The Gateway Community College Foundation, Inc. elected five to its 26-member Board
“We welcome the passion, experience, leadership, and commitment to excellence these newcomers bring to our Gateway Foundation Board,” said Board Chair Thomas Beirne III, CFP, Vice President, Senior Wealth Planning Officer and Business Development Manager, Washington Trust Wealth Management. “With their help, we will continue to keep Gateway students at the forefront of all we do.”
Foundation Board member and Nominating Committee Co-Chair LaKisha Jordan, Director of Programs, NewAlliance Foundation, agreed, citing the group’s range of race, ethnicity, age, and educational backgrounds. “We’re committed to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion,” she explained. “Gateway’s diverse student body benefits from our Board members’ understanding, personally and professionally, of those pillars of educational and career success.”
Tanisha Thomas Asbery, M.B.A., J.D., Associate Director, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
“I believe a community college lays the groundwork for students to progress in their chosen paths,” explained new Foundation Board member Asbery, who understands the connection between education and success.
For over 10 years, Asbery has helped first-generation students apply to college and secure internships.
“My mission is to help students meet their goals,” she said. “A community college education helps them grow academically so they can succeed in their chosen careers. Foundation scholarships help them do that, with less worry about finances.”
Asbery has 20 years’ experience in the legal and entertainment fields. In her position at Boehringer Ingelheim, she negotiates clinical trial agreements for medical research in oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and mental health disorders. Earlier in her career, she negotiated contracts and managed multimillion-dollar album projects for some of today’s top-selling recording artists and music labels.
Asbery founded Mettle Entertainment Group, a premier promotion company, and co-founded the Brenda Lang Thomas Scholarship. She received her law degree from New York Law School, M.B.A. from Quinnipiac University, and bachelor's degree in psychology from Columbia University. A Hamden resident, she’s an active member of her community and belongs to several professional and social organizations.
Ronald DeSantis, M.B.A., American Culinary Federation Certified Master Chef; Founder/President, CulinaryNXT; Chief Culinary Officer, Hungry Planet®
“Throughout my career, I’ve applied my vocational skills and education to guide top-tier U.S. companies,” DeSantis said. “I want to share proven methods with fellow Board members and the Gateway community to build career pathways for graduates.”
DeSantis, a Branford resident, launched CulinaryNXT, a food service advisory practice. He also is Hungry Planet’s “voice”. He advocates for food innovation and leads a culinary team to create a competitive advantage. He develops recipes and menus and conducts product R&D.
He began his career as a Marine chef. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), he was a chef in Europe before becoming an instructor at CIA’s four-star Escoffier teaching restaurant. He also served as Associate Dean for Curriculum and Director of Educational Services. He later became Director of Culinary Excellence and Quality Assurance for Yale Dining.
One of only 72 active American Culinary Federation Certified Master Chefs in the United States, he holds an M.B.A. from Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “Education is the foundation for success,” said DeSantis. “A community college education with demonstrated results is the surest way for graduates to start their careers and enrich the communities where they live and work.”
Makana Ellis, J.D., Associate, Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey, LLP
Makana Ellis joined the Gateway Foundation Board because, “I wanted to support its mission of helping students, providing educational opportunities and resources, and uplifting my wonderful community, for generations to come.”
Ellis represents clients in a wide range of litigation including assessment appeals, attorney grievance complaints, breach of contract, construction, criminal defense, Freedom of Information Act cases, housing, intellectual property, land use, mass tort and product liability, medical device, medical malpractice defense, pharmaceutical, real estate, and employment immigration matters.
Before entering University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law, Ellis worked at her alma mater, Yale University, as Director of the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center. A member of the Connecticut, New Haven County, Middlesex, and George W. Crawford Black Bar associations, she serves on the boards of Youth Continuum and Christian Community Action of New Haven. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Yale Alumni Schools Committee, and Yale Club of New Haven.
A New Haven resident, Ellis knows firsthand the potential a local community college holds. “My own mother’s education at Gateway set her on a path for growth and success,” she said.
Jacob G. Padrón, M.F.A., Artistic Director, Long Wharf Theatre
“I believe in the transformative power of a college education,” Padrón said when asked why he put his name in contention for the Gateway Foundation Board. “The community college system provides the pathway for people to reach their goals, serve their communities, and live their dreams. I’m the beneficiary of a community college education, and it did so much for me!”
Padrón became Long Wharf Theatre’s Artistic Director in 2019. He also is Founder and Artistic Director of New York City’s Sol Project, a national theater initiative producing and amplifying the work of Latine playwrights. He served as Senior Line Producer for New York City’s Public Theater; Producer at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Ill.; Associate Producer for the (Ashland) Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Yale Cabaret’s Managing Director.
Padrón, who lives in New Haven, also teaches Artistic Producing at Yale University’s School of Drama, and has taught theatrical disciplines – including directing, acting, artistic production, producing, and artistic leadership – at colleges and universities around the country. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Calif., and earned his master’s degree in theater management from Yale University’s School of Drama. He also is a proud alum of Gavilan Community College, Gilroy, Calif.
“Being on the Board is a chance to give back and provide what I was given to other students, specifically other stud
Joseph D. Thomas, M.B.A., Owner, J.T. Consulting Services, LLC
Joe Thomas, utility industry leader, brings his unique perspective to the Gateway Foundation Board. Not only did he graduate from Gateway’s precursor, Greater New Haven State Technical College, he also is helping build the college’s Alumni Network as a founding member of its Advisory Board.
“Alumni can share real-life experiences with our next generation of leaders,” he said. “Long-term relationships with faculty, staff, and classmates fostered my own career.”
Thomas founded his firm after 33 years in the electric and energy sector, most recently with United Illuminating-UIL Holdings-AVANGRID, where he rose to Vice President of Electric System Operations, Fleet and Logistics. He started his electrical career at Eli Whitney Technical High School, eventually working at various electrical contracting firms and Yale University. He attended night school for 18 years, graduating from Gateway and earning a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from Bridgeport Engineering Institute and an MBA from the University of New Haven.
He is on the Board of the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region and has served on several key utility industry boards.
“I’m excited to bring my industry expertise to the Gateway Foundation Board,” Thomas said. “I want to focus on building strong relationships between the college and the utility industry, and helping students understand the importance of hard work, commitment, and passion to achieving success.”
Did you attend Gateway or its predecessors, Greater New Haven State Technical College, or South Central Community College? If so, you’re invited to join the Gateway Alumni Network. Members enjoy great networking and social events, as well as some great perks! Learn more here.