Founder & Executive Director

Wendy Sternberg, MD

  • Founder & Executive/Artistic Director, Genesis at the Crossroads

As the founder and creative engine behind Genesis at the Crossroads, Wendy designed all programs to date and continues to oversee production and implementation of performance/artistic programs, education and humanitarian initiatives worldwide. She forged national/international partnerships with over 45 institutions and founded Saffron Caravan, Genesis’ professional world music ensemble uniting artists from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, Israel, India, Brazil, Venezuela and the US for cross-cultural collaborative performance and educational programs.  Since 2011, Sternberg has created and produced a body of inquiry-based salon programs on the intersection of human rights, human development and the role of the arts to help shape and inform a humanistic society and transform conflict. One annual salon series focuses on women’s leadership. She masterminds the creative development/management of the current Genesis Academy Summer Institutes for international youth leaders from areas of conflict as well as the future Genesis Peace Hub. (Due to the pandemic, the Peace Hub began virtually in 2020 with Sounds of Healing; its physical campus place-making on Chicago’s South side is in the process of coming to fruition for a slated 2023 opening.) 

Affectionately called a Doctor without a Border, her prior 20+ year career as a primary care internal medicine physician informs the healing aspects at the heart of Genesis at the Crossroads. Under her leadership, Genesis boasts over 150 award-winning programs, internationally acclaimed by the UN, The Kennedy Center, Rotary, The King of Morocco, the British Council, the US Institute of Peace and the US Department of State. A Rotary Peace Fellow and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow, Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine featured her as a Woman to Watch. She was named one of the 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year and was a 2011 Charles Bronfman Prize Nominee. Sternberg is a member of the Chicago Chapter of the Woods Fund – Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing, Transformation Task Force. On the celebratory occasion of the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, Sternberg was deeply honored to be chosen as the closing speaker, following the remarks of Gandhi’s Granddaughter, Nelson Mandela’s Daughter and Cesar Chavez’s Grandson at the Gandhi 150: A Legacy of Peace 2019 program in Chicago. She keynoted the Gandhi King Foundation’s 2020 virtual peace program in India at the University of Hyderabad.

In the face of the pandemic, she retooled Genesis’ 2006 Art of Healing initiative into a cross-cultural collaborative health and wellness program with a focus on arts, trauma and healing. It features multiple virtual and in-person programs over the next few years (Sounds of Healing). Among other written work, publications include: For the Sake of Humanity; Research on Cross-Cultural Collaborative Arts for Public Health, Chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Methods for Public Scholarship, Oxford Press (2018).

Sternberg graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in French Literature. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine with field work in public health in Chennai, India. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago.

Executive Board

Photo of executive board member Jean Abinader

Jean AbiNader

  • Owner/Principal, AbiNader Advisory Services
  • Policy Director, American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL)

Jean AbiNader has been working internationally since he finished his post-graduate education in intercultural affairs and went off to Europe as a road manager for a rock and roll tour. Getting back to business, he eventually worked in 40 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa at the intersection of international marketing, organizational change, cross-cultural communications, and workforce development.

He has written broadly on cross-cultural training, workforce diversity, and the role of entrepreneurship in emerging and frontier markets. Jean designs and manages education and training assignments for government agencies, international institutions, and private enterprises. His portfolio includes soft-skills such as project-specific leadership and team building, negotiations, project management, and multi-cultural staff supervision, as well as skills training related to workforce development strategies.

He currently works with clients on issues related to organizational culture and how companies can move from building their strategic vision to defining protocols and teams built around a common mission and dedication to results. Jean’s executive education offerings are highly participative courses on topics such as negotiations, team building, organizational change and agility, leadership, and group dynamics.

He consults on strategic communications and organizational change for both international and US clients; has led a graduate level seminar at Georgetown University; lectured at American University on international development and challenges in intercultural negotiations; and a leads a seminar on effective negotiations at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco. His blogs can be found on and on his website.

