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Meet the Team

Thillen Education Foundation is privileged to work with an extraordinary group of volunteers who work tirelessly to make a difference in our student’s lives. Our volunteer Board of Directors drives day-to-day foundation operations and partnerships, establishes long-term financial strategy for donor fund investment and disburses earned financial assistance to students, and guides communications and fundraising to continue our efforts for years to come. Each member of our Board of Advisors offers specialized skill sets to provide balanced insight for our strategic initiatives and professional connections to open doors to future collaborations. Our Associates take on special marketing and communications projects to advance our corporate mission. Meet our talented team. 

TEF Founding Board of Advisors

Tania Dowdy
Tania Dowdy

Social Media Community Manager, Truist

David Duley
David Duley

Founder and CEO, PlanGap
Author, I Can Fix America

Dave Hady
Dave Hady

President, Hady Media

Tamika Miller
Tamika Miller

Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee, Parent

Gregg Novek
Gregg Novek

Professor of Finance,
Seton Hall University

Marcus Siwemuke
Marcus Siwemuke

Founder and CEO, Three to Five Publishing


Web Development
Sam Alefsen
Sam Alefsen

Graduate of Emory University, Owner of SamJo Web Consulting, music audio engineer, trailblazer

Special Projects
Jayden Daniel

Gatewood School student, community volunteer, founder of the Lake Area Easter Basket Project for youth in foster care, Eagle Scout

Art Direction
Emilee Martin
Emilee Martin

Graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Owner of Emgraphx, adventurer 

Leadership Team

Founder and President
Dave Thillen
Dave Thillen

Creator of the Career Coaching Program, retired IBM Business Unit Executive, instructor and gymnastics coach at West Point, U.S. Army veteran

Vice President
Chuck Rowland
Chuck Rowland

Retired international sales and internal auditing corporate executive, world traveler, avid runner 

Ted Zillmer

Retired consulting actuary with Willis insurance advisors, GCCA career coach, and math tutor

Shannon Daniel

TEF Director of Operations, Independent Contractor

Mariana Mansfield

CTAE Director, Greene College & Career Academy, Prior Assistant Principal, Greene County High School

Career Coach/Student Liaison
Kara Latz

Career Coach and coordinator of the bilingual cohort, prior data analyst at BellSouth/AT&T and technology writer

Salesforce Implementation
Dipti Steele

I/T executive at Fortune 100 companies including Nike and Home Depot

Parental Liaison
Jacqueline Evans

Greene County School System Parent Mentor Special Education, Evans Catering Owner

GCCA Liaison
John Ellenberg
John Ellenberg

Chief Executive Officer of the Greene College & Career Academy, Former principal of Newton County High School in Georgia, U.S. Army veteran

Dave Thillen poses with a family at graduation

Join Our Impact

Experience the rewards of preparing a hard-working teen for college, the workforce, or military service, and ensuring a guided, financially-assisted path to their future.

Become a Partner

Activate your business mission by partnering with us to advance student opportunity through earned financial assistance and respectful diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Sign Up For Events

Nothing is more exciting than seeing our kids engaging with our volunteer life coaches. Join us for our next in-person event! 

Ways to

 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement 

The Thillen Foundation is dedicated to upholding the Code of Ethics for Nonprofit Organizations. Beyond this commitment, our mission extends to achieving transformative outcomes for Greene County High School students, fostering academic and personal growth. We aim to cultivate an organizational environment that is equitable, embraces diverse talents, and builds an inclusive culture. Diversity, as we see it, encompasses various dimensions, including but not limited to ethnicity, race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, immigration status, economic circumstances, physical and mental abilities, characteristics, faith tradition, and philosophy. The Foundation holds deep respect for and celebrates all forms of diversity contributing to a healthy, caring, and thriving community, driven by the shared goal of ending generational poverty. Our commitment extends to creating an organization that values and appreciates diversity in its many forms. The Board actively seeks community representatives for decision-making and advisory roles, ensuring diverse perspectives and life experiences shape our initiatives. We continually strive to engage Volunteer Career Coaches who bring diversity, reflecting the varied student population we serve. Moreover, the Foundation actively encourages diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and practices among its donors. This collective effort promotes the development of a healthy, caring community dedicated to our shared mission.

Board of Advisors

Corporate Partners
Jack Gavin

Chairman, GMS Inc.

Community Partnerships
Rob Mitchell
Rob Mitchell

Past President of Reynolds Lake Oconee, Past Executive Director of Atlas Ministries, United States Olympic Athlete - Kayak and Canoe Team 

Career Coach/Student Liaison
Haajar LaRoche

Ritz Carlton Operations, Career Coach, Team Leader

Communications Outreach
Michelle Valigursky
Michelle Valigursky

President - Amaxim LLC, Managing editor of Emory and Emory Business magazine at Goizueta Business School, book author, U.S. Chefs' Open winner

School Interface
Greg Simmons

Graduation Coach, Greene College & Career Academy

Russ Gibson

Business Management and I/T Independent Contractor

Community Relations
Elaine Thillen

Prior Xerox National Account Manager

President, eKistics LLC, Artist

HBCU Relations
Mark Kyles

Construction & Facility Manager

Don Loft

Former Partner, Morris, Manning & Martin LLC, First Tee Coach

Grants Goordinator
Leslie Clark

EdD.  Former CTAE Director, Burke County, Georgia School System.

Communications Consultant
Madigan Pratt

President of marketing and consulting firm, managed Fortune 100 companies at several of NYC's largest marketing agencies.

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