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Advisory Board

The Institute’s leadership works in partnership with a five-member advisory board:

Otis Sanford

Otis Sanford is co-founder and serves as vice chair. He holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism at the U of M. Sanford worked at The Commercial Appeal for 35 years in various capacities from reporter to managing editor and political columnist. He also worked at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Pittsburgh Press and the Detroit Free Press. In addition to his role at the U of M, Sanford is a political columnist for The Daily Memphian, political analyst and commentator for WATN TV Local 24 News and political analyst for WKNO-FM 91, the NPR station in Memphis. He is also a board member of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and author of the 2017 book, From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics. He is also co-author of the 2020 book, In a Colorful Place: Seasoned Opinion About Memphis, About Home, About Life.

Gayle S. Rose

Gayle S. Rose has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life in Memphis for the past three decades through business and economic development and her visible advocacy for the poor. She has founded five charitable organizations and two for-profit businesses in her successful career. She is founder and CEO of a leading technology company, EVS Corporation. Gayle is also the founder and Chairman of the Rose Family Foundations private charity as well as Team Max, named after her late son, Max Rose. She serves on the Board of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Clayborn Temple Transition team.

Ruby Bright

Ruby Bright is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM). Since 2004, Bright’s leadership has helped the City of Memphis leverage $120 million in federal HOPE VI grants by raising nearly $10 million to support wrap around case management services for more than 3,200 former public housing families. WFGM launched the Vision 2020 Strategic Plan to reduce poverty by five percent in zip code 38126, one of the poorest areas of the city. WFGM is in the third year of Vision 2020, and has invested $3.5 million of a nearly $10 million commitment to 38126 in case management, employment training, early childhood education, youth development, and financial literacy. Bright previously served as board chair of the Women’s Funding Network, an organization of Women’s Funds from around the world. Bright has received many leadership awards, including the 2017 Living Legends Award, 2017 National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women) Shining Star Award, 2016 Memphis Heritage Trail Trailblazers Award, 2014 Memphis Business Journal Super Women in Business, 2013 Memphis Theological Seminary Henry Logan Starks Award, 2011 International Changing the Face of Philanthropy Award presented by the Women’s Funding Network.

Lucian T. Pera

Lucian T. Pera is a partner with the Memphis office of Adams and Reese LLP. His practice includes media law, commercial litigation, and legal ethics and lawyer professional responsibility. A Memphis native, he is an honors graduate of Princeton University and Vanderbilt University School of Law. Pera has represented Tennessee and national media outlets in legal matters, ranging from claims and lawsuits for defamation or invasion of privacy to access to courtrooms, public records and meetings of government bodies. He has litigated several key media access cases, including a Tennessee Supreme Court case extending access under the Tennessee Public Records Act to records of private companies that are the “functional equivalent” of government (Memphis Publishing Co. v. Cherokee Children & Family Services, Inc., 87 S.W.3d 67 (Tenn. 2002) and expressly confirming the constitutional right of public and press access to attend civil trials in Tennessee (King v. Jowers, 12 S.W. 3d 410 (Tenn. 1999)). A long-time member of the Media Law Resource Center’s Defense Counsel Section, he also has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government since 2007 and has been President since 2016.

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