Mohamed Bah

  • Supply Chain Management Senior Executive, Walgreens

Born in Sierra Leone and grew up in Guinea (West Africa), Mo is a bilingual English/French professional with extensive international experience acquired through multiple overseas projects and assignments across 30+ countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Asia, South Pacific, Europe and North America. He possesses a diverse background that includes Business development and strategy, procurement, financial management, global logistics and supply chain management.

Prior to joining Walgreens Boots Alliance in 2016 as a Supply Chain Project Manager in Chicago, Mo worked in Ottawa as head of Business Development and Strategy in charge of EMEA countries for a leading Canadian company specialized in the procurement and delivery of time sensitive and complex elections and biometric voter registration projects to Electoral Management Bodies worldwide. In his role at ESI Inc., he worked extensively with the United Nations systems (UNDP, UNOPS, UNFPA, UNHCR, WHO, etc.), national governments and other international organizations to help support improved democratic governance practices and promote long-term sustainable good governance programs in the developing world. Previously he also worked for the Federal Government of Canada as a Senior Program Officer and as an Analyst in the banking industry for CIBC Mellon in Toronto.

Mo holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Engineering degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Global SCALE Network Program, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Conakry (Guinea–West Africa). Moreover, he completed advanced finance and economics coursework at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Penny Brown, Esq

  • Trustee and Executive Committee member, National Louis University
  • Founding Member of the Women's Entrepreneurial Institute at DePaul University
  • Advisory Council, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Lawyer, educator, community activist and champion for the arts, Penny Brown currently holds a position as Trustee of National Louis University and serves on its Executive Committee. A Founding Member of the Women’s Entrepreneurial Institute at DePaul University, she is also a committed member of DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. At Chicago-Kent College of Law, she serves as a member of their Advisory Council.

During her prior tenure as Chairman of the Board of Kendall College, the College moved to Chicago. Additionally, she founded and served as President of the Kendall College Trust. Ms. Brown also held an array of teaching positions from Adjunct Professor at Western Michigan University to High School educator in the Chicago Public Schools. She previously served as a Trustee for Santa Fe University of Art and Design and was a member of the Public Interest Committee of the University of Chicago Law School.

Dedicated to Chicago’s vibrancy, she currently holds memberships in the Grant Park Music Festival, City Kids Camp, the Women’s Advisory Council for Metropolitan Capital Bank and serves on the National Public Housing Museum‘s Steering Committee. In other capacities, Ms. Brown served as Director of Tourism Initiatives for the Department of Cultural Affairs and co-chaired the Theater Leadership Committee for the Year of Chicago Theater launched in 2019 by the City. Previously, Ms. Brown was a Board member of Inspiration Corporation, The Arts and Business Council and One Step at a Time Camp.

Named an Illinois Super Lawyer, Ms. Brown practiced law for over 25 years as a States Attorney and then as a litigation partner with the law firm Much Shelist. During her legal career, she served as a member of the Inquiry Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Larry Lifson

  • President and Chief Executive Officer, Global School Access

Larry partners and works with colleagues around the world who market the Global School Access program and who bring families and students to GSA.  He created strategic partnerships for GSA with educational communities across the U.S. for international-student private middle- and high-school placement and summer and winter educational/cultural camps for younger students who want to learn about American culture and the U.S. education system.  GSA provides study abroad, college counseling, academic support, and life-skills training.

Larry is a business-development executive with a track record of growing businesses, establishing strategic partnerships, organization culture change, and overcoming perceived insurmountable obstacles.  He has over 30 years of experience in the retail, wholesale, and promotional-products industries.  He developed and implemented multimillion-dollar cost-savings programs and operational efficiencies, resulting in significant productivity and process improvement.  He has experience in branding and licensing, and his supply-chain background enabled him to travel internationally and work with people of many cultures, always establishing mutual respect and rapport.  He delivered multimillion-dollar programs for Fortune 500 retailers.

