Illinois Joining Forces
Board of Directors
The Illinois Joining Forces Board of Directors has overall oversight of the organization, setting the tone for direction and strategy. The Board is comprised of Statutory Appointees, key industry Civic Leaders, and Task Force Chairs.
IJF Board of Directors
Prior to his current role, Mr. Smith served in the Office of Career Services at GSU and as GED Chief Examiner/Testing Administrator for Grundy and Kendall Counties in Illinois.
Mr. Smith currently is a member of the Veterans Higher Educational Affinity Group (VHEAG), National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators (NAVPA), and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
Smith attended Governors State University, studying Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Humanistic Communication. Currently, he is pursuing his Master’s degree in Communication and Training at GSU. Kevin is a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard who served in the Caribbean, Florida, California, and the Great Lakes region.
John is a 1989 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and served 21 years in active and reserve service before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves Civil Affairs branch in 2011. He also holds degrees from the University of South Carolina Master of International Business Studies program and completed studies at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth.
In Iraq, John served as an Advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and also worked directly with the US Embassy in Amman Jordan as the CPA Liaison for the Embassy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. John is a recipient of the Bronze Star as well as the Joint Service Commendation Medal.
John is currently is acting CEO of Clear Automation which is an industry leading automation integration firm based in Southington, CT as well as a corporate/advisory board member of Development Transformations, ValAr Frontier, Pax Mondial, and Verilogic Solutions.
Recently, John launched the GPD Stardust Fund as a way to support smaller, shorter-term creative initiatives that align with GPD’s mission to promote peace and stability through civic engagement and the development of transformational global leaders. By fostering collaboration between GPD’s Partners and Stardust Fund grantees, John is leveraging GPD Charitable Trust’s global influence as an engaged, compassionate philanthropist — and addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges. Learn more about the GPD Charitable Trust at www.gpdcharitabletrust.org
John is a Pittsburgh, PA native and lives in Chicago, IL. He is the proud father of Sarah (25) and Jack (20).
CSM Carney enlisted in the Army in 1987 as a Cavalry Scout. He attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. CSM Carney has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from 2003-2005 and again with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VIII in 2008-2009. CSM Carney served as both Camp Phoenix garrison command sergeant major and the 634th Logistics Task Force command sergeant major.
CSM Carney has held multiple NCO leadership positions throughout this career. He has been a Command Sergeant Major since 2007 being assigned as the CSM for the 634th Brigade Support Battalion, 766th Engineer Battalion, 766th Brigade Engineer Battalion, and most recently the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
CSM Carneys’ awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Commendation Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), National Defense Service Medal (2 Service Stars), Afghanistan Service Medal (1 Campaign Star) Iraq Campaign Medal (2 Campaign Stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (M device), Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 4), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, NATO Afghanistan Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Driver Badge (Wheel), German Army Marksmanship Badge (Bronze), and various State awards and decorations from the Illinois Army National Guard.
CSM Carney’s professional education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial education and technology from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. CSM Carney graduated from multiple military courses including the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy; Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course; Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course and Primary Leadership Development Course.
Linda was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, where she served for five years. She served as a Second Lieutenant and remained in the National Guard for an additional five years.
As her family grew, Linda and her husband owned and operated multiple small businesses. She understands the challenges of being an entrepreneur and a working mom.
In 2001, she decided that politicians should listen to and look like the people they represent, and ran for office. As a leader in the statehouse, Linda has worked on issues that help families and fought hard on behalf of consumers, students and teachers, and our veterans. She has chaired multiple committees, including Elementary Education, Veteran Affairs, and Energy.
Linda has dedicated her life to making life better for middle class families and serving as an advocate for the entire community. She recognizes the opportunities her community, her state, and her county provided to her, and has made it her mission to make sure that those opportunities exist for everyone else.
Hastings was at West Point when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. He later served in Iraq, advanced to the rank of captain and served as aide-de-camp to the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division. He earned the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone.
In 2008, Hastings joined Johnson & Johnson’s Biosurgery sales division in Chicago serving hospitals, health care facilities and surgeons. Hastings was recognized and rewarded as a top-tier employee.
Hastings’ public service career began with his election to the Board of Trustees for High School District 230 and then as vice president of the board. Hastings also served as co-chair of the district’s finance and education committees.
