In May 2008, the Hooks Institute’s Advisory Board (Board) was created to assist the Hooks Institute in the strategic development and implementation of its mission and programs. The Board is composed of accomplished individuals dedicated to the uplift of communities in Memphis and the nation. Members have included community activists, attorneys, engineers, corporate and public relations officials and the clergy.
Board Officers | Executive Committee
Andrew Meyers, Chair
Dr. Andrew Meyers is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, where he served as vice president for research and executive director of the University’s Research Foundation. He is a three-time winner of University’s Superior Performance in Research Award and received the College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Research Award and the college’s Meritorious Faculty Award. Meyers has also served as president of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. He has been a consultant to the U.S. Olympic Committee on issues of athlete and coach performance. Meyers is a graduate of Leadership Memphis and has been actively involved in community issues throughout the Mid-South.
Detlef Heck, Vice Chair
Dr. Detlef H. Heck is a professor of Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health
Science Center where he heads a research group that investigates the brain. He studied
neuroscience at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and conducted his PhD research
at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen.
Heck is best known for his work on how nerve cells in different brain areas cooperate to generate normal brain function and how these interactions break down in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or autism. More recently, Heck has begun to investigate the age-old question of mind-body interaction. His group pioneered research into the influence of breathing brain function, a finding that has broad implication for mind-body interactions and our understanding how breath-focused meditation techniques change the brain. His research activities have resulted in over 80 publications in scientific journals and books and made him a highly sought-after expert for reviewing research applications nationally and internationally for government and private organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
Steve Swain, Secretary
Steve Swain is a senior vice president and community lending manager at Pinnacle Financial Partners. Steve is a native of Alabama and joined Pinnacle in 2019. He relocated to Memphis in 1997. He leads the lending production office teams and partners with consumer, mortgage, and community development to deliver lending programs. Steve serves on Pinnacle’s Corporate Social Responsibility committee, Community Development committee, and Retail Credit committee. Prior to joining Pinnacle, he held several senior leadership roles with First Horizon and Associates First Capital Corporation. He received his bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Montevallo in Alabama. Steve currently serves as vice president of the Memphis CRA Association. He is a past board member of Operation HOPE, Inc. - HOPE Inside National Advisory Board.
Yolanda Baptist-Green is a highly accomplished Communications Manager with broad experience in developing consistent messaging that is targeted to specific audiences. Yolanda manages projects in the private business sector, faith-based organizations, and government organizations.
She currently works for the Shelby County Division of Corrections as an Employee Disciplinary Specialist. In this role, Ms. Baptist-Green tracks and records employee work performance patterns to improve professionalism and accountability within the organization. A native Memphian, Yolanda received a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Memphis with an emphasis in Public Relations.
Claire Brulatour is the program management coordinator for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Community Trust and Health Foundation, where she executes community relations efforts through charitable giving and volunteer initiatives in West Tennessee. Claire oversees a diverse portfolio of sponsorships related to the company’s overall mission: to provide peace of mind through better health, including the Foundation’s signature cause, building active, healthy spaces in communities across Tennessee. Claire serves on the board of Latino Memphis, the parks advocacy group, Bloom, the associate board of Make-A-Wish of Memphis and the Mid-South, and as the board chair for the Young Arts Patrons. Claire was recognized as one of the 2018 Young Memphians by the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Memphis as a nominee for Millennial Volunteer of the Year. Claire received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and French from Christian Brothers University and a Master of Arts in English Literature from George Mason University.
The Honorable Bernice B. Donald
The Honorable Bernice B. Donald received her law degree from the University of Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, a LLM from Duke University School of Law, and an honorary Doctors in Law from Suffolk University. Prior to being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2011, she served on the U.S. District Court for over fifteen years.