Larry was a founding member, board member, and officer of a major industry trade association. He holds a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  He is a member of The World Innovation Network global community, a board member of Kellogg Alumni Club Chicago-West, a member of the Education Committee of the United States Heartland China Association, a member of the Asian American Executive Network, and president of the Ben’s Memorial Mile Family Festival fundraiser.

Advisory Board

Charles “Chic” Dambach

  • Lecturer; Writer; Consultant

Chic Dambach’s wide-ranging career includes serving as Chief of Staff for Congressman John Garamendi and six years and President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, during which he established a network of organizations and professionals to help build sustainable peace and security worldwide. Previously, he restructured and revitalized the National Peace Corps Association, where his career began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia and helped build Operation Respect’s anti-bullying program. He recently retired from full-time employment, but continues to consult, teach and lecture at dozens of conferences and campuses. Dambach’s memoir, Exhaust the Limits: the Life and Times of a Global Peacebuilder, describes a lifetime of service and successful initiatives that helped end the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Congo civil war. He also co-wrote Structures and Practices of Nonprofit Boards and the Business Professionals Guide to Nonprofit Board Service, both published by BoardSource, for which he was a senior governance consultant.

Mark C. Johnson, PhD

  • Community Outreach Liason (Emeritus)
  • American Poet/Global Peacebuilder

The former Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation/USA, Dr. Johnson was a graduate of Ohio’s College of Wooster holding a Doctorate in Sociology from Columbia University, with alternative service as a conscientious objector in Lebanon, living and teaching in Beirut for six years. He served as Executive Director of the YMCA Silver Bay Association Conference and Training Center, and as a volunteer in environmental, arts, peace and social justice organizations. For over six years, he was active with the Alliance for Middle East Peace and has supported the development of leadership and training programs for young adults at the Jerusalem International YMCA, as a member of the staff of the YMCA of the USA.  Mark served on non-profit boards of Associated Solo Artists/Creative Leaps International, Schools That Can and the International Student Exchange Program, the Advisory Boards of Girls Learn International and Whole Women Healing and was an Executive Committee Member of the Leadership Forum. He participated in an inter-faith dialogue trip to Tehran.

Prior to his untimely death just recently this October 2020, Mark served for 14 years on the Genesis at the Crossroads Advisory Board of Directors.  He was a prolific poet having written thousands of poems during his lifetime.  His poem Held in the Light was given to Genesis for a highlighted feature in the Sounds of Healing program. Over the last nine months, he worked with Genesis’ founder and director to co-create and frame the programmatic and educational offerings at the Mark C. Johnson Memorial Poetry Center to be situated at the Genesis Peace Hub in Chicago.  Prior to his death, he bequeathed the entirety of his private poetry collection of over 640 volumes of master poets to Genesis at the Crossroads.

May his memory be for a blessing and may he rest in peace for all time.

Stacy Keach

  • Actor and Author

Stacy Keach is a pre-eminent American interpreter of Shakespeare, with notable performances as Hamlet, Henry V, Coriolanus, Falstaff, Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear.  Recently, when the Coronavirus struck, and after zooming the title role in an adaptation of King Lear, he and his wife, Malgosia, formed StacyKeachZoomTheater. Since then he has zoomed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hughie, The Unexpected Man, and most recently, David Storey’s Home.

Performance honors include: a Best Actor Golden Globe, three Obies, three Vernon Rice Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, three Helen Hayes Awards, the Millennium Recognition Award, the Shakespeare Will Award, nominations for Emmy and Tony Awards, and most recently, the International Satellite Mary Pickford Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2015, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and in 2019 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Filmography includes: Gotti, Truth, Gold, Fat City, Nebraska, If I Stay, Bourne Supremacy, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Ninth Configuration, Doc, Up In Smoke, American History X, The Long Riders, and The New Centurions.

