The professional staff at GAR Foundation is dedicated to meeting the needs of the community through charitable giving.
Christine Amer Mayer
Christine Amer Mayer was named president of GAR Foundation in 2012. An Akron native, she practiced commercial litigation and business law for eight years with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs before joining the foundation in 2001 as program officer.
Christine has a special interest in regional economic competitiveness and has been heavily involved in The Fund for our Economic Future - a philanthropic collaboration focused on improving the economic trajectory of Northeast Ohio. She serves as vice chair of the Fund. She also serves on the boards of United Way of Summit County, Leadership Akron, and the Greater Akron Chamber.
In recent years, she has focused considerable efforts on Summit County’s arts and cultural assets, helping to lead the Summit County Arts and Culture Assessment – a county-wide study of the arts and culture landscape that has led to a sector-strengthening initiative.
Christine received a Bachelor's degree in English from Duke University and a law degree from The Ohio State University. She lives in Solon with her three children.
Kirstin S. Toth
Senior Vice President
Kirstin Toth joined GAR Foundation in 2007 as senior vice president. She previously served as the consulting project director for the Great Lakes Environmental Finance Center at Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. Prior to that, she was the director of marketing at Bank One and worked as an aide to the president of the Board of Cuyahoga County Commissioners.
A public education expert deeply committed to the success for all students, Kirstin led the strategic re-positioning of the Cradle to Career alliance as the chair of Summit Education Initiative’s board of trustees, setting a new course for community-wide attention to education as an economic development imperative. She also serves on the Summit County's First Things First advisory committee, United Way of Summit County’s Education Allocations Team, the Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy Educational Attainment committee, the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs MPA and Nonprofit Degree Programs Advisory Board, and is an active member of the national Grantmakers for Education and Philanthropy Ohio.
She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Ohio University, and a Master of Public Administration in economic development from Cleveland State University and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in higher education at Kent State University. She lives in Hudson with her husband, their two sons, and three cats.
Traci J. Buckner
Traci Buckner joined GAR Foundation in 2016. As program officer, Buckner works to advance the foundation’s strategic funding priorities through grantmaking and convening.
A distinguished educational leader with over 17 years of service in the Akron Public School system, Traci is the founding instructional leader of the National Inventors Hall of Fame School…Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Learning. She most recently served as Director of Specialty Programs where she led the district’s efforts to expand STEM best practices throughout Akron Public schools and to develop and direct innovation efforts in the district’s non-traditional schools. She also authored the book STEM Leadership, a guide on creating a STEM culture in a school or district. Previously, Traci worked as a middle school language arts classroom teacher, and served in several schools as dean of students, assistant principal, and principal. She currently serves on the Great Lakes Biomimicry and United Way of Summit County Boards of Directors and has served as a guest panelist at several speaking engagements including the Athena Leadership Forum and the Akron Roundtable. Traci was featured in the AkronLife magazine as one of the city’s change makers.
Traci received a Master’s in education from John Carroll University and Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with an emphasis in marketing from The Ohio State University. She also earned an instructional leadership administrative certificate from Ashland University. Traci resides in Akron with her husband, Tobin and their two sons.
Dina Younis joined GAR Foundation in 2014. A communications professional with a diverse background in the nonprofit sector, she previously held the position of grant writer at the Battered Women’s Shelter and served as the marketing and development director at Greenleaf Family Center. Born in Akron but raised in Jordan, she spent several years in the Middle East before moving back to Ohio. Younis also manages a lifestyle blog, Dina’s Days, which has been featured on Fox 8 - New Day Cleveland and the Akron Beacon Journal several times. She was instrumental in founding and leading Akron2Akron, a civic leaders group that coordinates neighborhood walking tours in Akron. She is a recipient of the 2015 Woman to Watch award from the Summit County Historical Society and was selected as one of the Greater Akron Chamber's 30 for the Future recipients. She was also named Goodwill's Ambassador of the Year in 2015.
Dina earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Akron, where she studied Business and Organizational Communications.
Julie A. Watson
Grants Manager, Program Assistant
Julie Watson joined GAR Foundation in 1998. Previously, she served in several roles with the former Roadway Services Inc. for 20 years, including as administrative assistant to the vice president of corporate planning. Julie earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bowling Green State University. She and her partner Dave reside in Cuyahoga Falls with their Shi-Poo, Finnegan.
Lisa M. Yates
Lisa Yates joined GAR Foundation in 2012. A long-time employee of Roadway Express and Yellow Roadway Corporation, she previously served as executive assistant to the deputy general counsel and office manager for the company’s legal department. She attended the University of Akron where she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s in technical education. Yates is a devoted Walsh Jesuit volunteer and member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. She and her husband, Brad have one daughter Christina, who attends John Carroll University. Lisa travels often with her family to the west coast.
Consulting EIG Program Manager
Lucille Esposito joined GAR Foundation in 2013 and manages the Educator Initiative Grants (EIG) program. As a career educator, Esposito most recently hails from the Hubbard Exempted Village School District as assistant superintendent and special assistant to the superintendent, where she led and managed curriculum and instruction for instructors and students throughout the district. She has taken an active role in supporting teachers' adoption of new learning standards, assessments and innovative teaching platforms. A lifelong Summit County resident, she has also taught throughout the region, including many years at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and is adjunct instructor for Ashland University.
Lucille earned a bachelor's in English and History from The University of Akron, and a Masters of Curriculum and Instruction from Ashland University.
Bronlynn Thurman joined GAR in 2016. As a Program Assistant, she works to advance the foundation’s strategic priorities through the assessment and review of a grant applications. Prior to joining GAR, she worked at the Akron-Summit County Public Library as an Events Assistant, where she was instrumental in developing teen and children's programs, including Geekfest.
In addition to her part-time role at GAR, Bronlynn works with The Knight Foundation as a Program Associate and Arts Editor for the Akron-based magazine, The Devil Strip. An Akron native, she is a member of the City of Akron’s Holocaust Arts & Writing Contest Committee, runs a Northeast Ohio focused blog, Tea Time With The Mad Artist, does freelance design, and is a member of Launch League’s Front End Development Micro-Community.
Bronlynn received a Bachelor’s in Advertising from Kent State University with an emphasis on design and marketing.