Our Team

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Prior to founding The Drexel Fund, John worked at the Leadership Roundtable with a focus on Catholic schools. At age 34, John became one of the youngest Catholic school superintendents in the country in Paterson, New Jersey where his work was featured in the Time magazine article “Looking for Solutions to the Catholic School Crisis.” John began his career in education as a high school teacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as part of the 4th cohort of teachers in the Alliance for Catholic Education. John earned a B.A. in economics, history and government from the University of Notre Dame, as well as an M.A.T. from the University of Portland and a M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. John is an Aspen-Pahara Institute Fellow.


Partner & Investment Director

Prior to joining The Drexel Fund, Abby spent seven years as a program officer for the Walton Family Foundation’s Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area where she led the Foundation’s strategy to grow high performing private school networks serving low income students in publicly funded private school choice geographies nationally. Abby previously worked for a Milwaukee, Wisconsin non-profit implementing an initiative to start 50 new, small high schools in the city, as well as a researcher for School Choice Wisconsin and the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. She taught first grade for two years at Visitation Catholic School on Chicago’s south side as part of the Inner-City Teaching Corps. Abby received a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.P.A. from the University of Washington – Seattle.


Courtney was most recently the Chief Innovation Officer for Mastery Public Charter Schools, a network of 24 schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey. In this role, she helped lead growth from 2,000 to 15,000 students over eight years and led raising more than $75 million in private and competitive public funds to support expansion and innovative programs. Prior to joining Mastery in 2010, Courtney founded the School District of Philadelphia’s Multiple Pathways to Graduation division, where she developed strategy and managed a portfolio of school options for overage, under-credited youth in the 5th largest school district in the U.S. Courtney also spent six years in the higher education sector, working and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland, College Park. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Villanova University and a Master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Courtney is an Aspen-Pahara Institute Fellow.

Director, Founders Program

Bill began his career teaching in Chicago at Our Lady of Tepeyac Catholic School in 1996. He was a founding teacher at Nuestra America High School before teaching at Noble Street College Prep. Bill was the principal for nine years at Noble Street College Prep, known nationally as one of the top urban high schools in the country. Bill then returned to his alma mater as the Senior Director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute to lead five campuses (grades K-12), and a teacher training program. After UEI, Bill and his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he was the first Executive Director for KIPP’s Kansas City region. Since attending KIPP’s School Leadership Program in 2005, Bill has presented on hiring for KIPP and has coached dozens of KIPP school leaders nationally. Most recently, he served as KIPP Houston’s Director of High School Strategy, where he worked with four high school leaders, serving more than 2,000 students. In 2014, Bill completed his Doctorate in Education at National Louis University. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1995.

Director of Finance and Administration

Mitzi brings over 12 years of experience working in education non-profit operations and fundraising to The Drexel Fund. Most recently, Mitzi was Chief of Staff for Schools That Can Milwaukee where she served on the leadership team and led team-wide operations and HR, development strategy, and day-to-day management of the Board of Directors. Mitzi also worked for Teach For America recruiting corps members and staff members. She also coordinated operations for TFA’s 2009 and 2010 training institutes in Chicago and served as the Director of Development for the Milwaukee region from 2010-2014. Mitzi has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Kansas.

Board of Directors


BJ is Founder and Chairman of the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation (CEIF), launched in 2000, to establish private, college preparatory middle and high schools in economically-challenged communities throughout the country. CEIF provided start-up funds for 16 Cristo Rey High Schools and 37 Nativity Miguel Middle Schools. BJ was a founder of the Cristo Rey Network, serving as its Chairman from 2003 to 2009. He was also a founder of the Nativity Miguel Network in 2006 and served as its Chairman until 2011. BJ sat on the Board of Trustees of Saint Mary’s College of California for eight years, serving as Chairman from 1995-1999.


