The Team

Brenda Mikec

Executive Director

“When human beings are raised in poverty and do not have access to  resources to better themselves, they fall into unhealthy life patterns and habits and struggle to escape.” Brenda’s passions include building genuine relationships and helping others in difficult situations. Other passions include nature, spending time in the outdoors, volunteering, traveling, photography, cycling and reading in her down time.

Brenda is a business professional with experience in the nonprofit sector, volunteer management, outreach, outdoor recreation, human resources, recruiting, event planning, fundraising and development. Previously, Brenda worked as a Marketing & Events Manager for a Metro Parks Friends organization and also the Outdoors Programs & Outreach Coordinator for REI. She graduated with a Bachelor of Business degree with a double major in Human Resources and Marketing from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.

Brenda is honored and excited to combine her love for reading and cycling and to continue pursuing Ride for Reading’s mission to help children become healthy and literate.

      Mathew Portell

      Ride For Reading Founder & Board Chair

      Mathew Portell founded Ride for Reading in 2008 while serving as a 4th grade teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Not only is Mathew still an integral part of Ride for Reading, but he also continues to contribute positively to the lives of children in Nashville, TN by serving as the Principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School.

          Stephanie Ward

          Board Chair - San Antonio

          Stephanie Ward is a Professor of Management and Department Chair with the Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University.  She holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Houston, an MBA from the University of Houston, and a BBA in Accounting from Angelo State University.  After growing up in San Angelo, Texas, and spending 15 years in Houston, she and her family moved to San Antonio in 2004.  She has been an avid reader and cyclist her whole life.  Her first job, at age 9, was selling eggs via her bicycle in the mornings before going to school to neighbors.  Her second job, at 14, was shelving books in the local library.  Being involved in Ride for Reading SA combines her loves of education, literacy, and cycling and provides the opportunity to foster those loves with the San Antonio community children.  Stephanie is married and has one son

          • Location: San Antonio, TX

            Jeff Eck

            Treasurer

            Jeff is the Compensation and Benefits Manager at Nashville Electric Service and has lived in the Nashville area for six years. After starting his career in accounting, Jeff found his second career in human resources 15 years ago. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and an MBA from West Chester University. He was a voracious book reader as a child and is excited to help ignite that passion in others. As a Christian and a teacher at heart, he loves teaching English as a Second Language classes at his church. Jeff loves challenges and will confess to a fondness for competing in triathlons. Jeff lives in Mount Juliet with his wife and two teenage daughters.

                John Gore

                Board Member

                John Gore is a professional engineer and vice-president at Barge Cauthen & Associates in Nashville, Tennessee.  John grew up in Nashville and attended Hillsboro High School.  He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech University, and has been working in the field of civil engineering since 1998.  John specializes in urban in-fill and redevelopment projects throughout middle Tennessee.  He is also LEED certified and has extensive experience in sustainable site design, as well as projects focusing on walkability, alternative transportation, and low-impact storm water design.   John joined the Board of Ride for Reading in 2013. He enjoys riding and racing bicycles and lives in East Nashville with his wife Pippa, and their two daughters.

                    Graham Gerdeman

                    Board Secretary

                    Graham earned his bachelors of science in Biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL in 1995. Working first in marine biology, he moved back to his native Middle Tennessee in late 1999 and spent 12 years working in healthcare at Vanderbilt University (Laboratory Supervisor/Computer Systems Analyst). He also served on the Vanderbilt  Medical Center Staff Advisory Council for 8 years.

                    Graham now works as a freelance photographer and is a technological assistant / videographer at the Nashville Jazz Workshop (NJW), a non-profit music school and performance space in East Germantown – and is active in the local music and visual arts scene. He serves on the NJW Advisory Board, as well as the Board of Directors of the Harpeth Trace Services Association (HTSA).

                    An avid cyclist, Graham has volunteered with Ride for Reading for many years and is currently the Chair of Ride for Reading.

                        Jeremy Pardue

                        Board Member

                        Jeremy Pardue is a Financial Planner at Waddell & Reed in Nashville, TN. Jeremy is Nashville native, and attended McGavock High School. After high school he joined the United States Navy where he was assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Teams were he served for 8yrs as a Corpsman both in the Active duty and Reserve components. During that time he also studied various universities remotely.  Jeremy was originally introduced to Ride for Reading through cycling. Having grown up in a low income family, and area his first book delivery was to the elementary school he attended as a child. Jeremy enjoys restoring and modifying cars, mountain biking, and spending time with wife Danielle, and 2 border collies.

                            Kathy Ganske, Ph.D.

                            Board Member

                            Kathy Ganske, Ph.D. is Professor of the Practice of Literacy at Vanderbilt University. A few of her professional areas of interest include the development of vocabulary, spelling and phonic knowledge; the teaching and cross-curricular integration of writing; and literacy reform efforts. The questions that drive her research and scholarship extend from these areas and how to enable teachers to implement new practices.

                            Ganske is the author or coauthor/editor of numerous books on word study, writing, comprehension, and struggling readers and writers. She chairs the Vocabulary Special Interest Group for the American Education Research Association and is Chair-Elect of the Middle Tennessee Reading Association. Her work is grounded in a rich background of elementary classroom experience that encompasses teaching primary through upper elementary grades in various regions of the country and in extensive professional development work with practicing teachers.

                            When she has time, she enjoys nature walks at nearby Radnor Lake, bicycling, dabbling in poetry writing, and playing bridge. She is delighted to be a new member of the Board for Ride for Reading.

                                Troy Williams

                                Board Member

                                Troy first became involved in Ride For Reading through bicycling friends and later when his son Tyler wanted to participate with Nashville schools through book donations and delivery rides. After attending events and deliveries for 4 years, he was encouraged to participate in helping to shape the future through the RFR board.  Troy works with Vanderbilt Health as Vice President for Population Health.  He is a Colorado native and grew up doing cool things outside and now gets to do those same activities with his kids. He previously served the Nashville Habitat For Humanity team in developing a strategic plan for 2020 by working with their board and executive staff and also served in the Oasis bike workshop. After 6 moves and various states, he’s settled into Tennessee and likes the community that bicycling, reading and volunteering builds.  Troy was educated at San Diego State University and later Vanderbilt’s Owen School.  He and his family now reside in Brentwood, where they hope to stay.

                                    Ed Wildermuth

                                    Board Chair - Nashville

                                    Ed is the owner and financial planner for Clear Financial Solutions, based in Brentwood, TN.  He has been in financial services since 2012.  Prior to that, Ed held various positions in corporate accounting and finance.

                                    Ed is a native of the Chicago suburbs. He attended Monmouth College (IL), graduating Cum Laude with BA’s in Accounting and Business Administration. While working his way through college, he was also a member of the men’s golf team, and served as the co-captain his senior year. After college, he continued his education by earning the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.

                                    Ed currently resides with his wife and two daughters in Franklin, TN. His loyalty still lies with the Cubs, Bears, and Bulls. He enjoys golfing, traveling, and has been an active member of his local homebrew association, Music City Brewers, for over 6 years.   A regular blood donor, Ed has recently become a blood drive coordinator with the American Red Cross.  His most recent event generated 25 pints to help those in need.