Leadership

We are so thankful and appreciative for the dedicated service and insightful leadership that the women and men of our board provide in support of our mission and vision.  Each of these individuals is passionate about helping relieve poverty and develop literacy programs worldwide.  All of them serve pro bono.

Stephen Bross

Chairman of the Board

Mr. Bross is a project development manager for a major resource production company. He has worked in numerous areas around the world and managed significant projects for both his present and prior employer. He now manages the early framing and assessment of development opportunities for major projects company wide. He has a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

William Kotlan

Board Member
President

Mr. Kotlan is a Professional Engineer and City Administrator for Montgomery, Texas. He has over 20 years of experience in the planning, design, and construction of public works and development projects ranging up to $15M in construction cost. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University where he has a Bachelors in Civil Engineering.

Deborah Cleveland

Board Member
Secretary of the Board

Ms. Cleveland is a practicing attorney who operates her own firm in Ft. Worth, TX. She is also a Certified Public Accountant. She obtained her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the South Texas College of Law and her LLM in Taxation from Southern Methodist University. She is a member of a number of bar associations and CPA chapters and brings extensive legal and accounting expertise to the organization.

Leslie Schmidt

Board Member

Ms. Schmidt is a Certified Public Accountant with a Bachelor of Accounting degree from Stephen F. Austin University. She has served as Controller and CFO for several large companies and currently runs her own accounting business. Ms. Schmidt brings extensive financial expertise to the organization as she serves on the board and in the position of Chief Financial Officer.

Dr. Charles Johnson

Board Member

Dr. Johnson has an extensive and unique background as an educator, attorney, banker, business consultant, and entrepreneur, both domestically and internationally. His work includes the dynamic use of business and banking to holistically transform communities economically. He has an array of academic credentials including masters and PhD degrees in public administration, bank management and economic development which allow him to bring both a practical and academic perspective to his work, writing, consulting and teaching.

Charles Pierson

Board Member
 

Charles is a successful businessman with experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. He has spent nearly two decades involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and has filled a variety of roles for them. Charles has also worked as the President of Frog Street Press, an early childhood curriculum provider. He has a love for serving people and for helping them reach their potential.

Hiram Sloan

Emeritus Board Member
 

Mr. Sloan is currently retired after a successful career of 35 years in the Telecommunications Industry. During that time he served as Transmission Engineer, Operations Supervisor, Human Resources Training Specialist, and Product Training Specialist. He is a graduate of Eastfield College where he obtained an associate degree in Business Management.

Executive Staff

Brenda Holland

Vice President
Chief Operations Officer

Ms. Holland, Vice President and COO of ILAD, spent 12 years in Togo, Africa where she worked with various development projects including women’s empowerment and literacy. Adding to her international experience, Ms. Holland received her master’s degree in International Community Development from Eastern University and a life-coaching certification from CoachNet International. Her education and extensive cross-cultural experience gives Ms. Holland a balanced approach to economic development among under-resourced language communities. Ms. Holland has served in this role since 2014. 

Jon Reese

Chief Financial Officer
 

Mr. Reese spent 22 years in the for-profit sector before joining ILAD in August 2018, including nearly 20 years with two separate Fortune 500 companies. Serving in various Finance roles, he has a consistent track record of helping companies implement their strategic vision, of intentionally helping to expand or rationalize capacity based upon those strategic plans, and of shaping the corporate culture in ways needed to achieve the strategic vision. As ILAD’s CFO, Mr. Reese functions as a type of navigator – establishing road-maps, counseling course-corrections, and ensuring that information and financial resources flow freely to the various stakeholders involved. He holds an MBA from the University of Cincinnati.

Why Literacy and Development?

a letter from Bill Kotlan

 I was explaining to a prospective client what my engineering consulting firm values in project managers. It is a familiar sales pitch, but it also happens to be a focus of our senior management. Our project managers need to be good communicators as well as good listeners. Yes, those are priorities even in an engineering firm. In order to marshal the resources to deliver a project that meets the expectations of our client on time and under budget, we must understand our clients’ values, capabilities, and resources. That means we use language to gain understanding.

Well-educated and socially-effective adults sometimes forget what it is like to be illiterate. When I visit the shop to make a purchase in my hometown, I feel very comfortable. I know where to go, how to get what I want, and can communicate effectively to everyone I meet on the way. If I were to get lost, I can use my GPS and follow its directions by reading signs. If I have an unexpected flat tire, I have the means and knowledge to take care of that minor inconvenience.

By contrast, when I visited a country with a completely foreign language and culture, I felt vulnerable, fearful, and anxious. I had no understanding of what was going on around me. I could not count the currency. I could not even read the sign for the bathroom. The developing world is full of stories of ignorant westerners with good intentions that spend their resources in vain to try and help the nationals or the people living there. Dambisa Moyo’s book Dead Aid compiles a history of failed development aid in Africa by western countries and agencies that should have known better.

Language is the key to understanding. A community’s language is wrapped in its culture. Even within a large language group, dialects emerge with distinctive idioms that express a shared history. When I say, “That meeting was like Custer’s last stand,” in the US, each of us knows the idiom refers to a futile endeavor, even if we don’t know the details of General Custer’s battle with Sitting Bull. Someone who learned English in South Korea would not understand.

Literacy is important in community development for two reasons. First, the members of the community who are our clients are disadvantaged in their own community if they are not literate. Imagine a woman needing to buy groceries for her family at the market; unfortunately, she cannot count or read the denomination on the money.

She just hands her wad of cash to a vendor who peels off what he wants and hands the rest back. Consider the struggle of a young man who cannot write his name on a job application or respond to a text message from his boss. Literacy in one’s first language is a key ingredient to success in the community, and literacy in one’s first language paves the road for second language literacy as well.

Effective aid workers have to understand and speak the mother-tongue language of the community they serve. Often, the West sends aid workers who can speak the trade language (French for example) and can communicate in a crude way with some in the client community, but their understanding is poor, and their projects are unsuccessful. When ILAD sends our staff into communities, they first learn to read and write the language parents speak to their children in the community. Sometimes, the ILAD staff are putting this language into a written form for the first time ever. The process of learning language in this way is by living in community and learning the stories of the community. The successful literacy worker not only understands the words, they understand the culture of the community that uses those words. Like the project managers I work with, they can begin to understand the needs of their clients and can work with community development specialists to fashion solutions that work.

As an example, in one community, an aid worker raised money for a community tractor to be shared by the local farmers. The problem is that the local farmers did not have any experience with a “cooperative” tractor. No one would take care of a tractor they did not own. However, if one of the farmers owned the tractor, the others would trade to use the tractor, and the first farmer would keep it maintained. A language specialist living in the community would be able to guide the process to a successful outcome and suggest other simple items that could help the community to thrive.

Why literacy and development? Literacy and community development enhance one another to improve disadvantaged communities. Language learning and teaching provide community understanding that is critical to successful development projects. Effective community development projects provide an incentive for clients to value literacy and education.

Bill Kotlan

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