Profile: Northwestern Settlement COO Dan Alexander talks about current role, IFF September 1, 2016

Dan Alexander is chief operating officer of Northwestern Settlementand has strong ties to IFF, both as a former employee and current collaborator.

Tell us about your current work at Northwestern Settlement.
I started working at the Settlement in summer 2014; it was something of a homecoming for me since I’d worked from 2005-08 with the Settlement’s longtime president, Ron Manderschied, when he also was serving as the founding CEO of Noble Network of Charter Schools. I had kept in touch with Ron since leaving IFF and going to Noble, and it just happened that at that time, Ron decided he could really use extra leadership to tackle some important work — what in baseball terms you might call an everyday player who can switch-hit and play a lot of positions pretty well. So I came aboard in a new role as chief operating officer and you could say we’ve won a lot of ball games and feel good going forward.

The Settlement is a terrific organization with a compelling mission to disrupt generational poverty. The culture Ron and the staff have built is always about meeting people as human beings and giving them real opportunity, nurturing them, helping them define and reach their dreams. As Ron says, we’re a Settlement House and that means we listen to our neighbors and adjust what we do to what they need and what we think we can pull off. Helping the Settlement grow and excel is a great honor. I love that about my career in general. It’s always been like that — meaningful, challenging, full of lessons.

When did you work at IFF?
I worked from 2002-09 in the Real Estate Services department, helping nonprofits in many sectors to plan implement and finance real estate development. I did early-stage consulting and also worked as an owner’s representative. We worked with clients, architects, contractors, and lawyers to get the right decisions made — and to get it all done well, for a great price, on time and on budget. I benefitted greatly from working alongside IFF’s staff members and clients, getting smarter, tougher, and more “planful.”

IFF was my grad school (except better) and I wasn’t looking to leave, but ultimately I was recruited to work in a terrific charter school network that had been my largest client: Noble Network of Charter Schools. I took a large step up into leadership as a person with a breadth of skills: supervisory, financial, operational, and administrative. I have kept a good relationship with IFF as I have had reason many times to repeat as an IFF client — and with terrific results for my employers.

How have IFF and Northwestern Settlement worked together? 
IFF’s recent $2 million loan helped us meet enrollment demand for our growing, highly-rated public charter school, Rowe Elementary. This loan, along with financing from MB Financial, retired an existing loan and will allow us to expand and renovate a building on our site for our middle school. Rowe Middle School will open in September with about 240 children in grades 6-8. Altogether, we will have 1,000 children at our two locations during the 2016-17 school year.

We offer a variety of programs that give low-income families continual, meaningful, and affordable opportunities for success in structured, fun, and educational settings. We believe and we see these programs changing the trajectory of life for the students and their families. Our Rowe Elementary students are able to reach and surpass national norms in reading and math, to excel at science, and to acquire the soft skills they will need to continue success in high school and college.

How else are you involved with the community?
My family is very active in Jewish life. My wife, Sarah Alexander, is a very learned Hazzan, which is a clergy role similar to a rabbi. She serves CJE (Council for Jewish Elderly) and also Congregation Kehillat Shalom in Skokie, where we live with our children. Sarah is a tremendous cantor and I greatly enjoy supporting her in reaching and helping people.

What do you like to do in your down time?
I love friendly relaxed time with other people, whether a Shabbat lunch or a few minutes of conversation to catch up between meetings. I enjoy synagogue, bicycling and vegetable gardening for exercise; reading current events and history; and the range of my children’s activities from the arts to the playground. Being a parent is the greatest adventure possible, even if it doesn’t leave quite so much “down time.”

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