2019 Annual Conference Keynote Speakers

Howard Tullman

Entrepreneur and Start-Up Expert


Howard A. Tullman is the Executive Director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Tullman is the former CEO of 1871 in Chicago – where digital startups get their start – and the General Managing Partner for the Chicago High Tech Investment Partners, LLC and for G2T3V, LLC – both Chicago-based early-stage venture capital funds. He is the past Chairman/CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint College which he co-founded in 2007 and the former President of Kendall College in Chicago, as well as the former Chairman/CEO of Experiencia, Inc. He is the Chairman of the Endowment Committee of Anshe Emet Synagogue; a member of the ChicagoNEXT and Cultural Affairs Councils; the Innovate Illinois and Illinois Arts Councils; an Advisory Board member of HighTower Associates, and Imerman Angels, and an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School, as well as a regular guest lecturer at the Northwestern University School of Law. Mr. Tullman also serves as a Director of Vehcon, SnapSheet, and Keeper Security and served as a long-time Director and Board Chairman of The Cobalt Group, a Trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and of the New York Academy of Art and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, and as the lead Director (and briefly Chairman) of The Princeton Review. Over the last 50 years, he has successfully founded more than a dozen high-tech companies.

Twitter: @tullman @kaplaninstitute

Mac McAnally

10-time CMA Musician of the Year


In some ways, award-winning songwriter, instrumentalist, producer and artist Mac McAnally is a paradox.

He is beyond dispute one of the most respected musicians of our time. His peers have made that clear by honoring him as CMA Musician of the Year for an unprecedented ten years, as well as electing him to the Nashville Songwriters Halls of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Yet he is also one of the softest-spoken and self-effacing figures anywhere on the public stage. In fact, despite decades of recording countless sessions, releasing solo albums, and writing a parade of hits that include No. 1 singles for Kenny Chesney, Alabama, Sawyer Brown and Shenandoah, Mac seems a little uncomfortable in the spotlight. His reluctance to toot his own horn is a welcome anomaly these days – and that makes his accomplishments even more impressive.

To read more about Mac and his accomplishments, click here. 

Lily Eskelsen García

National Education Association President

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Lily Eskelsen García is president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union. 

Lily began her career in education as a school lunch lady and now leads a professional association of three million educators. She is the first Latina to lead the NEA and one of the country’s most influential Hispanic educators. 

Prior to assuming the top post, Lily served two terms as NEA Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer. She became a vocal critic of the standardized testing movement and raised alarms on the outsize role that testing is playing in public education: taking over the time students spend in the classroom, being used as a weapon against their teachers, and distracting from the real problem of unequal opportunities for students. 

Her new role is an extension of her teaching days in Utah. She was named Utah Teacher of the Year in 1989 after nine years in the classroom. She also worked with homeless children and gifted children; as a mentor for student teachers; and as a peer assistance team leader at Orchard Elementary School in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. 

In 1998 she attempted to put her 20 years of experience working with small children to practical use by becoming her party’s nominee for the U.S. Congress. The rookie effort didn’t work out but she made her mark: she was the first Hispanic to run for Congress in her state and earned 45 percent of the vote against the incumbent. 

Lily is a sought-after speaker and delivered keynote addresses at hundreds of education events across the country, earning her recognition by Education World in their “Best Conference Speakers” edition. She also blogs at “Lily’s Blackboard,” bringing a teacher’s voice to topical education issues. Her advice has been published in Parenting magazine and she has been featured on MSNBC, CNN en Español and as the voice of the noble opposition on Fox & Friends. 

Lily serves as the Vice President of Educational International for the North America and Caribbean Region, pursuing a common course of action on issues like collective bargaining, raising student achievement, and adequate funding that resonate around the world. 

Lily believes in the sacred duty of all educators to be professionals and to care for the whole student – mind, body and character – no matter how students arrive and no matter their learning conditions, their home conditions or their health conditions. She also believes that professionalism carries the responsibility to take action, individually and collectively, toward making the promise of public education a reality and preparing the whole and happy child to succeed in becoming a whole and happy adult. 

Lily is a graduate of the University of Utah, graduating magna cum laude in elementary education and later earning her master’s degree in instructional technology.