Who We Are
The FAME Center was officially formed for the arts and music education purposes. For over 26 years Sheila Fortson, the FAME Center’s founder and executive director, has worked with children and adults throughout the United States teaching piano, violin, voice, and acting lessons.
As a result of her extensive studies of various forms of art, her experience performing around the world, and her opportunities teaching and sharing her passion for music and fine arts with others, she was encouraged by several professional men and women to continue her efforts in music and fine arts education in areas where many students lack opportunity and resources to expand their learning in music and art.
It was this prompting that caused Sheila to establish the FAME Center in the south side of downtown Chicago with the vision of creating a safe space for children and adults who might not otherwise have the opportunity or resources to learn about music and art.
FAME Center is guided by a Board of Directors, each of which brings experience and leadership to the oversight of the organization. We work with experienced fine arts teachers and rely heavily on volunteers to provide music and art lessons and fulfill the organization’s tax exempt purposes.
Music is a language--and like any language, there are many basic skills which must be mastered prior to advancing to more complex applications.
Dr. Margaret Diddams - BOARD CHAIR
Margaret is Provost of Wheaton College (IL), a liberal arts college grounded in its Evangelical Christian faith tradition and located 30 miles west of Chicago. Reporting to the President, she is a member of the Senior Administrative Cabinet and holds faculty status as Professor of Psychology. She oversees the undergraduate and graduate programs of Wheaton College. She is also responsible for the Registrar and Student Advising, Global and Experiential Learning, Institutional Research, the Library and Archives, theologically grounded vocational exploration programming, the Billy Graham Center, the Outdoor Center for Leadership at Honey Rock and the Black Hills Science Station. Diddams is a 1983 graduate of Wheaton College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University. Diddams started her academic career as an instructor and program coordinator in the Social-Organizational Psychology Department at Columbia University. She joined the faculty at Seattle Pacific University in 1993 and held the rank of Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology before becoming the Director of the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development and then Assistant Provost. In addition to her academic work, Diddams has worked as a Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation and founded DuPlissis & Diddams Associates, a consulting practice specializing in survey research, organizational development and executive coaching.
Dr. Felecia Thompson
Dr. Felecia Thompson is a native of the south side of Chicago, a mother of two grown daughters, and has been married for 39 years to Steve. Felecia received her bachelor of arts in sociology/psychology from DePaul University, a master of science in human services administration from Spertus College, and received her DM in leadership from Bakke Graduate University in Seattle. Felecia has also gone through senior management training with ServiceMaster Corporation and the John Templeton Institute’s program for non-profit board leadership and fundraising. Felecia’s teaching gifts have given her instructional roles at Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Christian College and numerous conferences. Her administrative and leadership gifts have been utilized in executive roles with the DeVos Family Foundation’s Urban Leadership Initiative, the Family Care Network, and the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Chicago. For most of the past 20 years, Felecia has directed community partnership programs for Trinity Christian College and then for World Vision, where she served as Executive Director of its Chicagoland operation for nearly three years. Felecia exhibits extraordinary intelligence, experience, and personal grace. She currently serves as the Executive Director for Community Development (The Roosevelt Road Initiative) at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
Dr. Stephen Michael Newby
Stephen Michael Newby serves as Professor of Music Composition, Director for the Center for Worship, and Senior Advisor to the President for Missional Excellence at Seattle Pacific University. He holds more than two decades of University level teaching to his credit. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and received his Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music Education from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. He received a Master of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He returned to Michigan to complete his Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He received his Master of Arts in Theology from Seattle Pacific University. For more than 25 years, he served in various church music ministries in Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington, California and Georgia. For more than nine years, he served as national anthem conductor for the Seattle Sounders FC. His gospel music works are published by Maranatha Music and Newby’s Witness Music. His various Northwest Music Theatre Credits: Free Boy (2017) composer, 5th Ave Theater and Crowns (2018) pianist, Tap Root Theatre. His scholarly works are published by Rowman & Littlefield, his concert music compositions by Fred Bock Publishing and the Seattle Symphony commissioned and premiered his chamber work entitled “Spiritual Fantasy for Clarinet and String Quarter,” March 2018.