Tom is the Founder and Managing Partner of Healey Development LLC. Tom is a founder of Prisma Capital Partners, a founder of the FIA Timber Partners funds, a founder and partner of Anthos Capital, a private equity firm focused on small-capitalization private equity and a founder and partner of Broad Hollow Partners, a private equity boutique focused on the investment management sector. Tom is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he taught a course in Financial Institutions and Markets. Tom received a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Tom formerly served on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation and Georgetown University’s College Board of Advisors, and chaired both institutions’ Investment Committees. He is also involved with several other nonprofit institutions.


Nick Howley is Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Transdigm Group, Inc., a leading global designer, producer, and supplier of highly engineered aircraft components, systems, and subsystems, which he co-founded in 1993. Nick is one of the founders of The Howley Foundation and a member of its Board of Directors. Nick is currently the Board Chair of the Cristo Rey Network. Nick’s charitable governance experience also includes service on the boards of Case Western Reserve University, The Cleveland Clinic, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Washington and Jefferson College, St. Martin de Porres High School, and Gilmour Academy. Nick received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.


Darren was most recently the CEO of Advance Auto Parts from January 2008 to January 2016. He had been a member of the board of directors since 2004. Between 2001 and 2007, Darren served as Chief Financial Officer of Best Buy, a Fortune 100 company, having joined the organization in 2000. Prior to joining Best Buy, Darren began his retail career with Carson Pirie Scott in Milwaukee, holding various executive positions, including Chief Financial Officer. He then spent three years with Seattle-based Nordstrom Stores as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Darren is on the board of directors of the Advance Auto Parts Company and Fastenal Company. He recently completed his service on the board of Marquette University, for which he was chairman from 2009-2012.


Michael G. Messner is a Co-Founder of Seminole Capital Partners. Through their family’s Speedwell Foundation, he and his wife, Jenny, have been involved in various philanthropic efforts nationwide and for Charleston, SC, their hometown, focused on urban parks and education. The Messners have helped launch two charter schools: Carolina Voyager Charter School and Allegro Music Charter School. Voyager, an elementary school, uses technology-based learning to enhance the education experience. Allegro, a middle and high school, incorporates three hours of music education into each student’s school day. Mike received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1976. He attended graduate school at M.I.T. and received an M.S. in 1980. Mike is a member of the MIT Civil Engineering Visiting Committee and is on the Georgia Tech Foundation Board and Investment Committee.


Darla serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF), a national nonprofit dedicated to providing partial scholarships for low-income children in grades K-8 to go to private school. Immediately prior to joining CSF, Darla practiced law in both the public and private sectors. She worked on Capitol Hill from 1993 to 1999, serving Senators John Breaux of Louisiana and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Previously, she was an attorney in private practice specializing in tax law.  In addition to her service with The Drexel Fund, Darla is on the board of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. Darla graduated from the University of North Dakota with degrees in political science and accounting. She is a CPA and received a law degree from George Washington University.


Dan is a Co-Founder of Great Hearts Academies, a network of K-12 public charter schools in Arizona and Texas focused on Classical education. Dan currently serves on the National Board and as the Chief Advancement Officer. In 2004, Dan authored the original Great Hearts business plan. As the headmaster of the first school and then as founding CEO, he secured the initial strategic funding partnerships with local and national philanthropy to launch the Arizona schools network. From 2004 to 2015, Dan directed the network’s growth from a fledgling start-up school of 200 students in Phoenix to 11,000 students at 22 academies. In 2012, Dan was invited by a local funding consortium to lead the first out-of-state expansion of Great Hearts to Texas. Great Hearts now serves 14,000 students at 28 academies across Phoenix, San Antonio, and North Texas. Dan holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the Claremont Graduate University, attended the Stanford University Executive Education program, and was named a Piper Fellow and Pahara-Aspen Fellow.


Chris is a Senior Partner of Stonehill Capital Management, an investment advisory firm specializing in distressed situations. Chris is Founder and Trustee of the Wilson Sheehan Foundation, which has a mission to address the root causes of poverty, usually leading to educational initiatives. Chris is a board member of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame, which conducts impact analysis to determine the effectiveness of poverty programs. He is Chairman of the Board of St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, CT. Chris is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and serves on several advisory councils for the University.

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