Board of Directors

Board Officers

Debbie Berechman is the Executive Director, Global Initiatives & Community Engagement, Brandeis International Business School. She has an extensive background in higher education administration, working with all aspects of programming from admissions to alumni relations.  Formerly she was the Executive Director of the MBA Program at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Debbie holds a B.A. in Political Science from Brandeis University and an M.S. in Communications Management from Simmons College.

Deborah Marlino is a retired professor of marketing and former business school associate dean. She has served on the faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management and at Simmons College, and has held senior administrative positions both at the Simmons College and Boston University Schools of Management. Deborah holds degrees from the University of Tennessee (B.A., M.B.A.) and UCLA (Ph.D.). 

Eric Navales is a Managing Director with L.E.K. Consulting, a global strategy consulting firm. He has been a Board member of UOD for a number of years and was the organization’s Boston Marathon fundraising runner in 2016.

Gary Alpert is currently Director of Admissions and Community Outreach at Metrowest Jewish Day School. Previously, he was an educational Specialist at Gateways, and prior to that he was the Director of After School at Jewish Community Day School of Boston (JCDS) for fourteen years and an elementary school classroom teacher for four years. Gary has a B.A. from Brandeis University in Elementary Education, Sociology and Near Eastern Judaic Studies (NEJS) and also holds an Elementary teaching certification from the state of Massachusetts.

Board Members At Large

Jini Fairley is currently the ADA Coordinator for the City of Newton. She began her involvement with UOD in 1981 when her oldest child was in 4th grade. She was a volunteer, unit leader and school coordinator for almost 20 years.

Amy Fleischman, MD is a pediatric endocrinologist who has worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for the last 20 years. She was a PTO and school sports program volunteer for the last 11 years. She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Investigation from Harvard/MIT, an M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and a B.S. in Biology from Yale University.

Kamal Gupta is a consultant with extensive expertise in marketing strategy and analytics, and in patient communications and engagement. She has been an adjunct professor of strategy and marketing both in New York, at Columbia and Fordham, and in the Boston area, at Boston University. Kamal holds a PhD in Marketing from USC’s Graduate School of Business, and a Master of Management in Hospitality from Boston University.

Becky Kekula is a TEDx international motivational speaker and advocate for inclusion. She also serves as the Disability Equality Index Director at Disability:IN, the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. After receiving a college degree, Becky worked for a decade behind the scenes in the entertainment and news media industries. Currently, she’s working with corporations to help advance disability inclusion and equality. Becky also happens to be a little person. She proudly identifies as part of the disability community. She has spoken at over 350 venues such as companies, government agencies, and schools. This includes nearly a decade of Understanding Our Differences Physical Disabilities unit presentations.

Erika Pond is a community leader. She worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in pediatric dysphagia in both private practice and hospital settings. She has been an active volunteer in her community, including volunteering for Understanding Our Differences in her children’s classrooms and as a parent coordinator. Erika has undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology from Duke University and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Vanderbilt University.

Joe Quintanilla, the blind son of immigrants and a Cambridge native, is a development professional and motivational speaker and lecturer on overcoming discrimination, diversity and inclusion, fundraising, board development, networking, competing and volunteering.  Joe has been a fundraising professional for more than twenty years with a special focus on working at organizations serving the blind and visually impaired community.  Currently Vice President of Development and Major Gifts at National Braille Press, Joe has a BA from Boston College in Communications, and Certificates in Nonprofit Management and in Professional Fundraising from Boston University. 

Marisa Serrano is a parent to a child with special needs. She is active in the Brookline Public Schools community serving numerous volunteer and committee roles. Most recently, Marisa worked in Development and Fundraising for On The Rise, a day program for homeless individuals. Marisa studied at The George Washington University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Northeastern University. 

Mark Steward is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked with children and families in a variety of clinical settings. For the past twenty-five years he has provided consultation to local Independent Schools. Mark received his A.B. from Dartmouth College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston University.


Carol Beard was a Newton resident for over 50 years and was the founder of the program that has become Understanding Our Differences.  In the 1970s, when her twin sons were diagnosed as developmentally delayed before their third birthday, she worked tirelessly to give them a “regular” childhood. She was active in many other local non-profit organizations, including a long history with Newton Wellesley Weston Committee for Community Living, now called Pathway to Possible. Click here to learn more about Carol.


Executive Director Emerita

Beth Mendel served as Executive Director of Understanding Our Differences from 1997 to 2011. Currently Executive Director Emerita of UOD, and Member of the Corporation at Perkins School for the Blind, she is retired and enjoys spending time with her family and grandchildren. She majored in mathematics as an undergraduate and went on to earn an M.B.A. degree.