Welcome and Farewell: AFC's New Board Leadership

January 18, 2023


By: Tyline T. Burgess

January 2023 marks not only the beginning of a new year, but it also marks a change in leadership here at AIDS Foundation Chicago as board member’s leadership terms end. Three of our long-serving board members, Craig Johnson, Paula D. Friedman and J. Ben Stringfellow, will be stepping down from their position after many years of service and leadership. While a departure is always tough, we are grateful for the contributions of these former board members in the growth and evolution of AFC.  


Departing Board Members 

Craig Johnson joined AFC’s board in 2017 and has served most recently as chair of the board of directors. He is a past chair of the Policy & Advocacy Committee. Craig leads the Minority Affairs Section for the American Medical Association.  As a very hands on board member, his knowledge and connection to the community have been pivotal in the development of strategies to achieve racial equity here at AFC. 

Ben Stringfellow joined AFC’s Board in 2009 and is a Managing Director in Strategic Communication Practice at CRA. During Ben’s 13 years as a board member, he’s seen our board grow from a collection of individuals into a team with members directly involved in the organization’s development of structured committees with a unified strategy. As former board chair he played a major role in hiring AFC’s current CEO, John Peller as well serving as a great mentor to John during the transition of the former CEO David Ernesto Munar. 

Paula D. Friedman has been on AFC’s Board since 2012. A former dancer, Paula is a founding board member for Chicago Dancer’s United, which produces the annual Dance For Life (DFL) benefit performance. Her experience as a board member for DFL was the perfect catalyst for her transition to being a board member here at AFC where she served for 10 years.  


AFC’s New Board Leaders 

Stepping into the role of board chair is Geof Brown who joined AFC’s board in 2018. He is the chief executive officer of the Illinois CPA Society. In this role, he is responsible for the association’s strategic direction, external relations, and ensuring its operational success. He has worked in the association management industry since 2000. He is also a member of the Association Forum of Chicagoland and the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values.  

Rounding out the board’s transition is Chad Thompson who will be stepping down as board secretary after reaching the end of his three-year term. Chad will continue to serve as an AFC board member.  

Cecil Dearborne will be AFC’s new board secretary. Cecil joined AFC's board in 2020. He currently leads the Chicago office of Pariveda Solutions, an IT consulting firm. Although he is a tech guy at heart, as a gay Black man who grew up witnessing inequities in Houston, Cecil also has a passion for social and economic justice. He has proudly served on the executive board for the Chicago Roundup, a not-for-profit organization that hosts an annual global conference and thought-provoking workshops, engaging speakers, pure entertainment and fellowship opportunities throughout the year. 

AFC celebrates that AFC’s board leadership consists entirely people of color (Geof Brown, Chair; Nan Silva, Vice Chair; Cecil Dearborne, Secretary; and Janet Lin, Treasurer), a milestone in AFC’s journey to be a more racially equitable organization.  

We thank Craig Johnson, Ben Stringfellow and Paula Friedman for their years of dedicated service as board members as well as Chad Thompson for his service as board secretary. AFC welcomes and congratulates Geof Brown and Cecil Dearborne as they embark on their new roles as board chair and Secretary respectively. As we begin this new year of 2023, we enter it grateful to those who have made a mark at our organization as board members and excited for those who step into their new roles as we continue to grow and improve as an organization. 

Categorized under AFC news and Inside Story.

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