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National Leaders Join CQL’s Board Of Directors

CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership is excited to announce the addition of renowned voices in the human services field to its distinguished Board of Directors in 2021. These latest board members include Christopher Banks, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Autism Society, Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the United States, Chester Finn, Special Assistant in the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (NYS OPWDD), and Margaret Nygren, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD).

“We’re thrilled to welcome these important figures in the field to our Board of Directors,” says Trina Sieling, Board Chairperson of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. “Maggie, Chester, Peter, and Chris bring decades of expertise across a wide range of issues that are pertinent to guiding and informing CQL’s future.”

CQL is governed by a 15 person Board of Directors, comprised of notable leaders in the human services field who have made a significant impact in areas of advocacy, service provision, policy, research, employment, and more. The Board of Directors is led by its officers:

  • Trina Sieling, Chairperson
  • Laura Vegas, Vice Chairperson
  • Linda Timmons, Treasurer
  • Tia Nelis, Secretary

“Our Board of Directors include some of the most respected minds in human services,” adds Mary Kay Rizzolo, President and Chief Executive Officer of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. “CQL benefits greatly from their insight, and these new board members will help strengthen our organizational operations and strategic direction.”

Meet CQL’s New Board Members

Headshot of Christopher Banks

Christopher Banks

Autism Society of America
President and Chief Executive Officer

Christopher Banks serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Autism Society of America, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization. Banks has a comprehensive background in human services and the healthcare arena, where he’s had a successful record of increasing fundraising efforts, measurably improving revenue strategies, and being a transformational leader committed to diversity and cultural growth.

Prior to joining the Autism Society, he served as Vice President of Development and Community Engagement at Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Rockville, Maryland; here, he provided leadership in the development, implementation, and evaluation of all philanthropic and community engagement efforts. His daily work supported the organization’s impact strategy, and aimed to accelerate growth while building strong community partners.

Previously, Chris Banks served in a variety of leadership roles at Bon Secours Charity Health System in Suffern, New York, along with Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center. At both organizations, Chris established long-lasting relationships with external partners, philanthropic organizations and elected officials to further policy efforts and fundraising activities. He ensured that strategic efforts supported the brand’s mission and values, and was committed to cross-functional leadership across large teams.

Chris has an MBA in Finance from Manhattan College, and his MS and BA degrees from University of Scranton.

Headshot of Peter Berns

Peter V. Berns

The Arc of the United States
Chief Executive Officer

Peter V. Berns is a nationally recognized nonprofit sector leader and public interest lawyer. He is the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, the world’s largest community-based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Berns has been at the helm of The Arc since July 2008, strategically managing a national organization with 600 state and local chapters across the country.

Under his leadership, the nearly 70-year-old organization has charted an ambitious course of progress, innovation and change as it aims to achieve its mission of promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

Berns has spearheaded the creation of national programs at The Arc to address pressing needs of the I/DD community, including in education, employment, future planning, health, technology, and travel. He has steered the organization through threats to critical federal programs for people with I/DD and their families, such as Medicaid, and expanded the organization’s grassroots organizing capacity while continuing its recognized leadership in public policy and legal advocacy.

Before joining The Arc, Berns was the Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, a post he held for 16 years. In that capacity, he built the Association from a start-up to a position of prominence in the nonprofit community, nationally, with nearly 2,000 members of all sizes, all sectors and from all regions of the state. In addition, he served as Chief Executive Officer of the Standards for Excellence Institute since its inception in 2004.

His previously held positions include Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office as well as Assistant Attorney General and, earlier in his career, Staff Attorney/Fellow at the Institute for Public Representation at the Georgetown University Law Center. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Policy Studies.

Berns served on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from 2011 – 2017. He sits on Comcast NBCUniversal’s Joint Diversity Committee, representing the disability community. He has been named six times to the Nonprofit Times’ Power and Influence Top 50 list, most recently in 2015. Berns received his JD, cum laude, from Harvard Law School and has an LLM in advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center. He received his BA in psychology, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Headshot of Chester Finn

Chester Finn

Special Assistant

Chester Finn is a nationally-known disability rights activist. He is a Special Assistant in the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (NYS OPWDD) – a position he has held since 1997.

He also currently serves as Vice Chair for the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Board of Directors.

In 2008, he co-founded the Community Empowerment Programs Incorporated, which provides community services and educational programing for people with disabilities. Finn also previously served three terms as President and Chairman of the National Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), from 2002 to 2006 and then again from 2009 to 2011.

In addition, he has been a past President of the Self Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) as well as an advisor to SANYS. In 1995, Finn received the New York State Self Advocate of the Year Award.

Finn was also a two-term Board Member of the National Council on Disability (NCD), being nominated by President Barack Obama in both 2009 and 2013. NCD is an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding disability policy.

Chester Finn received an A.A. from Genessee Community College.

Headshot of Margaret Nygren

Margaret A. Nygren, EdD, FAAIDD

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer

Margaret A. Nygren, EdD, Executive Director & CEO of AAIDD since 2010, is responsible for the executive direction, leadership, and management of operations of the organization. Dr. Nygren oversees the organization’s core functions of education, publications, public policy, and member services. In addition, she serves on a number of national advisory and scientific committees and frequently speaks at regional, national, and international conferences and events.

Prior to her work at AAIDD, Dr. Nygren held two progressively-responsible positions at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), concluding her service to the organization as the Associate Executive Director for Program Development. In these roles, she secured substantial federal grant and contract funds and directed multiple federally-funded research, technical assistance, training, and dissemination projects for more than 100 major research universities engaged in academic and service activities in the field of intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.

Additional previous positions include a Fellowship in the Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Baltimore, Director of the Center on Aging and Disabilities at the Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Institute in Washington, DC, and Director of Family Support Services and Director of Mental Retardation Services at Kit Clark Senior Services in Boston.

Dr. Nygren earned a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a MA in Clinical Psychology from West Virginia University, and a BA in Psychology from Beloit College. In 2018, she was named a Fellow of the AAIDD.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.