KEES Recruits New Leader for Learning Bridge

January 11, 2024 – Executive search and non-profit consulting firm KEES has recruited Bernice Mahan as the new executive director of Learning Bridge, a community-based, non-profit early education center founded in 1944. Leading the search were president and CEO Heather Eddy and executive search manager Yoo-Jin Hong. Learning Bridge retained KEES earlier this year after reviewing several competitive proposals. A comprehensive search was launched, and Ms. Mahan was ultimately selected from a passionate, diverse, and talented pool of regional finalists.

“With a balanced perspective on administration, teaching, community engagement, and policy advocacy, Bernice will undoubtedly successfully create innovative solutions and proven outcomes that will resonate with Learning Bridge’s mission and goals,” said Ms. Hong. “We are proud to have been selected as the search partner of choice for Learning Bridge and thank the entire board for their partnership. Congratulations to all on this exciting news.”

“As Learning Bridge proudly celebrates 80 years of dedicated service to the community, we are thrilled to announce the appointment of our new executive director,” said Deb Schlies, board president. “Bernice is a positive cultural influencer who leads with transparency and is ready to represent and empower our staff to create an environment of excellence. On behalf of the Learning Bridge community, we welcome Bernice and thank the KEES team for their expertise throughout the search process.”

Bringing over 28 years of experience in early childhood education as a licensed daycare provider for children from birth to five years as well as experience as an adjunct professor for National Louis University, Ms. Mahan is a passionate advocate for children and families who strives to establish a positive and effective learning environment for all children regardless of race, cultural identity, or socioeconomic status.

In her previous role as founder and director at Tender Loving Daycare, Ms. Mahan managed all aspects, from curriculum development to staffing and financial oversight. Lauded for an inclusive approach, she integrated Action For Children subsidized payments into Tender Loving Daycare’s payment options to increase accessibility to high-quality early childhood education for financially disadvantaged families with parents unable to work due to a struggle with mental health issues. Charged with developing yearly and long-term program goals along with establishing evaluation mechanisms, Ms. Mahan tracked progress toward strategic goals as well as program participation, quality, and effect while supporting teachers and parents. As an adjunct professor at National Louis University, she teaches online courses in early childhood education to a diverse student population.

“In my 28 years in the early childhood education field, I’ve consistently prioritized building strong relationships and advocating for practical, hands-on experiences with principles that align seamlessly with Learning Bridge’s mission,” said Ms. Mahan. “I am thrilled to have been selected as the next executive director and look forward to partnering with the board to foster an inclusive school culture at Learning Bridge that promotes the well-being and academic success of the entire community – children, teachers, and staff alike.”

Related: KEES Recruits CEO for Youth Job Center

Learning Bridge Early Education Center is a community-based, not-for-profit organization that began as a daycare for three-to-five-year-old children during World War II.

Non-Profit Specialists

KEES, based in Naperville, IL, focuses on building transformative teams and leaders in the non-profit sector. The firm was founded in 2013 as an expansion of Alford Executive Search. It is women-owned and operated, and provides a wide variety of services, including executive search, specialty and interim staffingHR consulting, and leadership development.

Ms. Eddy has worked with non-profits and institutions to build capacity for more than 20 years. For the past 12 years, she has focused on strengthening executives, boards, managers, and philanthropic leaders. She co-founded KEES and leads the organization’s team after serving for 17 years in multiple executive leadership roles with the Alford Group/Alford Group Executive Search, a national consulting firm that partners with non-profits and provides fundraising and organizational strategy consulting.

Ms. Hong brings nearly 20 years of non-profit experience, having held a variety of positions in performing arts and cultural organizations. Most recently serving as executive director of Kneisel Hall and before that, a vice president with the Adler Planetarium.

Related: KEES Places Chief Development Officer for the Maryville Academy Foundation

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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