several $100M+ businesses for both GAP Inc and Kraft Foods. Most recently, she completed 5 years as the Head of Global Marketing for a specialty ingredients company that helped food companies find sustainable and natural food ingredients for every day products.
In 2019, she co-founded Clark Strategic Consulting to help select clients with their marketing and communications while being able to spend more time with her family and community.
Carolyn lives in Winnetka with her husband and two kids. She currently serves on the board for Winnetka Children’s Hour and her children’s local PTO and looks forward to getting to know more organizations within the community.
Liz Cushman is passionate about her career in health care, where she helps to deliver products that save and enhance the lives of millions of people who suffer from conditions like heart failure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Liz moved to the Chicago area in 2018, and she is currently Divisional Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Abbott, a global healthcare leader where she has worked for nearly twenty years and currently heads the legal function for the company’s global medical devices businesses. Prior to that, Liz and her family lived in Basel, Switzerland for three years, where she was the head of legal for Abbott’s pharmaceutical business. Prior to joining Abbott, Liz worked for several years in private legal practice in California until she quit her job and spent 2001 traveling the world with her then boyfriend and now husband, Paul. They live in Winnetka with their three wonderful children and dog, Winnie.
Liz enjoys travel and sports and currently serves on the Women’s Board of Children’s Home & Aid is a past member of the Board of the Windmill School. She volunteers her time at organizations such as the SF-Marin Food Bank, Highland Park Legal Aid Clinic, Ascend Justice, Feed My Starving Children, and Bernie’s Book Bank, among others. Liz earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley and a juris doctorate from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.
Amanda (Mandy) Day
Mandy is originally from CT and spent the majority of her life growing up and eventually raising a family in the small town of New Fairfield. Recently she moved to IL in the summer of 2019, following her husband Tom as he took a new job in Chicagoland.
Mandy has both an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and Masters of Public Administration from Marist College. For the last 20 years she has focused her career in the talent acquisition space working for several large companies. She joined her current company Cigna in 2015 as the Head of Talent Acquisition for U.S. Markets and was promoted in 2016 to the Global Head of Talent Acquisition. In her current role as the Head of Global Talent Acquisition she has overall responsibility for the entire recruitment/employment infrastructure including process, policy and procedures, social media, diversity and inclusion, early career, recruitment technology, metrics and measurement, employment branding, assessments, and vendor/search partner management.
Mandy lives in Winnetka with her husband Tom, son Lucas, daughter Arabella and bulldogs Surf and Blu. Mandy is passionate about giving back to the community and devotes her time to various philanthropies including Blessings in a Backpack, Boys and Girls Club, American Heart Association, March of Dimes along with local Charities within the communities she lives.
Paige is a top producing agent at Compass and has been a leader in North Shore real estate market for more than 20 years, including over a decade with #1 in market share in Winnetka. Paige is listed in Who’s who in Luxury Real Estate, ranked as a top national agent by Wall Street Journal/Real Trends, is part of the LUXEHOME 10 and consistently voted a Five Star Professional.
Paige is passionate about Winnetka and the Villages of the North Shore. She is an enthusiastic supporter of education, a past chair, vice chair and long member of the Winnetka Public School Foundation, past co-chair of the beloved Winnetka Children’s Fair and a member of the Winnetka Historical Society. She is actively engaged in the Winnetka Music Festival. Paige supports a cross section of local charities often at the sponsorship level.
Paige graduated from SMU with a BBA in business and began her career in consumer marketing & advertising.
Julie Ellis recently moved to Winnetka from New Canaan Connecticut with her husband Brad and their son Jake who is a sophomore at New Trier High School. Their other son is completing his Senior year in Connecticut and will attend Penn State in 2021 .
Julie has a masters degree in elementary education and taught in Connecticut 1998-2002. She continues to raise her sons, being a hockey mom, served on boards in her community where she has resided and taking care of a busy household.
Julie and Brad grew up in Lodi, California and went to college together. They have lived in Lake Oswego, OR, New Canaan, CT, Ladue, MO, and now Winnetka, IL.
Amber was born and raised in Elgin, IL, before moving to Chicago after college, and eventually settling down in Winnetka with her husband, Ommid, and two children, Juliet and Kamran, in 2012. Amber has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Illinois State University and spent her early career working in a residential facility and therapeutic day school for troubled youth. A love of design and helping others eventually led to a successful real estate career with Coldwell Banker in Lincoln Park, Chicago. Amber and Ommid also launched RC Development in 2006 focusing on residential development in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago.
