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January 31, 2019

Edwards elected chairman of U of I Board of Trustees
Board also welcomes newly appointed members


 Donald Edwards

CHICAGO — Donald Edwards, an alumnus who now heads a Chicago-based private equity investment firm that he founded, was unanimously elected chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees during its annual organizational meeting Thursday at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Edwards was elected to a one-year term as chairman of the board, which governs the U of I System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The system – with nearly 86,000 students, 25,000 faculty and staff, about 740,000 alumni and a $6.8 billion annual budget – awards more than 22,000 degrees every year and pumps $17.5 billion into the Illinois economy annually.

Edwards, of Chicago, earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Urbana-Champaign with University Honors and an MBA from Harvard Business School with Baker Scholar Distinction. He was a four-year letter-winner on the Illini golf team from 1985 to 1988. He is currently chief executive officer of Flexpoint Ford, a Chicago-based private equity investment firm he founded in 2004 that manages $3 billion in assets.

“I’m honored to serve the university that I love and that has made such a difference in my life, and I look forward to working with our administration and my colleagues on the board to pay forward those opportunities for new generations of students,” Edwards said.

The board’s annual organizational meeting came after Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed five members to the board earlier Thursday. The appointments require approval by the state Senate.

The new governor’s nominees include Edwards, who was appointed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017 but had yet to be confirmed by the Senate and was reappointed by Pritzker.

Pritzker also appointed two former members who are returning after two years away from the board – Chicago attorney Patricia Brown Holmes and Ricardo Estrada, who heads one of the state’s largest human services agencies. The governor also appointed Kareem Dale, who advised former President Obama on national disability policy, and former state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson.

Edwards, Estrada and Holmes were appointed to full six-year terms that expire in 2025, while Jakobsson and Dale were appointed to partial terms that expire in 2023.

The new board members succeed outgoing trustees Timothy Koritz, James Montgomery and Patrick Fitzgerald, whose terms ended this month, and Sanford Perl. Perl was appointed by Rauner and served since last May, but had not yet been confirmed by the Senate, which allowed Pritzker to withdraw the appointment and select his own nominee.

Holmes, of Chicago, served as a trustee from 2011-17, and earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from Urbana-Champaign. She is a managing partner and founder of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancilla, a Chicago law firm, and is a former circuit court judge and assistant state’s attorney in Cook County and a former assistant U.S. attorney.

Estrada, of Chicago, also served on the board from 2011-17, and earned his MBA from UIC. He is president and CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, a human services agency that is one of the state’s largest and seeks to strengthen families and communities. Metropolitan serves more than 72,000 families across Chicagoland.

Dale, of Chicago, earned his bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Urbana-Champaign and also graduated cum laude from the university’s law school. He is currently director and senior counsel at Discover Financial Services, a Chicago-area company with holdings that include one of the nation’s leading credit card brands. Dale, who is partially blind, served as special assistant to the president for disability policy during the Obama administration, coordinating efforts to ensure a level playing field for Americans with disabilities.

Jakobsson, of Urbana, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Urbana-Champaign. From 2003-15, she served as a state representative from the 103rd District, which represents Urbana and Champaign. She began her career as an English as a second language teacher in Urbana schools and also served as Champaign County Recorder of Deeds.

“I am grateful to Governor Pritzker for his thoughtful appointments of Don Edwards, Patricia Brown Holmes, Ricardo Estrada, Kareem Dale and Naomi Jakobsson to our Board of Trustees,” said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. “All are alumni, and Don, Patricia and Ric already have well over a decade of combined experience as trustees. Collectively, they bring a wealth of talent and insight that will help the U of I System build on its rich legacy of service to students, discovery, innovation and the public good. I look forward to working with them. And I also want to extend my deepest thanks to outgoing Trustees Tim Koritz, Jim Montgomery, Pat Fitzgerald and Sandy Perl for their leadership on behalf of our students, faculty, staff and alumni across the state and around the world.”

Along with electing Edwards as chairman, the board also unanimously elected a three-member Executive Committee, which meets as needed to complete urgent U of I System business that cannot be postponed to a regular meeting. Members of the committee are Edwards, Holmes and Ramon Cepeda of Darien. All will serve one-year terms.

Along with Edwards, Cepeda and the newly appointed trustees, other board members are Dr. Stuart King of Champaign, Edward McMillan of Greenville, and Jill Smart of Downers Grove. Student trustees are Trayshawn Mitchell from Urbana-Champaign; Darius Newsome from UIC, and Shaina Humphrey from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Trustees also re-elected Thomas R. Bearrows as university legal counsel, Dedra “Dee Dee” Williams as secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University, and Avijit Ghosh as comptroller. All will serve one-year terms. Lester McKeever Jr. was re-elected to a two-year term as treasurer.

University of Illinois trustees volunteer their time and service. More information is available at the Board of Trustees’ website –


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with nearly 86,000 students, about 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.