Press Release


CHICAGO The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) Board of Directors elected three new members at its September 26th meeting.  The new members are Mike Ross, Gerald Skoning, and Maria (Nena) Torres.  Each member will serve a three-year term and is eligible for two more terms. 

The September 26th meeting was also the first session for new IHC Board Chair Alton Harris, Vice Chair Patricia Jean (Patti) Simon, and Secretary Falona Joy. Frank Cizon continues as Treasurer. Former board member Danielle Allen was also elected as an ex-officio member.

Mike Ross has been director of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts since 1997.  The Krannert Center, part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is one of the nation’s premier educational and professional performing arts complexes.  Prior to joining the Krannert Center, Ross headed the Miller Theatre at Columbia University in New York City.  He is a professional classical, jazz, and rock musician.  

Gerald Skoning is a partner in the Seyfarth Shaw LLP law firm and a trial lawyer who has specialized in labor and employment law for more than 35 years.  He has practiced in many federal district courts and had numerous cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.  He has written extensively on labor and equal employment opportunity issues and is a nationally recognized lecturer.  Skoning holds a J.D. degree from the University of Michigan and an A.B. degree from Princeton University.

Maria (Nena) Torres is director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her work has focused on Cuba and its exiles, as well as on Latino politics in the United States.  She has authored books and edited a volume of essays on the Cuban experience and is currently working on two research projects concerning children, youth politics, and civic affairs in the Latino community.  Torres holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in Psychology/Political Science from St. Mary’s University. 

"We are so pleased to add Mike, Gerry, and Nena to our board of directors," said Kristina A.Valaitis, IHC Executive Director. "They each bring a deep appreciation of the humanities, as well as creativity and individual expertise to the IHC."

Currently, 34 members comprise the Illinois Humanities Council Board of Directors.  They are:

Alton B. Harris (Chicago), Chair; Danielle Allen (Chicago); Marti Belluschi (Chicago); Matti Bunzl (Champaign); Frank Cizon (Chicago); Michael C. Dorf (Chicago); Deborah Epstein (Chicago); John L. Fascia (Clarendon Hills); Stuart Flack (Chicago); The Honorable Joan B. Gottschall (Chicago); Clark Hulse (Chicago); J. Paul Hunter (Chicago); Cheryl Johnson-Odim (Evanston); Falona Joy (Chicago); Gary Koch (Springfield); Greg Koos (Bloomington); Robert F. Lipman (Evanston); Grayson Mitchell (Chicago); Constance Mortell (Denver, CO); Anita Nagler (Chicago); James M. Newcomb (Wilmette); Gayl S. Pyatt (Pinckneyville); Gordon Quinn (Chicago); Mike Ross (Urbana); Patricia Jean Simon (Makanda); Gerald Skoning (Chicago); Arthur M. Sussman (Chicago); Rolf Thienemann (Rockford); David Thigpen (Chicago); Nancy Tom (Chicago); Maria (Nena) Torres (Chicago); George Van Dusen (Skokie); Willard E. White (Oak Park); John A. Wing, (Evanston); and Miriam Zayed (Orland Park).

The IHC accepts public nominations for new Board members throughout the year. For more information about the IHC, call (312) 422-5580 or visit

The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

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