Get to Know The Gifford Foundation's Newest Board Members

Published June, 2024

Within the last year, The Gifford Foundation has brought on four new board members. We are grateful to have their time and talents to round out the incredible group of individuals that make up the Gifford board. Read on to learn about each of their careers and interests.

        Gregory D. Ayers is a dynamic leader with over 15 years of supervisory experience. He is currently employed at Elmcrest Children’s Center as their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. He takes pride in furthering the DEI efforts of the agency and bringing awareness to cultural and societal differences in the workplace. Gregory also enjoys doing small business consultant work for new entrepreneurs and existing small 

A professional headshot of Gifford board member Greg Ayers wearing a dress shirt and bowtie.

businesses. As a consultant, he believes in fostering a culture of teamwork and empowering individuals to reach their full potential. In his spare time, Gregory enjoys cooking, volunteering, bowling, and fishing with his son, Donnel.

A headshot of Gifford board member Jessica Hess.

Jessica Hess (she/her) is the operations specialist for the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse University. She has a background in nonprofit management, state government, and community advocacy work. Issues that interest her include sustainability and climate change mitigation, equitable economic and community development, and voter education and outreach. She has

lived in the Syracuse area since 2004, has served on several nonprofit boards, and has run for local office to represent her community members. She currently lives in Camillus with her husband, three sons, and a menagerie of animals. She enjoys reading, video games, spending time in nature, and trips to Disney.

“I am very honored and excited to begin my term on the board of The Gifford Foundation. I first learned of the Foundation when I worked for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo and loved seeing the ways the Foundation supported and uplifted other organizations and people in the region. I look forward to working with my fellow board members and Foundation staff in meeting our mission of enhancing the quality of life for everyone in the Syracuse area.”

Michael Lisson is a Certified Public Accountant and partner at Grossman St. Amour. Mike practices in the areas of audit and attest engagements, financial statement preparation, internal control review and fraud examination and prevention. His audit experience includes government, medical practices, manufacturing, higher education, insurance, public school districts, for profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Gifford Staff standing next to a car at a racing fundraiser event put on by David's Refuge.

Michael devotes his time and talents to many organizations and efforts in the community including the Fiscal Advisory Committee for the City of Syracuse, The Plaza Corporation (Iroquois Nursing home, The Cottages at Garden Grove), Hope for Bereaved, Inc., and Ben Walsh for Syracuse.

A headshot of Gifford board member Jay Denson.

With a strong background and Finance and education and a deep-rooted passion for empowering individuals, Jay Denson is a project manager in the City Of Syracuse. He strives to promote financial freedom and make a positive impact in the community as a Deacon at his church and advocate. He also uses his platform to bring social change and address important issues. He is a proud graduate of both the SUNY school 

system and Utica College of Syracuse University. Demonstrating his commitment to education and continuous learning. He’s also a respected member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, showcasing his dedication to leadership, service, and excellence. Jay is married and is proud of being a girl dad and a Haitian American. He loves reading and writing poetry has has hiked almost all of the waterfalls in New York State.

On why he’s looking forward to serving on the board, Jay says, “The Gifford Foundation not only advocates for diversity, but it is composed of a varied group of professionals, spanning from the board members to employees. This exemplifies an authentic representation of the community we aim to serve.”

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