First Book Leadership

Kyle Zimmer

President, CEO, and Co-founder

In the late 1980s, Kyle Zimmer, then a practicing attorney, was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. Realizing that the kids she was working with had no books in their lives, she set out with two friends to build a market-driven solution to ensure all children have access to critical books and resources.

Since then, First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise she co-founded in 1992, has become a leader in furthering equal access to quality education.  First Book’s work is driven by educators in the First Book Network – the largest and fastest growing network of schools and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada.  

Under her leadership, First Book has grown into a family of social enterprises that addresses a spectrum of educational barriers faced by children in need. Kyle pioneered the organization’s sustainable, market-driven ecommerce model that provides educators with free and affordable, high-quality new books, educational resources, and basic needs items. She also expanded First Book’s capacity to provide original research, educator access to leading experts, and targeted funding solutions.  Over its 27-year history, First Book has distributed more than 185 million books and educational resources, with a value of more than $1.5 billion.

Kyle’s commitment to innovation and collaboration has earned her a reputation as a social sector leader. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., which is responsible for protecting and overseeing the integrity of Dr. Seuss books, properties, licensing and related products; and of the board of directors for Ashoka, which works to support the finest social entrepreneurs in more than 70 countries. She also serves on the Youth Venture board of directors and as a member of the board for James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead. Kyle is a passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship, educational equity, and the importance of literacy to further economic competitiveness and global understanding.

Kyle was featured in the opening plenary on stage at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America and was also featured onstage by President Bill Clinton at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative. She was a presenter at the University of Oxford’s “Power Shift: Forum for Women in the World Economy” at the Saïd Business School at Oxford, participated in a panel at Fordham University, and she also is a regular lecturer at the Wharton School of Business and Columbia Business School. She has been a presenter and/or participant at the World Economic Forum in Davos (2019 and 2010), in Dubai (2014) and in Beijing (2012).  She served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Values (2013-2016), and as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Entrepreneurship (2010). She was named the first-ever American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketer of the Year in 2008 and Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States in 2007 by the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.  

Kyle has also been honored as a DC Alpha Alumna Initiate of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women (2019), the Texas AFT’s Child Advocate Award (2019) and EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2017 Award-Mid-Atlantic Region. Other awards include the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefitting the Disadvantaged (2016), Peggy Charren/Free to Be You and Me Award from the Ms. Foundation for Women (2016), the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Pacesetter Honors (2016), the Library of Congress David M. Rubenstein Prize (2015), the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award (2014) and the National Education Association Foundation’s Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education (2013), the Carle Honors Angel Award (2009) and the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community (2005). From 2004 – 2008, Fast Company named Kyle one of 45 Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World. 

An attorney, Kyle received her juris doctor from The George Washington University Law School, and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa. 

Jane Robinson

Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Financial Officer

As the chief strategy officer and chief financial officer for First Book and the First Book Marketplace, Jane Robinson has provided strategic guidance for First Book and its subsidiaries through unparalleled growth. Prior to joining First Book, Jane had a distinguished career with Zuckerman Spaeder, where she served as CFO for two decades as it evolved from a small law firm to a major litigation firm with multiple offices in the United States. In addition to her financial role at First Book, Jane serves on the executive management team overseeing all operations and strategic development for the organization. Jane has a degree in math and physics from Arcadia University and she conducted graduate work at the University of Arizona’s Optical Sciences Center.  

Daniel Stokes

Chief Administration Officer

Dan manages First Book’s human resources department, oversees day-to-day operations at First Book’s headquarters, and provides strategic and operational guidance as part of the executive management team. Before joining First Book, Dan spent his career in accounting. He worked with publishing and media companies in New York, the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, where he led their accounting and human resources departments. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in human resources, and an MBA, all from the University of Maryland.  

Peter F. Gold

Co-founder and Senior Advisor, First Book

Peter Gold is a co-founder of First Book and served as the chair of the board of directors for 25 years. He is president of Gold Group Consulting and represents U.S. and European investment banks and hedge funds on antitrust and regulatory issues that arise in mergers and acquisitions.

In the decade preceding the formation of Gold Group, Mr. Gold co-founded Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts’ Washington, D.C., office, and from 1984 to 1994 managed its legislative and regulatory department. He worked extensively with trade associations, foreign governments, foreign and domestic corporations, and Native American organizations.

