John J. Ratey, MD, Board President, Co-Founder, and Chief Executive Officer

John J. Ratey, MD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an internationally recognized expert in Neuropsychiatry. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, and 11 books published in 15 languages, including the groundbreaking ADHD Driven to Distraction series with Ned Hallowell, MD., and Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. His book, Go Wild, explores how to achieve optimal physical and mental health by getting in touch with our caveman roots and how we can re-wild our lives. His most recently published book, co-authored with Ned Hallowell, ADHD 2.0, draws on the latest science to provide both parents and adults with ADHD with a plan for minimizing the downside and maximizing the benefits of ADHD at any age. They offer an arsenal of new strategies and lifestyle hacks for thriving with ADHD.

With the publication of Spark, Dr. Ratey established himself as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain-fitness connection and he embarked on a worldwide mission to re-engineer schools, corporations, and individual lifestyle practices by incorporating exercise to achieve peak performance and optimum mental health. A highly sought-after speaker, he has lectured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, Australia, and Europe. His work is frequently profiled in the media, where he’s been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and NPR, as well as in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, Men’s Health, and other national publications.

Dr. Ratey has functioned as an Adjunct Professor of Sport Science at the National Taiwan Sport University and as a consultant to the President of Taiwan and the Minister of Education in South Korea. He has served as co-head of the Advisory Board of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport, a consultant to ANTA Kids in China, and on Reebok’s non-profit before school fitness program, BOKS, where he was named Ambassador for Active Kids. His non-profit, Sparking Life, which he co-founded in 2010 with Rod Steele, promotes exercise in the treatment of mental health problems.

First and foremost, Dr. Ratey is a psychiatrist who cares deeply about his patients. Recognized by his peers as one of the Best Doctors in America since 1997, he was recently named “Outstanding Psychiatrist of 2016” by the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society. Married, with two children and two grandchildren, he maintains a private practice in both Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California.

“It’s time to put Childish Things Aside. Time to get serious about Play and Exercise.” – John Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Ryan Bain

With an extensive background in athletics, from earning  “Athlete of the Year” honors from The Chicago Sun-Times for his achievements as an All-American football player and being an undefeated State Champion wrestler, to coaching and personal training at every level of competition, Ryan fully understands and appreciates the value physical activity and social connection through teamwork have to offer.

After a career-ending spinal injury in tandem with a progressive addiction to prescription painkillers, as well as the mounting losses of teammates, friends, and family to overdose, Ryan became dedicated to his road of self-improvement and shifted his focus toward being of service to others and the world around him. Being inherently driven to produce solutions for those still suffering in the midst of the opioid crisis, Ryan created a form of addiction treatment known as “ESM” which is the Latin abbreviation for “Exercitium Semita Medela” or “Exercise as a Pathway to Healing.”  This experiential approach to treating substance use disorder is a hybrid of cardiovascular conditioning, interval, and resistance training in conjunction with supportive psychotherapeutic approaches, promoting a robust mind-body connection for individuals newly entered into sobriety. Drawing from the work of Dr. John J. Ratey and Ryan’s personal experiences, ESM was developed based on the idea that exercise is a critical missing link in SUD treatment.

Given his background and education in Sociology and Counseling Psychology, Ryan has generated an unshakeable dedication to helping others overcome addiction. Utilizing the cathartic agency that vigorous exercise and social connectivity possess toward healing the mind, brain, and body in those suffering from addiction, it remains Bain’s mission to help as many individuals as possible.

Learn more about Ryan’s role at Tree House Recovery.

Denyse Adams Ferguson

Denyse Ferguson

Denyse is a seasoned director of growth and transformation. She has spent the last 30 years catalyzing new phases of growth for established companies, start-up organizations, non-profit organizations, and other cause-related entities. She has extensive experience in multiple areas of business strategy, marketing, and development across multiple industries and around the globe.

She has a passion for bold business strategy and growth, creating productive and catalytic strategic partnerships, and maximizing the impact of brilliant human connections along the way. She has extensive experience in multiple areas of strategic planning, marketing, and business development across multiple arenas and around the globe. Her professional experience includes developing, launching, and managing short and long-term strategic plans for major corporations, start-ups, regions of the U.S., world-leading Universities, and others. She has an impressive track record
in strategic business development, brand development, marketing, economic development, technology commercialization, all forms of intellectual property licensing, and non-profit management.

