PROGRAM LEADERSHIP

Rev. Dr. George Mason, Founder and President

Rev. Dr. George Mason, Founder and President

Rev. Dr. Mason is a Christian theologian and Baptist pastor in Dallas, Texas, where he has served as Senior Pastor of the Wilshire Baptist Church since 1989. He is a nationally recognized leader among Baptists, especially with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Fellowship Southwest. He is the Lead Advisor for the Baptist House of Studies at Perkins School of Theology (SMU). He participates in numerous local and global ecumenical and interfaith endeavors. He is a frequent op-ed contributor to The Dallas Morning News on subjects of public interest that intersect religion, such as public education, race relations and predatory lending. He writes a monthly column on public theology for the Lakewood/East Dallas and Lake Highlands editions of the community news magazine The Advocate. His sermons have been the highest rated program on the Sunday morning worship line up on WRR radio in Dallas for many years.

George earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree (1978) from the University of Miami (Florida), where he was a quarterback on the football team. He also holds both the Master of Divinity (1982) and Doctor of Philosophy (1987) degrees. George is married to Kim Mason and they have three children and six grandchildren.

 


Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Chief Relationship Officer

Rabbi Nancy Kasten is Chief Relationship Officer for Faith Commons, a Dallas-based organization promoting public discourse rooted in the common values of many faiths. She is a past Co-Convener of Faith Forward Dallas (FFD) at Thanksgiving Square, and current Chair of FFD’s Task Force on Migrant Status. Ordained by the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion in 1990, she served as Hillel Director, Associate Chaplain, and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Hebrew at SMU, Associate Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Southwest Council, and Campus Rabbi and Head of Jewish Studies at the Wise Academy, a Reform Jewish Day School. She is a community educator, volunteer and activist, as well as a certified Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. Rabbi Kasten has served on the governing boards of many nonprofit organizations, including the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, the Greenhill School, and the National Council of Jewish Women Dallas Section. Currently she serves on the boards of the Polyphony Foundation and the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas. In addition to Polyphony, Rabbi Kasten is involved with many organizations that support coexistence between Jews and Arabs and lay the necessary groundwork for peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

She is married to Rabbi David Stern and they have three children.

 


Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman, Special Advisor

Suleiman is a world renowned scholar and theologically driven activist for human rights. He is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair Emeritus of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith coalition of clergy for peace and justice. He frequently writes for CNN, USA Today, The Guardian, Huffpo, and The Dallas Morning News amongst others.

 

 


ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM

Ben Curry, Treasurer

Ben Curry serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of HighGround Advisors and is responsible for the day-to-day management of Information Technologies, Human Resources, Accounting and Operations as well as various support functions such as records management and facilities. Through his vision and leadership, Ben has an impressive history of tackling numerous high-impact projects that increase visibility and bolster service offerings to better aid our clients. One of the more recent initiatives began with a top-to-bottom review of the organization’s operations and services and culminated in a rebranding effort, resulting in the name change to HighGround Advisors. Additionally, Ben has led many other projects such as an office relocation, system implementations, technology improvements, and the development of a strategic plan to propel HighGround well into the future.

Ben graduated from Baylor University with a BBA in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA), the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and serves on the planning committee for the TXCPA Not-For-Profit Conference. He volunteers for nonprofits such as Faith Commons and American Cancer Society. Ben is also a Board Member for HighGround Trust Company.


Cameron Mason Vickrey, Communications

Cameron Vickrey serves as the communications director for Faith Commons and The Good God Project. She holds a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University. Vickrey’s ministry involves communications and advocacy work for nonprofits. She especially loves getting to work with her dad, George Mason. Vickrey is passionate about protecting and promoting quality public education for all children, and also serves as associate director for Pastors for Texas Children. Originally from Dallas, she now lives in San Antonio, where she and Garrett Vickrey, senior pastor of Woodland Baptist Church, are raising three daughters.


Jim White, Digital Programming

Jim White is a major-market media veteran, who has blended his passion for broadcasting, social media, and special events with his love of food, wine, and travel. Jim White Media develops media strategies, special events, and multi-media content, including the Faith Commons podcast project “Good God” and “Wining and Dining with Jim White” on VOKAL Media, You Tube and other digital outlets. He and his wife Vicki founded the critically acclaimed epicurean weekend event Savor Dallas in 2005—the largest premium wine and food festival in Texas.  The event was sold to A.H. Belo Corp. in 2014. “The KRLD Restaurant Show with Jim White” on CBS Radio in Dallas, was nominated for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award, “The Best Radio Show on Food” (the Oscars of the food world).  Jim is the co-founder of DFW Restaurant Week, in association with CBS Radio Dallas.  The enormously successful dining program has raised nearly 20 Million dollars for the North Texas Food Bank hunger fighting efforts, and Lena Pope programs over the last 23 years. He’s boosted ratings for every radio station with which he’s been associated as a music, news, and talk personality in Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas. He is an advisory board member for SMU’s School of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs; Dallas County Community College’s Food and Hospitality Institute; and for Fair Park First.

BOARD

Faith Commons is grateful for a dedicated Board of Directors that helps with strategic visioning, support, and community engagement.

Steve Brookshire

Steve Brookshire is a principal and the chief operating officer of PegasusAblon, a Dallas-based commercial real estate development, investment, and management company.   Steve has over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate.  Prior to joining PegasusAblon, he was the managing principal of Atlantic Financial Group (and its related companies), and closed over $7 billion of commercial real estate acquisitions and leases of office, industrial and retail properties across the country. Steve graduated magna cum laude with a BBA from Baylor University, and among other things, he has also previously served as a bank officer with Citibank, and as a CPA on the audit staff of Arthur Young.  Steve has a passion for social justice, and has served in leadership roles on the boards of several local and international non-profit organizations.  Steve is also actively engaged in various leadership roles within his church.  Steve is happily married, and has one adult son, who also lives in Dallas.


