Acorn Center for the Performing Arts Executive Director
ACPA Executive Director, March 2015 - current
Acorn General Manager, 2013 - 2015
Sandra Thompson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education with a concentration in voice from Northwestern University in Chicago. For over 25 years she taught at all levels, grammar school through college and adults. Through her various responsibilities, she has directed a wide variety of music programs, from musicals to vocal performances to concerts.
Before joining the Acorn, Sandra started and developed a farm-to-home distribution business in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware area.
Sandra is currently Executive Director of the Acorn Center for the Performing Arts where her experience comes together to combine voice and performance into encouraging new talent in an entertainment venue. Sandra successfully directs and produces the Acorn Singer Songwriter Competitions and Open Mic Nights and is Executive Producer of our in-house events.
Acorn Center for the Performing Arts Board of Directors
Jen Shoup, Chair
Board member since 2016
Lifetime resident of LaPorte County
Jen discovered the Acorn as an audience member and pitched in to help at the close of shows.
Jen is Vice-President and District Manager for Horizon Bank in LaPorte. With over 20 years in Retail Banking leadership positions, Jen is now responsible for P & L, sales, employee development, community participation, and leadership. Jen is an active member of the Chamber in Michigan City and LaPorte and a Junior Achievement Advisory Board Member. Jen’s past nonprofit board experience includes the Michigan City Art League, Junior Achievement, Master Gardeners and the Chamber.
Kathy Stady, Vice-Chair
Board member since 2017
30+ year resident of Stevensville
Kathy got the Acorn bug by enjoying shows as a patron. She was an active volunteer helping with fundraisers, ushering, and setting up a new donor management process. Kathy was elected to the board in 2017.
Kathy retired in 2015 from Smith-Dahmer Associates, a market research and consulting firm headquartered in St. Joseph, MI where she was a member of their Senior Leadership Team. Kathy created an idea generation process to bring the consumer’s voice into product innovation for a variety of companies. As a researcher, Kathy has moderated hundreds of focus groups and in-depth interviews for a variety of well- known consumer brands and manufacturers of private label brands such as: Colgate-Palmolive, Delta Faucets, Hill’s Science Diet, Masco, MasterBrand Cabinets, Metrie, Overhead Garage Doors, Owens Corning, Panasonic, Pulte Homes, Therma-Tru Doors and Whirlpool Corporation. Prior to Smith-Dahmer, Kathy had a variety of leadership positions at Whirlpool Corporation in Product Development, Sales, and Sales Training.
Kathy has a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and studied business at Nova University Graduate School of Business.
Kathy is on the External Affairs Committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Michigan.
Beth England, Secretary
Board member since 2017
5-year resident of Michiana Shores
The vibe of the Acorn space embraced Beth’s love of music on her first visit to the Acorn. With her savvy social marketing expertise, in just a couple months, Beth was elected to the Acorn board.
Beth is Founder of 3rd Coast Digital Consulting, an agency helping clients figure out their next big thing. Clients look to Beth for digital expertise and consulting in strategy, planning, implementation, and measurement. With 30 years in social media, consulting, market research, and sales, Beth brings practical experience to navigating the marketing trenches while appreciating the nuances of marketing in today’s complex digital world. Her successes include State Farm, McDonald’s, Menards, Ace Hardware, Eli Lilly, Exelon, Costco, Nabisco, Walgreens, Shaw’s, Dunkin Donuts, Sara Lee, PepsiCo to name a few.
Prior to founding 3rd Coast Digital Consulting, Beth, educated at Bradley University in advertising and public relations, held leadership positions in companies such as Hootsuite, Information Resources, Inc., and Teradata. She was born and raised in Michiana and is enjoying the area’s natural beauty after about 30 years in Chicago.
Beth’s nonprofit experience includes National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Peoria Convention and Visitor Bureau, and American Lung Association by way of the Healthy Home Initiative 2017/2018.
Fred Jolly, Treasurer
Board member since 2017
1-year resident of New Buffalo
Fred started at the Acorn as an audience member and was elected to the board shortly thereafter.
Fred and his wife, Laura are Adventurers Extraordinaire. They have now relocated to New Buffalo from Chicago after completing a 2½ year trip in a motorhome around the United States during which they visited all fifty states and spent time in all 59 national parks and another 130 national park units. Check out their odyssey at www.jollyoutthere.com.
Fred’s career life was as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). After working at Arthur Andersen, Fred moved to BMO Harris Private Bank where he led the bank’s Retirement Planning Practice, its Financial Planning Group and its Private Wealth Group, which served ultra-affluent families and family offices.
Fred’s nonprofit experience includes serving as a founding member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Planned Giving Advisory Council.
Board member since 2017
Resident of Oak Park and 25-year resident of Beverly Shores
Tom became a board member after years as an avid patron of the Acorn as he started his current business, ReWIRED.
Tom is Executive Counsel at Lipman Hearne and Founder of ReWIRED, LLC. Since Tom’s “rewirement” in 2016 he has been actively seeking board roles where his nonprofit marketing knowhow could be of value, particularly to early stage, up-and-coming organizations. While attending a concert at the Acorn, Tom heard its Executive Director announce that the Theater had recently become a nonprofit. He volunteered to help the organization on the spot and was thrilled to later become elected to its Board of Directors.
Abrahamson is known for innovation in nonprofit marketing. During his two-plus decades at Lipman Hearne, Tom has held several leadership roles including Managing Partner, CEO, and Chairman. Among the 700+ institutions served by Lipman Hearne during Tom's tenure: the Smithsonian Institution, Amherst College, Lions Clubs International, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Julliard, the State University of New York System, Lincoln Park Zoo, United States Chamber of Commerce.
Founding board member since March 2015
Resident of Chicago and 30+ years in Berrien County
Rhona’s connection to the Acorn started as an audience member and expanded to her board member role sharing her nonprofit expertise as the ACPA navigated the change into a nonprofit organization.
Rhona has served as President and CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation since 2004. Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, the Foundation has provided nearly $100 million in support for innovative Library programs.
In a nonprofit career spanning nearly five decades, Rhona has led fundraising, marketing and communications efforts for Metropolitan Family Services, The John Marshall Law School, The Nature Conservancy, Goodman Theatre and the Illinois Arts Council. She has chaired or spoken at Association of Fundraising Professionals conferences, and been a guest lecturer on nonprofit management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, University of Illinois, American Library Association, Urban Libraries Council, Women in Philanthropy and the Alliance for Children and Families.
Rhona is an honors graduate of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and attended DePaul University College of Law. She has served on a number of nonprofit arts and educational boards.
Board member since 2016
Resident of Chicago and 10-year resident of Sawyer, MI
Frank was attracted to the Acorn’s connection to the community and live music and began producing shows before being elected to the board.
Frank is a dynamic leader with 38 years of experience in underground construction, corporate, natural gas operations, field employee management, credit collections and regulatory compliance experience. He is currently Director of Public Relations Illinois Operations for NPL Construction Company. Prior to his current position, Frank held a variety of leadership positions at Peoples Gas, Integrys Business Support, and PGL Gas Operations.
Frank spent over 30 years playing and writing music in bands throughout the Chicago area and Midwest. He studied guitar jazz improvisation at Sherwood Music Conservatory.
Board member since 2015
Resident of Chicago and 28-year resident of Union Pier
Ron’s start with the Acorn was as a patron and began volunteering at the Acorn when he wanted to get involved locally.
Ron has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Biochemistry which eventually led to a career as a French Wine Importer. Ron owned and operated Grape News Importing for nearly 20 years. Entertainment is in Ron’s blood. He plays guitar locally and is involved in the School of American Music in Three Oaks.