Denyse currently serves as a Co-Founder/Partner of BOLD Change, a strategic consulting firm, as well as a Co-President of Change is Bold, a non-profit organization dedicated to platforms and initiatives that bring about critical social impact.

Prior to launching her second round of companies, Denyse served as the System Vice President for Community Impact at Mercy Health. In this role, she guided the development of community partnerships and programs across Mercy Health’s multi-state footprint. Her charge was to bring innovation and scale to all of the health systems’ efforts to improve the lives of those in need. Immediately prior to Mercy Health, Denyse served the great region of Cincinnati as the executive director of the Cincinnati USA Partnership (leading regional economic development efforts) helping to increase jobs, talent, and overall prosperity of the region. She came to Cincinnati from her childhood home in Lansing Michigan, where she also led economic development as the president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (Leap, Inc.). In addition to these roles, Denyse has held management positions at The Timberland Company, The Home Depot, and Harvard University.

Denyse’s business acumen is rivaled only by her deep passion for social impact and opportunities for positive change. From her early career days transferring cutting-edge technologies out of Harvard University and managing the use of the Harvard name globally to generate financial aid for students in need, to her recent efforts to transform the health system’s community impact efforts, she has always been laser-focused on making the world a better place.

Denyse holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Harvard University and completed graduate certification work at Radcliffe College.

Leslie Gold

Leslie Gold

Leslie Gold is the founder and Executive Director of Strides in Recovery. Gold is an RRCA-certified running coach who specializes in training the newly sober. As a volunteer at a residential addiction treatment program, she has coached hundreds of people in early recovery across the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon, more than any other coach in the country. Years later, many of the participants still credit the group training and life lessons learned as critical to their long-term sobriety. 

Inspired by these success stories and numerous testimonials about the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits of training for a challenging endurance event with the support of a team, Leslie started Strides in Recovery. The mission of this non-profit is threefold: 

1) Bring running/walking-based relapse prevention programs to more recovery communities 

2) Create and strengthen the community of sober runners/walkers 

3) Educate addiction treatment providers about the healing power of goal-oriented group training 

Prior to starting Strides in Recovery in 2018, Leslie spent three decades leading clinical and financial performance improvement projects, implementing decision support solutions, and generating analytics for hospitals and health systems across the US. She holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA from the University of Virginia. She regularly runs 40-50+ miles/week and has joyfully completed a 50K, 9 marathons, and numerous shorter distance events. She is also an avid cyclist.

Kathleen Granchelli, Secretary

Kathleen is a public relations professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in the high-tech sector. She has led and built successful programs and events in corporate communications,  media relations, community partnerships, and STEM K-12 initiatives at Draper, an R&D organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to Sparking Life, she has served on the boards of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Kendall Square Association, and Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future.

Her thinking about PE for children was transformed when she read Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, at which point she became an advocate of its fitness-for-life message.  Her passion for the positive impact a curriculum-based program could have on the holistic health of children influenced the headmaster of her daughter’s school to introduce a pilot and eventually build a new gym to enable full implementation of the curriculum. She continues to advocate for the adoption of Spark’s life-enhancing recommendations while trying to maintain a regular exercise program and cheering on her husband in his winter hiking goals.

Paul Lee

Paul Lee is the CEO and founder of Endominance, Inc. Endominance provides insight into the education, healthcare, and business fields. Whether it is quantifying cognitive data to assist with addiction recovery, finding innovative ways to encourage SEL in education, or enhancing company culture, Endominance strives to bring a more profound cognitive understanding to light.

Paul is committed to helping people to achieve a balance between their mental, cognitive, and physical health. He aims to provide people with the tools they need to grow their awareness of their aptitudes and unlock their full potential while at the same time preparing them for challenges through a variety of cutting-edge cognitive assessment models and apps. Ultimately, the goal of Endominance is to get in front of the obstacles that stand between people and their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
After nearly 20 years of working in business incubation and development, Paul found his calling with Endominance, a vocation he is genuinely proud of. With Endominance, Paul will continue to explore new ways to offer a deeper understanding of how our inclinations and decision-making processes are formed and to offer precision preventive solutions to people seeking self-improvement on any level.
Made in Korea, refurbished in the USA, and upgraded with the latest international business modules, Paul earned his nickname as a key-maker – one who can unlock any door to provide access to new opportunities. Lee lives in California with his wife and long-time supporter, and his three beautiful and active sons. He enjoys learning new languages and woodworking.

