Our voluntary Board of Trustees governs the PKD Foundation. Trustees represent a variety of professional backgrounds. Each board member serves a three-year volunteer term. The Board of Trustees meets in a central location three times a year. Members of the Board of Trustees are assigned to committees that meet by teleconference at various times throughout the year.
Klee Kleber – Board Chair; Chair, Executive Committee
Klee Kleber lives in Austin, Texas. He is currently involved in the local start-up community, working with entrepreneurs on their marketing and growth strategies. Klee is a partner at the Capital Factory, the leading local incubator, accelerator and co-working space. His most recent corporate role was as CMO of WP Engine, and he continues to be an advisor for the company. Before WP Engine, Klee was a Senior Vice President at Rackspace, where he led various marketing, sales and support teams. Prior to joining Rackspace, he was Vice President of Marketing for Segway. He also spent 10 years as an executive at Dell, including assignments in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Klee earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice University in Economics and German, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives near downtown Austin with his wife, Brigid, and their two daughters, Cate and Claire.
Benjamin D. Cowley Jr., M.D. –Vice Chair
Benjamin D. Cowley Jr., M.D., lives in Oklahoma City. He is the Chief of Nephrology & Hypertension and John Gammill Professor in Polycystic Kidney Disease at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Dr. Cowley has been involved in PKD research for more than 20 years, publishing numerous articles and presenting on PKD at various conferences and events. He trained under Dr. Jared Grantham, co-founder of the PKD Foundation and distinguished physician at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the PKD Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Cowley completed his post-graduate education in Internal Medicine, Nephrology and Biochemistry at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He received his M.D. degree from Baylor College of Medicine and attended undergraduate school at Rice University. Dr. Cowley has been named one of Oklahoma’s “Top Doctors” by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. for the past five years.
Brock Nelson – Treasurer; Chair, Finance Committee
Brock Nelson was raised in Grand Island, Neb. but has lived in Wichita, Kan. since 1993. He is currently the President of Spring Creek Capital, a Koch Industries subsidiary. Brock began his career with Koch Industries at the company’s refinery outside St. Paul, Minn. where he was a senior process engineer. Prior to that, he held summer internships with Dow Chemical and Exxon. Prior to his current role as President of Spring Creek Capital, Brock worked in a variety of business development roles from 1993 until 2008 with his last role being in Koch Fertilizer. While in Koch Fertilizer he was a leader in numerous acquisitions with a total value in excess of $500mm and sat on the board of directors of six different joint ventures including being the Chairman of the Board for two of these companies. The many charitable organizations Brock as been an active member of include: Kansas Humane Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, American Cancer Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Sedgwick County Zoo, YMCA, Texas A&M Foundation, CASA of Sedgwick County, Boys and Girl Scouts, and the American Red Cross. He is also heavily involved in the advisory council of the Texas A&M Chemical Engineering Advisory Board. Brock holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1990. Brock was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in June 2010. He is the first member of his family with the disease. Brock is a widower with two children, Jace, 14 and Brynnalese, 10.
Beverly Benson, Ph.D. – Secretary
Dr. Beverly Benson lives in San Francisco where she is a scientific consultant to biotech and pharmaceutical companies. She received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Toxicology from the University of Kansas. She has more than 30 years of academic and biotech research experience, including 16 years in clinical drug development in therapeutic areas including HIV, oncology, women’s health, nephrology, endocrinology, fibromyalgia, and neurology. She has designed and led Phase 1 through Phase 3 clinical trials for more than 12 drugs, including 5 drugs that have received FDA approval at companies including Amgen and most recently Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Palo Alto, Calif. She also serves on the Research & Development committee for A Foundation Building Strength for Nemaline Myopathy, as a Consumer Reviewer for PKD on the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, and is a member of the Advisory Board for Bullet Biotechnology. Bev is the only member of her family who did not inherit PKD. In 2007, she donated a kidney to her mother who was able to live another 8 years without dialysis. With her personal experience caring for family members with PKD combined with a strong scientific background, she is dedicated to finding a cure for PKD.