After Juliet was born in 2008, Amber became a stay at home mom and began focusing on philanthropic endeavors. Amber worked with Pendersen-McCormick Boys and Girls Club, utilizing her social work background to mentor young people in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. After moving to Winnetka, Amber served on the Executive Board of her children’s preschool, ultimately serving as President of the Board from 2014 to 2016. As President, Amber restructured the Board and oversaw the hiring of a new Executive Director for the school. In addition to her work at the preschool, Amber served as President of The Alliance for Early Childhood, a collaborative community organization that supports and guides families and educators to nurture the healthy, well-rounded development of children from birth to age eight.
Most recently, Amber served on the North Shore Board for the Northwestern University Settlement House, which fundraises to support the House In The Wood Camp in Delavan, Wisconsin. All proceeds from the annual House In The Wood Gala directly benefit this award-winning program, enabling more than 1,000 children from Chicago’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to experience outdoor education sessions with a STEM curriculum during the school year, and residential summer camp.
Amber also supports the Chicago Food Depository, various literacy organizations, and works with the PTO at her children’s schools.
Isabel grew up in the North Shore, so it was a natural place to settle once she and her husband John (also a Chicagoland native) started their family. Isabel has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University, with a focus on secondary education. She has worn many professional “hats” over the years, working not only in schools themselves but also in educational content publishing. Currently, Isabel is an aide at Willow Wood Preschool, a member of the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and a supporter of Almost Home Kids. Isabel is proud to represent each of the three institutions, but perhaps most excited to introduce fellow PYP members to the less-familiar AHK—an organization providing a broad range of support to families caring for children with complex medical needs.
Kim grew up in Connecticut, then moved Virginia, and then again to Ohio. She moved to Chicago following graduation from Washington University in St. Louis where she earned a BA in Art History and a minor in Business. In Chicago she started her professional career in advertising at Leo Burnett working primarily on the General Motors account. She then changed careers and entered the development world. She worked in fundraising for Shedd Aquarium managing the Auxiliary Board events and the Aquarium Council donor society program. She then worked at the University of Chicago where she was responsible for several large Alumni Clubs, primarily the Chicago and NYC alumni. After that, she worked at the Art Institute of Chicago where she oversaw their Sustaining Fellows donor program. She then took on a new role where she managed large-scale donor events, exhibition openings, and the director’s entertaining. The largest and most memorable project she undertook was working on the opening of the Modern Wing. After her twin girls were born in 2013, Kim became a stay at home mom. Two years later she and her family moved to Winnetka.
Kim became very involved with her daughters’ preschool and was a board member for their three years. There she planned the school’s annual fall fundraiser and concluded her tenure as VP of Marketing. Kim is currently involved with North Shore Country Day School where her children are in First Grade. She is the room parent, co-chair of lunch duty, and the annual fund representative for her girls’ class. Kim is also an active volunteer for the Art Institute of the Chicago’s Auxiliary Board where she has been a member of the executive committee and for two years co-chaired the annual Treasure Hunt and Tea Party event. Lastly, she is a member of the Winnetka Community House Woman’s Board and has for several years co-chaired a speaker event for the Antiques + Modernism Show.
Lisa grew up in and currently lives Winnetka, Illinois with her husband and their two daughters. She attended New Trier High School and was an All American top 10 in state springboard diver. She went on to get her Bachelors of Science degree in Business and Economics from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA while continuing with diving as a NCAA division one athlete and captain of the team. Lisa then moved back to Chicago to begin her 20-year career as an institutional fixed income sales person. She worked for Salomon Smith Barney, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley selling bonds to money managers, banks and insurance companies. In 2003 a group of young professionals in Chicago, including Lisa decided it was time to give back. They founded the Scholar Board of the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation. The Forbeck Foundation was founded in 1985 to bring cancer researchers together to focus on driving communications and collaborations between scientists and clinicians. Building these connections are vital facilitators of advancing oncology research. The Junior Board’s mission specifically was to fund the next generation of scientists. The first Scholar Retreat, which brought together more junior scientists in a mentoring and collaboration fostering environment, was in 2005 and this is now a thriving program still today. Thanks to the initiatives of the Scholar Board the future of cancer research and the Forbeck Foundation are breaking new grounds as they enter their 35th year of scientific progress.
