National Advisory Board

Carol Agate

Administrative Law Judge, State of Californiacarol bw national

Carol Agate is an Administrative Law Judge in California where she hears cases involving unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and employer taxes. Her legal background includes the practice of criminal law, in both prosecution and defense, and holding the positions of clinical professor at Loyola Law School, and research attorney to the Chief Justice of American Samoa.

Advertising was Ms. Agate's first career. Law school was a late decision, after her two children were in school all day. Shortly before graduating from the University of Connecticut School of Law she moved to California and finished at UCLA Law School. In public service and politics in Westport, CT, she served on the Democratic Town Committee, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Norwalk board of the NAACP, and as a Justice of the Peace. She was also a member of the Westport Public Library Board, and was made an honorary life trustee when she resigned to attend law school. Currently, in Santa Monica, CA, she serves on the city's Disabilities Commission. Judge Agate was the attorney of record in the United States Supreme Court case that required Rotary Clubs to admit women. Her publications include several law journal articles on women's rights and legal advertising.

Ms. Agate has personal experience with desmoid tumors. She originally had an inoperable desmoid tumor in her neck, which was treated with radiation. Six months later the tumor recurred on her clavicle, but was misdiagnosed as arthritis. Five years later it was correctly diagnosed as a recurrent desmoid tumor and removed. The area was able to be radiated again because the heaviest dose was given intraoperatively.

Judge Agate, a proud grandmother of two granddaughters, resides in Santa Monica, CA. Her daughter is a minister in Boston and her son is a printing broker in Los Angeles.

David W. Checketts

Chairman, Sports Capital Partners, LLC, New York, New York checketts bw

David W. Checketts founded Sports Capital Partners (SCP) in September 2001. He is the Chairman of this growing consulting and investment firm for sports teams and media assets which in 2004 acquired a significant interest in the upstart television network, College Sports Television (CSTV). Also in 2004, SCP acquired the twelfth Major League Soccer (MLS) team and launched Real Salt Lake in Mr. Checketts' hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2002, SCP acquired SportsWest Communications. Mr. Checketts serves concurrently as Chairman for SportsWest Communications, a syndicated broadcaster of college sports for the Mountain West and the Western Athletic Conferences (NCAA).

Mr. Checketts created his sports media companies after a successful ten-year career at Madison Square Garden (MSG). As President and Chief Executive Officer for seven years, he oversaw all operations of one of the most powerful sports and entertainment companies globally, including the "World's Most Famous Arena" and its three sports franchises, the New York Knickerbockers of the NBA, the New York Rangers of the NHL, and the New York Liberty of the WNBA - along with the award winning MSG Network and FOX Sports Network. In 1997, while at his post, Mr. Checketts took on the ambitious acquisition and comprehensive restoration of New York's historic Radio City Music Hall. Although MSG, under his leadership, was awarded with many accomplishments such as being named Arena of the Year for six straight years, the achievement he takes most pride in is the establishment of the MSG "Cheering for Children" foundation which created after-school programs for thousands of New York City school children.

Mr. Checketts began his career at Madison Square Garden as President of the New York Knicks in March 1991. In the four seasons he served as President, the team finished twice in first place, made it to the Eastern Conference Finals twice and captured the Eastern Conference Champion Title in 1994. During this time, the team set records in attendance, ratings and revenues including setting the all-time sellout streak of 460 games at The Garden. Forbes named the Knicks the most valuable franchise in the NBA.

In his role as Governor of the Knicks (NBA), Rangers (NHL) and Liberty (WNBA), Mr. Checketts was instrumental in all three leagues development and mission. For the NBA, he was part of both the Planning Committee and the Labor Relations Committee which including being a lead negotiator in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 1999. For the WNBA, he was one of the founding partners and served on the League's Operating Committee.

Prior to joining the Knicks, Mr. Checketts spent one year as General Manager of NBA International, working with NBA Commissioner David Stern on building a presence for the league in broadcasting and licensing around the world. In 1983, he was named President and General Manager of the Utah Jazz. At 28 years old, he became the youngest chief executive in the history of the NBA. During his six year tenure, the team captured two Midwest Division titles and enjoyed a multi-million dollar economic turnaround.

Mr. Checketts did his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and earned his MBA from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1981, where he graduated with top honors. Upon completion of his studies, he joined the Boston based consulting firm, Bain & Company.

He is on the Board of Directors of JetBlue Airways, Citadel Communications, Republic Mortgage and Cablecom based in Switzerland. He plays an active role with each company, serving as the Chairman of the Audit Committee for Citadel and Chairman of the Compensation Committee for JetBlue.

He resides in Connecticut with his wife Deb. They are the parents of six children.