TV series: Mike Hammer, Titus, Two and a Half Men, Blue Bloods Prison Break, NCIS: New Orleans, The Blacklist, Man with a Plan, and American Greed.

He is the author of All in All, his award-winning memoir.

Since 2004, Stacy has served on the Artistic Advisory Board of Genesis at the Crossroads, a non-profit organization dedicated to the bringing together cultures in conflict through collaborative arts, education and social justice initiatives. He participates in Sounds of Healing with a dramatic reading of the poem, A House Called Tomorrow by Alberto Alvaro Rios.


Robert Khoury

  • Business Advisor

Robert Khoury is a Palestinian-American whose diverse childhood experiences living in Beirut, Lebanon, Jordan and Rhode Island drew him to Princeton University and eventually to Saudi Arabia with Price Waterhouse. At Duke’s MBA program he co-coordinated the first business school venture in Egypt and Israel to expose MBA students to cross-cultural business practices, which included a private session with Shimon Peres. Rob worked as a derivatives trader for Bank One and NewArc Investments, a project manager for GETCO and partner in WWFI Recruiting. He was a hedge fund manager and now does leadership development/management consulting. He was the co-president alongside Sternberg from 2000-2005 and was an Executive Board Member from 2005- 2008.

Stephanie Pace Marshall, PhD

  • Global Education Thought Leader
  • Founding President, IL Math Science Academy

Dr. Marshall is the Founding President and President Emerita of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®–the nation’s first three-year public residential institution for high school age students academically talented in science, mathematics and technology. She was also the founding president of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools in Mathematics, Science and Technology, and was a president of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Today she is internationally recognized as a pioneer and innovative leader and teacher and an inspiring speaker and writer on leadership, learning and schooling, STEM education and talent development, innovation, and the design of generative and life-affirming learning organizations.

Dr. Marshall has worked in every level of education: superintendent of schools, a district curriculum administrator, a graduate school faculty member, and an elementary and middle school teacher. She earned a B.A. from Queens College, M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago. She received four honorary doctorates in science and in arts and letters. She is the author of over 35 published journal articles, an author for the Drucker Foundation’s series Organizations of the Future, an editor/author of Scientific Literacy for the 21st Century, and a contributor to Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U. S. High Schools. She is featured in the book, Leaders Who Dare: Pushing the Boundaries and is the inspiration behind the novel, Smart Alex, a story of an adolescent girl talented in mathematics. Her book, The Power to Transform: Leadership that Brings Learning and Schooling to Life, received the 2007 Delta Kappa Gamma Society International Educator’s Award.

A partial list of honors include: Woman Extraordinaire Award from the International Women’s Association, the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award from the Boy Scouts of America, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Loyola University of Chicago and the Pioneer Award from the Board of Trustees of IMSA. Dr. Marshall received two resolutions from the Illinois General Assembly for outstanding contributions to Illinois education, and she was elected into the Illinois Hall of Fame and into the inaugural Hall of Fame of Chicago Women’s Today. The Chicago Sun Times selected her as one of the ten most powerful women in education and one of the 100 most powerful women in Chicago. She was recognized by the R J R Nabisco Corporation as one of the nation’s most innovative educational leaders and by the National Association of School Boards as one of North America’s “100 Top School Executives.”

At the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev, she became a member of the State of The World Forum, an international “think-tank” designed to study and resolve issues impacting global sustainability. President William Jefferson Clinton invited her to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Her current CGI work involves a partnership with Free The Children to build/equip the first residential secondary school for girls in the Masai Mara in Kenya, which will open in 2011. She is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce in London, England and serves on the board of the Queen Noor Jubliee School’s Foundation in Amman, Jordan, among others. She is a Trustee of the Society for Science and the Public, a member of the Advisory Board of Games for Change, and a charter member of the Advisory Board for AECT’s Initiative FutureMinds: Transforming American School Systems and The Innovation Council of Chicago.