Hastings earned a master’s degree in business administration with honors from the University of Illinois and is working toward completion of his jurist doctor degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Before his time in the Senate, Righter was a State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office and Drug Crimes Prosecutor from 1992-1997 and is still currently a Partner at Geisler, Weaver, and Righter. He received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Eastern Illinois University in 1988 and earned his Jurist Doctorate from St. Louis University School of Law in 1991.
Dr. Curda has served in the US military for over 30 years in both active duty, Guard and Reserve positions. He has commanded units at every echelon from platoon, company, battalion, brigade and two general officer level commands. He is an Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) veteran having deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. His numerous awards and decorations include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Service Commendation Medal, the Army Service Achievement Medal, various campaign and service medals and the parachutist badge to include foreign jump wings from Canada and Italy.
Dr. Curda is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology. Prior to serving in this position, Dr. Curda served as a tenured Associate Professor at the National College of Education and as Senior Advisor to the President of the University on Veteran Student education issues. He has previously held faculty positions at Florida State University, the University of Toledo, and the University of West Florida as a professor of Instructional Technology. He has served in a variety of administrative positions, to include Vice-President of Argosy University Online, and Director of Distance Learning with both the Joint Special Operations University in Hurlburt Field, Florida and the Air University in Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
Dr. Curda and his wife, Dr. Leslie Curda, are blessed with five children - Riley, Piper, Major, Glory, and Saylor.
Michael joined the Boeing Company in 2011 as Director, Strategy – Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Government Operations. In that position, Michael managed a process to develop objectives and strategies for priority issues to BCA. He then went on to serve as Chief of Staff for the State and Local Government Operations team. In that position, Michael helped manage a team of over 50 professionals across the United States to pursue Boeing’s state and local policy and charitable investment strategies.
Prior to joining Boeing, Michael worked at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff. In this role, he directly supported the Chairman and President and assisted in oversight of the entire organization. Michael joined the Export-Import Bank after serving the President of the United State in the White House as the Director of White House Services. In this role, he oversaw many operational aspects of the White House, including badging, security access, military airlift operations, and special projects. Prior to serving in the White House, Michael worked on the Obama Biden transition project, which he joined after working on the Obama ’08 campaign in New Hampshire during the general election.
Michael graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Arizona, and received his Jurist Doctorate from the DePaul University College of Law. Michael practiced law for 2 years before joining the Obama campaign for President.
Cooke began his career in 1981 in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Over the course of 12 years, he served as director of the Fels Planetarium, director of development, vice president for external affairs, acting museum director and executive vice president for programs and planning. He subsequently served for eight years at the Philadelphia Orchestra as vice president for external affairs. Prior to his current position, Cooke was the vice president for institutional advancement for The Field Museum in Chicago.
A Philadelphia native, Cooke was educated at Williams College and Harvard University, where he studied astrophysics. He is the author of many papers and articles and often lectures on astronomy and nonprofit management. He is author of the book “The Life and Death of Stars,” published by Crown Publishers in 1985.
He currently serves on the boards of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Illinois Joining Forces, Truth in Accounting, and the USO of Illinois and has served as chairman of the City of Lake Forest Historic Preservation Commission. He is the past chairman of Forefront, an Illinois-based association for nonprofits. Cooke and his wife Sally reside in Lake Forest, Illinois.
General Hayes was commissioned in 1987 from the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Kansas as a Field Artillery Officer. He was honor graduate at both the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses. He has had operational assignments at battery, battalion, brigade, and division. He participated in Hurricane Katrina and Rita Relief Operations, and Operation Joint Guardian, Kosovo. General Hayes most recent assignments were Deputy Commander Maneuver - Task Force Falcon, Operation Joint Guardian Kosovo, Director of Operations (J3) Illinois National Guard, Commander, 129th Regional Training Institute, Director of the Joint Staff, and Assistant Adjutant General – Army.
Prior to coming to the Rush University Medical Center, Lavin was the Program Facilitator for Veterans at the Chicago Park District and worked closely with the Jesse Brown VA and other community service providers and organizations. She chartered recreational-based programs for veterans as well as coordinated events. Lavin also directed resource fairs for veterans at various locations throughout Chicago, including a Resource Expo at Soldier Field alongside the Valor Games Midwest.
Lavin and her family consistently attend ceremonies and events honoring our fallen and veterans.
“As a Gold Star mother, I understand the challenges parents and families face in moving on with their lives. In the steps of Gold Star Mothers founder Grace Darling Siebold, I feel that I am honoring my son and his sacrifice for our country by helping our returning veterans and families adjust to civilian life.” – Modie Lavin