Our Board of Directors

Sandy Hook Promise is led by several family members whose loved ones were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a talented staff of seasoned professionals. Together, we honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.

The Sandy Hook Promise Board of Directors is a governing board which shepherds the organization toward a sustainable future by providing strategic leadership, oversight, insight, and connections. The governing board is accountable for clarifying Sandy Hook Promise’s mission, ethos, and strategic direction. The board also ensures the organization’s overall financial performance and long-term viability is sound, manages enterprise-wide risks/legal issue, acts as brand stewards, adopts relevant and ethical policies as well as ensuring Sandy Hook Promise has adequate resources to advance its mission.

Jackie Barden

Jackie Barden

Board Director

Jackie is an educator in Pawling School District in New York. She has 23 years of experience with children ages K-6. Jackie, along with her husband Mark, has been a national advocate and face of gun violence prevention, frequently serving as a spokesperson for the organization.

Jackie lives in Sandy Hook, CT with her husband Mark, her son James, and daughter Natalie. In addition to her work with Sandy Hook Promise, Jackie and her extended family have created a foundation called “What Would Daniel Do?” to honor the extraordinarily generous and empathetic spirit of her son Daniel who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Mark Barden

Mark Barden

Co-founder, CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and Board Director

Mark Barden is co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund (SHPAF). Since the tragic murder of his son, Daniel, during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, Mark has dedicated himself to sparing other families the pain of losing children to gun violence.

Mark believes that thoughtful, sincere dialogue centered on protecting youth will lead us to shared common ground and nonpartisan solutions everyone can agree with. These include expanded background checks, secure storage of firearms, extreme risk protection laws, and other measures that are proven to prevent gun violence. Read his full bio.

Dr. Colleen Barry

Dr. Colleen Barry

Board Director

Colleen Barry is the Inaugural Dean of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. Dr. Barry’s research focuses on how health and social policies affect outcomes for individuals with mental illness and substance use, including access to medical care and social services, health care spending, and mortality.

In addition, she conducts empirical research to understand how persuasive communication can influence public opinion about addiction, mental illness, food systems and obesity, and violence. A focus of this work involves identifying evidence-based approaches for reducing stigma. Dr. Barry has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications in leading medicine and health policy journals. Read her full bio.

Matt Bennett

Matt Bennett

Board Vice Chair

Matthew Bennett is Co-founder and SVP for Public Affairs, of the Third Way, in Washington, DC. His pursuit of center-left politics has taken Matt from the campaign trail to the White House, and from the pages of The New York Times to appearances on Meet the Press and 60 Minutes.

He worked on both of the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, his political hero. He served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Clinton White House, where he was the principal White House liaison to governors and covered issues ranging from disaster response to Medicaid to immigration. Read his full bio.

Joe Cassidy

Joe Cassidy

Board Treasurer

After 25 years, Joe Cassidy retired in 2016 from the General Electric Company where he most recently served as the Director of Global Tax Operations for GE Capital Americas in Norwalk, CT. In this role, Joe was responsible for GE Capital Americas U.S. and foreign income tax reporting, including financial statement reporting of income taxes and the foreign, federal, and state income tax reporting to governmental tax agencies. 

Joe and his wife, Donna, a Villanova Nurse, reside in Philadelphia PA. Joe has been as active volunteer at Villanova University for the last 15 years. His efforts were acknowledged by the presentation of the Villanova Goodwill Ambassador Award (2004). 

Karen Freeman-Wilson

Karen Freeman-Wilson

Board Director

Karen Freeman-Wilson began serving as President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League in January 2020. She brings a passion for equity and social justice to the organization, which works to advance economic, educational, and social progress for African Americans through direct service and advocacy.

Having served in the public arena most of her professional life, Freeman-Wilson has deep experience in addressing issues that impact urban communities. She was mayor of her hometown of Gary, Indiana, from 2012 through 2019. She was the first female to lead the city of Gary and the first Black female mayor in Indiana. Read more.