Bruce Larson


Managing Director, Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Chief Administrative Officer, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Salt Lake City

Bruce Larson joined Goldman Sachs in 1987 following his graduation from the University of Chicago, where he received his MBA.  Among other roles, Mr. Larson has been head of Asia-Pacific Mergers and Acquisitions (while stationed in Hong Kong) and spent three years providing mergers and acquisitions advisory to clients in Japan.  Mr. Larson served for one year as the chief of staff to the CFO of Goldman Sachs before becoming the global head of human resources, which he did for five years (1995-2000).  Following his role as head of HR, he became the Chief Operating Officer of the Communications, Media and Entertainment group within the Investment Banking division - a role he played for over two years.  During his time at Goldman Sachs Mr. Larson has been a member of a number of the firm's important operating committees, including the Compensation Committee, the Retirement Committee, the Recruiting Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Wellness Advisory group and the IPO team which was involved in taking Goldman Sachs public in 1999.  He was also invited by Goldman Sachs to participate in a two day executive seminar at Harvard Business School focused on developing leaders in the non-profit world.

Mr. Larson's involvement in the non-profit world includes serving for the past seven years on the board of trustees of New York Downtown hospital in New York City.  In that capacity he was an active member of the hospital's "turn-around" committee, focused on improving the financial performance of the hospital, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the hospital.  Additionally Bruce oversaw the hospital's "Kress Vision Fund", an endowed fund established to provide free eye care screening and treatment in economically challenged areas of New York city.  Mr. Larson has held several other leadership positions in other community and non-profit organizations, including the University of Utah College of Humanities advisory board and the University of Utah School of Business New York Advisory board, the Boy Scouts of America and the New Canaan Basketball Association.

Mr. Larson graduated with a B.A. in Finance and Japanese from the University of Utah and with his MBA from the University of Chicago. He resides in Connecticut with his wife, Gayle and their five children.

Deborah Spaide

Founder, Kids Care Clubs and FamilyCares Author, Teaching Your Kids To Care, The Day Care Kitdebbie

Deborah Spaide and her family founded Child Charitable Development in 1990 with a mission of encouraging the development of philanthropy in children. The non-profit corporation initiated two unique programs, Kids Care Clubs and FamilyCares, which became national charities and were adopted by thousands of families, schools and churches across the country. The organization also produced a quarterly magazine, Young Heroes, and two comprehensive websites, and In 2001, the programs were merged into the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, D.C. where they continue to expand the message of children and charity worldwide.

Ms. Spaide is also the author of several books on parenting; Teaching Your Kids To Care, The Day Care Kit, The Employer Child Care Report, as well as multiple articles published in magazines, newspapers and websites. She has worked with many non-profit organizations, including Parents Anonymous, Goodwill Industries of Maine, and a Legislative Research Committee. She partnered Kids Care Clubs with hundreds of non-profit organizations worldwide, including AmeriCares, several orphanages in Russia, a hospital in Tanzania, schools in Haiti, and refugee camps in Kosovo. In the United States, the program created project partnerships with many hospitals, homeless shelters, after-school programs, nursing homes and service-oriented charities. She currently serves on the Program Committee for the Points of Light Foundation, which is funded by Congress w ith a mission of promoting volunteerism nationwide.

Ms. Spaide is the mother of five adult children and the thrilled grandmother of a two-year old grandson. She lives in New Canaan, Connecticut with her husband, Jim.

Thomas C. Hawes, MD, MBA


Dr. Hawes received his M.D. degree from New York Medical College. While at New York Medical he was selected by the Deans to receive the Cor et Manus award in recognition of outstanding service to the medical college community. After medical school he matched at Yale University School of Medicine and completed a year of residency at Greenwich Hospital. From there he went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. He subsequently also became a Kauffman Fellow. 

As Dr. Hawes prepared for medical school he was awarded a summer clinical research fellowship from the National Cancer Institute and worked on another research project with Westchester Medical Center's Cardiothoracic Surgery Department. Brigham Young University, where he was two-time Captain of the Men's Lacrosse team which won the 2000 MCLA National Championship and three league championships. He was awarded Academic All-American and All-League honors. 

Dr. Hawes currently resides in Chicago with his wife and five children where he is a Managing Director for Sandbox Industries, a venture capital and business incubation firm that is the exclusive partner with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association in managing the Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Fund. He participates on the Boards of HeartFlow, Patientco, Nexidia, AbilTo, Phreesia, Lumiata, and Wellspring Healthcare.

Richard S. Linhart

Founder and President of Opus Capital, LLC,

Richard S. Linhart is Founder and President of Opus Capital, LLC, an investment firm focused on private equity investing in media companies and on public market investments. He is also Chairman of Opus Media Holdings, an owner and operator of radio stations in the southeastern U.S.

Mr. Linhart has spent his career in the investment world. He began his career in the investment banking group of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and moved on to become a partner at Wesray Capital Corp., one of the pioneer private equity firms. He has also been a partner of Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, the private equity arm of Bear Stearns, and has been an active investor for many years in media companies, public equities, real estate and other private investments.

