Learn more about our founder and the Joni and Friends leadership team.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni is one of the world’s leading international advocates for people affected by disability. A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, which quickly grew to provide Christ-centered programs to special needs families, churches, and communities. Joni survived stage III breast cancer in 2010, and still keeps a very active ministry schedule.
Joni has written over 50 books, including her best-selling autobiography, Joni, which was made into a feature film. Her new award-winning daily devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, contains fresh biblical insights from her battle with cancer and chronic pain. Joni also served as General Editor of the Beyond Suffering Bible, a special edition published by Tyndale for people who suffer chronic conditions and their caregivers. She and her husband Ken were married in 1982 and reside in California.
John Nugent, President of Joni and Friends, spent over 30 years in the software industry working for Oracle, SAP, and as CEO of Serena Software. John holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a Certificate of Advanced Management from Harvard Business School, and a certificate from the Directors’ Consortium at Stanford University’s School of Business. Formerly the Chairman of the Board at Joni and Friends, John brings expertise from corporate leadership to the ministry, as well as extensive volunteer experience serving on boards for various Christian non-profit organizations.
With a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Troy University and previous experience as a business owner, Laura’s ability in financial analysis, fiduciary oversight, departmental integration, and strategic planning make her the perfect person to serve as our EVP and CFO. Before joining Joni and Friends, Laura founded her own business, The Protocol Institute, LLC, where she developed world-class eLearning courses on character education, etiquette, and protocol. She was the first to introduce such tools for helping to instill these qualities in young people, and wrote extensively on the topic for national publications.
Steve is responsible for the execution of ministry programs around the world as well as spiritual encouragement for ministry staff. He is a published author and co-author with Joni Eareckson Tada of Beyond Suffering: A Christian View of Disability Ministry. His latest book, with Doug Mazza, is Another Kind of Courage: God’s Design for Fathers of Families Affected by Disability. Steve and his wife Melissa know firsthand the joys and challenges of parenting a child with special needs, as their own son, Caleb, was born with muscular dystrophy and autism. Steve holds a B.A. in Theology and Missions, a Certificate in Christian Apologetics and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership. He is a licensed minister and has served as a pastor and missionary. Prior to joining Joni and Friends, Steve was VP of Business and Finance at William Carey International University in Pasadena, CA.
Formerly the Director of Joni and Friends Missouri, Roby Walker began his new role with the ministry as Vice President, Human Resources in February 2019. God has crafted Roby to fulfill this important role as Joni and Friends continues to grow. With over 35 years of Human Resources management experience in healthcare, state government, and nonprofit organizations, Roby is well-qualified to serve Joni and Friends in this role.
Roby completed his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Lee University and holds a master’s degree in Human Resources from Webster University. Since completing his formal education, Roby has achieved his certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Sr. Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).
With a passion for people and experience, Roby has also obtained certifications in open-water scuba diving and high school football officiating. He is a published author of Money Talks: Stewardship Devotions for Worship and several articles in various publications.
Eric oversees Joni and Friends’ national and international ministries. As an ordained pastor and former Joni and Friends Texas Area Director with extensive experience with disability ministry, Eric brings a well-rounded knowledge base to his position. A Georgia native, Eric received his undergraduate degree from Atlanta Christian College before moving to California to attend Fuller Theological Seminary. Since graduating with his M.A. in Christian Leadership, Eric has furthered his education at California Baptist University with continuing education courses in Disability Studies, such as the Beyond Suffering Course developed by Joni and Friends.
Our International Board of Directors
We thank our International Board of Directors for their service and leadership in support of the vision and mission of Joni and Friends.
Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder
Peter Schulze, Chairman
Greg Wood, Treasurer
Carin Amaradio, Secretary
Rev. Michael S. Beates
Jan S. van den Bosch
Cordell Brown — Director Emeritus
Ann Furrow — Director Emeritus
Lynn Guerin — Director Emeritus