Board & Staff

Executive Committee

Jote Taddese

BFA Board President Jote Taddese is an advocate for literacy with a deep passion for how innovation in technology enables access to quality education for students in under-served schools and communities worldwide. Born and raised in Oromia, Ethiopia, and educated in Nairobi, Kenya and the U.S., Jote has over 17 years of information technology experience in government and corporate sectors, and is currently a Distinguished IT Advisor within Medtronic Global IT organization for the Enterprise Information Architecture practice, and is the Chairman of the Medtronic Africa Focus Team.

Joanna Sussman

BFA President-Elect Joanna "Joni" Sussman is a children’s book publisher with Lerner Publishing Group, a longtime supporter of Books For Africa. She believes that books – on the African continent and throughout the world - line the pathway to a better world. With expertise in children’s publishing, as well as book production and printing, she has worked on a variety of projects for Books For Africa. A sought-after speaker on the subject of children’s literature, Joni has also served on a number of boards, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, where she also served as president. 

Atare Agbamu

BFA Board Secretary Atare Agbamu has been involved in shipping more than 157,000 books to Africa, including more than 113,000 books to his native Nigeria, since 2011. Atare’s work in the reverse-mortgage industry has saved more than 12,000 widows and widowers across the US from foreclosure and displacement, and improved federal reverse-mortgage regulations for all consumers. Atare and his wife, Efe, are parents of three children; they live in Oakdale, Minnesota.

Patrick Mandile
BFA Treasurer Patrick Mandile is the Former COO of law firm Robins Kaplan LLP, where he worked for over twenty years before retiring in 2017. Patrick has been a member of the Books For Africa Board since 2017, and also serves on the advisory board of BFA's Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative.  
Tom Warth

In 1988, British expatriate Tom Warth visited a library in Jinja, Uganda, where books were nearly nonexistent; the few books that remained on the shelf were tattered and decades old. Coming from the publishing industry, Tom was aware of the great surplus of books in America and set about finding a way to put those books in the hands of African learners. Tom’s vision became Books For Africa, which has since grown to be the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent.

Patrick Plonski, PhD
Executive Director

Patrick Plonski has served since 2003 as Executive Director of Books For Africa. Plonski holds a PhD in International Education (2009), and previously served as Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council at the University of Minnesota (1998-2003), and Committee Administrator for the Minnesota House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture (1987-1998).

Board Members

Charlie Cogan
Strategy Consultant, Crimson Education
Lamin "Lang" Dibba
Real Estate Investments
John Elstad
Senior Vice President, Legal Editorial Operations, Thomson Reuters
Tom Gitaa
Board Member Emiritus (Ex Officio), President and Publisher, Mshale
Dustin Holland
Vice President - Global Sales and Marketing, Better World Books
Emma Kasiga
Senior Loan Officer - MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
Dr. Fatima Tanni Lawson
Principal/School Head, Highwood Hills Community School
Vuvu Manseka
Supplier/Bottler Auditor, The Coca-Cola Company
Fotemah Mba
VP of Artist and Repertoire, Konlive Distributions
Paul Musherure, DDS
Pediatric Dentist, Healthpartners
John Rupp
Commonwealth Properties
Catherine Ryan
International Development Consultant
John Stacey
MBA Student, Columbia Business School
Gary Zelko
Publisher Emeritus, Merck and Company

Project Directors

Lane Ayres, J.D.
Director of the Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative
Mike Essien
Country Director – Nigeria
H.E. Arikana Chihombori-Quao
Co-Chair, Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative
Walter Mondale
Co-Chair, Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative
H.E. Edward Sawerengera
Summit Society Chair

Ambasadors Circle

Martin Akinseye
Simba Craftware
Richard America
Georgetown University
Frank Babka 
Friend of BFA
Sharon Sayles Belton
Thomson Reuters
Chris Bercaw
Dorsey Whitney Law Firm
Laura Bloomberg
Hubert H Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Henry Bromelkamp
Bromelkamp Company
Mahamed Cali
Somali American Community
Richard de-Souza
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Richard DeLoach
Friend of BFA
Genevieve Eba-Polley
Ghana Book Trust
Mike Essien
Essien Law Office
Ken Fitzgerald
Walker Bookstore
Tammie Follett
Thomson Reuters
Lali Galan
Friend of BFA
Christian Goergen
College of Dupage
Natalie Hahn
Malaika Foundation
Kim Harms
River's Edge Dental
Pat Harris
BMO Harris Bank
Michael Henley
Hansen Henley Yoder and Lamb
Ambassador Howard Jeter
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
Abdirahman Kahin
Afro Deli
Col. Yonahan Kassahun
EKTTS - Ethiopia
Dr. Clark LaChapelle
Dr. LaChapelle Family Fund
Todd Lawton
Out of Print
Catherine Martignacco
BFA Kilimanjaro Society
Catherine Mayer
BFA Kilimanjaro Society
Dr. Lamin HAN Mbye
ICON Clinical Research
Fiona McCrae
Graywolf Press
Dan Melin
Follett Educational Services
Joseph Mrkonich
Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP
Sir Emeka Offor
The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation
Rosemond Sarpong Owens
Former BFA Board President
Isaac Owens
Hennepin County Medical Center
Doris Pagelkopf
United Way of Minnesota
Pam Pappas Stanoch
The Athena Group International
Dianne Patrick
Snowbound Books
Tom Pfeifer
Thomson Reuters Legal
Nader Qaimari
Follett School Solutions
Mark Ritchie
Global Minnesota
David Robinson
Sweet Unity Coffee Farms
Barbara Rose
Aid For Africa
Dave Schafer
Friend of BFA
Margaret Sents
Friend of BFA
Dick Simpson
University of Illinois at Chicago
Christie Skillbred
Coughlan Companies
Cass Stillman
Friend of BFA
Val Stokes
Stokes Trucking
Jeffrey Sturchio
Corporate Council on Africa
Asratie Teferra
Friend of BFA
Chris Tolbert
City Council of St. Paul, MN

BFA Staff (Office)

Travis Ferguson
Administrative and Communications Specialist
Carole Patrikakos
Deputy Director
Agatha Wagoner
Database and Development Officer
Erin Yates
Project Manager

BFA Staff (Warehouse)

Brad Mattson
Director of Atlanta Operations
Roger Anderson
Minnesota Warehouse Manager
Adetokunbo Awosanya
Atlanta Warehouse
Diambria Casey
Atlanta Warehouse
Jen Hale
Atlanta Community Liason
James Hall
Atlanta Warehouse
John Hobbins
Atlanta Warehouse
Micah Owensby
Atlanta Warehouse
Bruce Travis
Atlanta Warehouse
Jamel Turner
Atlanta Warehouse
Vanessa Vernon
Atlanta Warehouse