Liza Michaels Gravengaard
Liza is a corporate communications and public relations consultant with more than 20+ years of experience across a wide range clients and industries. She worked for PR agencies in New York, Boston and Chicago and was most recently the Director of PR + Corporate Communications for Chicago-based Vi, formerly Classic Residence by Hyatt, in a full-time capacity. She continued consulting for that company, and then other clients, in the past ten years.
She has been active in philanthropy for many years, specifically favoring charities that focus on the arts, as well women’s and children’s causes. She currently sits on the Northwestern University Settlement House board and is also a sustainer of the Kohl Children’s Museum women’s board.
Liza is a resident of Winnetka and has three children, ages 8 and 10. She is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York and holds an M.A. in English from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Jackie grew up in Portland, Oregon and earned her B.A. in psychology and writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Upon graduation, Jackie moved to Chicago, where she worked as a paralegal and met her husband, Scott. Jackie went on to attain her J.D. at the University of Illinois College of Law, and thereafter returned to Chicago to practice as a commercial real estate attorney with Sidley Austin LLP for the next 8 years. She eventually decided to step away from legal practice to pursue more exciting endeavors (i.e., raising kids). Jackie and Scott moved to Winnetka in 2019 with their two daughters and Golden Retriever. Jackie serves on the board of Friends of the Children – Chicago, a nonprofit that pairs at-risk kindergarteners with professional, salaried mentors who remain with them for 12 years (until high school graduation). She also served on the board of Willow Wood Preschool and the Family Advisory Council of Cradles to Crayons. Jackie and her family love to travel, ski, golf and explore the outdoors.
Emily grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana and currently lives in Winnetka, Illinois. Emily was recruited to play tennis for the University of Notre Dame where she played for four years and earned her marketing degree from the business school. It was a career in advertising that brought her to Chicago where she worked for Foote, Cone & Belding on the MillerCoors Brewing Company account for 8 years before becoming a dedicated mother of 3 with her husband Andrew. Emily served on the Women’s Board of Kohl Children’s Museum for 4 years. The board’s many efforts are committed to supporting and enhancing the Museum’s commitment to children by extending the Museum’s base of support to include individuals, families and philanthropic organizations and promoting and sustaining the development of exhibits and programs. Emily is currently the PTO Vice President of her children’s elementary school where next year she will become President, overseeing and managing 30+ committees that support school activities and student learning.
Laura is a Chicago area native, growing up in Naperville, Illinois. She lives in Winnetka, Illinois with her husband, Frank and three daughters. During her professional career, she worked in advertising sales management with Crain Communications and International Data Group, an information technology publisher. She earned her B.S. Commerce from DePaul University. Laura served on the Board of Winnetka Community Nursery School and the Winnetka Central PTO. Laura actively volunteers for the Winnetka Congregational Church Rummage, which raises nearly $400,000 annually to support women, children, families and seniors in the Chicagoland area. She values the environmental impact of recycling and reusing while helping others in the community.
Valerie is a first-generation, low-income minority college student who transformed her life through education, jobs, and hard work. Degrees from UC Berkeley, Columbia University (SIPA), and Wharton @ the University of Pennslyvania. Wall Street and Silicon Valley Tech executive turned investor, entrepreneur and civic leader. Volunteer and donor for various causes relating to education, particularly with first-generation, low-income students. Advisor/mentor for University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago for underrepresented groups. Penn interviewer for Quest students. Past School board president. Currently the Republican nominee for Congress Illinois-District 10. Founder of our family foundation, Ramirez Mukherjee Foundation, focused on first-gen, low-income minority college students who attend community college an then transfer to a 4 year elite college.
Growing up in Prairie Village, Kansas, Brenna graduated from the University of Kansas in 2000 with a BS in Sports Science and Business. Brenna met her husband, John in 2007 while both working as brand managers at Miller Brewing Company. In 2009, they married and welcomed son, Fisher in 2010. John, a native of Winnetka, promised country life would be just as exciting as city life and they landed in the 60093 zip code in 2011. Brenna joined the Willow Wood Board and served for four years, the fourth as President, managing a board of 23 extremely talented women. Their second son, Bauer, joined Team Nichols, in 2014. She has also sat on the PTO, held many PTO Committee Roles and served as a room parent at Greeley Elementary.
Longing for a career that highlighted her creativity, making connections with people and love of gift wrap, Brenna started her own small business, Gifted For You, in 2017. As a Gift Concierge, Brenna is able to help others express themselves through gifting. From ideation, procurement, wrapping and delivery, Brenna helps her clients, locally, nationally and globally, take away the stress & delivers smiles. It has truly been such a rewarding business, especially in 2020, when the pandemic hit.
