Board of Directors

MARY MARTIN NIEPOLD | PRESIDENT/CHAIRMAN, is the founder of The Nyanya Project. During a visit to Kenya in 2006, Niepold became aware of the vast number of African grandmothers caring for grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS and discovered that there was no source of help for these women. She founded The Nyanya Project with her own funds and contributions from friends, and returned to Kenya in May, 2007, to initiate programs. Projects to aid grandmothers responsible for AIDS orphans were established in Kenya and Tanzania.

In 2009, she was named a 2009 Purpose Prize Fellow, a national prize honoring initiatives for social good started by people over 60 as “encore careers.”  In February, 2012, she was a speaker at the TED-X conference in North Carolina and has been featured in many magazine and newspaper stories about her work with African grandmothers. She has been a freelance writer, editor, coach and consultant for 30 years. She was a feature writer and editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer for 14 years, Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and has assisted in the editing and writing of several books, including Dr. Mitchell Gaynor’s Nurture Nature/ Nurture Health: Your Health and the Environment and Jan Fontein’s The Art of Southeast Asia: The Collection of the Museum Rietberg. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Wake Forest University. She is the mother of two and grandmother of five.

MIL NIEPOLD | VICE PRESIDENT  Mil is the President and Founder of The Mara Partners, a mediation and facilitation company that specializes in convening multi-stakeholder dialogues around complex social issues. TMP covers a wide range of projects ranging from designing efforts to eliminate child labor and trafficking in the cocoa sector of West Africa to programs to end child marriage in Ethiopia. Previously, she was Senior Policy Advisor at Verité for nearly 14 years, Mil led a number of new initiatives including Verité’s work on women in the workplace (with UNIFEM and Calvert Social Investments) and multi-stakeholder initiatives, with a focus on programs to implement the Harkin – Engel Protocol on child labor in cocoa production.

Mil has extensive experience working with governments, including those of the United States, Côte d’Ivoire (First Lady Dominique Ouattara), Ghana and France, among others. Prior to joining Verité, as Strategic Advisor to Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Mil developed a conference of female heads-of state on the issues of global security and the role of women’s leadership (partnering with The White House Project and The Council of Women World Leaders). Mil holds degrees in International Affairs and European Studies from George Washington University and L’Institut des Sciences Politiques in Aix-en-Provence, France, as well as a Certificate in International Human Rights Law from Oxford University, UK. She is fluent in English and French, is the author of two children’s books and is the daughter of TNP founder, Mary Martin Niepold.

BEVERLY JOHNSTON is a local philanthropist and community activist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 2006, she founded the Blessings Project Foundation and serves as its Board President. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois and her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. Previously, Ms. Johnston served as director of Client and Volunteer Services for Crisis Control Ministry in Winston-Salem and as case manager at Burke Rehab and New York Hospital.

LANCE PIERCE is Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Ceres, a network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups who work with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. He previously served with the Union of Concerned Scientists as Director of the Climate & Energy Program, and at Harvard Business School as Project Director in launching the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative.

Pierce has worked in the private, public, and non-profit sectors in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In CSR he has worked with Agence France Presse, the World Bank, and served as Director, Corporate Issues Management for Fortune 20 food and consumer goods holding company, Altria Group. Prior, he was a corporate consultant with some of the world’s leading companies in investment banking, real estate, media, and US Government agencies, and an international development consultant to United Nations agencies and leading NGOs.

His credits include co-authorship of Harvard Business School cases with leading HBS faculty on corporate sustainability and leadership transition, producing documentaries for public television, and quotes in the New York Times, Reuters, and other major media. He holds an MA in Anthropology from New York University and an MPA from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

FREDERICK SUMAYE is the former Prime Minister of Tanzania. He was Prime Minister from the first multi-party elections in November, 1995 until December, 2005. After leaving office, he completed a year as a mid-career student in the Edward S. Mason Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1972, Prime Minister Sumaye obtained a Diploma in Agricultural Engineering from Egerton College in Kenya. He has served as Head of the Rural Energy Department (CARMATEC -Arusha); was a Member of Parliament for Hanang Constituency from 1987 – 1994; and served from 1994 – 1995 as Minister for Agriculture. He and Mary Martin Niepold met in Dar Es Salaam in June, 2007. Based on his many years in government, Prime Minister Sumaye is dedicated to alleviating the suffering caused by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

EDWIN G. WILSON is Provost Emeritus at Wake Forest University. He has a doctorate in English from Harvard University and has held the positions at Wake Forest of assistant dean of the undergraduate College, acting dean of the College, dean of the College, provost (the university’s first), vice president for special projects and senior vice president. As an administrator, he is likely best known as provost, a position he held from 1967 until 1990. Dr. Wilson co-wrote Wake Forest University (NC) (College History Series). He received Wake Forest’s Medallion of Merit in 2004. He is very active in the community and has been closely associated with the Piedmont Opera Theatre, the Winston-Salem Arts Council, the North Carolina Arts Council and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. He has also served on the Board of Trustees at Winston-Salem State University.

