Board of Directors

Andrew Annacone, Chair

Andy has spent his career helping organizations innovate and grow and has been involved with EPIC Academy since 2012.  Andy is currently a Managing Partner at TechNexus, a Venture Capital and Strategic Advisory firm that helps corporations drive strategic growth and transformation. Prior to TechNexus, Andy led Corporate Venture Capital and new business innovation at Outerwall, Inc.   He was a Principal with growth advisor Galt & Company, and has held senior leadership roles at Sears and Gap.  Early in his career, he founded Arthur Andersen’s Shareholder Value consulting practice.  Andrew is active in the venture community, serving as Board member and mentor to several early-stage companies and lecturing on venturing at various universities.  Andrew earned an MBA from the University of Illinois.

Leigha Haynes

Leigha Haynes is a Vice President at Vista Credit Partners. Prior to joining Vista, Ms. Haynes served as a Vice President at Madison Capital Funding LLC, where she focused on raising, structuring, and managing investment vehicles on behalf of third-party investors. During her time with Madison, Ms. Haynes also worked as a Corporate Vice President in Madison’s Compliance department and as a Senior Accountant, where she focused on developing, implementing, and testing compliance processes, and accounting research and financial reporting. Before her time with Madison, Ms. Haynes worked at KPMG LLP as a Senior Audit Associate, where she focused on financial services. Ms. Haynes earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.B.A. from J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mercedes Hill

Mercedes M. Hill is Associate General Counsel at Beam Suntory Inc. where has broad general corporate, transactional and litigation responsibilities on a global basis.  Prior to joining Beam Suntory Inc., Ms. Hill spent over 12 years in private practice at Jenner & Block, LLP.  In addition to her legal accomplishments, Ms. Hill is also a 2016 Fellow in the Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) program and a member of the board of directors of Epic Academy. Ms. Hill, a graduate of The Ohio State University, received her law degree from Harvard Law School.

Maria Kim

After 13 years in insurance, Maria Kim joined Cara – a Chicago-based social enterprise reconnecting people experiencing poverty with hope, jobs, and opportunity. Cara has helped people secure over 10,000 jobs, with permanent placements at retention rates over 20 points higher than national norms, and with 80% of employed participants transitioning into permanent housing in which their families can thrive. Maria serves on the boards of EPIC Academy, Rebuilding Exchange, and the University of Chicago Poverty Lab College and Career Advisory Board. She is a 2008 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, a 2012 American Marshall Memorial Fellow, a 2018 Vital Voices Global Ambassador, a former co-chair within Chicago Mayor Lightfoot's 2019 transition team, and a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar. Maria holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Carrie Stewart

Carrie is co-founder and CEO of Afton Partners, an education finance consultancy. Afton empowers education leaders with effective financial strategies, collaborating with school districts, state agencies, charter school operators, social venture philanthropists, and other investors in public education.

Prior to establishing Afton, Carrie was a Senior Director at Alvarez & Marsal. From 2005-2007, Carrie helped in the rebuilding of the public school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Prior to joining Alvarez & Marsal, Carrie was a Manager in Arthur Andersen’s corporate restructuring group in Chicago.

Carrie serves on several non-profit boards in a personal commitment to public education reform in historically underserved communities.

Adam Semel

Adam Semel, AIA, is a Managing Partner in the Chicago of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), where he serves as a leader of the firm’s strategic growth and client engagement across all regions. He plays an integral role in the management and delivery of large-scale complex projects, with an extensive multi-billion-dollar portfolio that includes projects in Chicago, across the United States, and overseas. His expertise extends to several practice areas, including commercial, residential, cultural, education, interior design, and urban design at all scales. Semel is highly experienced in navigating public agency approvals, zoning regulations, and facilitating meaningful conversations with local communities.

Semel plays a key role in SOM’s commitment to Chicago and serves as an advocate for the city’s continued growth. In 2016, Semel was named a Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, and in 2019, he joined the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Architecture Center. Semel holds degrees from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Wesleyan University.

Eyal Altman

Eyal Altman is Vice President, Chief Digital Officer & CIO at Littelfuse, Inc. He is responsible for leading the company’s Digital Transformation initiatives and managing the Corporate & Digital Marketing and global IT organizations. 

Prior to this role Eyal held executive leadership positions at Littelfuse as a General Manager of a global business unit, and leading Corporate M&A and Strategy. He held Corporate Strategy, M&A, and Finance leadership positions at other organizations prior to joining Littelfuse.

Eyal holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

Myetie Hamilton

Myetie Hamilton brings over 20 years of experience leading innovative change in K-12 education.  Myetie is the Vice President & Executive Director of City Year Chicago.  Prior to City Year Chicago, she served most recently as Executive Director of EPIC Academy, a public charter high school on the far southeast side of Chicago where she led organizational strategy and vision, fundraising and external relations, and board engagement.

Prior to taking on the role with EPIC, Hamilton served as Deputy Chief of Schools for Network 9 with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), managing transformation efforts for 28 schools in Chicago’s Woodlawn, Bronzeville, and Hyde Park communities. She also held positions in CPS as Deputy Chief of Staff in the CEO’s Office and Chief of School Support Services for the District.  In addition to her work in education, Myetie serves as Board Chair for the Provident Foundation, a non-profit with a mission focused on providing urban youth with exposure, mentoring and scholarship opportunities in the field of medicine.

Myetie deeply believes in supporting the children of Chicago and the importance of providing all students with access to quality school options. She was recently acknowledged by lifestyle media outlet Make It Better as one of Chicago’s 38 Top Black Women of Impact and was a 2018 recipient of the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award. Myetie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Alabama A&M University, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Illinois Institute of Technology and is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow Class of 2016.

Brendan Downing

Brendan Downing is the CEO and founder of Janus Health, a healthcare provider technology company that creates efficiency in the revenue cycle to reduce the cost to collect and helps generate more cash. 

Prior to founding Janus, Brendan served as the President of XSELL Technologies, a growth stage Artificial Intelligence technology company in Chicago’s West Loop. XSELL works with large Fortune 500 companies to help acquire, engage and retain customers. 

Prior to XSELL, Brendan founded and served as CEO of Falcon Consulting Group, a 150-person healthcare consulting firm focused on aiding large health systems improve clinical and financial outcomes through the enablement of technology. Falcon was sold to Avaap, a mid-sized consulting firm, in the Fall of 2016. Brendan started his career at Epic Systems, the largest Electronic Health Record software company in the United States. 

Outside of work, Brendan is a board member of the EPIC Academy, a board member of the Windy City Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization, and actively involved in several non-profits focused on healthcare and education. 

Brendan received his bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Maryland – College Park, and master’s in business administration at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. During the MBA program at Booth, Brendan was recognized as the Best and Brightest by the school.