Prior to his return to the private sector, Mr. Gold was legislative director for former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO) from 1975 to 1981, and the national coordinator for policy in the senator’s 1984 presidential campaign.

Before moving to Washington, D.C., Mr. Gold spent four years as a litigation attorney in the New York office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Mr. Gold has a juris doctor from the New York University School of Law, a Master of Science in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University.

Becki Last

Executive Vice President, Network Engagement

Becki Last leads First Book’s efforts to register new schools and programs across the country, keep our existing network engaged and active and bring First Book’s resources to more kids that need them. She comes to First Book from a successful career in strategic marketing for companies like USA TODAY, Time Warner Cable, Sprint Nextel, and MCI. Becki holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.  

Carey M. Palmquist

Executive Vice President, eCommerce and Operations

Carey Palmquist is responsible for assisting First Book’s leadership team execute on new ideas for growth strategy and innovation. Carey joined First Book after more than four years as executive director of Operation Warm, a national nonprofit providing brand new coats to low-income children. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Carey served as vice president of operations for a state-of-the-art, multi-billion dollar cancer treatment company where she was responsible for all operational aspects of the company’s flagship treatment center in Oklahoma City. She has also served as a human resources executive in the healthcare, technology, and financial industries. Carey serves on the board of the Institute for Global Youth Development Programs, holds a Master of Management from Cambridge College, and is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt.  

Chris Stine

Senior Vice President, Information Technology

Chris leads First Book’s Information Technology team in delivering new technology projects to support strategic organizational initiatives as well as IT operations, maintenance, and infrastructure. Prior to joining First Book, he consulted for IBM and was a senior director at eBay Enterprise, where he led product development and service delivery teams concentrating on full-service eCommerce implementations. While at eBay Enterprise, Chris led the new store implementation teams for more than 30 large brick and mortar retailers such as Calvin Klein, Nautica, Timberland, and Mattel. He has more than 20 years of experience across multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, insurance, eCommerce, and strategic consulting. Chris holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Kutztown University.

Bryan Straathof

Senior Vice President, Finance

Bryan serves on the senior management team for First Book and is its day-to-day financial leader while working at his apropos desk-made-out-of-books. During his tenure, annual cash revenues have grown from $11M to $28M, and he currently co-leads First Book’s project to integrate its accounting and inventory management systems into Salesforce. Bryan brings with him more than 15 years of experience providing financial leadership, stewardship, and operational strategy to nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Bryan managed an $80M international budget for the Peace Corps. He has a B.S. in finance from the University of Maryland, holds a CPA license, and currently serves as board treasurer for The Civic Circle, a nonprofit based in Silver Spring, Md. 

Board of Directors

Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett

Acting Chairman, First Book Board of Directors President and Founder, The Molina Foundation

Family physician and healthcare executive Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett has worked for three decades creating innovative programs to reduce disparities in access to education and health in communities across the country. As president of the Molina Foundation, she has partnered with First Book, Imagine Science, Cooperative Extension, 4-H, and Code for America to reach more than 7 million children and families. Dr. Bernadett served as executive vice president and chief innovation officer for Molina Healthcare, a Fortune 200 company, where she led major initiatives to transform the delivery of healthcare services. Using big data analytics to create digital solutions, she supported enterprise operations. She has consulted for hospitals, health systems, and municipalities across the nation. Dr. Bernadett founded the Molina Institute for Cultural Competency to reduce the barriers faced by providers and patients with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In addition to corporate leadership, Dr. Bernadett has served as principal investigator and delivered research, programs, and solutions for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Governors Association, and First5 California.  

Christopher Cerf

Co-founder and President, Sirius Thinking Ltd.

Christopher Cerf is an Emmy- and Grammy-award winning author, composer-lyricist, voice actor, and record and television producer. Since 1970, he has been a regular contributor to Sesame Street, creating award-winning music and lyrics and producing music albums, earning him two Grammy Awards and three Emmy Awards for songwriting and music production. In addition, he served as the executive producer and music and audio producer of “Between the Lions,” which twice won the Television Critics’ Award as the nation’s outstanding children’s program. In two independent studies, the program also demonstrated success in helping kids – including those at the highest risk of literacy failure – to learn how to read. He also co-created the PBS Kids show, “Lomax, the Hound of Music.” His other award-winning work includes editing and producing the “Marlo Thomas and Friends’ Free To Be…A Family” book, album, and TV special; and “Thomas’ Thanks & Giving: All Year Long,” a book and CD about generosity and sharing. Chris has co-authored many books including “Encyclopedia Paranoica (Simon & Schuster, 2012),” and “The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (Villard, 1993).” Earlier in his career, Chris spent eight years as a senior editor at Random House and as a contributing editor for National Lampoon. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University.  

