Board of Trustees Biographies

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Tom Cross, Appointed Chairperson
John Engstrom, Elected Vice Chairperson
Aaron Ammons, Elected Board Member
Richard Figueroa, Appointed Board Member
Jamie-Clare Flaherty, Appointed Board Member
J. Fred Giertz, Elected Board Member
John Lyons, Appointed Board Member
Steven Rock, Elected Board Member
Collin Van Meter, Elected Board Member
Antonio Vasquez, Elected Board Member

Tom Cross

Tom Cross, Chairperson

Tom Cross, an attorney from Oswego, served in the Illinois General Assembly for 22 years. He was the House Republican Leader from 2002-2013. Currently, he is a distinguished fellow at Aurora University and a senior consultant at Culloton Strategies, a Chicago-based public relations firm. Mr. Cross also practices law with the firm of Mahoney, Silverman & Cross, LLC in northern Illinois.

Cross serves on the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Steering Committee, the Illinois Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and is a past member of the Republican State Leadership Committee Executive Board. He also serves as chairperson of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Cross is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.


John Engstrom

John Engstrom, Vice Chairperson

John H. Engstrom, CPA, CGFM, is KPMG Professor Emeritus of Accountancy at Northern Illinois University. His teaching and research specialty is governmental and not-for-profit accounting. He was co-author of one of the leading textbooks in the field, "Essentials of Accounting for Governmental and Not-for-Profit Organizations," and author of numerous articles on governmental accounting and auditing in leading journals.

During his career, Engstrom was a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council, the U.S. Comptroller General's Advisory Council on Government Auditing Standards, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Governmental Accounting and Auditing Committee, the AICPA Not-for-Profit Organizations Committee, and related committees for the Illinois Society of CPA's.

Prior to his academic career, Engstrom was a financial manager in the University of Tennessee System administration and served as vice chancellor for business and finance at The University of Tennessee at Martin. Residing in Sycamore, Dr. Engstrom is married with five children and stepchildren, sixteen grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.


Aaron Ammons

Aaron Ammons, Elected Board Member

Aaron Ammons has been a building service worker at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 14 years and is active in the Champaign-Urbana community.

He is chapter president for the Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents more than 600 employees at UIUC and 5,000 in the SURS system.

Ammons also is a member of the Urbana City Council.


Richard Figueroa

Richard Figueroa, Appointed Board Member

Richard Figueroa is the chief investment officer of Barrett-Lo Visionary Development. Before joining Barrett-Lo, he was the chief operating officer of Janko Group, the director of capital markets for the Opus Group and served as the director of acquisitions for Mansur & Company.

Figueroa has a bachelor's degree from Yale University, a master’s degree in public policy and an MBA from the University of Chicago.


Jamie-Clare Flaherty

Jamie-Clare Flaherty, Appointed Board Member

Jamie-Clare Flaherty is the director of strategic initiatives for The Obama Foundation. Before joining the foundation, she was vice president and chief of staff at Ariel Investments.

Flaherty received her Juris Doctor and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan.


J Fred Giertz

J. Fred Giertz, Elected Board Member

J. Fred Giertz is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University in 1970. Giertz previously served as an appointed member of the SURS Board from 1995-2005 and an elected-active member from 2009-2012. He served as chair of the board's Investment Committee for five years.

Giertz also is a member of the Parkland College Foundation Board of Directors and the State Universities Annuitant Association.

Giertz has written extensively about pensions including SURS and has testified before the Illinois General Assembly and a U. S. House Committee on pension funding problems. He has been on the faculty of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois since 1980.


John Lyons

John Lyons, Appointed Board Member

John Lyons is a partner at the law firm DLA Piper LLP (US). He has practiced law in Illinois for the past 20 years focusing on corporate restructuring and governance.

Lyons holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor degree from Villanova University.


Steven Rock

Steven Rock, Elected Board Member

Steven Rock has taught economics at a number of Illinois institutions over the years. Most recently, he was at Western Illinois University (1990-2018). Prior to that he worked at Northern Illinois University (1986-1990), Illinois Institute of Technology (1978-1986), and the University of Illinois Chicago (1975-1978). He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University.

Rock has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Economic Inquiry, National Tax Journal, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Budgeting and Finance, Accident Analysis and Prevention, Transportation Research Record, and Public Health Reports.

Notable service includes the Faculty Advisory Council of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (13 years), Faculty Senate at Western Illinois University (12 years including 7 as chair), the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (national officer for 4 years), and the University Professionals of Illinois (chapter officer for 18 years). He has served on a number of education-related task forces, several involving the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program.


Collin Van Meter

Collin Van Meter, Elected Board Member

Collin Van Meter is a member of the Information Technology Services Unit at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He assists faculty, staff and students with the implementation and utilization of educational technology across the university. Van Meter has worked in the IT field for the last 13 years.

Van Meter serves on the SIUE Staff Senate representing Civil Service Open Range employees and is the organization’s treasurer. He volunteers in his community assisting with local campaigns and political groups including university student organizations.

He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Illinois College and a master’s degree in computer management and information systems from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.


Antonio Vasquez

Antonio Vasquez, Elected Board Member

Antonio Vasquez is a lecturer of economics at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago. Prior to that, he lectured at Harold Washington College, Center for Distance Learning, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Northeastern Illinois University.

Vasquez obtained his B.A. from DePaul University and his M.A. from UIC. He is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Disability Studies. Vasquez is a member of the American Economics Association, Society for Community Research & Action, and the Association on Higher Education and Disability.

Vasquez works in the Hispanic community with El Valor in developing entrepreneurial opportunities for artists with disabilities. He is a member of the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CBMDR) team at UIC.