Brenna has also enjoyed spending time as a fertility mentor for the past six years, helping women navigate the uncertain and emotional world that is secondary infertility. Working with Shine, an organization based in Chicago and now Fruitful, a national organization, she has Mentored over a dozen woman and finds the connections very rewarding.
Brenna’s hobbies include searching for sea glass on the shores of Lake Michigan with her family, sitting on her front porch watching the neighborhood go by, enjoying carbohydrates, trying to figure out what her cats are thinking all the time, spin class and acting as The Sherpa for her husband’s Ironman Triathlons.
Erin was born and raised in the Chicagoland area and currently resides in Winnetka. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Juris Doctor, and is a member of the Illinois state bar. She has worked on a freelance basis with the American Bar Association for the past decade, editing published works primarily in the area of business law. She is the mother of two children with her husband Andrew.
Erin served on the Executive Board of her children’s preschool, and co-chaired the beloved Winnetka Children’s Fair during her tenure. She has volunteered to serve in countless positions with the Winnetka PTOs at the elementary school, middle school and junior-high levels. She currently serves as Website Administrator for the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to enhance the learning experience for children in the Winnetka public schools. She is an active member of Children’s Home & Aid Woman’s Board, and co-chaired its 99th Annual September Gala in 2019, which raised close to three-quarters of a million dollars for its Chicagoland early-childhood centers. She is also Legislative Lead for Mom’s Demand Action—Winnetka, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for common-sense gun control.
In her spare time, Erin enjoys curling up with a good book of any genre, and doing her best on the platform tennis courts.
Kim is from Cincinnati, Ohio and has a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University in History and Classical Studies and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Government from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. During her professional career, she worked for KPMG as a consultant in the government sector and then later as a Director, Health Policy and Government, for several pharmaceutical companies including Novartis and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Kim is active in community and school activities and currently serves as the co-chair for the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation Board and is a past PTO President at Greeley School and served on the Winnetka Community Nursery School Board. Kim is also a member of the Woman’s Board at the Winnetka Community House.
Rachel was born in Belgium, moved to Sweden and grew up in Texas. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Economics, she began working for Anderson Consulting / Accenture in financial services. Her career in consulting for large banks through mergers and acquisitions enabled her to live in Atlanta, San Francisco and then Chicago. Another move took her and her husband Kurt to Seattle for ten years which coincided with a job change to the Federal Reserve Bank. Rachel continues to work for the Federal Reserve Bank managing large projects spanning business and IT. While in Seattle Rachel was an active volunteer for the Haring Center / Experimental Education Unit which provides early childhood education to children with and without disabilities. In 2015 their now family of four moved to Winnetka. Rachel is on the Misericordia Women’s Auxiliary and currently serves as the Treasurer of the Executive Board. The Auxiliary works to raise funds for Misericordia Heart of Mercy Home which supports children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing a full continuum of care for residential, training, and employment services. She also enjoys volunteering on-site at Misericordia and participating with her special-needs son at Outreach events. Rachel supports Autism Service Dogs of America, an organization in Oregon that trains and places service dogs to provide physical safety and an emotional support for children with autism. In her free time Rachel enjoys travel, exercising, reading and spending time with her two sons, husband and service dog.
Christina is a California native and currently resides in Winnetka, Illinois with her husband, Dennis, and two kids. Christina holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. She started her career as an IT consultant with Arthur Andersen. Prior to that, she worked for KPMG where she led numerous client engagements to provide various risk advisory services and internal/external IT audits for Fortune 500 clients. Currently, Christina is on the Audit Committee for Girlstart, a non-profit organization that empowers girls in science, technology, engineering and math. She is also actively involved in co-chairing several school programs at her children’s school. In her free time, she likes dancing, yoga, traveling and spending time with her family.
Katie Pease Smith
Katie grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, but has lived in the Chicago-area since college, currently residing in Winnetka with her husband Rutledge and 3 children. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and English. After starting a career in finance, she completed her Masters in Finance and Strategy at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management and also earned her CFA designation. For over 20 years, she worked as a Global Equity Analyst at a large-cap value focused Institutional money management firm based in Chicago, picking stocks for their mutual funds averaging $15 billion in AUM. Katie now spends her time as a stay-at-home “hockey mom” and as an active volunteer. She is the current Treasurer and incoming 2020-21 Co-Chair of the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to enable Winnetka Public Schools to go beyond what tax dollars support alone. She is also the Social Chair of the Woman’s Board of the Community House, Winnetka, one of the few privately-funded community houses in the nation. Most recently, she has joined the Winnetka Chapter of Moms Demand Action as the Co-Events Lead, helping to promote gun sense in America.