Libby Doggett

Libby Doggett Consulting

Libby Doggett is the former deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning for the U.S. Department of Education, where she oversaw the Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grant program, provided expertise and policy guidance to the secretary of education, and served as the department’s early learning liaison to the White House and other federal and state agencies. Prior to joining the Department of Education, Doggett worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts, directing its home visiting campaign and working with advocates to build political and public support for data-driven investments aligned with federal guidance. She also previously directed Pre-K Now, a 10-year campaign to advance high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds. Doggett also worked for the National Head Start Association and began her career as a bilingual first-grade teacher at Ortega Elementary School in Austin, Texas. She holds a doctorate from the University of Texas in early childhood special education.  

Kathy Franklin

President, Franchise Development; Lightstorm Entertainment

As president for Franchise Development at James Cameron’s and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment, Kathy Franklin oversees global brand strategy and management for the “Avatar” franchise. She leads expansion of the reach and impact of “Avatar” – and its three sequels in development – across all categories and platforms in partnership with 20th Century Fox. Prior to joining Lightstorm in 2011, Kathy was vice president of global franchise development for Disney Consumer Products, where she led brand management of the Disney Princess, Disney Fairies, “Cars,” and “Toy Story” franchises. She earlier served as vice president of marketing and communications for Disney’s corporate citizenship division, where she was responsible for Disney’s domestic and international relationships with its signature children’s charities, including directing cause-related marketing campaigns, public relations strategies, and other charitable programs tied to specific Disney business units. Before coming to Disney in 1998, Kathy held a range of positions in finance, education, and design. She received an A.B. degree from Princeton University and an M.A. from the Teachers College at Columbia University.  

William Matassoni

Founder and CEO, The Glass House Group

Bill Matassoni started his career in management consulting in 1980 when he joined McKinsey & Company, where he was a partner for almost 20 years, focusing on the marketing of professional services. During this time, he was responsible for building McKinsey’s reputation and protecting its brand, which included publishing the McKinsey Quarterly. He was also responsible for McKinsey’s internal communications, including the creation of McKinsey’s systems to manage and disseminate practice knowledge. Bill left McKinsey to join Mitchell Madison Group, a strategy consulting firm he helped to take public through its sale to USWeb/CKS in 1999. He then joined the Boston Consulting Group, where he headed a group responsible for innovation, marketing, and communications for more than five years. After retiring from BCG, Bill founded the Glass House Group, a consulting firm that provides branding and marketing expertise to professional service firms. Bill earned an MBA and an undergraduate degree at Harvard University.  

Debbie Hubley Ozanus

Co-chair, KPMG’s Family for Literacy

Debbie Hubley Ozanus is the co-chair of KPMG’s Family for Literacy. Fiercely committed to literacy and education, Debbie has contributed countless hours to increasing awareness of illiteracy and has raised significant funds to distribute books to children in need across the U.S. Debbie also works to make an impact in other areas critical to building healthy and sustainable communities. She is involved in the National Charity League with her daughters and the Young Men’s Service League with her sons. She works to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs through Ninja Paws, where is also involved in placement services. She is a committed United Way supporter and has raised significant funds for Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital to purchase of defibrillators and provide children’s heart screenings. Debbie has served on the Parent Board of the Parish Episcopal School in Dallas and as chair of the school’s fund drive. Debbie studied environmental design at Texas A&M University, where she met her husband, KPMG Deputy Chairman & Chief Operating Officer P. Scott Ozanus. They have been married for 35 years and reside in Dallas with their four children and beloved dogs.  

Karen Kehela Sherwood

Co-chair, Imagine Entertainment

Karen Kehela Sherwood is an independent film and television producer. After earning her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from UCLA, she joined Imagine Entertainment, where she served as president of production and later as co-chairman of Imagine Films. As co-chairman, Karen developed and produced Imagine Entertainment’s motion picture slate, in addition to guiding the company’s development team in tracking, acquiring, and shepherding all Imagine Film projects from concept to theatrical release. In 2001, Karen executive-produced “A Beautiful Mind,” directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. She served as producer alongside Brian Grazer on “Blue Crush,” and as executive producer on “Inside Man” and the Academy Award-nominated “Frost/Nixon.” Karen also contributed to “Angels & Demons,” directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks; “Robin Hood” and “American Gangster,” directed by Ridley Scott; and “Tower Heist,” starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Karen also helmed the Imagine Writers Lab from 2010-2012, a group of nine writers financed by Reliance Big Entertainment that adapted acquired and original material for Imagine Entertainment. She is currently working to move the scripts to production. “The Good Lie,” starring Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon, was completed in 2013.  

