As President of The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE), Liz is deeply engaged in the non-profit community and passionate about youth development and education. The CAFE is focused on college access and success and career readiness and attainment. Also, through the foundation, Liz mentors and supports students and young professionals as they transition through life.
Liz grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing development and credits her parents and a strong community for shaping her values and vision. When others wonder how she somehow “beat the odds” as a product of Cabrini, Liz firmly declares that her success is because of where she came from, not in spite of it.
Liz began working with non-profits in 1993 as founding Executive Director of City Year Chicago, a national service organization that was the template for the AmeriCorps Program. Then in 1995, Liz served as Executive Director of a Montessori school in Denver, where she led a multi-million-dollar expansion of the Early Head Start program. In 1998, she became active with non-profit boards in the San Diego area, which further fueled her interest in philanthropy and education.
Prior to following her passion for youth development and education, Liz had a ten-year career with Ameritech Corporation after receiving an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University.
Liz is a Director and Secretary for Chicago Public Media/WBEZ and a National Director for Braven and Chair of Braven’s Chicago Board. She serves as Vice Chair of the Partnership for College Completion, co-chair of Purdue University Minority Engineering Program Advisory Panel and Special Advisor to OneGoal. She is an alumnus of the Non-Profit Leadership Program of Denver and of Leadership Greater Chicago, where she served on the Board for 10 years. Liz is a past Trustee of the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Most recently, Liz joined a distinguished cohort of Aspen Institute Global Leaders as a 2019 Pahara Education Fellow. She received the Outstanding Community Leader Award from The Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Dream Builders Award from the Chicago Child Care Society, the John J. Dugan Award from OneGoal and was featured in Make It Better Magazine as one of Chicago’s Top Black Women of Impact. She has appeared as a keynote speaker for the National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Forefront Annual Luncheon, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, and the Chicago Venture Summit.
In addition to her commitment to serving Chicago’s students, professionals and communities, Liz is the co-founder with her husband, Don Thompson, of Cleveland Avenue, LLC – a food and beverage focused venture fund. Cleveland Avenue provides financial resources, expertise and individual support to entrepreneurs as they grow and scale their businesses.
Liz has been married to Don, retired CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, for 30 years. They have two adult children and live in the southwest area of metropolitan Chicago.