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2019 Participants' Bios

Amanda Palmer is a singer, songwriter, playwright, pianist, author, director, blogger and ukulele enthusiast who explodes traditional frameworks of music, theatre, and art. She came to prominence as half of the Boston-based punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, earning praise for inventive songcraft and wide-ranging theatricality. Her solo career has featured the fan-funded Theatre Is Evil, which made a top 10 debut on the SoundScan/Billboard 200 when released in 2012. In 2013 she presented “The Art of Asking” at the annual TED conference, which has been viewed over 20 million times. In 2014 Palmer helmed the New York Times best-selling memoir and manual, The Art of Asking: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Let People Help. Since 2015 Palmer has used Patreon to fund the creation of her artwork. This has enabled her to collaborate with artists all over the world with over 14,000 patrons supporting her creations each month. Palmer will release her new solo piano album and accompanying book of photographs and essays, There Will Be No Intermission in March followed by a global tour. Recorded in 2018 with Grammy-winning Theatre Is Evil producer/engineer John Congleton, the album is a masterwork about life, death, abortion, and miscarriage.

Beth Chandler joined YW Boston in November 2012, with over 20 years of experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. In August 2018, she was appointed President & CEO. Prior to joining YW Boston, Beth served as vice president at the Achievement Network, a national non-profit dedicated to helping urban public and charter schools close the achievement gap. She also served as deputy director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in the Commonwealth. Beth was also manager of national business development for Neighborworks America, one of the country’s preeminent leaders in affordable housing and community development and held stints as a corporate banking associate with Bank of America.  She began her career as a research and evaluation analyst with the Urban Institute. Currently, Beth serves on the Board of the Massachusetts Association Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Leadership Circle of Hope Central Church and the Women’s Workforce Council. A former professional basketball player, Beth received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She is also a LeadBoston 2014 alumnae. Beth is married to Jill Seaman-Chandler and has two children Elias and Cora Chandler.

Colby Swettberg has been Chief Executive Officer of Silver Lining Mentoring since 2009. Silver Lining provides long term volunteer mentors and teaches lifeskills to young people in foster care. Silver Lining was named as a Social Innovator in 2014 for “providing a sustainable solution to one of the region’s toughest social issues,” and was subsequently selected as a Social Venture Partners investee as a result of the organization’s high impact, results-driven model. In 2012, Colby was honored to be chosen by then Senator John Kerry for the “Angel in Adoption” award for advocacy efforts on behalf of youth in foster care. And in 2017 Colby was honored to be named a Barr Fellow. Colby and their wife are proud parents of two hilariously exhausting little people and are residents of Somerville.

David Leonard has led the Boston Public Library since June 2016.  In this role, David oversees a collection estimated to contain more than 23 million books, maps, manuscripts, prints, and an ever-expanding digital collection, and a system comprising the historic Central Library in Copley Square, 25 neighborhood branches, and an archival center.  The BPL also serves as the Library for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prior to his formal appointment as President, David served as the Library’s Interim President, during which he focused on the completion of the $78 million renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square, which opened in July 2016. David’s prior background spans academia, the non-profit sector, and more than a decade of private IT consulting, counseling clients about business development, management, and technology.  David is currently enrolled in the PhD. program in Library Information Science at Simmons College, and holds degrees in Philosophy and Mathematics from the University College Dublin.

David McCullough, Jr. has taught secondary school English for nearly three and a half decades, at Punahou School in Honolulu for sixteen years and since 2002 at Wellesley High School in Wellesley, MA.  His 2012 commencement speech there quickly became something of a sensation. The book that grew from it, You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements, was an international bestseller.  He has also written for such publications as the Boston Globe, Newsweek and USA Today.  He and his wife Janice have four children and live in Sudbury.

Rabbi Elaine S. Zecher became Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston on July 1, 2016. She has served the congregation since 1990 and was the first female rabbi in the history of Temple Israel, established in 1854.  She loves being Jewish and draws much inspiration from its treasured resources. In particular, liturgical expression through the ritual of prayer continues to capture her imagination and attention. She has been instrumental in the development of Mishkah T’filah, the Reform Jewish Movement’s  prayerbook for Shabbat, weekdays and festivals and the High Holy Day Machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh.  She believes the related nature of prayers, poetry and psalms are ways that the soul can speak and receive nourishment at the same time. She shares her life with her husband and three adult children.

