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As Founder and CEO of Preferred, Michael O’Neill is the energetic leader of a privately held investment company. Through his visionary leadership, integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and instinct, Mr. O’Neill drives Preferred’s business growth as well as its culture.

Mike began his career with First Pennsylvania Bank in 1984 with a focus on lending to aggregate and mining process companies. In 1988, he formed O’Neill Properties with his brother Brian and in 1992 founded Preferred Real Estate Investments, one of the most respected and talented real estate companies on the East Coast.

Mike’s vision and his knack of creating opportunities proved rewarding upon his decision to exit the real estate market in 2005. This led him back to his roots, in the industrial minerals industry, when he began acquiring aggregate/industrial mineral companies in late 2006. In his current position, Mike plays in integral role in developing and sustaining business relationships with the premier companies in the marketplace.

Mike holds a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University in Finance and a J.D. from Temple University.

Mike is actively involved in local communities and government. Michael is the Chairman of Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (also known as “BLOCS”), a non-profit organization supporting Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area. In addition to BLOCS, Mike is co-founder of the Philadelphia School Partnership and also sits on the board of the Mastery Charter Schools and is chairman of their High Tech High Foundation in Philadelphia. His philanthropic work includes charitable efforts in Chester, Pennsylvania, and securing a Ray & Joan Kroc grant to build a community center in north Philadelphia.

Helen Cunningham led the Samuel S. Fels Foundation for 23 years prior to her retirement in 2016

Before to her tenure with Fels, Cunningham was the founding director of the College Access Program of the Philadelphia Education Fund. In this capacity, she planned and implemented a program to increase the number of Philadelphia public high school graduates who go to and complete college. Prior to this, Cunningham served as Program Officer in Education with the Pew Charitable Trusts for nine years. Her previous posts include Assistant Director of the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia and Acting Director of the Children’s Museum in Wilkes Barre. After college she worked as a public high school Spanish teacher.

Cunningham received an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania; a B.A. from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. and she attended the University of Madrid in Spain. Cunningham is also a trained Mediator.

Bill Marx is a Corporate Tax partner in Grant Thornton’s Philadelphia office. Marx has worked in both public accounting and industry, including serving as director of taxes for a multinational publicly traded company. He provides federal, state, and multinational tax accounting, compliance, and planning for both publicly traded and privately held dynamic companies. Bill has extensive experience with the preparation and review of income tax provisions, both ASC 740 (formerly known as FAS 109) and IAS 12 (International Financial Reporting Standards), and serves as the firm’s Technical Issue Resolution expert on ASC 740 matters for the East region. He has represented his clients’ tax interests in numerous transactions and restructurings, and in disputes with taxing authorities. He has also been very active over his career in teaching about taxes in both internal and external continuing professional education classes.

During his more than 20 years in the public affairs and communications arena, Chris Bravacos has played a significant role in many major public policy debates and political victories in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He has gained valuable experience and insight on how best to present public issues to persuade key opinion leaders – a skill that helps Bravo Group clients reach their objectives.

Among Bravo’s clients are: Hershey Company, Comcast, Cephalon, Jefferson Health System, Sunoco, Aetna, American Cancer Society, RRI Energy, Boeing, Honeywell and Cisco Systems. Chris has been dubbed “savvy” by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, included on the PoliticsPA.com list of “Pennsylvania’s Smartest Staffers and Operatives,” described as “not afraid to challenge ‘business as usual’ in the capital” by the Pennsylvania Report’s “Report 100” of the most influential Pennsylvanians in politics today and profiled in Harrisburg Magazine’s list of “Movers and Shapers.” He continues to advise and counsel numerous statewide and regional candidates for public office, and his opinion on public affairs and strategic communications often appears in media stories.

Chris also serves as the president of REACH Alliance and on the boards of Bravo Foundation, Harrisburg; the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania; Jump Street, a private, nonprofit art council serving the Central Pennsylvania region; the Children’s Scholarship Foundation, Philadelphia; and the Philadelphia School Partnership.

Chris founded Bravo Group in 1999 after serving four successful years as Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Prior to joining the Ridge administration, he helped rebuild the Republican party in the early 1990s and lead the GOP to statewide election sweeps in 1993 and 1994 as executive director of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of American University.

