Board Of Directors

Tom Podzimek

Tom Podzimek - President

Owner - Benchmark Construction Services, Inc.

Tom Podzimek attended Iowa State University and is a proud Cedar Rapidian.  He has owned Benchmark Construction for 33 years and he loves to build our community.  He has many years of public service including; four years in the United States Air Force, past Chairman of the Linn County Solid Waste Agency, past Katherine McAuley Center Board Member, and a founding member of the Housing Fund for Linn County.  His interest in the environment and community design was put to good use in the following capacities: Sierra Club Cedar Wapsi Group committee member, past Main Street Design committee member, the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Student Built House committee, and as a College District Advisory Group member. Tom is an environmentalist, avid bike rider and trails advocate.  He enjoys the outdoors, skiing, camping, fly fishing, chess, music and the arts. Oh, and he’s cute as a button, wait… that’s his grandkids.

Nathan Griffith - Vice President

 AIA LEED AP - Neumann Monson Architects 

Nathan is an architect at Neumann Monson Architects, where he leads a broad range of project types in the Eastern-Iowa region. He first developed a curiosity for architecture in grade school while helping his dad create stained glass windows in the heart of Czech Village. Nathan grew his curiosity into a passion for creativity during his time at Iowa State University where he marched in the Cyclone Marching Band, drummed in a 7-piece jam band and earned a Bachelor of Architecture. 

When not studying buildings or talking shop with his colleagues, Nathan is nurturing the young people in eastern Iowa. He has served as teacher, coach and mentor while partnering with the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Metro High School STEAM Academy and Iowa BIG. Currently, Nathan serves on the Board of Trustees for the Iowa Architectural Foundation and has taken on expanding the organization’s reach to eastern Iowa. 

On any given Saturday you might find Nathan renovating his turn-of-the-century home, hiking with his family, playing with watercolors, or learning songs on his kids’ Casio keyboard. 

Nathan brings to the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy his strong work ethic, serene demeanor and pragmatic sensibility. 

Jeni Head - Secretary

Internal Auditor - Linn Area Credit Union 

I have lived in eastern Iowa my entire life.  I was born and raised in Dubuque, graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in accounting and a minor in art, and have lived in Cedar Rapids since 2002.  My career has been in auditing - first with McGladrey and Pullen and currently with Linn Area Credit Union as their internal Auditor.  In the past, I have been involved in Viola Gibson's PTA and have served as a merit badge counselor and the treasurer for Boy Scout Troop 766 for a number of years.  I have also served on the Parish Council at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church and look forward to serving on the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy Board.

I was first introduced to the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy when my youngest son began participating in the rock band program at Harding Middle School.  The more I learned this organization and have seen its growth over the past 5 years, the more I love it!

My spare time is spent attending EIAA Rock Band performances, watching my son in the Kennedy Drum Line and in the Combo Band for their Show Choirs, spending time with my family, traveling, photography and taking the stained glass arts classes offered at EIAA.

Todd Barker

Financial Advisor, Vice President – Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Todd was born in Iowa and grew up in Cedar Rapids.  He is very active in the community serving on numerous boards.  In addition to sitting on the board for the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy, he currently serves on the City of Cedar Rapids Board of Adjustment, the board of the Linn County I-Club, and on the Finance Committee for First Lutheran Church. He actively supports many other organizations.  He has previously served on the boards of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Orchestra Iowa.  Todd is a graduate of the University of Iowa with both a B.S and a B.A.  He also earned an MBA from the Henry B. Tippe School of Management at the University of Iowa, concentrating on finance and accounting.

Dan Elliott

Managing Director - E3 Strategy Development

Prior to founding E3 Strategy Development, LLC, a management consulting and business coaching firm, Dan spent three decades in the financial services business where he served in a number of leadership capacities including Founding Partner of Affiliated Marketing Group and President of Life Investors Financial Group, a Transamerica Company here in Cedar Rapids.  

Dan has long been a follower of the arts.  In his former hometown of Houston, Texas he was a supporter of the Houston Symphony as well many of the local museums including the Mark Rothko Chapel and The Menil Collection - among others.  Now, as a Cedar Rapidian, he and his wife, Elise, are huge fans and avid supporters of the many artists here in the Corridor. Being raised with a family of creatives, he was particularly attracted to the work and mission of EIAA and is proud to serve as a member of their Board of Directors.

Vince Geis

Attorney - Shuttleworth & Ingersoll

Vince Geis is an attorney at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, where his practice focuses on litigation, health law and medical malpractice.  He graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law with high distinction.  During law school, he served as the Trial Advocacy Board Director and as Administrative Editor for the Iowa Law Review.  Prior to law school, Vince taught high school English and Spanish through Teach for America in St. Louis.  He enjoyed teaching creative writing in his senior English classes and teaching at a Visual and Performing Arts magnet school.  Vince continues working with students at Cornell College as an Assistant Coach for the mock trial team.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter.

Heather Hayes

Pastor - First Presbyterian Church, Cedar Rapids

Pastor Heather Hayes grew up in the Cedar Rapids community and fondly remembers participating in many community opportunities for children and youth - from summer parks programs at the schools to arts programs offered through the symphony and art museum. A graduate in religious studies from Iowa State, she then received her Masters of Divinity from McCormick Theological School in Chicago. At seminary her special interest was in urban ministry and the church’s place in community revitalization.