Tatsuo Okada, Ph.D.

Tatsuo Okada

Tatsuo is a social entrepreneur with a background in engineering and experience in the tech, sports, and human-services sectors. Since 1999, he has been initiating and managing projects that provide scientifically-based solutions to problems in the educational and environmental domains. He partners with collaborators in sports, the performing arts, and other fields to execute programs.

In 2013, he founded and became CEO of SPARK Association, a nonprofit organization in Japan that provides play-based therapy for children, mainly preschoolers with developmental delays in autism and ADHD. The therapy helps children engage better in society, improving their social and emotional health. Currently (2021), 23 SPARK Centers in Japan are providing therapy for over 1,000 children. Funded largely by the Japanese government, the number of facilities is increasing steadily.

From 2009 to 2013, Tatsuo was the Founder and CEO of TFE, Inc., one of the most innovative and successful suppliers of professional, technical, and administrative personnel and operations support in the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear energy complex and commercial ventures.

During this time, an active member of the Global Sports Association, world-renowned cycling champion Greg LeMond introduced Tatsuo to Dr. John Ratey and his book, ”Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” Inspired by Dr. Ratey, they developed an exercise program for office workers to prevent depression and anxiety. When they subsequently learned that such mental problems could be secondary to development disorders, they developed SPARK therapy for children with disorders. Ms. Takako Shimizu developed the program using concepts of Spark by Dr. Ratey, and the program was directed by Dr. Greenspan.

From 1999 to 2009, Tatsuo was the Founder and Executive Director of Global Sports Alliance (GSA), a nonprofit dedicated to improving and promoting awareness of the environment, especially clean air and water, so integral to fitness and of interest to sports enthusiasts. GSA partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and international sports organizations, such as FIVB, to spread the movement globally.

Early in his career, Tatsuo was a developmental engineer and manager at Kyocera (1982-87), working for Kyocera/Kyoto Ceramic Company. He helped sales engineers in the U.S., providing knowledge in designing ceramic parts for customers and bridging relationships between U.S. customers and Japanese production.

Tatsuo holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from UCLA (1982), specializing in fracture mechanics of ceramics; an M.S. in Engineering from California State University at Long Beach (1979); and a B.S. in Engineering from Tokyo University of Science (1976).

He is currently a Member of the Board of UCLA Japan Center and previously served as President of the UCLA Japan Alumni Association for four years.

Fred C. Sears II, Treasurer

A lifetime Delawarean and graduate of the University of Delaware with B.A. and MBA degrees, Sears served a 38-year career in commercial/retail banking in Delaware that culminated in the position of President of Commerce Bank/Delaware. He also served six years in the Delaware Air National Guard.

During his banking tenure, he took a three-year leave of absence to serve in the Wilmington City Administration, first as Director of Finance and later as Director of Economic Development. He later ran for office and served two four-year terms as a Wilmington City Councilman At-Large.

Sears was recruited to leave the banking business to serve as CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation, a position he held for 13 years until his retirement three years ago.

As an officer/director for more than 50 Delaware non-profit agencies and commissions, Sears continues to serve in leadership roles on 13 boards/commissions/ foundations including serving as Chairman of the Delaware State Council for Development, Treasurer of the Beau Biden Foundation to Protect Innocent Children, and as a board member of Applied Bank and the Delaware State Port Corp.  

Sears currently is providing his fundraising expertise in service to nine organizations including as Co-Chairman for the Food Bank of Delaware’s capital campaign for its new distribution/office center and Co-Chairman for the Christiana Care Hospital’s capital campaign for its new seven-story Women’s Health Center.

Sears and his wife Jo-Ann continue to reside in Wilmington and are blessed to have both of their sons, daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren living in Wilmington.