John J. Bissler, M.D.
John Bissler. M.D., is a pediatric nephrologist in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the Director of the Tuberous Sclerosis Center of Excellence and the Director of the Division of Nephrology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. Dr. Bissler is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee. He received his medical degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He is Board certified in pediatrics and pediatric nephrology with expertise in angioedema, kidney disease and tuberous sclerosis.
Bill inherited PKD from his late father, and has lost several close family members to the disease. As a partner at WIT Strategy, Bill handles public relations and strategy for clients primarily in advertising technology. Before joining WIT Bill was director of author recruiting at Federated Media; a senior book editor at Penguin Portfolio, the business-book imprint; and a senior news editor at the Industry Standard Magazine. Bill wrote about PKD’s effect on him and his family for TheAtlantic.com and The Huffington Post, and co-wrote an op-ed with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich calling for increased federal funding for medical research on PKD and other conditions that was featured on FoxNews.com. Co-author of the humor book “He Meant, She Meant: The Definitive Male-Female Dictionary,” Bill got a bachelors at Harvard and a masters in journalism at U.C. Berkeley. Bill and his wife Victoria, who together co-chaired the 2014 Gratitude Gala in New York City, live in Brooklyn with their three daughters. They Walk for PKD each year as five of “Mike & Poppy’s All-Stars.”
Ashley Brown joined the Board of Trustees in 2016. She currently resides in the Boston area and works in Massachusetts higher education where she assists in government relations and public affairs management. Within the local community, Ashley wears many hats. She is proud member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Boston Branch of the NAACP. Ashley completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most recently, she completed a Master of Public Administration degree at Northeastern University. At the age of nine, Ashley was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. This diagnosis has inspired her to get involved in the mission set forth by the PKD Foundation and to promote awareness, especially in communities of color.
Michele Karl lives in New York with her husband, Matt, and her three peas, Max, Nate and Gabe. Michele became involved with the PKD Foundation eight years ago when Gabe was born and diagnosed with ARPKD, which led to a subsequent diagnosis of ARPKD in Max. Nate does not have ARPKD. Over the past eight years Michele has become involved with her local PKD chapter, participated in nine Walk for PKD events, attended many chapter meetings and education meetings, and attended five National Conventions. Michele is the co-coordinator of the National PKD in Children Chapter and is now on the Board of Trustees and the Volunteer Advisory Committee for the PKD Foundation. When Michele is not with her boys or doing something for the Foundation she works part time as a teacher for young children who are blind and visually impaired.
Andrea Kringstein lives in New York City with her husband, Richard. She has two grown children, a son, Jason, and a daughter, Jamie. Andrea studied business in college and worked for Merrill Lynch as a product development manager and financial analyst. She left her position to start a family and became active in several charity organizations and ran enrichment programs at her children’s school. She became an attorney when her children were in middle school. While at law school, Andrea volunteered at the Family Court in White Plains, N.Y., to represent victims of domestic violence and also worked for a civil court judge in Hackensack, N.J.. She practiced real estate law for a few years and then represented New Yorkers with family issues, on a pro bono basis, for a short while. Andrea served on the Board of Directors at her previous Cooperative Apartment for six years and plans to serve at her brand new apartment building when the Board is formed next year. One of Andrea’s passions is animal welfare and she has volunteered at the NYC animal shelter for several years. PKD significantly affects Andrea and her family. She had a successful transplant in September 2014, as did her brother, Jeff, just two months later. Her family has proudly supported the PKD Foundation for nearly 30 years. Andrea’s son participated in the 2011 Ironman in Lake Placid and dedicated his efforts to those who suffer from PKD. Her family and friends participated in the NYC PKD Walk last year and Andrea has advocated in Washington, D.C. several times on behalf of those who suffer from PKD, a cause that is very personal to her.
Michal Mrug, M.D.