Mr. Linhart has been actively involved in community organizations for his entire adult life. Currently, he serves on the board of Congregation Kelilath Jeshurun and the American Pardes Foundation, and is active in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in New York City with his wife Leora, a pediatrician, and their three children.

David Neeleman

Founder Azul Brazilian Airlines dneeleman

Founder of the new Azul Brazilian Airlines, former CEO of Jetblue Airways, David Neeleman has recently launched his fourth successful aviation business.

Mr. Neeleman’s career in the airline industry began in 1984 when he co-founded a low-fare carrier called Morris Air. As President of Morris Air, he implemented the industry’s first electronic ticketing system and pioneered a home reservationist system that is now the foundation of JetBlue’s unique call center.

Following the sale of Morris Air and a short period with Southwest Airlines, Mr. Neeleman took the electronic ticketing system that he had initiated at Morris Air and developed it into Open Skies, the world’s simplest airline reservation system, which he sold to Hewlett Packard in 1999. Also during this period, Mr. Neeleman acted as a consultant to WestJet Airlines, the successful Canadian low-fare start-up airline.

In 1999, after the conclusion of his five-year non-compete agreement with Southwest Airlines, Mr. Neeleman decided the time was right to bring his successful airline formula to New York City. He assembled a hand-picked management team of airline industry veterans and secured $130 million in capital funding from investors such as Weston Presidio Capital, George Soros and Chase Capital, now JP Morgan.

Mr. Neeleman’s non-profit work includes acting as honorary chairman of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, and serving on the board of PENCIL, a charity which links corporation heads with New York City public schools. He lives with his wife Vicki and their nine children in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Connie R. Colonnese, BSN, MS

Clinical Project Manager Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc.connie

Connie R. Colonnese has had a 17-year career in the pharmaceutical industry working for US, Asian and European companies. Her initial job experience was on the clinical side with positions of responsibility in Cardiac Rehabilitation, Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care at several institutions, including Emory in Atlanta, Children’s Hospital in Boston and St. Vincent’s in Bridgeport, CT. She eventually moved into cardiac research at Albert Einstein in Cardiac Electrophysiology. Ms. Colonnese then spent over ten years in the pharmaceutical divisions of Bayer Corporation and Mitsubishi Chemical America in various clinical, project management and research positions. She then joined Purdue Pharma where she held the positions of Sr. Clinical Trials Manager, Sr. Clinical Research Scientist and Associate Director in Clinical Pharmacology where she was involved in strategic planning, regulatory compliance, study design, budgeting, and reporting of clinical trial data for drug development programs across all four phases of drug development. Ms. Colonnese then assumed the role of TCM at Boehringer Ingelheim as a Sr. Scientist, where she assumed responsibilities for a global metabolic trial. She recently joined the Clinical Affairs Department at Upsher-Smith Laboratories as Clinical Project Manager for an exciting NCE in the field of movement disorders.

Ms. Colonnese holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Emory University, and a Master of Science in Physiology from SCSU. She is married to Robert J. Colonnese and resides in Plymouth, Minnesota with their two children.

Charisse Litchman , MD

Co-founder The Desmoid Tumor Research Foundationcharisselitchman

Dr. Litchman received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and her MD degree from the Yale School of Medicine. She completed her internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital and her residency in neurology at Cornell-New York Hospital. She has maintained a neurology practice in Stamford Connecticut since 1992 with subspecialty in the treatment of migraines. She has staff privileges at the Stamford Hospital, consulting privileges at Greenwich Hospital and is Assistant Clinical Professor at Columbia University. Dr. Litchman was integral in the formation of DTRF and is author of a book dedicated entirely to desmoid tumors.

While pursuing her medical career, Dr. Litchman is raising three children. She and her husband reside in New Canaan, CT.

Audrey Perricone

perricone A headshotA Magna Cum Laude graduate of Northwood University, Audrey has spent the majority of her career in the State Legislative world. She has worked in both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, serving as External Relations Director for two Michigan Speakers of the House.

Following surgery to repair a labral tear, Audrey experienced debilitating pain and a ball of what was believed to be “scar tissue” was removed from her hip.   Unfortunately, the pain did not subside and a review of tissue samples disclosed that what had been removed was in fact a desmoid tumor.   Now engulfing her entire hip and thigh, Audrey embarked upon a year-long course of chemotherapy to slow the tumor’s growth.   Extensive research and consultation has persuaded Audrey to choose “observation” over surgery to avoid accelerating growth.  

Audrey co-owns The Perricone Group of companies, Dome Magazine and other entrepreneurial endeavors dedicated to the development of talent and sound public policy. Her passion for helping others lead and succeed doesn’t end there: She also serves on the Board of Directors for Inforum, and The Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center, America’s first riding stable for the disabled.