Judge Donald is a member of the prestigious American Law Institute and the American Bar Association (“ABA”) including ABA sections; Judicial Division, Appellate Judges, Criminal Justice, Labor and Employment Law, Antitrust, Civil Rights and Social Justice, and Litigation, as well as the Center for Human Rights, where she chairs the Dignity Rights Project. She has served as Chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights and chaired a committee which published an implicit bias resource book for judges and practitioners titled, Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias. Judge Donald served as Chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, focusing on issues concerning implicit bias, children of incarcerated parents, mass incarceration, and the collateral consequences of incarceration.
Michelle Garner-Janna is the Executive Director of Corporate Health, Safety & Environment for Cummins Inc. Mrs. Garner-Janna is an accomplished business executive with more than 26 years of experience leading Health, Safety, Environmental, Manufacturing Engineering & Maintenance functions. In her current role, she develops and leads the global Health & Safety strategy for the organization. She is a Certified Safety Professional, Certified Professional Ergonomist, and Certified 6-sigma Greenbelt. She is a Board member of the National Safety Council and Chair of the Campbell Institute. Mrs. Garner-Janna holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University as well as an executive MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Reverend Dr. LaSimba Gray Jr.
Reverend Dr. LaSimba Gray Jr. is a Memphis civil rights activist with international reach. Educated at the Memphis Theological Seminary he served for 25 years as pastor of the historic New Sardis Baptist Church. His activism and service for the community extended far beyond his Church and earned him awards and honors too numerous to list. To pick just one: in 1999, the Shelby County Commission renamed a major section of Holmes Road in Memphis “The Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, Jr. Road” to honor Dr. Gray for his long tenure of service in Shelby County. Numerous other leadership roles include service on the Board of Director of Tri-State Bank and representation of the American Clergy at the 2005 G-8 Summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is highly accomplished in community organization and fundraising and responsible for five historical markers in Memphis. He currently leads an initiative to erect an Ida B. Wells Memorial Statue on Beale Street.
The Honorable Kenya Hooks
Kenya Hooks is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia in 1996 and started her professional career at National City Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. Hooks relocated to Memphis in 2003 to attend law school and received her Juris Doctor from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2008. She is married to Michael Hooks, the great-nephew of Benjamin and Frances Hooks. She worked as a legal assistant for Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks throughout law school and until he died in 2010. Hooks worked in private practice as a civil litigator for Bruce Turner, PLLC from 2010-2013. In 2013 she began her career at the City of Memphis as an Assistant City Prosecutor, prosecuting violations of the City Code and working in partnership with the District Attorney General's office to reduce blight in the Memphis community. In Jan. 2019 she was appointed to Chief Prosecutor at the City of Memphis and in 2022 she was elected as Judge of Memphis Municipal Court, Division 1.
Raminder (Rami) Lotay is a Project Manager at the FedEx Institute of Technology, the applied research arm of the University of Memphis. In his current role, Rami focuses on providing workforce development opportunities to corporate, non-profit and government organizations. He provides research support to the 7 research clusters located at the FIT and countless researchers across the UofM. He also works closely with local technology community partners on events, hackathons, etc. Rami received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Memphis and is a graduate of the New Memphis Institute’s Fellows program.
Rachel Lepchitz is a marketing professional with diverse industry experience, having coordinated marketing/communications for organizations in the educational, financial, healthcare, and transportation sectors. She is the marketing specialist for the Memphis Area Transit Authority and previously directed marketing for Orion Federal Credit Union. Before these roles, Rachel was the marketing lead for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s $275 million expansion of Methodist University Hospital. She holds a Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Broadcast Journalism from Sam Houston State University.
Dr. Robert Shorty is a Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Nike, Inc., responsible
for the Global Supply Chain and Sustainability. In this role, he is responsible for
leading the implementation of Nike's global diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy
for more than 20,000 team members in 20+ countries around the globe through coaching,
educating, and partnering closely with leaders.
A native of Chicago, IL, Dr. Shorty brings over 15 years of human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion experience with Fortune 100 companies – such as Target, McDonald's, Starbucks and Nike. Dr. Shorty holds a BS in Sociology from Illinois State University, a master's in Human Resource Management, and recently earned his Ph.D. in Organization Development. He also holds professional certifications in Human Resources through the HR Certification Institute & The Society of Human Resource Management.