Dr. Mrug’s clinical interests center on evaluation and management of adult patients with PKD. His current research focuses on the identification of specific genes and molecular pathways that modulate PKD severity and progression. He is continuing his collaboration with Dr. Guay-Woodford to identify non-PKD genes that contribute to phenotypic variability in PKD.
Dwight Odland – Chair, Planning Committee
Dwight Odland lives in Simi Valley, Calif. with Jean, his wife of 17 years. He currently is the Manager of New Business for UTC Aerospace Systems and has 28 years of combined experience in Business Development, Marketing, Finance, Operations and Information Technology in the Space industry. He leads new business capture strategy, creates and teaches classes on winning government proposals, and manages a staff of proposal managers across the country. Dwight is one of ~350 people worldwide certified at Practitioner Level for New Business Proposal Management by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). Dwight learned the difference that one person can make by watching his mother create and lead the longest running Alzheimer’s Disease support group in the country. Dwight became involved with the PKD Foundation in 2005 as Chapter Coordinator for Los Angeles. He later helped establish new chapters in Orange County and the Inland Empire, and served as Coordinator for the Los Angeles Walk for PKD. He joined the Board of the PKD Foundation in 2013. He was a patient representative (and final paper co-author) for the 2014 KDIGO International Conference on PKD, and currently serves as a patient representative for PKD in the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. He also served as a Board Member of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley in Canoga Park from 2003-2013, a period in which the Club grew by a factor of 10. Dwight earned his B.S. in Business Administration & Finance, Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge. Dwight and Jean’s favorite activity is travel – foreign and domestic. Dwight is an avid skier, declaring “There is ski season and there’s the rest of the year.” Other interests include hiking, golf, and baseball.
Craig A. Ramseyer – Chair, HR Committee
Craig is the leader of Procopio’s Construction Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. He is a former leader of the firm’s Litigation team. Craig’s practice emphasizes general business litigation, as well as construction law and litigation. In the business litigation area, Craig has handled matters including partnership disputes, alter ego liability and contractual disputes. In the construction arena, he is experienced in handling disputes arising on both public and private works of improvement, inclusive of contractual disputes, bid protests, mechanic liens, stop notice and payment bond claims, work out agreements, design professional errors and omissions and delay, disruption and inefficiency claims. Craig has represented general contractors, subcontractors, public and private owners and sureties in various matters over the course of his career. Craig was admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, as well as the Central and Southern Districts of California in 1981. He was later admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. Supreme Court. In June of 1993, Craig was the principal founder of the law firm of Ramseyer & Kuhlman, APLC, where he worked until Ramseyer & Kuhlman merged with Procopio in May of 2001.
Jeffrey Rona lives in Niwot, Colo. He currently is a senior financial executive. As a senior financial executive for three life sciences start-ups, Jeff rose over $300 million of capital, completed two liquidity events and negotiated several licensing agreements. He has developed long-term relationships with life science focused venture capitalists, investment bankers, equity research analysts, public market investors and transaction lawyers. As an investment banker, Jeff provided services to clients in a wide range of industries, including Healthcare, General Industrial, Real Estate, Lodging and Gaming. Specific types of debit financing that Jeff rose for his clients included, construction finance, bank loans, and high-yield debt, and investment grade debt, perpetual preferred and synthetic leases. Jeff started his career at Coopers & Lybrand in the Tax Department. Jeff received his B.S. Degree in Accounting from Case Western Reserve University.
Anne Ryan – Chair, Governance Committee
Anne Klingbeil Ryan lives in San Francisco. She is a Managing Director of Klingbeil Capital Management, a family-owned real estate investment company. Anne acts as the asset manager for a variety of real estate and financial holdings and is the defacto president of the family office. Before joining KCM, Anne co-founded and managed a chainlet of fine paper stores called Oggetti. Besides currently serving as Chair of the PKD Foundation’s Board of Trustees Planning and Assessment Committee, she has recently served on the boards of St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit high school, and City Youth Now, a non-profit supporting youth in the San Francisco Juvenile Court system. Anne is a recently invested member of the Order of Malta, a Catholic organization serving the sick and poor. Her family has been closely involved with the Foundation for over 15 years as donors and board members. Anne graduated from University of Southern California with a B.S. in Business. Anne is a PKD patient, as is one of her brothers; her mother has PKD and is a successful kidney transplant recipient. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Kevin and has two young-adult sons.
