Board of Directors

Board of Directors

The members of our Board of Directors share one thing in common – a passion for literacy and making a difference.

Emmelene Lee, Chair – Ms. Lee is a Senior Vice President in the Corporate Strategy Group of CIT Group Inc.  Prior to joining CIT, she was a Director in the Financial Institutions Group at Houlihan Lokey.  Ms. Lee holds a B.A. and a B.A.S. from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an M.B.A. from the Wharton School.  An avid reader since childhood, she believes that reading is the fundamental basis to education, opening both minds and doors.

Thomas J. Brown IV  Mr. Brown is the Vice President of Technology, Media, and Telecommunications for Bank of America Merchant Services.  His seven years as an executive with Bank of America are part of his 25+ year success record at starting, growing, and managing technology-oriented companies.  He holds a BS degree from Binghamton University and an MBA from The University of Chicago.  He and his wife are firm believers in the power of literacy and enjoyed reading nightly to all three of their children when they were growing up.

Laura Cappiello – Ms. Cappiello is the Head of Human Capital Management and a Deputy General Counsel at BlueMountain Capital Management, an investment management firm.  Prior to joining BlueMountain, she was the Director of Human Resources at Chilton Investment Company, and Senior Manager of Legal Recruiting at Sullivan & Cromwell.  Ms. Cappiello began her career as a Litigation Associate with Willkie Farr & Gallagher.  She earned a BA in English Literature from New York University, and a JD from Harvard Law School.  An avid reader since early childhood, Ms. Cappiello includes a new book with every gift she gives to children of family and friends.

Jacqueline Chezar – Ms. Chezar is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, where she provides legal and regulatory support to its equities clearing and settlement services. Throughout her career she has worked with non-profit organizations in different capacities and has seen how children’s lives improve when communities are given the resources to strengthen their focus on education and literacy.

Stephen J. Cirami – Mr. Cirami is a former class action attorney and now serves as Garden City Group’s Chief Operating Officer and oversees all of its offices and operations.  As Chief Operating Officer he oversees all class action, regulatory, and bankruptcy administrations handled by GCG.  Mr. Cirami is a frequent speaker on related topics across the globe. A cum laude graduate of Duke University School of Law and a father of three boys with whom he regularly reads, he understands the profound impact that reading can have on both a child’s outlook and future.

Casey Cornelius – Ms. Cornelius is the Vice President of Content Development at The Princeton Review. She believes that enthusiasm for reading can be life–changing and is proud to support Behind the Book in bringing interactive, transformative experiences into classrooms.

Douglas Davidson – Mr. Davidson, a corporate and finance lawyer, is a retired partner of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. He is a Trustee of the Peddie School where he is Chair of the Finance Committee and serves on the Executive, Investment and Legal Committees. Mr. Davidson is a member and past Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board of the George Washington University Law School and a member of the Law School’s Energy Law Advisory Board. He is also serves on the Sustainable Energy Finance Advisory Board of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Mr. Davidson holds a BSFS from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a JD from George Washington University Law School.

Susan Elman – Ms. Elman, a real estate lawyer, was most recently the General Counsel of Rouse Properties, Inc. She has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in English Literature, as well as a JD from the Boston University School of Law. Reading and writing are life-long passions which she believes all children should have the opportunity to embrace.

Muffie Meyer – A co-founder of Middlemarch Films, Ms. Meyer has produced and directed more than 100 films, including Benjamin Franklin, which won the 2003 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Special.  Ms. Meyer serves on the Strategic Planning Committee of Behind the Book.

Ashley Ouderkirk – Ms. Ouderkirk is an Equity Trading Assistant at Moore Capital Management, LP.  She graduated with an M.A. from Hunter College in Art History and a B.A. in Arts & Sciences from Syracuse University. As a reading and art enthusiast, she knows that working with Behind the Book provides the ideal scenario to put both passions to work. She is a strong believer in the program’s impact on students and looks forward to sharing that view with others.

Derry Wilkens – Ms. Wilkens has worked for over 15 years in the book publishing industry and managed public relations and marketing campaigns for children’s books at Penguin Young Readers Group, Sterling Publishing and Sourcebooks. She is a passionate advocate for children’s literature and the importance of reading and is proud to support Behind the Book’s mission of bringing ideas, books and authors into underserved classrooms.

Ian Woolley – Mr. Woolley is the Vice President of Corporate Planning at American Express. In this role he is responsible for managing all Financial Planning for the American Express Company.  Mr. Woolley has been with American Express for 21 years in a variety of Finance roles, working in both the UK and US markets. He holds a BA in Finance from Brighton University in the U.K, and is a qualified accountant (UK CPA equivalent).

Jo Umans, Executive Director and Founder (Ex-officio)
Ms. Umans worked for 25 years in television production. She was an Associate Director and Script Supervisor on shows including Good Morning America, Kate and Allie, The Chris Rock Show, and Liberty! The American Revolution. For the last five years of her TV career, she also worked part-time as a school librarian, and for two years ran the visiting-author program in her son’s school. This experience inspired her to leave her career in television to found Behind the Book. Ms. Umans graduated with a B.S. degree from Boston University.

Are you passionate about literacy? Behind the Book is always seeking concerned, committed individuals to serve on our Board of Directors. Please contact Jo Umans at for more information or to express interest.