Elizabeth is a Director at Pendo Advisors, LLC. Elizabeth has over 20 years of experience in the financial services sector and oversees project management and staffing for various engagements including ESOP valuations and transactions, fairness opinions, and solvency opinions.
Prior to joining Pendo, Elizabeth was a Senior Associate within the investment banking practice at Duff & Phelps, LLC where she focused primarily on ESOP transactions, private business valuations, fairness and solvency opinions, and mergers and acquisitions. Elizabeth also held positions at Morgan Stanley and Baird and Warner. Prior to that, Elizabeth successfully completed the Commercial Banking Development Program at Bank One where she focused on middle market general and asset based lending, commercial real estate underwriting, and investment grade securities bond originations.
Elizabeth serves on several non-profit boards, including Children’s Home & Aid Women’s Executive Board, Winnetka Community House Women’s Executive Board, the Winnetka Children’s Hour Board, and has held several leadership positions at her children’s schools, including PTO President and Treasurer. She is a member of the Garden Guild of Winnetka. She served on the Board of Trustees of the Winnetka Public School’s Foundation, including a position as Treasurer, and on the Winnetka Caucus Council. She was also on the Executive Board of Winnetka Community Nursery School where her responsibilities ranged from payroll and accounts payable to managing the school’s annual audit under her role as Treasurer.
Elizabeth graduated with honors from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelors of Science in Finance and a minor in Economics.
Kendra is President and Owner of Royal Travel and Tours, a high-end leisure travel agency founded by her parents in 1972. The company is headquartered in Winnetka, IL, with employees in the surrounding Chicago area as well as in Columbus and Kansas City. Royal Travel is frequently featured in national press and has graced the cover of numerous magazines and The New York Times. For the past three consecutive years, Kendra has been selected by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the top travel planning experts in the industry, and she and her agency are regularly featured in the magazines editorial content.
In addition to overseeing Royal Travel, Kendra is a nationally recognized travel expert with regular appearances on the Tribune Media broadcast network, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN as well as local network affiliates in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
Prior to taking over the travel agency in 2016, Kendra ran her own PR and media strategy that represented leaders in travel including, among others, Kayak, Expedia, Choice Hotels Group, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Michelin Guides. Before starting Thornton Public Relations in 2005, Kendra was the Director of Corporate Communications for Orbitz.com where she oversaw the company’s external communication strategy and acted as media spokesperson during the early growth years of online travel.
Kendra is a graduate of Northwestern University where she received is a bachelor’s degree with a double major in English and French. She is a proud wife and mother of three and likes to play tennis and read in her free time.
Mindy has had a long career in marketing strategy and business development for various retail companies including Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and Crate & Barrel. She recently co-founded MERINDA Studio, a home decor and textiles company in Winnetka, where she lives with her husband and three children. Mindy graduated from the University of Kansas with a BS in Business Administration and the Kellogg School of Management with an MBA in Marketing and Strategy. She is also on the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum and the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation. Mindy enjoys traveling with her family and has a love/hate relationship with gardening and paddle tennis.
Holly recently moved to Winnetka with her husband Jeff and two sons, Luke who is on a gap year before beginning college in the fall, and Cole who is a sophomore at Beacon Academy in Evanston.
Holly and family lived in the Philadelphia area for several years and have followed her career as a Chief Human Resources Officer to Richmond, Virginia for The Brink’s Company, Pittsburgh for Dick’s Sporting Goods, and now Chicago where she most recently led Human Resources at Zebra Technologies. Holly has Bachelors degrees in English and Psychology from the College of William & Mary and a Masters degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.
For nine years, Holly has been a passionate Board member and is currently Treasurer of the Cancer Support Community, a national organization that encompasses Gilda’s Club and provides free navigation guidance and psychological and social support for cancer patients and their loved ones. She has also led Corporate Social Responsibility for Dick’s Sporting Goods and served on the Boards of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, the Red Cross of Central New Jersey, the Executive Advisory Council of the University of Richmond Robins School of Business, and regularly supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Pinky Swear Foundation supporting families impacted by cancer.
Holly enjoys travel and skiing with her family and fitting in a run every now and then.