R. Francis Towey Jr.
Fran Towey is President and CEO of Natural Partners, Inc., a distributor who provides a convenient way for health care practitioners to better serve their patients. Since 1995 they have operated as a one-stop-shop, supplying the integrative health care community with professional-grade nutritional supplements, nutrition education, and value-added services. The leading service provider in the U.S. for medical professionals, Natural Partners carries over 13,000 items from 150+ reputable supplier partners. Mr. Towey most recently was President of Allergy Research Group, and prior to that he spent 16 years with a private equity group located in Hampton, NH working in a variety of operating roles in the health care and life sciences industries, serving as President and CEO of their natural products distribution company. He has also served as an at-large member of the board of trustees for Berwick Academy, an independent school in South Berwick, ME and has had the pleasure of supporting the Boston PKD Chapter for the several years. Fran earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Northeastern University in Boston, and an MBA from the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis. Fran is a PKD patient as is his sister and brother, and he is a successful, thriving transplant recipient. Fran lives a very active life in Scottsdale, Ariz. with his wife Mary, and their two college age daughters; Molly a recent graduate of American University now living in D.C., and Katie a junior at Emerson College in Boston.
Terry Watnick, M.D.
Dr. Terry Watnick lives in Chevy Chase, Md. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology. Dr. Watnick has established an inherited renal disease clinic at the University of Maryland. She has also been an investigator in several multicenter Clinical Trials recruiting patients with ADPKD, including TEMPO. She moved to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2012 where she leads the Baltimore Polycystic Kidney Disease Research and Clinical Core Center. She currently serves as the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) Chair for the PKD Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Watnick received her medical degree from The Yale School of Medicine and completed her Internal Medicine training at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She then moved to the Johns Hopkins Hospital where she received Clinical Training in Nephrology. She also completed a research fellowship that was focused on the genetics of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. Dr. Watnick subsequently joined the faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she rose through the ranks to Associate Professor. During this time she continued to develop her clinical and research interests in Inherited Kidney Diseases.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Jerry has resided in Germantown, Tenn. for the past 31 years. He attended Lehman and Brooklyn Colleges, earning a degree in Education in 1976. He and Karyn Harcup Waxman have been married 38 years. They have two married daughters, Erica and Kimberly, a granddaughter Eva, and a new granddaughter expected in July 2015. Jerry enjoys playing golf and spending quality time with his family. Jerry’s sales and marketing career began in 1979 at Kalex Chemical Co. He then served for 19 years as National Sales Manager for Intex Plastics. He and his business partner, Jim Jones, purchased Intex in June 2003, changing the name to Mississippi Polymers, Inc. in October 2003. Mississippi Polymers grew into a $70+ million company, with expected revenues to exceed $90 million over the next 5 years. Selling the company in October 2012, Jerry retains his position as Director of Sales and Marketing. Upon Karyn’s diagnosis of PKD nearly 16 years ago, both have dedicated themselves to the PKD cause. Karyn has served as the Memphis Chapter Coordinator for the PKD Foundation for the past 15 years. Jerry founded and organizes the “Driving Home A Cure for PKD” Golf Tournament. This event has raised more than $1 million since its inception, becoming a model for other PKD Foundation Chapter golf tournaments nationwide. In 2011 the tournament became a member of the Liberty Mutual Invitational Family of Charity Events, making it into one of the Memphis area’s top charity golf experiences.
Jared J. Grantham, M.D. Leawood, Kan. Co-founder of the PKD Foundation Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center
Orme Lewis, Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. Managing Director, Select Investments Vice Chair, Arizona Biomedical Research Commission