As a result of her achievements, she was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois and was designated a Laureate of the Academy, the state’s highest award for achievement that “contributes to the betterment of mankind.”

James Robinson

  • Strategic Advisor

Designer, Innovator, Real Estate Entrepreneur and Philanthropic Strategist CEO, Septentrion Studios

James founded Septentrion Studios in 2016 as a boutique design-thinking consulting firm. The firm fuses his 16 years of entrepreneurship in designing and growing a $5 million real estate investment portfolio through private equity, with his 27 years of experience in international development and philanthropic strategy. During his career in diplomacy, international development and global philanthropy, he has worked in the US foreign service, built sister-city partnerships between the US and Russia, and created over 30 international grant making programs in partnership with global nongovernmental organizations, with annual awards of more than $100 million to 33,000 Rotary clubs around the world. James brings a creative spirit and a passion for problem-solving to his studio, offering clients and colleagues new perspectives and solutions to a wide range of local and global design challenges.

Early in life, James had a life-changing opportunity to visit five northern European countries and the former Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. His experience living with families abroad and serving as a citizen diplomat, meeting with community organizations and public officials led him to pursue a career in citizen diplomacy and international affairs. He was an intern at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York City and worked in the Political Section under Madeleine Albright during the Clinton Administration. He was responsible for US representation on the Fourth Committee on Decolonization and worked closely with the director responsible for Maritime Law. He saw first hand how global conflicts were managed and mitigated by governments through the UN General Assembly and Security Council. His experience in government inspired him to pursue a career in the philanthropic sector, working with private associations and foundations to design innovative programs and platforms that could address the root causes of conflict, which governments so often could not proactively address.

He served as Executive Director of Global Hopemakers in Lansing, Michigan, where he developed a series of sister-city exchange programs focused on improving education, cultural awareness and democratic institutions between the US and the former Soviet Union. The programs were developed through public-private partnerships with the US government, private donors and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this capacity, he worked with Rotary in the US and in Russia to support a wide-range of citizen diplomacy projects, eventually becoming The Rotary Foundation’s grant coordinator for Rotary International. In his 18-year tenure at Rotary, James began as grant coordinator for Asia in Humanitarian Programs, became manager of its special initiatives and then as a division manager for its global grant-making program. He served on the Steering Committee of the International H20 Collaboration between Rotary International and USAID to jointly fund US $18 million in water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines. James worked closely with USAID, Aguaconsult and Building Partnerships in Development to conduct an in-depth partnership analysis and to create an innovative WASH sustainability index to determine the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene projects globally.

In 2009, James led the development of the Foundation’s Future Vision pilot project to experiment with a new strategic approach to global fundraising and grant-making activities. The three-year pilot was so successful in increasing giving to the annual fund, improving project focus and impact, and obtaining administrative cost-savings that it was adopted and scaled globally in 2013. James and his team won a Silver Edison Award for social innovation following the launch of the program. In 2013, upon launch completion her transitioned to Director for Strategy, Innovation and Evaluation. In this role he was responsible for working with the CEO, leadership team and the senior volunteers of Rotary in the development and implementation of organizational strategy from membership, to fundraising, grant-making and outcome evaluation.

It was at the Edison Awards, that James first learned about design-thinking and realized that he had been practicing this approach for many years. He began collaborating with a group of investors to purchase and renovate real estate. Over 16 years he grew this into a $5 million portfolio with over 30 properties under management. In 2016, he stepped down from his role at Rotary to launch Septentrion Studios as a boutique design and consulting firm for real estate investors, start-ups and non-profit organizations to design investment properties, philanthropic programs and platforms for social entrepreneurship.

James obtained his Illinois realtor’s license and became a Managing Broker. In 2019 he completed a Certificate of Design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and completed coursework in human-centered design and design thinking from IDEO and the Acumen Fund. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Non-profit Management from Grand Valley State University of Grand Rapids, Michigan as well as a Certificate of Non-profit Executive Management from Loyola University, Chicago.