As Director of Partnerships for The Salvation Army in Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1999, the Reverend Bonnie Camarda is at the heart of The Salvation Army’s initiatives to form fruitful partnerships with area business leaders, government leaders, prospective donors, fellow social service organizations, and most importantly, individuals who look to her for spiritual guidance and hope.

Bonnie has been a tireless advocate for the poor in her past position as President of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, an organization she has been involved in since 1989. Bonnie also served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Esperanza USA, treasurer of the board for Mujeres de Esperanza National Women Ministry, The Philadelphia Leadership Foundation, and Hope for Philly. She has also served as the Administrative Pastor for the Living Word Community Church and as Executive Director of the Esperanza Health Center.

An active supporter of education, Bonnie serves as Moderator for the Faith and Community Partnerships of the School Districts of Philadelphia. She has also been a pioneer in many ways. Born in Havana, Cuba, she grew up in Madrid, Spain, and graduated from the University of Madrid with a degree in Business Administration and a Baccalaureate in Administrative Science. She earned an MBA from Wharton in 1973, at a time when few women were admitted to MBA programs. She also received a Masters of Divinity from the Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida, a conservative institution where women were a small minority of students.

John Griffin is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. He was previously a Director at Credit Suisse Securities (previously Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette) and an Executive Director and banker at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Prior to joining the Private Bank, John was president of Zeke Capital Advisors, LLC, a multi-family office located in Berwyn, PA and a Partner at Chartwell Investment Partners. Mr. Griffin began his investment career in 1986 in the Capital Markets Division of Paine Webber, Inc. in New York City as an underwriter and trader of corporate and municipal bonds.

John is very active in the Philadelphia area as an advisor and trustee to nonprofit organizations. He serves on the board of trustees of St. Joseph’s University and Roman Catholic High School. He was previously the Head Basketball Coach of Siena College and St. Joseph’s University. John graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. from St. Joseph’s University and an M.B.A. from Drexel University.

David Hardy founded the Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School in 2007. The high school, serving a mostly African-American, all-male student body, graduated its first class in 2011 and has steadily outperformed the city average in rates of graduation, college matriculation and college completion. Prior to Boys Latin, he was deputy CEO of Community Academy of Philadelphia and before that vice principal of a north Philadelphia high school. David serves on the board of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform.

Evie McNiff is the founder and a board member of the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia, Philadelphia School Partnership, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, The Philadelphia Foundation and Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative. Evie holds a B.A. from Yale University. She is married, has three children and lives outside of Philadelphia.

Stephanie Naidoff is a lawyer and civic activist. She practiced law for over 30 years, first with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she spent a decade as chief counsel for the mid-Atlantic states, then as General Counsel for Thomas Jefferson University for 15 years, and then with the law firm of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius.

In 1997 she was asked to take charge of a long delayed dream to create a performing arts center for Philadelphia. The Kimmel Center, a breathtaking design of famed architect Rafael Vinoly, opened in 2001 as the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and seven other performing arts groups.

She then served as Philadelphia’s Director of Commerce (chief economic development officer) and City Representative for four years, during which time she worked on projects as diverse as the Cira Center and Comcast headquarters, the development of the Navy Yard, the expansion of the Penn campus eastward, and the move of the Barnes to the Parkway. She also worked on the mega-concert Live Eight and Philadelphia’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Now retired, Stephanie serves on the boards of Penn Medicine (the University of Pennsylvania’s health system), the Free Library, Curtis Institute of Music, and Play on Philly. In Aspen, where she also resides, she serves on the boards of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Society of Fellows of the Aspen Institute, and Aspen Public Radio.

She is a proud graduate of Philadelphia’s public schools, Goucher College, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Benjamin Persofsky is a senior vice president in the private banking practice at Brown Brothers Harriman, where he provides strategic advice and helps deliver debt and equity solutions for private businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region. Prior to joining BBH, he was with M&T Bank, where he served in a variety of leadership roles across various divisions including corporate banking, retail banking and organizational development/human resources. Benjamin also has prior experience in health care, having been responsible for the JeffSTAT critical care retrieval program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Benjamin graduated from Lafayette College with an A.B. in economics & business and a minor in psychology. He attended the University of Oxford as a visiting student concentrating on research in organizational behavior and developmental economics. Benjamin serves on the Executive Committee of Federation Early Learning Services and has served as a grant reviewer for the United Way. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife and young son.

