Six New Members Elected to Merit’s Board of Trustees

Chicago’s Merit School of Music, a nationally accredited music school helping young people transform their lives by removing barriers to high-quality music education, announces the addition of six new civic leaders to its Board of Trustees:

  • Sculptor, retired toy designer and West Loop community leader Jeffrey Breslow
  • Former Merit parent and healthcare professional Helen Chang
  • Distinguished doctor, UIC associate professor and current Merit parent Huan J. Chang
  • Senior director at Bright Horizons Family Solutions David P. Thomas
  • Real estate professional and co-founder of @properties Thaddeus Wong
  • Former Merit Associate Board chair and president at Clean Law PC, John F. Young

These six new members were appointed during the 2016-17 school year, and will serve with Merit’s current 50-member Board of Trustees and Life Trustees including Board Chair Nina G. Stillman, Vice Chair Ellard L. Pfaelzer, Jr., Treasurer Margie Fisher and Secretary Charles K. Huebner.

“The Board of Trustees are confident these committed civic leaders will have a profound impact on Merit School of Music due to their dedication, intelligence and passion for the school’s mission” said Board Chair Nina G. Stillman. “We look forward to their strategic thinking and experienced guidance as we approach Merit’s 40th anniversary in 2018-19.”

“Collectively, these new members help solidify one of the strongest, most committed boards of any non-profit youth arts education institution in Chicago, bringing terrific and diverse new skill sets, strong connections across the community, and a passion for helping young people from across our region reach their full personal and musical potential through music,” said Charles Grode, President and Executive Director, Merit School of Music.

In addition, Merit is thrilled to acknowledge and continue the outstanding service of veteran Merit board members Howard Gottlieb, Jules Knapp, Emily Knight and Butch Pfaelzer by welcoming them as Life Trustees.

Merit School of Music’s home is the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, 38 S. Peoria St. in Chicago’s West Loop community. Merit’s 125 passionate and experienced teaching artists engage nearly 5,000 students annually through sustained introductory, preparatory, and conservatory level music instruction – including classical and jazz, and featuring band, chorus, and orchestra, as well as guitar and piano.

Merit’s comprehensive array of course offerings is distinguished by two signature programs, beginning with its community-based program, Merit Music In Communities, and building toward the intensive, audition-based Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory.

Thanks to the dedication of Merit’s faculty, staff, board, donors and parents, nearly 70 percent of the school’s students receive need-based aid. This enables motivated students, regardless of economic circumstance, to develop their talent and to use Merit as a springboard for achieving their full musical and personal potential.

Follow Merit on Twitter @MeritMusic and Facebook. To learn more, visit or call (312) 786-9428.
New Board Member Biographies
Jeffrey Breslow is the former President and CEO of Big Monster Toys, and was honored as an inductee in the Toy Designer’s Hall of Fame. Breslow retired from toy design in 2008 to devote himself to his passion for sculpture. He is a lifelong Chicagoan, born and raised in Albany Park, and received his BFA in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois-Champaign. He currently serves on the West Loop Community Organization Board and is Chair of the 2017 West Loop Arts Festival.

Helen Chang, is an executive healthcare consultant providing direction in strategy development, organizational design, management alignment, and strategic implementation. Previously, Chang was a principal at Evolent Health, an innovative start-up company that partners with leading healthcare delivery systems to develop value-based care capabilities. Prior to her consulting roles, Chang spent 10 years at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in leadership roles that included the initial clinical integration efforts across its newly acquired hospitals. She received her BA from Harvard University and a dual MBA/MHHA from the University of Iowa Graduate School. She is a cofounder of the Chang Family Foundation, has served in Chicago as a Board member at First United Methodist Church and Childserv, and is a Partner at Social Venture Partners in Chicago.

Huan J. Chang, MD, MPH is Chief of Rheumatology at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and an Associate Professor at UIC. She received her BA from Dartmouth College, her MD degree from Dartmouth Medical School, and her MPH from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is an active member of the Merit Parent Association. A violinist herself, she is a lifelong advocate for the power of music education.

David P. Thomas has more than 25 years of experience in the child care industry. He is the Senior Director of New Center Planning & Strategy at Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a mission driven child care and early education company that manages over a thousand worksite child development centers for employers throughout the United States and internationally.  Dave is based in the Chicago area and is principally responsible for supporting site and facility investigations as they relate to new employer-based child care center opportunities. Thomas came to Bright Horizons through the GreenTree Child Care Management Services Division of the ServiceMaster Company, where he had been responsible for new business development. Thomas graduated from Kenyon College with a Bachelor of Arts in history and received his Master of Business Administration from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Thaddeus “Thad” Wong is the co-founder of @properties, the largest independently owned residential real estate brokerage firm in Illinois and one of the 11 largest brokerage firms in the U.S. In 2000, Wong and business partner Michael Golden established @properties, and in 17 years have grown the company from $40 million in sales to over $7 billion in annual sales. Wong’s accomplishments have been widely recognized by the real estate industry and the broader business community. Honors include: the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Midwest; Inc. Magazine’sInc. 500/5000” list; lists; induction in the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame; and the Impact Award from the Lincoln Park Builders Club. Wong and @properties support a number of charitable and civic organizations through @gives back, a 501(c)3. Separately, Wong sits on the board of the Chicago Police Foundation and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

John F. Young is a practicing energy and real estate and lawyer and is president of his own firm, Clean Law PC.  He regularly advises renewable energy developers and operators on an extensive array of project development and other matters, having previously served as the leader of the real estate energy team for an Am Law100 law firm and as in-house counsel to one of the world’s largest renewable energy developers. Before joining Merit’s Board of Trustees, Young was Chair of Merit’s Associates Board. He also has served on the board of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, and both The League and the Overture Council of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  He received his BS in Business Administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and his Juris Doctor from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

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