Dr. Monica Cook
Monica Cook is a long time resident of the South Loop neighborhood in Chicago, a mother to two young daughters, and has been married to Kurt since 2007. Monica received her B.S in Chemical Engineering in 1996, from the University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana. In 2004, she received her MPM in Environmental Project Management from Northwestern University and just this year graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago, with her PhD in Chemical Engineering. From 1997-2003, Monica worked in technical support for National Starch and Chemical assisting industrial adhesives customers. Additionally, she served as a process engineer implementing custom Six Sigma inspired quality programs for strategic customers. At Dupont-Teijin Films, Monica served as outside sales for the Midwest region negotiating contracts and overseeing logistics for thin film customers. Monica is proud to support the mission and vision of FAME Center. She also a huge Chicago Cubs fan!
Rodger B. Jackson is a Morehouse College alumn and co-founder and managing partner of Independent Network Television (INTV). INTV works with artist and filmmakers by providing them with a place to create; and an outlet to distribute their work. INTV is the first production company in Chicago that provides distribution through the online streaming channel . As an actor who has appeared on Chicago PD and Chicago Med, as well as local community theater, Rodger has been recognized by his peers for innovative thinking and ability to get results under challenging situations. His previous work at Victory’s Path, a college and career training non-profit, and Navistar, an American Holding Company, have provided him with the opportunity to directly report to the White House The Office of the First Lady under the Obama Administration. As a member of the military compliance and verification process board Rodger was responsible for making sure government standards regarding defense contracts between Navistar and the United States government were met. Rodger believes in working the process until you succeed and he lives by the quote, “Wanting to quit is not failure, quitting is”.
Patrick is passionate about education, innovation, and the arts. Patrick is originally from Holland, MI where he first learned to cultivate these passions through participation in school choir and theater and through his job at the city greenhouse. His passion for music led him to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education in 2004. Upon graduation, he continued his studies at Michigan State University where he received a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting in 2006. During his time at MSU, he served as the Director of Music for Christ United Methodist Church in Lansing, MI and was a section leader in the Greater Lansing Arts Chorale. In the summer of 2006, he married Kutu, whom he met at Trinity, and they settled permanently in the Chicago area. Patrick began his career in education in 2006 a music teacher and choir director for Rich Township High School District 227, moving from there to Leyden High School District 212 in 2008. While teaching, he also served as the Choir Director and Traditional Worship Leader for Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL from 2007-2011. In 2011, his passion for education led him to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he received a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership in 2013. In 2015, Patrick shifted from teaching to administration and became the Fine Arts Coordinator for Joliet Public Schools District 86 in Joliet, IL. While there, his work included growing the teaching staff from 21 to 36, restarting the elementary music program after a 50+ year absence, expanding the visual arts program, restructuring the districtwide fine arts master schedule, and writing a fully aligned K-8 curriculum - these efforts provided access to the arts for all students in District 86. Also in 2015, Patrick became the Choral Coach for the West Suburban Symphony Chorale in Hinsdale, IL, a position he held until 2018. In the summer of 2019, Patrick became the Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205. There he serves as the District’s first district-level administrator over the arts and as the Fine and Performing Arts Department Chair for York High School. His responsibilities include curriculum development, budget and inventory management, program development and alignment, teacher evaluation, professional development, and master scheduling for the district. Patrick is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in School Executive Leadership at the University of Illinois which he hopes to complete during the 2020-2021 school year. Patrick and Kutu love to travel and try new restaurants, they share a passion for coaching and consulting, and they enjoy hanging out with friends or with their dogs.
Lenise S. Lee, owner, and principal of Presentation Is Everything, LLC, is a native of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Against adversity, Lenise went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northern Illinois University, and a Master of International Management from ENAE Business School in Murcia, Spain. In addition to her education, Lenise has served as Business Manager at the University of Chicago, and Director of Operations for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). Currently, Lenise serves as the Director of Operations for Kindling Group, a nonprofit organization that crafts powerful documentaries on social issues and campaigns in order to ignite change. Because Lenise is passionate about social justice, specifically issues affecting low-income families and urban communities, she has spent approximately 5 years advocating for and mentoring to youth in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and with the Pretty Brown Girl Foundation.
Jeffrey has provided consultation, technical assistance and staff training for Medical Spa’s, local businesses, Not for Profit organizations, and health centers. His passion is incorporating hospitality with medical expertise. Holding degrees in Psychology, Communications and Organizational Behavior it is Jeff’s goal to create business sustainability… one relationship at a time. In his personal time, Jeff really loves working with international relief efforts. His most recent trip was with Rotary International to Guatemala. His team worked with the Mayan women of Sumpango to develop their micro-enterprise business systems. He finds it very humbling that he gets to experience life change first hand.