Board of Directors

Board Officers

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.). 

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.

Dale Smith has a consulting practice serving leading Boston area institutions such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Neighborhood Health Plan (Allways Healthcare), Boston Children’s Hospital and the Beth Israel-Deaconess system. Dale received her A.B. in Sociology from Harvard University, and her M.B.A. from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Kim Freedman is the Program Coordinator of the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) program for Newton and Brookline, addressing bullying, violence and sexual assault through safety workshops to elementary school children. She has also been a UOD coordinator and volunteer for over 15 years. Kim received her B.A. in Economics at Dartmouth College and her M.B.A. at Boston College Carroll School of Management.

Board Members At Large

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.

Deborah Doktor is a retired educator. She was a lower and middle school General Studies teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School in Worcester, MA and served as Lower School Coordinator for one year and Middle School Coordinator for two years. Deborah is a current Citywide Volunteer for UOD. She has a B.A. from Elmira College, an M.A. from Boston University, an M.Ed from Anna Maria College and a Paralegal Certificate from Northeastern University

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.

Marcia E. Herrmann, MD is a retired pediatrician with experience in anti-bullying programs, violence prevention, and advocating for children and families with disabilities through her work at Harvard Vanguard Kenmore and Boston area hospitals. She was a volunteer for Understanding Handicaps in her children’s classes and a UOD Citywide Volunteer.  Marcia has served as President of UOD.  She has an A.B. in History and Science from Harvard University and an M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine.

Melanie Hildebrandt is a mom to three and works as a consultant in gender and finance with a focus on inclusion. She is the Secretary of the Bowen Elementary School PTO and has worked in non-profits in gender and in the Jewish community in Washington DC, New York and Singapore. She holds a BA and MSW from the University of Michigan and an MBA from INSEAD.

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.

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 2 years and was the organization’s Boston Marathon fundraising runner in 2016.

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. 

Jennifer St. John is a Learning Specialist at the Fay School in Southborough. This position follows many years teaching at the Carroll School, for children with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, as well as a charter school in Detroit, Michigan and a variety of schools in Maine. Jennifer has made it her mission to educate communities on what learning differences might look like, feel like, and sound like for students in the classroom and how to best support these learners.


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.