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Marian Wright Edelman is the leader of the Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy organization that champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation.
A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association. She began her career directing the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., office in Jackson, Miss. In l968 she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began organizing before his death that year. She then founded the Washington Research Project, a public-interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund. Before founding CDF in 1973, she served as director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University.
She has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize; the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award; and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings, which include Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
Chef Jacques Pépin has hosted 12 popular cooking series on public television, written dozens of cookbooks, and is a gifted artist. Known as Connecticut’s most celebrated chef, Pépin, who lives in Madison, is planning to film his 13th cooking series, Jacques Pépin, Heart and Soul, this fall in San Francisco. The series is scheduled to air in the fall of 2015, in time for Pépin’s 80th birthday.
Pépin was born in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, near Lyon. His first taste of cooking came as a child in his parents’ restaurant, Le Pélican. At 13, he began an apprenticeship at the Grand Hôtel de L’Europe and subsequently worked in Paris, serving as personal chef to three French heads of state.
After moving to the United States in 1959, Pépin first worked at Le Pavillon restaurant in New York City. He later became director of research and new development for Howard Johnson’s. At the same time, he earned his bachelor’s degree, then a master’s in 18th-century French literature at Columbia University.
Pépin starred in a PBS series with culinary icon Julia Child called Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, which won an Emmy Award and a James Beard Foundation Award in 2001. A former columnist for The New York Times, Pépin was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion of Honor medal, in 2004. A gifted painter, Pépin has expanded his focus on landscape and floral subject matter to explore abstract expressionism.
Ellen R. Marram has spent nearly 40 years anticipating market trends and emerging consumer needs to build profitable brands and companies that address them. She is president of her own business advisory firm, Barnegat Group LLC, and serves as a senior advisor to Mill Road Capital, a private equity investment firm.
Previously, she was managing director and, later, operating advisor at North Castle Partners, where she served as chairman of several portfolio companies from 2000 to 2010.
From 1993 to 1998, Marram was president and chief executive officer of Tropicana and the Tropicana Beverage Group. During her tenure, Tropicana nearly tripled its shareholder value and was sold to PepsiCo for $3.3 billion. Marram was named one of the Top 25 Managers of the Year by BusinessWeek magazine.
Prior to Tropicana, Marram served as president and chief executive officer of the Nabisco Biscuit Company, where she consistently produced strong revenue and profit growth in a highly leveraged environment. Her vision and direction led to the 1992 launch of the highly successful SnackWell’s line, which pioneered low-fat snacking.
Marram is the presiding director at Ford Motor Company and the lead director at the global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, where she also chairs the corporate governance committee. She is chair of the nominating and governance committee and former presiding director at The New York Times Company. Previously, she served on the boards of Cadbury Schweppes and Kmart. Marram has been named an Outstanding Director by the Financial Times’ Outstanding Directors Exchange.
Marram is a director of several private companies, primarily in the food and consumer healthcare sectors. She is a trustee of Wellesley College and serves on a number of nonprofit boards, including Newman’s Own, Inc., Institute for the Future, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, and Lincoln Center Theater.
Marram earned a BA from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler, the founding rabbi of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, Conn., has devoted much of his life to championing civil rights and standing up for causes he supports.
Kessler was among the Freedom Riders who fought for civil rights in the segregated South in the early 1960s. In 1963 he was one of 19 rabbis to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Ala., and in August of that year he attended the historic March on Washington, D.C. Two years later he joined King in Selma, Ala., in a prelude to the five-day Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.
An anti–Vietnam War activist, Kessler was involved with a number of national and regional organizations that opposed the war.
Kessler also was extremely dedicated to the cause of Soviet Jews who were persecuted and denied permission to emigrate. In 1967 Kessler traveled to the former Soviet Union and met with some of these “Refuseniks”—so named because they were refused permission to leave the country. Kessler participated in the World Conference on Soviet Jewry in Brussels, Belgium, in 1971, and throughout the 1970s he lobbied, demonstrated, and spoke out on behalf of Soviet Jews.
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Kessler has continued to speak his mind on a wide range of issues, from Middle East peace to human rights.
A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Kessler served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, flying 18 missions over Europe. He was ordained in 1951 at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he also earned a Master of Hebrew Literature and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity. In 1954 Kessler was chosen as the spiritual leader of the then year-old Beth El Temple in West Hartford. Named rabbi emeritus upon his retirement in 1992, he remains active in the life of Beth El Temple to this day.
Kessler has traveled to Israel 60 times, beginning in 1949, and he has written about Israel and Jewish communities he has visited in many parts of the world.
Kessler has held high-level positions in several national organizations, including the Rabbinical Assembly and the Synagogue Council of America, and he served as chairman of the National Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. He also has served on the boards of numerous state and local organizations.