JENNIFER JAMES | SECRETARY/TREASURER is the founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Through her work with Mom Bloggers for Social Good she has forged partnerships with some of the largest nonprofit organizations and NGOs in the world.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Jennifer currently writes for the Gates Foundation and blogs frequently for She has traveled to Kenya and visited with Dr. Jill  Biden at the White House as a member of the ONE Moms, was invited by the Gates Foundation to attend TEDxChange in Berlin, and is a recent recipient of the National Press Foundation Global Vaccines Press  Fellowship.

Her affection for Africa runs deep, and she is particularly impressed by the quality of the Nyanya Preschool in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. “It is far superior to all of the other childcare centers I have seen there, and those include preschools supported by major international NGO’s.  I’ve never seen anything in Africa so clean and beautiful.”

GRETCHEN EFFGEN is Director of Business Development at Zipcar, a mobility solutions provider that enables simple and responsible urban living. With a background in international business development, Gretchen’s career spans the public and private sectors both domestically and internationally. Gretchen holds an MBA from London Business School and a BA from Tulane University. A mother of two and resident of Boston, Gretchen is passionate about creating sustainable assistance and introduced TNP to Generation Rwanda (formerly Orphans of Rwanda) which educated our staff members, Simon Mvunabandi and Kassim Mbarushimana, both of whom guide our work with grandmothers in Rwanda.

Gretchen talks about her alliance with TNP: “Mary’s work with The Nyanya Project has been enormously inspiring. Where as many would see a sad and terribly wrong situation and wish they could do something, Mary chose to take real, measurable action.  With training and resources, the nyanyas have a chance at a sustainable livelihood and the ability to provide for their grandchildren. I am so very proud to be a part of this organization’s development; we’ve provided training, a means for a livelihood, and jobs where they didn’t exist before.”

DR. BETSY GATEWOOD  is former Director of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University and an internationally acclaimed scholar of social entrepreneurship. In 2004 she was named Director of the University Office of Entrepreneurship & Liberal Arts at Wake Forest. She served as the Jack M. Gill Chair of Entrepreneurship and Director of The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Indiana University from 1998 to 2004. She was the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center Network, an organization providing training and consulting services to entrepreneurs and small business owners in the 32 counties of the greater Houston region, from 1989-1998. Dr. Gatewood founded and served as director of the Center for Business and Economic Studies at the University of Georgia from 1983-1989.

Dr. Gatewood founded and served Wake Forest University’s Center for Enterprise Research and Education (CERE), that has launched major studies of sme’s in Nicaragua and is currently creating partnerships for further study in Rwanda. She is a member of the “Diana” project, a research study of women business owners and equity capital access, which won the FSF-NUTEK International Award for scientific work of outstanding quality and importance in the field of entrepreneurship. She has supported our efforts and recommended student interns for TNP for the last three years.

EUGENE NYAGAHENE | is the founder/ CEO of Rwanda’s Tele10 Group, a television and digital information company delivering international television throughout the country that he launched after the Tutsi genocide in 1995. Nyagahene is Rwanda’s leading entrepreneur, having created various businesses that address post-genocide reconciliation in his native country.  In his family’s community of Cyingwa, Eugene has put capitalism to work for social good by creating a coffee company where profits are shared amongst all of the residents and workers, Tutis and Hutus.  Their coffee is sold worldwide and $1 of each pound sold goes back to the community. He is a leader who has helped transform Rwanda into one of Africa’s most developed countries. He knows first-hand how to help his country to overcome devastation and grow into one of the most socially and economically transformed countries of our era today.

Nyagahene is especially appreciative of the role of grandmothers in African societies.  “My grandmother led the family, which is typical in Africa. She was tough, strong.  If grandmothers had been remembered, there would have been no genocide.” He is assisting TNP in the development and marketing of products generated by TNP’s new agricultural programs where grandmothers are trained to grow peppers, mushrooms and honey.

KATE BABB SHONE is Vice President of Public Relations, Fragrance & Beauté, at CHANEL. Kate has worked extensively in the beauty and fragrance industry, having spearheaded public relations programs for Avon,Lancôme, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, and others.  Well known in the industry, Kate is particularly passionate about empowering women. “Women drive culture all over the world. When we help strengthen women, all of us are stronger. I love the fact that The Nyanya Project creates self sufficiency.”