Nicole Hockley

Nicole Hockley

Co-founder, CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, and Board Director

Nicole Hockley chose to transform unspeakable grief and anguish into action after her youngest son, Dylan, was murdered in his first-grade classroom during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. As the co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation (SHPF), Nicole works every day to protect children from gun and school violence.

Nicole is a leading voice on school safety and gun violence prevention, rising above the political divide, focusing instead on helping young people get the help they need. She is sought-after for her expertise on recognizing the warning signs of someone who may be in crisis and how to safely intervene. Read more.

Bradley Myles

Bradley Myles

Board Secretary

Bradley Myles serves as Senior Advisor-Innovation at Panorama Global where he stewards external partnerships, works closely with a network of social entrepreneurs, and develops creative strategies and solutions in support of Panorama’s social impact goals as a platform for social change.

Prior to joining Panorama, Bradley served as the CEO of Polaris, building and growing one of the leading anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S. for 15 years. Mr. Myles has served as an advisor, coach, and technical subject matter expert on human trafficking, gender-based violence, the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and social entrepreneurship to multiple government and non-government organizations in the anti-trafficking and other fields. Read more.

Michael Nutter

Michael A. Nutter

Board Director

After serving almost 15 years in the Philadelphia City Council, Michael A. Nutter was elected the 98th Mayor of his hometown in November 2007 and took office in January 2008. With the support of an experienced, professional staff, Mayor Nutter made significant progress on every pledge: homicides were at an almost 50-year low at the end of his tenure.

In affiliation with the National League of Cities, Mayor Nutter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu launched Cities United, an initiative aimed at creating partnerships between cities, non-profits, and other stakeholders to combat violence and crime among African-American men and boys. Read his full bio.

Dr. Jillian Peterson

Dr. Jillian Peterson

Board Director

Dr. Jillian Peterson is an Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director of the Forensic Psychology Program at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She holds a MA in Social Ecology and a PhD in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of CA, Irvine.

Dr. Peterson was the principal investigator on a three year grant from the National Institute of Justice examining the psychosocial histories of public mass shooters. Her new book based on this research, The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic is now available. It’s the winner of the 2022 Minnesota Book Award for nonfiction. Read her full bio.

Bill Sherlach

Bill Sherlach

Co-founder and Board Chair

As Co-Founder and Board Director at Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), Bill helps lead, develop, and oversee strategy, program implementation, awareness building, and governance as well as serving as a spokesperson.  

Bill’s wife Mary, a school psychologist, was one of the six adults and 20 first graders murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Bill believes in and is committed to programs and policy that create better mental health interventions and greater access to services. He also backs commonsense solutions to gun safety and access. Read more.  

Kenny Thompson, Jr.

Kenny Thompson, Jr.

Board Director

Kenny Thompson, Jr. is the Vice President of External Affairs, North America at PepsiCo. He applies his experience with social impact, corporate responsibility, sustainability, advocacy, and communications to generate new business, amplify PepsiCo’s business partnerships, and grow PepsiCo’s reputation as a responsible corporate citizen.

In 2020, Thompson was selected to serve as the Private Sector Liaison for the Biden – Harris Transition where he provided strategic and management oversight of the interaction with the private sector while managing relationships with Fortune 500 CEOs, Wall Street firms, venture-backed enterprises, and industry groups. Read his full bio.

Peter Willner, Ed.D.

Peter Willner, Ed.D.

Board Director

Dr. Peter Willner is a non-profit leader who has spent his entire 40 year plus professional career advocating for education, civil rights, and philanthropy. He is the co-founder of JANID Advisors, a nonprofit consulting firm that helps fundraisers and nonprofits grow and achieve financial stability.

Devoted to “giving back” to local philanthropic causes, Peter serves on the boards of Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, The Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University, and Congregation Beth El. He is a Trustee of the Fairfield Public Library and a member of National Executive Service Corps’ Advisory Board.

Where to Next?

About Us

By uniting people who value protecting children to take meaningful actions, we will stop the tragic loss of life.

Our Commitment

Sandy Hook Promise strives to ensure its work environment, programmatic work, and culture reflect the values of race, equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI).

Our Advocacy

Through our sister organization, Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, you can help change policy to enact common sense reforms