Our Advisory Board

Dr. Angela Duckworth

Founder and CEO, Character Lab

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Angela Duckworth is the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change For Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics.

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Angela has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Prior to her career in research, Angela founded a summer school for low-income children that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study and, in 2018, celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and a math and science teacher in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Angela completed her undergraduate degree in Advanced Studies Neurobiology at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude. With the support of a Marshall Scholarship, she completed an MSc with Distinction in Neuroscience from Oxford University. She completed her PhD in Psychology as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Angela has received numerous awards for her contributions to K-12 education, including a Beyond Z Award from the KIPP Foundation. Angela’s TED talk is among the most-viewed of all time. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is a #1 New York Times best seller.

William Fitzsimmons

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College

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William R. Fitzsimmons has served as the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard College since 1986. Before that, he was the Executive Director of the Harvard College Fund, the Director of Admissions of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and the Assistant and Associate Director of Admissions. He is a former Trustee of the College Board, the former Chair of the Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admissions, and an active member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. He has focused his various research projects, publications and professional activities on issues related to admissions and financial aid. He received his bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.

Tom Kane

Professor of Education, the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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Thomas Kane is an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he is faculty director of Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research. As a deputy director in the K-12 team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he directed the Measures of Effective Teaching project. His research has influenced policymaking on a range of topics in K-12 and higher education: from teacher quality, to school accountability, to college admissions and college financial aid, to charter schools and community colleges. He has been a faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and UCLA’s School of Public Affairs as well as serving as a senior economist in President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He has held visiting fellowships at the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Penny Noyce

Co-Founder, Tumblehome Learning

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Pendred (Penny) Noyce is a doctor, educator, and writer. She grew up in California, completed a degree in biochemistry at Harvard and a medical degree at Stanford, and did her residency in internal medicine in Minnesota. She then moved to the Boston area, where she practiced at a community health center for several years. In 1991, she helped establish the Noyce Foundation in honor of her father, Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel. The foundation focuses on improving K-12 education, particularly in mathematics and science. From 1993-2002, Penny helped lead a statewide math and science improvement effort called PALMS in the state of Massachusetts. She gradually withdrew from medical practice to focus on her education work and on raising her five children. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profits, including most recently the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, TERC, the Libra Foundation of Maine, the Concord Consortium, and the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications.

As her older children set off for college, Penny began writing for middle-grade children. Her first two novels for children, Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers, and The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music are published by Scarletta Press. As well as chairing Tumblehome Learning’s board, Penny serves as the editorial lead for our Galactic Academy of Science series of science mysteries. Tumblehome Learning represents a convergence of Penny’s interests in science, education, and great writing for kids.

Penny loves to travel, ski, ride horses, and explore islands.

Ronald Ferguson

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

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Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who focuses social science research on economic, social, and educational challenges.  He has been on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 1983, after full time appointments at Brandeis and Brown Universities. In 2014, he co-founded Tripod Education Partners and shifted into an adjunct role at the Kennedy School, where he remains a fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI).

During the 1980s and ‘90s Ron focused much his attention on economic and community development. That work culminated in the social science synthesis volume Urban Problems and Community Development (1999), which remains an important text in graduate policy courses.

By the late1980s he had begun to study education and youth development because academic skill disparities were contributing to growing wage disparity. During the 1990s and early 2000s, his writings on the topic appeared in publications of the National Research Council, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education, and various books and journals. In December 2007, Harvard Education Press published his book Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap. A February 2011 profile of Ron in the New York Times wrote, “there is no one in America who knows more about the gap that Ronald Ferguson.”

Ron’s current focus as AGI director is an initiative entitled the Boston Basics that is spreading to other cities in a Basics National Network. It takes a socio-ecological saturation approach, collaborating with many partners to reach extended families with caregiving advice for infants and toddlers. In addition, Ron is co-authoring a book with journalist Tatsha Robertson on the ways that highly successful people were parented.

Ron holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a PhD from MIT, both in economics. He has been happily married for 38 years and is the father of two adult sons.

Elizabeth Hodder

Life-Long Educator and Board Chair Emerita

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A master educator, Lissa spent nearly 30 years as a teacher and administrator at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge. Lissa graduated from Radcliffe College, and after two years of being a third-grade classroom teacher, she went to Bank Street College in New York City to learn about and work in urban schools. Her abiding interest in helping teachers become professionals finally led her to the Graduate School of Education at Harvard where she began to supervise student teachers in the urban schools. At Harvard, she had several different roles: member of the Board of Freshman Advisors; research assistant for Howard Gardner, Vito Perrone, and David Perkins in developing the “Teaching for Understanding” framework; administrator of the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program; instructor in the Harvard Extension School Writing Program; seminar leader at the GSE for undergraduate student teachers. Lissa served as Breakthrough’s Board Chair from 2001 to 2016.

Gil Noam

Founder and Director, PEAR Institute

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Gil Noam, Ed.D., Dr. Habil is the founder and director of The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School focusing on prevention and resilience. He served as the director of the Risk and Prevention Program and is the founder of the RALLY Prevention Program, a Boston-based intervention that bridges social and academic support in school, afterschool, and community settings.

He has published over 200 papers, articles, and books in the areas of child and adolescent development as well as risk and resiliency in clinical, school, and afterschool settings. He also served as the editor-in-chief of the journal New Directions for Youth Development: Theory, Practice and Research with a strong focus on out-of-school time. Dr. Noam is trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in both Europe and the United States.

Adam Tucker

Deputy Director of K-12 Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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Adam Tucker, deputy director on the K-12 Education team, supports the foundation’s place-based delivery strategy which seeks to test, codify, and scale school improvement models that significantly increase the number of black, Latino, and low-income students who earn a high school diploma, enroll in a post-secondary institution, and are on track in their first year to obtain a credential with labor market value.Prior to joining the foundation, Adam led the communications & advocacy division of Edison Schools. Before Edison, he served as a vice president of LearnNow, another education management organization.

In his current role at the foundation, Adam also draws upon his experience with the Coalition of Essential Schools where he led its school partnerships, public engagement, and advocacy program, and Children Now, a nationally recognized children’s advocacy group. He started his education career as a high school history teacher and program administrator in New England. Adam is a graduate of Brown University.