Rory T. Thomas
Rory T. Thomas is the Memphis Medical District Collaborative president, a community development organization working to make the Memphis Medical District more vibrant, prosperous, and equitable. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. Thomas’s professional experience includes the MMBC Continuum, where he provided consulting services for minority and women-owned businesses, and a wealth management position at Morgan Stanley. Thomas holds a BSBA in Finance, an MBA from Christian Brothers University, and a second Masters in Management from the University of Phoenix. An established leader in the Memphis community, Rory has been recognized by the Memphis Business Journal as one of Memphis’s “Top 40 Under 40” business leaders and honored by the National Black MBA Association and the Memphis Urban League. Rory has received the SBDC State Star for Tennessee and was the recipient of the 2020 Southwest Tennessee Community College President’s Award.
LaDonna R. Young
Dr. LaDonna R. Young is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development – University of Virginia & Motivate Lab. She earned her BA from Christian Brothers University in Memphis and an MA in Teaching and Ed. D. in Higher and Adult Education at the University of Memphis. Dr. Young’s career has centered around two defining themes: 1) developing successful and innovative programs for minoritized, underrepresented, and historically marginalized student populations and 2) developing, coaching, and empowering the faculty and professionals charged to educate them. Dr. Young’s entrepreneurial leadership led to the creation of The Office of High Impact Practices and Innovation (HIPI). She is an internationally sought-after consulting expert and has traveled in a professional capacity to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, Paris, France, and Sydney, Australia, Denmark, and Rome, Italy. Her research interests focus on social justice education, culturally responsive pedagogy, educator fragility, and abolitionist teaching and leadership. Dr. Young is proud to serve on several advisory boards and on the Education Trust in Tennessee's Higher Education Policy Council.
Emeritus Board Members
Logan Meeks is a partner and president of operations at A2H, Inc., the leading architectural, engineering, and planning firm in the Mid-South region. He serves on the executive committee of the firm as a partner. In addition to his service on the Hooks Institute Community Advisory Board, Meeks is a board member at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
He is a member of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and the University Club of Memphis. Meeks is also active on several technical engineering boards for local and state organizations. Meeks served as the Hooks Institute Advisory Board Chair from 2014– January 2018.
Honorary Board Members
Aashish Gahlaut is a Vice President of Marketing with FedEx and a Memphis resident
for over 25 years . He grew up in India and got his Masters in Industrial Engineering
from the University of Alabama before joining FedEx. He is passionate about making
Memphis a better place each day.
Patricia Hooks Gray
Patricia Hooks Gray is the daughter of Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks and Frances D. Hooks. She is an innovative educator who taught language arts and social studies in the Princeton School District in Cincinnati, OH. Pat created and presented reading units for teachers at Core Knowledge Conventions across the country. Her master's degree as a Reading Specialist was earned at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
For twenty-one years, she was an Adjunct Professor at Xavier teaching undergrad and graduate-level courses in reading. Her time is spent supporting the Education Ministry with teenagers at her church. She is an avid reader and researcher of relevant issues and topics in society.
Johnnie R. Turner
Ms. Johnnie R. Turner was born in Hughes, Ark., to sharecropper parents. When she was 3 years old, her parents escaped with their children under the cloak of darkness and made their way to Memphis, where she later graduated from Manassas High School in the top 5% of her class. Her activism began during her years at LeMoyne-Owen College where she participated in sit-ins and was subsequently arrested. She returned to Memphis and taught for 30 years at Memphis City Schools, assuming leadership roles, including serving as executive director for the Memphis Branch of the NAACP. Ms. Turner represented District 85 in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. Awards include Who’s Who in Black America, Great Women of the 21st Century, Shelby County Schools Hall of Fame, and Legislator of the Year.