Board of Directors

Sue Grant

Founder/Board Chair Executive Committee

Sue Grant is a visionary whose passion to give the gift of literacy to struggling readers has fueled the formation and success of The Literacy Project. Grant is a native Californian, born and raised in Orange County. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in The School of Human Services and Community Development from California State University, Fullerton. She also studied for her Master’s degree in Counseling and School Psychology.

Throughout her career, she has been involved with bridging the literacy gap amongst these children dating as far back as serving on the PTA board of her own children’s elementary school. In 1988, she was recognized by the California Congress of the Parents, Teacher and Students, Inc. with the Honorary Service Award for her outstanding service to children and youth in literacy.

In 2003 as principal of her own PR firm, OC Public Relations, Grant was hired by The Regents of University of California, out of the office of the president, to help raise funds and awareness for a new literacy pilot program. After the first year, she developed an irresistible desire to further this project and donated her time, resources and connections for the next six years. In 2009, when “The New Phonics Game™” came off the production line, Grant seized the opportunity to create a nonprofit organization to provide the highly specialized reading program to the most at-risk struggling readers in impoverished environments.

What was once a lifelong career in OCPR to help nonprofit organizations strive, became her own reality when she founded The Literacy Project to serve the purpose of solving reading problems amongst school-age children threatened to become illiterate adults. To date, Grant’s vision and leadership have helped “bridge the literacy gap” by serving over 10,000 children throughout Southern California and raising over $2.9 million for the cause. Grant has since become a founding member of the Coalition for Reading Excellence in Washington DC, a national voice promoting structured literacy. Her passionate career led her to be featured as one of “OC’s Top 50 Business Leaders with a Cause” in the ON PURPOSE publication (2012).

Sue Grant’s lifetime interests have focused on serving school-age, at-risk children and literacy issues. She would tell you that there are many ways to save a life. The gift of reading is one of them.

Penny M. Fox

CPA

Penny M. Fox, CPA specializes in tax and accounting services, including tax planning and return preparation, bookkeeping, business consulting, retirement, divorce, estate, trust and bankruptcy planning. An expert in her field, Penny has been serving Orange County for more than 30 years.

Sinan Kanatsiz

CEO, KCOMM

Sinan Kanatsiz has effectively made his mark as an outstanding entrepreneur. In 1998, while studying for a master’s degree at Chapman University, he followed his entrepreneurial spirit and formed his first company, KCOMM, a Public Relations and Internet marketing agency. The company quickly evolved into a full-service marketing, government affairs and event marketing firm known for its Internet expertise and results-oriented approach. In less than ten years, Sinan grew the firm to several million dollars in revenue, opening business centers in Dallas, New York, Dubai, Istanbul, Montreal, London, Argentina and Delhi. Currently, KCOMM has over 65 employees and contractors in several countries, and has developed campaigns for over 1,000 of the most prominent companies throughout the world. These include organizations ranging from innovative start-ups to New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq listed companies such as Oracle, Sony, eBay, T-Mobile, HP and the University of Phoenix.

As a consummate entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sinan takes his community responsibilities very seriously. In addition to mentoring high school and college students, he is often asked to speak about entrepreneurship and the Internet. He has held engagements at several universities, including USC, Chapman University, UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Cal Tech. Additionally, he was a keynote speaker at the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) National Conference in San Jose and is often called to speak on a variety of topics including Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, Modernizing Government and the future of the Internet.

Sinan’s belief in the power of entrepreneurism and politics led him to start Generation NeXt in 2004, a network of young business and community leaders committed to making a difference by empowering others for the betterment of the next generation. Additionally, he founded the Internet Marketing Association in 2000, a group that has grown to over 750,000 professional members worldwide. His philosophy is to make the association free to join and underwrite all events with corporate sponsors. Past events have included the founders of Google, SalesForce, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, St. Regis Hotel, Wahoos, Quest Software, Oakley and YouTube. Kanatsiz is currently expanding the group globally and involving technology leaders from Europe, the Middle East, China and India, creating the largest trade association in the world, which is defining standards for the Internet.

Sinan holds a bachelor's degree in Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a certificate in Human Resources, all from Chapman University. Sinan was designated Alumnus of the Year by Chapman University in the year 2000. He was also the recipient of the Community College of California Alumnus of the Year Award in 2005. Sinan was named in the Hall of Fame for Santa Ana College in the year 2006. He has also been named as 40 under 40 and a featured Entrepreneur of the Year by OC Metro Magazine. To this day, he credits his accomplishments to his Four Pillars of Success: personal integrity; coaches and mentors; family; and education.

Kanatsiz, his wife, Kai, daughter Arden, and son Archer, reside in San Clemente, California.  CEO, KCOMM www.kcomm.com  Chairman and Founder, Internet Marketing Association (IMA) www.imanetwork.org  Founder, International Executive Council (IEC) www.iecnetwork.org  Founding Member of the Board of Directors, Pretend City Children’s Museum  Member of the Board of Governors, Chapman University  YMCA National Outreach Chairman, Youth and Government  Member of the Board of Directors, Seneca

Paula Karcher

Philanthropist

Paula Karcher is a philanthropist and public speaker with a strong connection to the Coachella Valley, as well as her roots growing up in Orange County. Along with her husband, Carl Leo Karcher, she has been involved in dozens of events, causes, and foundations, which have definitely benefitted her community.

Dennis Kuhl

Chairman, Angels Baseball

Dennis Kuhl enters his 16th year with the Angels in 2019 after joining the club on Nov. 10, 2003. He was initially appointed as the Angels’ seventh president before being promoted to club Chairman on Nov. 14, 2009. Kuhl continues to oversee the administration, along with a renewed effort in the area of civic affairs and community outreach. He also played a key role in working with Major League Baseball in the Angels hosting the 2010 All-Star Game.