Following seminary and a short stint in rural Iowa, Heather returned to Cedar Rapids and has served several Presbyterian churches in the area. Currently she is serving as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Cedar Rapids, a position she has held since 2009. Heather has been a part of a number of organizations in the community, including the boards of Family Promise and Matthew 25 and believes in the mission of the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy as they seek to create safe, creative space for the children, youth, and even adults of Cedar Rapids.  She sees this as an essential resource for our community, a resource that she enjoyed in her own childhood, valued for her three daughters, and supports for upcoming generations.

Elsabeth Hepworth

Digital & Content Strategy Specialist – TrueNorth Companies

Elsabeth is a personable and driven professional with experience in social and multimedia marketing, corporate culture, and secondary education. Her skills include website maintenance and design, social media strategy, proofing/copywriting, and Spanish proficiency. At TrueNorth, Elsabeth collaborates with divisional leaders and EVPs to update and maintain websites, blogs and social media sites. This collaboration allows them to determine and exceed internal client expectations related to video, web, presentation, and print design requests.

Elsabeth has bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish from Simpson College. She also attended the University of Iowa, where she earned her Masters in Teaching.

Elsabeth is an active member of TrueNorth’s Casual for a Cause and Culture Committees. In her spare time, Elsabeth volunteers at NewBo City Market, the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy, and the Catherine McAuley Center.

Elsabeth Hepworth

Alexandra Harder


Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Alexandra has always had a great deal of respect for her community. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Psychology, Alexandra accepted an offer to work for a startup social media platform in Southern California. After a few years of stretching her entrepreneurial wings, the honor of family tradition pulled Alexandra back to Iowa to work with her father managing her family farming operation. The time spent with “Big John” to learn about the five generations of Iowa landowners in her ancestry, has been irreplaceable. Farm management will continue to be a part of Alexandra’s life moving forward.

Farming, however, is not where she stops. Alexandra has a tremendous respect for young people and works with several non-profits elevating, recognizing and applauding our future leaders. Alexandra has been the Cochair for National Council on Youth Leadership (NCYL) for the past 8 years. NCYL is a non-profit scholarship program for local seniors in high school focusing on leadership. Ten years ago, along with her mentor and mother, Carole Harder, Alexandra helped to establish Global Leadership Connection, a sister program to NCYL held in California. Additionally, Alexandra is involved with the Kids First Law Center, where she has taught supportive, educational courses to all ages of students and taken her turn at not only being a part of the auction fundraising committee but co-chairing the annual fundraiser. Most recently, she was asked join the board of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Co-chair their 2018 Gala fundraiser, a fantastic night in support of the arts! Alexandra also loves to travel, cook, play tennis and has been known to spread a little bit of sunshine wherever she goes, especially in support of her community.

Sarah McCaffrey

Executive Director – Gems of Hope

Originally from Southern California, Sarah and her family have lived in Washington, Colorado, and Arizona before landing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2013.  

One of Sarah's daughters became involved in show choir and fell in love with performing. Her daughter wanted additional opportunities to perform and luckily she was introduced to EIAA. Her daughter joined the Rock Band program and has loved every second. Soon after her daughter became a member of the EIAA family, Sarah joined the Board.  

Sarah holds a Masters in Organizational Leadership and a Bachelor of Applied Studies, emphasizing both Leadership and Non-Profit Management. She is currently the Executive Director at Gems of Hope and is an adjunct instructor in the Master of Strategic Leadership program at Mount Mercy University.  Sarah has an extensive background in nonprofits having held many different positions over the past 20 years including serving on various nonprofit boards across the country for organizations near and dear to her heart.

Melissa Summers

CRCSD Music Teacher – Johnson STEAM Academy

As a fine arts educational advocate in our community, Melissa Summers has been an active board member for the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy since it began in 2007.  She has worked for the Cedar Rapids Community School District as a music teacher and arts curriculum facilitator for over 30 years. She currently is the music and curriculum integration specialist at the newly opened Johnson STEAM Academy Magnet School in Cedar Rapids. Now that she is an empty nester, with her son and his family in Marion and daughter in Colorado, she also serves as an active board member for Red Cedar Chamber Music and the Paul Engle Association for Community Arts.  She has served as an adjunct education professor for Mt. Mercy University and has been an instructor and conference presenter for the University of Iowa, Drake University and Area Education Agencies.  She has written integrated curriculum teacher guides and lesson plans for local and national arts education organizations, such as the Kennedy Arts Center and NPR’s  From the Top.   Melissa also enjoys being an active volunteer for other community organizations and the coordinator of the extensive before and after school educational enrichment programming at Johnson School. 

Liz Zabel

Senior Marketing Manager - Indian Creek Nature Center

A Minnesota native and Iowa State University graduate, Liz is a professional storyteller, photographer and videographer. She is a former journalist turned marketer, and has been with Indian Creek Nature Center since 2018. Growing up, Liz was very involved in the arts — she played alto saxophone in band and sang in choirs through high school and college, and has been a photographer for over a decade. When not behind the camera, computer, or a good book, Liz loves to get outside: hiking, biking, paddling, you name it... she's always up for an adventure! Having spent her childhood and adult life surrounded by music and art (and being who she is because of it), Liz looks forward to fostering those same opportunities for future generations here in Cedar Rapids.