A life-long Michigan resident, Audrey lives on a ranch in rural Southwest Michigan with husband Chuck and “Valentine”, her (very) spoiled Cocker Spaniel. They have three children and one grandchild.


Honorary Board

Dave Dravecky

Former Major League Baseball Pitcherdravecky dave

Dave Dravecky was born February 14, 1956 in Boardman, Ohio. Following graduation from Youngstown State University in 1978, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st round. Dave played Double-A ball in Buffalo and Amarillo and was called to the majors by the San Diego Padres in 1982.

Dave pitched for the Padres during the 1984 National League championships and the World Series. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1987, where he again pitched in the National League championships. His 5-0 opening day victory over the Dodgers in the spring of 1988 was overshadowed that fall by the discovery of a desmoid tumor and the removal of half the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm.

In August 1989, following months of rehabilitation and against impossible odds, Dave pitched the Giants to a 4-3 win over Cincinnati. His triumphant return to the mound was the subject of his first book, Comeback. While pitching against Montreal a week later, Dave's left arm snapped with a deafening crack that could be heard in the stands. It broke a second time in October when Dave joined his teammates on the field to celebrate their National League victory. The tumor had returned and forced Dave's retirement from professional baseball in November 1989.

Dave underwent further surgery and radiation in 1990. During 1991 he was bedridden and experienced incessant pain caused by a severe staph infection. Finally that June, the drastic amputation of Dave's left arm, shoulder blade and left side of his collarbone was performed. Through an incredible odyssey of physical and emotional pain, Dave and his wife Jan experienced the heights and depths of joy and despair, faith and doubt, intimacy and aloneness. Their story, chronicled in the book, When You Can't Come Back, has been a powerful source of encouragement to readers of every age and background. Because of the overwhelming response to their story, Dave and Jan established Dave Dravecky's Outreach of Hope (formerly the Dave Dravecky Foundation), a non-profit organization which provides hope to those whose lives have been devastated by cancer, amputation, depression or other adversity.

Dave now earns his living as a professional speaker, addressing a wide variety of audiences across the country. His messages range from motivational to inspirational and address loss and suffering, encouragement and hope, reaching out to others, saying goodbye to the past, and faith.

Dave has been married to Jan, his high-school sweetheart, for 15 years. The Draveckys relocated from Boardman, Ohio to the Colorado Springs, Colorado area in 1993. They are the proud parents of a daughter, Tiffany, and a son, Jonathan

John Smith

Head Football Coach, Michigan State Universityjohnsmith

Coach John L. Smith’s experience with desmoid tumors began when his wife Diana (she prefers Di) underwent surgery to remove a baseball-size tumor in May 2004.  This tumor was discovered when she became "dastardly" nauseous and couldn't eat or drink anything.  Her first diagnosis was that she had a rare colon cancer that was most often terminal. The family tried to remain upbeat, she exercised, took vitamins and even went on a trip to Africa where John climbed Kilimanjaro. Then John and Diane went to another hospital which only confirmed the first diagnosis.  However, Coach Smith couldn't and wouldn't accept the prognosis.  He was adamant that his wife seek another opinion, this time at University of Michigan Cancer Center. Here the doctor reviewed the results of the surgery and all of Diane's medical record and delivered the news.  She had a desmoid tumor, not colon cancer.  A trip to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston confirmed this diagnosis. So far, follow up scans have showed no recurrence and Diane feels blessed.  She is feeling awesome, appreciates the everyday things she does and has a new lease on life.

Coach Smith became the 23rd head football coach at  Michigan State University on December 19, 2002.  He brought with him a reputation as a program builder from his previous head coaching tenures at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville.  He has only enhanced that track record at Michigan State, earning the Dave McClain Coach of the Year award as selected by the Big Ten media panel in 2003.  Coach Smith has compiled a 123-72 record  in 16 years as a college head coach, including an impressive 80-32 mark in conference games.  He ranks No.12 among active NCAA I-A football coaches in career victories and No. 17 in career winning percentage.  Coach Smith has produced six conference champions.  Twelve of his 16 teams have participated in postseason play, including seven-straight bowl appearances from 1997-2003.  John L. tutored 12 first-team All-Americans at Idaho, including Walter Payton Award winners John Friesz and Doug Nussmeier. 

A native of Idaho Falls, John L. was a linebacker and quarterback at Weber State, where he earned Big Sky Conference scholar-athlete honors in 1971-72.  He received his undergraduate degree in physical education in 1971, and earned a master's of science degree in physical education from the University of Montana in 1974.  In 2000 Sports Illustrated recognized him as one of Idaho's top 100 athletes of the 20th century.  For his accomplishments both as athlete and head coach, he was inducted into the Idaho Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.  He and his wife Diana are the parents of three children.