Melissa Hiler Fay, Chair
Melissa is currently the Director of Debt Capital Markets at Drexel Hamilton. She was formerly a Director in the Corporate Treasury group at General Electric. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served for nine years in the United States Navy as a H-3 Sea King helicopter pilot as well as a Naval Science and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) instructor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also received her MBA. Drexel Hamilton is an investment bank 100-percent owned and operated by service-disabled veterans who served and sacrificed in our nation’s wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan; the bank was founded on the principle of offering meaningful employment opportunities to disabled veterans.
Stephen Lessard, Secretary & Treasurer
Latham & Watkins, LLP
Stephen Lessard is the Pro Bono Managing Attorney – Exempt Organizations at Latham & Watkins in New York. Steve has experience with the taxation of debt and equity offerings, cross-border transactions, tax controversy, and municipal finance. He also has experience counseling nonprofit organizations on federal tax law and corporate governance. Previously, he was an associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, as a member of the Tax Group. Prior to practicing law, Steve was a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.
C.J.M. Culhane, President
Veteran Advocacy Project
Coco is the founder and Executive Director of the Veteran Advocacy Project. She is also an adjunct professor of clinical law at Brooklyn Law School, where she teaches the Veterans’ Rights Clinic and Seminar. Coco presents on veterans’ legal issues and conducts trainings for attorneys, social workers, and students across the country. She also sits on several advisory boards, including the New York State Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board, and has served on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s service academy selection committees each year since 2014. After launching VAP as a part of the Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center in 2010, Coco received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship sponsored by the CIGNA Foundation and Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP. She started expanding VAP and its services and eventually spun off the project to form an independent not-for-profit.
Coco received a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, where she was the symposium editor of the Brooklyn Law Review and co-president of the student health law association. Prior to law school she was an editor at The New Republic for six years. She received a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University.
Sidney Covington is the Veterans Engagement Associate at AmeriVet Securities. In this role, Sidney overseas all veteran engagement with the firm. Prior to working in finance, Sidney worked in the public service industry, as a trainer with the Posse Veterans Program and as the constituent liaison for Military and Veteran Affairs in the office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Sidney earned her Master of Social Work from New York University, and her Bachelor of Social Work from Georgia State University. Sidney served in the Army as a Combat Medic prior to pursuing her educational goals.
Duane Morris, LLP
Michael is chair of the Private Client Services Practice Group at Duane Morris, LLP, and heads the firm’s New York office. Michael practices in the areas of tax and estate planning and administration, with particular emphasis on estate planning for owners of closely held businesses, professional athletes, and entertainers.
Michael is a graduate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn Law School, and New York University School of Law. He serves on several not-for-profit boards including the Macaulay Honors College of City University of New York. He has been an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law and Seton Hall University School of Law.
Schulte Roth + Zabel, LLP
John Nowak is a Partner in the Securities Enforcement and White Collar Defense & Government Investigations practices at Schulte Roth + Zabel in New York City. As a securities and white-collar defense attorney, John represents financial services firms, corporations, boards of directors and executives in internal investigations, government inquiries and litigation. John is a member of the Veterans Affinity Group at Schulte. His son is currently an ROTC Cadet at Virginia Tech and is committed to a career in the United States Army.
Earlier in his career, John served as the Deputy Chief of the Business and Securities Fraud Section for the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and as a Branch Chief in the Enforcement Division of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
John graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a B.A. in Mathematics and obtained his J.D. from the University of Richmond (with honors). For the past 5 years, John has also provided pro bono legal services to the Innocence Project at Duke University School of Law.
Andrew W. Singer
Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP
Andrew W. Singer is managing partner of Tannenbaum Helpern and is chair of the firm’s Employment Law practice, which offers a full spectrum of legal services from everyday counseling to complex employment litigation. With extensive experience in all aspects of employment law, he regularly advises companies with various human resource and compliance issues.
Rich is a Managing Director in Lazard’s Capital Markets Advisory group, where he advises corporate clients on preparing for and responding to shareholder activism and unsolicited approaches, as well as strategic investor relations, capital raising, and corporate governance/ESG-related matters. He has almost 20 years of experience working with clients on a broad range of complicated and challenging capital markets situations.
Rich started his career in the M&A group at Lazard before transitioning to capital markets advisory in 2011. In 2018, Rich moved from New York City to Paris to establish and develop Lazard’s European shareholder activism advisory business. After building Europe’s leading activism practice, he then returned to New York City in 2023 to lead Shareholder Activism Advisory for Lazard’s North American clients. He has advised on some of the largest and most consequential activism-related situations around the globe.
Rich graduated from the U.S. Military Academy (B.S. in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering) and served as an officer (Captain) in the U.S. Army for six years. During his time in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, he led an Infantry Rifle Platoon and an Anti-Tank Platoon, and was deployed numerous times to Bosnia and Kosovo as part of contingency operations. He also commanded a Headquarters Company, and later served as Air Operations Officer during the invasion of Iraq. He was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Rich’s qualifications include Ranger, Pathfinder, Senior Parachutist (with combat jump qualifier), and Air Assault.
After his time in the military, Rich attended and graduated from Harvard Business School before joining Lazard.
Willie is currently a Senior Corporate Counsel at GE Capital. He is also the co-leader of the GE Capital Veterans Network, which has a mission to support, hire, and develop military Veterans within the company, and support Veterans’ causes in the community; he is also the co-leader of General Electric Company’s Global Law & Policy team diversity and inclusion initiatives. Willie joined GE Capital in 2007. From 2005 to 2007, he was an associate at the law firm at the law firm of King & Spalding, LLP. Prior to that, from 2000 to 2005, he was an associate at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP, after spending 1993 to 1997, serving as a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer.
Willie graduated summa cum laude from The Military College of Vermont at Norwich University and Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
Willie’s pro bono work includes representing an Iraqi translator that faced persecution stemming from his work with the U.S. military in connection with his special immigrant visa application and negotiating financing for the Harlem School of the Arts.