Paul W. Whetsell

President and CEO, Capstar Hotel Company

From January 2012 to March 2015, Mr. Whetsell served as President & CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts. From April 2015 until July 2017 he served as vice chairman of Loews Hotels. He founded the original CapStar Hotel Company in 1987. In August 1996, the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:CHO) and continued its strategy of buying upscale hotels throughout North America. Paul served as a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AH&LA) board of directors in 2013-2014, was a member of AH&LA’s Industry Real Estate and Financing Advisory Council (IREFAC), and for several years, served as chairman of the AH&LA’s Government Affairs Committee. He was also a member of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) and served on NAREIT’s Board of Governors. Paul also served as a member of the CEO Council of the United States Travel Association (USTA). He currently serves on the board of directors of Boyd Gaming Corporation (NYSE: BYD), operator of 22 gaming entertainment properties and Hilton Grand Vacations (NYSE: HGV), a leading global timeshare company. He is active with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and is vice chairman of its national board of trustees. From 2007 until 2018, Whetsell served on the board of NVR, Inc. (NYSE: NVR), one of the nation’s largest home builders. Whetsell graduated from Davidson College in 1972. 

Kyle Zimmer

President, CEO, and Co-founder; First Book

Publishing Committee

 
Terry Downes
Vice President, Publishing Operations, Disney Book Group
Chip Gibson
 
Laura Geringer
 
Judith Haut
Senior Vice President and Associate Publisher, Random House Children’s Books
 

 
Susan Katz
Former President and Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books
Craig Low
President and Owner, Lee & Low Books
Barbara Marcus
President & Publisher, Random House Children’s Books
Kristina Peterson
Director, International Publishing; Workman, Algonquin, and Artisan Books and Calendars, Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
 

 
Rick Richter
Literary and Entertainment Agent, Aevitas Creative
Don Weisberg
President, Macmillan Publishers U.S.
 

Advisory Council

 
Robin Adelson
Executive Director, Books for Kids
Elizabeth Arky
Co-founder, First Book
Principal, Arky Group Consulting, LLC
Nina Barjesteh
Senior Vice President, Product Development & Global Sourcing;  DICK’S Sporting Goods
Jennifer Bohler
Owner, Alliance Management
 

 
Meghan Bracken
National Director, Corporate Responsibility – Citizenship, KPMG
Andrea Camp
 
Harold Clarke
Senior Advisor, New Hope Capital, LLC
David Dotson
President, The Dollywood Foundation
 

 
Julie Baker Finck
President, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation
Gina Goff
Senior Director, Community Involvement, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.
Leslie Goodman
Communications and Public Affairs Consultant
Susan Grode
Partner, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

 
Lisa Holton
President, Classroom, Inc.
L. Spencer Humphrey
Principal, Rocky Hill Group
Co-chair, First Book Advisory Council
Brian Kagan
Brian Kagan Company
Ilene Leff
Independent Management Consultant

 
James M. Loy
Senior Counselor, The Cohen Group
Colleen Ludington
Co-chair, First Book Advisory Council
Elsa Palanza
Strategic Advisor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Project Everyone: Goalkeepers
Jenn Plagman-Galvin
Grand Vice President, Community Relations, Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women

 
Carol Rasco
Former President and CEO, Reading is Fundamental
British Robinson
President and CEO, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
Susan Roman
Dean and Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University
Harriett Sanford
Former President and CEO, The NEA Foundation

 
John Schreiber
CEO, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
Ralph Smith
Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Heather Steinmiller
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Conner Strong & Buckelew
Jamienne S. Studley
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education

Mary Tatum
Randi Weingarten
President, American Federation of Teachers
Judee Ann Williams
Co-Executive Director, Creative Artists Agency Foundation;
Co-head, Social Impact, Creative Artists Agency
Ginger Young
Founder and Executive Director, Book Harvest

Judith Zimmer