Eric Lander is president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. A geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, he has played a pioneering role in the reading, understanding, and biomedical application of the human genome. He was a principal leader of the Human Genome Project. Lander is professor of biology at MIT and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. From 2009 to 2017, he served as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Lander’s honors include the MacArthur Fellowship, Gairdner Foundation Award, Dan David Prize, and Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

John Barros has served as Mayor Martin Walsh’s Chief of Economic Development since 2014, and brings with him a passion for sustainable community development while fostering economic inclusion and equity for all Bostonians. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Barros served 13 years as Executive Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the largest urban community land trust in the country. He successfully led neighborhood revitalization efforts, focusing on community wealth creation, and producing permanent affordable housing. Barros has also held positions at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, providing insurance for initial public offerings for dot-com startups. Barros earned a Master of Public Policy from Tufts University and a B.A in Economics and African/African-American Studies from Dartmouth College. Barros is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Commerce from Suffolk University. Barros is a leader in Boston’s community development, and has served as a member of the Boston School Committee, the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change, and Co-Chairperson of the Center for Community Builders. Barros is a member of the 2005 Fellows class in the South African-United States Center for Leadership and Public Values, and in 2007 was named a Barr Foundation Fellow.

Kara Elliott-Ortega is an urban planner in the arts focusing on the role of arts and creativity in the built environment and community development. Prior to becoming the Chief of Arts and Culture, she served as the Director of Policy and Planning for the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture. Kara works to implement Boston Creates, Boston’s ten-year cultural plan, which includes creating new resources for local artists, developing a public art program, and supporting the development of cultural facilities. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, Kara received her bachelor’s from the University of Chicago and her Master in City Planning from MIT.

Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) represents the MetroWest communities of Ashland, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton and Medway, which comprise the 2nd Middlesex & Norfolk district. Before being voted in as president by her Senate colleagues, she served as the Chair of the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways & Means beginning in January 2015.  Prior to that, she served as the Senate Majority Whip, Assistant Majority Whip, Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, a committee she helped originate.  She began her legislative career as a State Representative for the Seventh Middlesex district in 2001. Prior to becoming a legislator, Spilka was in private practice as an arbitrator and mediator, specializing in labor and employment law and community and court mediation. Spilka is a graduate of Northeastern Law School and holds a B.S. in Social Work from Cornell University.

Neil Gaiman is the bestselling author and creator of books, graphic novels, short stories, film and television for all ages, including Neverwhere, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The View from the Cheap Seats and the Sandman series of graphic novels. His fiction has received Newbery and Carnegie Medals, and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and Will Eisner Awards, among many other awards and honours. In 2017, Neil Gaiman became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Originally from England, he lives in the United States, where he is Professor in the Arts at Bard College

Peter L. Slavin, MD became the President of Massachusetts General Hospital on January 1, 2003.  From 1999-2002, he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, which included over 1,700 physicians and employed nearly 1,000 of them. From 1997 to 1999, Slavin served as President of Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.  Before that, he did his training in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1984 to 1987 and was Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer from 1994 to 1997. Slavin graduated from Harvard College in 1979, Harvard Medical School in 1984, and Harvard Business School in 1990. Slavin teaches internal medicine and health care management at Harvard Medical School where he is a Professor of Health Care Policy. He serves on the Boards of American Well and Geisel Medical School Board of Overseers.

Rebecca MacLean is a senior at New Mission High School. She will be studying creative writing next fall as a freshman at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

Sydney Chaffee is a 9th grade Humanities teacher, department chair, and instructional coach at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, MA. As 2017 National Teacher of the Year, she has spoken to audiences around the world about the limitless power of teachers and students to change the world. Sydney is a National Board Certified Teacher with a passion for helping diverse learners grow through authentic, relevant, interdisciplinary curricula. She earned her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her M.Ed. from Lesley University. Learn more at www.sydneychaffee.com.

Tony Tjan is  CEO of Cue Ball Group, a private investment firm focused on long-term and transformative opportunities across technology, media and consumer brands.  He also is co-founder and Chairman of MiniLuxe and was the founder of ZEFER. Previously he played senior leadership roles at Thomson Reuters and the Parthenon Group. Tony has written over 100 pieces for Harvard Business Review and is a New York Times best-selling author of Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck and author of Good People. He serves on the MIT Media Lab Advisory Council and is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Dr. Yvonne Spicer was sworn into office on January 1, 2018 as the first Mayor of Framingham. Mayor Spicer was previously the Vice President for Advocacy and Educational Partnerships at Boston’s Museum of Science. Prior to that, she was an administrator for Framingham and Newton public schools. Appointed to the Massachusetts Governor's STEM Advisory Council in 2010 by Governor Deval Patrick as the co-chair of the council's teacher development committee, she was reappointed in 2017 by Governor Charlie Baker and served on the Computer Science and Engineering and Career Pathways committees. Mayor Spicer served on the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer Economic Empowerment Trust Fund, and served on the Standing Committee on Ways and Means. She is the 2017 President-Elect to the International Technology Engineering Education Association (ITEEA). Mayor Spicer grew up in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from New York-Oswego with a B.S. in industrial arts and technology and an M.S. in technology education. She earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership at University of Massachusetts, Boston.