Scott Lopez

Managing Director of Capital Markets at Octane OC

Drawing on more than 25 years of leadership experience in the financial and life sciences industries, Scott Lopez has uncommon insight into investment banking, investor relations, and the public and private markets. He is an Investment Banker with FNEX Capital (www.fnexcapital.com) and Managing Director of Capital Markets at Octane OC in Orange County, CA (www.octaneoc.org.) He is also the owner of Lopez Enterprises, a minority, service-disabled veteran owned, economically disadvantaged business that offers expertise in consulting and advisory, investor relations, business development, ecosystem innovation, and joint venture partnerships.

Scott Lopez earned an MBA from Arizona State University's Thunderbird School of Global Management and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. He has also completed executive education courses at Pepperdine and the Harvard Business School. Scott has two daughters in college and holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His philanthropic passion focuses on literacy and disadvantaged veterans. He resides both in Newport Beach, California, and New Mexico.

Bill Passo

Founder And CEO, Passco Companies

William O. Passo is a true professional in the real estate investment industry. He completed his first purchase of a multifamily investment project in Anaheim, California in 1976.

Arnie Rubin

Former Chairman & CEO, Funrise, Inc.

Arnie Rubin, a 50+ year toy industry veteran, co-founded Imperial Toy in 1969 and founded Funrise Toy Corporation in 1987. Funrise was best known for manufacturing and marketing of the Tonka brand of vehicles under license from Hasbro since 1999. Rubin is the past Chairman of the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Toy Industry Association (TIA). In 2009, he was named to the Toy Safety Certification Program’s Oversight Council and elected as president of the International Council of Toy Industries and was a member if the ICTI Care Board of Governance.

In addition to his support of the Toy Industry Foundation, Rubin has served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Braille Institute, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Families of Blind Children. He organized the Toy Run for Kids benefiting Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, which has brought donations of more than $100,000 annually.

Joe Stapleton

President, Spinnaker Investment Group

Joe Stapleton is a Co-Founder for Spinnaker Investment Group. In this role, he assists businesses and individuals achieve what is most important to them by bringing in line their goals and desires with their financial resources. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona.

Jim Steele

President of Global Strategic Customers

Jim Steele has more than 40 years of business experience with some of the Information Technology sector’s biggest players including Salesforce, Ariba (SAP), Yext and IBM. Steele is an accomplished executive with a strong track record of success in building and leading global sales organizations. Currently, as President of Global Strategic Customers at Salesforce, he is responsible for bringing the full power of Salesforce to its largest and most strategic customers.

Steve Tollefsrud

Steve Tollefsrud is a retired Engineer with a background in the Semiconductor Industry. He has been an advocate of numerous social and environmental causes, including funding blindness research for Fight For Sight (NYC), supporting disaster response as a PRO Team volunteer for the American Red Cross (NYC), delivering meals and doing outreach to the homeless for the Coalition For The Homeless (NYC), mentoring underprivileged children for The Cambodian Family in Santa Ana, helping homeless adults achieve self-sufficiency at The Friendship Shelter in Laguna Beach, and supporting efforts to protect the beauty and integrity of Laguna Canyon through the Laguna Canyon Foundation, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, and is a co-founder of CANDO, the Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization.

Christopher Trela

Christopher Trela is Artistic Assistant Professor of Public Relations and Advertising at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. He began teaching at Chapman University as an Adjunct Professor in 2011, and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2019.

Christopher is the Owner and President of ArtsPR, a boutique PR agency that specializes in public relations services for arts organizations. Current and past clients include: Pacific Symphony, The Laguna Playhouse, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Festival Ballet Theatre, Irvine Barclay Theatre, Chance Theater, Classical Mystery Tour, Balboa Performing Arts Theatre, and many more. Duties performed for these organizations include: media relations, PR campaigns, writing and distributing press releases, pitching stories, maintaining websites and social media, as well as other related PR services.

As a writer, Christopher has had more than 3,000 articles published over the past 30 years in publications throughout Southern California, including Coast Magazine, OC Metro Magazine, OC Register, Metro Menus, OC Family, Performing Arts Magazine, Westways Magazine, Dining Out Magazine, and many others. He also wrote the coffee table book “Newport Beach Centennial: Celebrating a Century,” in 2005.

He spent two years (2004-2006) under contract with Disneyland to write scripts, script treatments and VIP correspondence for the Special Events department during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Christopher is also a playwright and founder of New Voices Playwrights Workshop, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. He has written and directed more than 20 short and full-length plays that have been produced in Orange County, Los Angeles and New York.

As a photographer, his work has appeared in the L.A. Times, The Orange County Register, OC Weekly, OC Metro, OC Wine/OC Menus, Coast, Newport Beach Independent, and many other publications throughout Southern California.

Christopher is a member of the Orange County Press Club, Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He served four years as President of the Orange County Press Club, and four years as an Arts Commissioner for the City of Newport Beach.

Christopher received a PROTOS Award from PRSA for Best PR Campaign for Laguna Playhouse, Platinum and Gold MARCOM Awards for PR programs, a gold HERMES award for Outstanding Press Release, and several Awards of Excellence from PRSA.

He has received numerous awards for news and feature writing from the OC Press Club including first, second and third place in the 2020 OC Press Club Journalism Awards, as well as awards for photography and for his famous chocolate chip cookies.

Michael T. Travis

Partner, Parker & Covert LLP

Michael T. Travis serves as general and special legal counsel for schools, colleges, and educational agencies throughout the state of California. Specializing in education law for more than 14 years, he provides cost-effective, practical, and forward-thinking legal solutions for clients in the areas of governance, labor and personnel, business and facilities, transparency, and litigation issues. Michael is passionate about literacy and access to education for all.