Kenton Keller

Kenton is the President of Accelerence Executive Coaching, LLP. As a Professional Certified Coach, he facilitates leadership development and succession planning for top executives and star performers. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the MBA Program at Dallas Baptist University where he received a Ph.D. from the Gary Cook School of Leadership in 2017. From 2008 through 2011, Kenton served as the Chief Performance Officer for Buckner Children and Family Services. From 1979 through 2007 Kenton was a senior partner with Accenture, a global management consulting company. Born in Oklahoma, Kenton received his BA and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Mary, reside in Dallas, Texas, along with their three daughters and five grandchildren. They are active members of Wilshire Baptist Church and continue to be very active with mission endeavors, especially on behalf of vulnerable children and refugees.


Timothy Krause

Timothy Krause has spent thirty-five years in the telecommunications industry, ultimately serving as worldwide chief marketing officer of Alcatel-Lucent. In 2016, he left the industry to write Finding Theo: A Father’s True Story of Loss, Courage, and Discovery. Today he provides marketing and business strategy advice as an independent consultant, and he is a popular speaker, blending stories from his career, his experience in mentoring others, and inspiring lessons of determination and extraordinary teamwork from Finding Theo as his watched his son’s courageous battle for life after terrible loss. Mr. Krause is also a director of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth and is a passionate supporter of Our Friends Place, a Dallas based nonprofit dedicated to helping young women break the generational cycles of abuse, neglect, and poverty.

Timothy and his wife Jorja have raised two children, lived and worked abroad in Paris, France, and currently reside in Dallas, Texas.


James Perry

James Perry has been married to Lydia for over 24 years and is the proud father of two sons, ages 14 and 12. He has been a member of Wilshire Baptist Church for over ten years, where he is an ordained Deacon, Director of his Sunday School class, and a sponsor of the Youth Choir.  He has also served as Chairman of the Finance and Personnel Committees, as well as the Chairman of the Inclusion and Diversity Study Group, which led to the church’s decision for full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in all aspects of the church’s life. Jame is involved in Scouts BSA as an Adult Leader and serves on the Board at his sons’ school.  Professionally, James recently transitioned from his nine-year role as CFO of Trinity Industries, Inc. to spend time with his family.  James’ primary concerns are in the areas of educational and leadership development opportunities for youth as well as fairness in financial opportunities for the underprivileged.


Maria Reis Habito

Maria Reis Habito is the International Program Director of the Museum of World Religions, the Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute USA, and a Zen Teacher authorized in the Sanbo Zen lineage. She has lived in Taiwan and studied the Chinese language (1979-1981), and in Kyoto, Japan, where she studied the Japanese language. She received her M.A. in Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies and Philosophy in 1985, and completed her Ph.D. at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich in 1990. After teaching at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, she assumed responsibility for the international Interfaith program of the Museum of World Religions in 2002. She joined the Elijah Interfaith Institute in 2003. From her office in Dallas, she has organized many international Interfaith conferences, notably a series of Buddhist-Muslim dialogues sponsored by Dharma Master Hsin Tao, Abbot of Ling Jhou Mountain Monastery in Taiwan, and the Museum of World Religions. Her publications address various issues in Interfaith Dialogue, Buddhist-Muslim Dialogue, Buddhist Christian interactions, as well as themes in spiritual practice in interfaith contexts. She is married and is the mother of two young adult sons.


Byron Sanders

Byron Sanders is a committed advocate for education, economic development, and creating equitable communities throughout Dallas, Texas. As the president and CEO of Big Thought, he works each day to explore innovative ways to narrow the opportunity gap for children. Big Thought connects people and organizations to prepare youth and children in under-resourced communities for tomorrow’s creative economy through quality in-school, after-school and community-partnership experiences. Byron has worked with Big Thought in various capacities since 2008, as a supporter, volunteer, advisor, partner, and most recently, board member.


Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is the President and Chief Executive Officer of HighGround Advisors, a nonprofit investment and charitable giving firm located in Dallas, Texas. Jeff joined the organization in 1990 and, over the course of his tenure, has served on the Trust Division staff as Trust Attorney, Vice President and Trust Counsel and Vice President and General Counsel. Prior to joining HighGround, Jeff served as Assistant District Attorney for the Collin County District Attorney’s Office and oversaw special programs for Baylor University. Jeff has more than 30 years of experience in cultivating donors for gift recognition, comprehensive tax consultation, legal expertise and in leading nonprofit organizations to success. Jeff is a graduate of Baylor University with BA and JD degrees. He is also a Board Member for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, the Dallas Scottish Rite Library & Museum, Faith Commons and HighGround Trust Company. Jeff is an art enthusiast and is a member of Park Cities Baptist Church.


Amelia White

Amelia White is a Senior Officer of Donor Engagement at Communities Foundation of Texas, where she works closely with donors to facilitate their charitable giving.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in business and psychology from Sweet Briar College, and she studied abroad at the University of Westminster in the UK and the University of Seville in Spain.  Prior to joining CFT in 2015, she worked in government affairs in Washington, D.C.  Amelia volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with Dallas CASA, a board member of Faith Commons, and a host committee member for the State Fair of Texas.  She supports efforts that promote opportunity and justice for children, and that cultivate understanding and inclusion among individuals of diverse backgrounds of religion, ethnicity, gender and orientation.  She lives in East Dallas, enjoys the beauty of the natural world, and is a member of Wilshire Baptist Church.

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