Benjamin, who attended Philadelphia public schools including Northeast High School, is deeply focused on the question: How can we leverage the needs of the city’s next generation of parents to help break the cycle of poverty for the overwhelming number of under-served children in Philadelphia? In 2015, he worked with MaST Charter School and other parents of young children in Philadelphia to develop a plan for a new charter school focused on science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts and math. Although the charter was not approved, the experience further focused Benjamin on the importance of finding education solutions that will enable all of the city’s students to reach their potential.

Nicole heads the investment management business for the mid-Atlantic Region of Goldman Sachs. Previously, she advised wealthy family groups and institutions in New York for 12 years before relocating to Philadelphia. Nicole joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 as a summer associate in Private Wealth Management in New York. She was named managing director in 2011. Prior to joining the firm, Nicole worked at J.P. Morgan providing strategic financial reporting and analysis to the Executive Office.

Nicole serves on the executive board of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of the Kimmel Center and is a corporate member of the Economic Club of Washington, DC. She also serves on several other educational boards including the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education Center, and is a founding board member of Girls Prep Charter School in New York City. Nicole also serves on the alumni advisory board of the Robert Toigo Foundation.

Nicole earned an M.B.A from Columbia Business School and a B.S. in accounting from Hampton University.

John Stine serves as the Assistant Office Managing Partner for the Philadelphia office, and as a senior tax partner in Grant Thornton’s Philadelphia tax practice. With over 35 years of industry experience, John led the transaction between LECG and Grant Thornton that resulted in over 300 professional joining Grant Thornton in March of 2011. Prior to joining Grant Thornton, John led LECG’s Governance, Assurance and Tax Sector, of over 170 professionals; an integrated practice including: audit, accounting outsourcing, SEC consulting, risk management consulting, compensation and benefits consulting, and federal, state and local, and international tax compliance and consulting. Prior to 2009, John led LECG’s tax practice, which grew from 30 to over 120 professionals, was recognized by Bowman’s as the fastest growing practice in the US in 2004, and gained the reputation of being the largest and highest-quality tax practice outside the Big Four in the Delaware Valley. Prior to joining LECG, John spent 21 years at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in charge of the middle market tax practice in Philadelphia, and then six years at Ernst & Young, as tax partner-in-charge of the Mid-Atlantic middle market tax practice.

John has over 35 years of experience, with a wide variety of clients in varied industries, including: technology, financial services, manufacturing and distribution, service companies, and real estate. His expertise in business problem solving and transactions has at its cornerstone a teaming approach, using his network of relationships with experts both inside and outside the firm to help his clients maximize value, and reduce risks. His personal client base is focused on ultra-high net worth individuals, and family business owners and their businesses. He is a specialist in flow-through taxation, estate, succession and transactions planning, and has been involved in numerous business transactions both for buyers, sellers and intra and inter-family transactions.

Janine Yass is an avid education reform advocate both nationally and in the Philadelphia area. She is presently Vice Chair for the Center on Education Reform’s board of directors, a D.C.-based pioneer for sustainable changes that dramatically improve educational opportunities nationwide. She is also the founder of Boys’ Latin Charter School in West Philadelphia, and was the Vice Chair of the school’s board through 2010. During that year, Janine joined with other local business and philanthropic leaders to co-found the Philadelphia School Partnership. Both she and her husband, Jeff Yass, continue to be supporters of several outstanding charter organizations in Philadelphia.

Other local charitable affiliations include her work with the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Music and People’s Emergency Center. In the past, she was a board member at both the Save the Children Foundation in Westport, Conn. and Teach for America, mid-Atlantic Region. Janine holds a masters degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelors degree in economics from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.

School Investments

Since 2011, we’ve invested nearly $60 million to give 25,000 more students access to high-quality schools.


Our goal is to raise $140 million by 2022 to invest in great schools of all types. To date, we’ve raised more than $80 million.

By the Numbers

We invest in schools of all types. Our committed funds are currently invested in charter (65%), district (25%) and private (10%) schools.


Our goal is to ensure 50,000 more students each year are on the path to college by 2022.