André M. Williams

Andre Williams Headshot

André is an outstanding strategic thinker and an unapologetic champion for positive disruption. Over the last 25+ years, he has provided corporations, non-profits, and social impact organizations with strategic insights, business acumen, and market understanding to maximize new business opportunities and drive results. André brings a distinctive blend of fine-tuned expertise in strategy, operations, business development, and agile leadership, coupled with a remarkable ability to connect with and understand people.

Over the course of André’s career, he has developed an impressive record of unprecedented growth across multiple industries including insurance, financial services, non-profit organizations, healthcare systems, and educational technology companies. He has also demonstrated a unique ability to build and develop high-functioning and successful teams in any environment.

André currently serves as a Co-Founder/Partner of BOLD Change, a strategic consulting firm, as well as a Co-CEO/President of Change is Bold, a non-profit organization dedicated to platforms and initiatives that bring about critical social impact.

Prior to launching these businesses, André served in leadership roles with a number of industry giants in the insurance and financial services sectors including State Farm Insurance, American Modern Insurance Group, and Merrill Lynch. In these roles, he built organizations and teams from the ground up and delivered sales results that were never deemed possible. André then took his expertise to the world leader in eyecare, Luxottica Group, where he again built a high-functioning team from the ground up at EyeMed, generating 2,200 accounts and $20MM in gross sales in two years.

Given that social impact has always been at the root of what drive’s him personally and professionally, André ultimately made the decision to leave the corporate world to focus his talents on building the capacity of non-profits and working more directly on issues impacting vulnerable populations. He served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Social Enterprise at the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency (CAA), a $30MM non-profit, where he was responsible for spearheading leadership activities to maximize the impact of the organization’s programs as well as efforts to revitalize its Foundation with innovative strategies designed to maximize assets and resources. From there he was lured away by a non-profit health system, Mercy Health, in order to help them increase the scale and effectiveness of their community impact programming and to transform the team dynamic of the organization by developing a talent-based succession model.

In lifting up BOLD Change and Change is Bold, André is able to carry out his passion for people and desire to maximize positive disruption in the world, both through his own organizations and by leveraging his extensive expertise for the benefit of his clients.

André holds a Master of Business Administration Degree from Xavier University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics-Actuarial Science from Ohio University.

Stephanie Wurtz, Vice President

Prior to starting at Colorado College, Stephanie worked in K-12 public education and also spent five years as a television news reporter. She received both her Bachelor of Journalism and M.A. in strategic communications from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia.

She serves as president of Pikes Peak Road Runners, one of the largest running organizations in Colorado, working to promote running and fitness across the Pikes Peak Region. She’s looking forward to extending the reach of Sparking Life’s mission in her work with the vibrant running community.

When not on campus or volunteering, Stephanie spends her time out on the trails, running and mountain biking. She’s run across the Grand Canyon and up several of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, ridden her bike over numerous mountain passes and completed races from a 5K to 100 miles. Her love for running lives on as a tribute to her favorite running partner and husband Mike Shafai, who made a significant impact on the running community and served on the Sparking Life Board before his sudden passing in October 2017. Mike continues to inspire Stephanie’s adventures, and she carries his spirit and legacy with her throughout the runners’ playground right outside her backdoor in Manitou Springs, CO.

In Memoriam: J. Rodman Steele, Jr., Former Chairman Emeritus and Co-Founder

Rod SteeleJ. Rodman Steele Jr., who passed away on Jan. 13, 2021, was a partner in the national firm of Duane Morris LLP. Mr. Steele represented clients in all phases of patent, trademark, trade secret, and copyright law and was recognized by Who’s Who of Patent Lawyers, Florida Legal Elite, The Best Lawyers in America, and SuperLawyers. He served on, and chaired, many nonprofit boards and has been legal counsel to others.

A former Captain in the Army, Mr. Steele was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam and the Army Commendation Medal from the Department of the Army, Pentagon.

A former college basketball player, he was an active triathlete and has represented the U.S. at four overseas international championship events. He is a passionate believer that his exercise routine has stimulated some of his best legal and nonprofit efforts.

When the Florida Legislature finally passed a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), a legislative fight ensued and the legislation was not funded. Steele formed a fundraising foundation and served as its treasurer during the successful years during which the bulk of the pain pill clinics were abolished in Florida.

Read the Sparking Life tribute to Rod Steele