Joni and Friends Blog

Joni and Friends Elects New Chairman of the International Board of Directors and Appoints Two New Members

Agoura Hills, CA – Jan. 7, 2019: Joni and Friends, the leading global non-profit providing Christian ministry to people impacted by disability, announced today that Peter B. Schluze has been elected as Chairman of the International Board of Directors. Schulze, former managing director and CFO of Mercy Ships and co-founder of Christian television production Cross Roads Communications LTD, is an accomplished leader who has passionately served on the Joni and Friends Board of Directors since 2015. With this change, Joni and Friends also announced the appointment of two new board members, Leigh O’Dell and Sean Baker. All appointees bring expertise that will support the ministry’s growth to international authority on disability-related issues from a biblical perspective.

Founder of Joni and Friends, Joni Eareckson Tada, speaks highly of the new changes: “I am delighted to welcome our new Chairman of the Board as well as our two new board members. Each appointee brings significant experience as an accomplished leader in their respective industry, as well as a heart to minister to people affected by disability.” She continues, “As Joni and Friends celebrates 40 years of ministry, the strong leadership of our Board of Directors will enable Joni and Friends to share the hope of the Gospel with even more people around the globe, equipping even more churches to welcome and include people with disability.”

Former Chairman of the Board, John Nugent, is transitioning to the role of President and COO during January 2019 following the departure current President and COO Doug Mazza, who is retiring after 20 years of dedicated service.

Background Information for New Appointees:

  • Peter B. Schulze – Chairman of the Board

Schulze is an accomplished leader who has passionately served with Joni and Friends since 2015. He is the former managing director and CFO of Mercy Ships, and co-founder of the Christian television production, Cross Roads Communications LTD. Schulze has served on the board leadership of Joni and Friends as well as numerous respected ministries such as CURE international, SAT-7 North America, and Mercy Ships. He is involved in the leadership of Splash Kingdom LLC as partner in the family waterparks in Texas, board member and shareholder in Keep Point LLC investment management firm, and Founding chairman (2009-2013), board member, and shareholder of Schulze Global Investments LTD.

  • Leigh O’Dell – Board Member

O’Dell is a Pharmaceutical Attorney for Beasley Allen Law Firm focused on product liability actions involving women’s health. O’Dell has been recognized on the Best Lawyers in America list since 2011. In 1998, she left the firm for full-time ministry with Focus on the Family as Director of Women’s Ministries, then spent six years with Anne Graham Lotz as Director of Revivals. She returned to Beasley Allen in 2005 to do litigation. In 2015, O’Dell was the recipient of the Chad Stewart Award, an award created to recognize an attorney who best exemplifies Chad Stewart’s spirit of service to God, his family, and the practice of law in the service of “helping those who need it most.” She currently serves on the National Campaign Cabinet at Joni and Friends.

  • Sean Baker – Board Member

Baker is Co-Founder and President of Upside Investments, Inc., a private real estate organization, successfully working in all phases of investment real estate since 1996. Additionally, he is the Co-Founder and President of Upside Management, Inc. a fee management company of all commercial and multi-family residential properties. Baker is involved in many non-profit ministries and charitable organizations of which he is currently, or has been, a board member, and held multiple committee positions including governance, finance, fundraising, ways and means. He recently co-chaired a capital campaign which successfully raised more than $17 million for the expansion of a campus serving abused and neglected children. He also designed, founded, and funded a program for abused and neglected young adults to assist in transition from government assistance into independence. He is currently involved with Joni and Friends as a member of “Chair Corps,” collecting wheelchairs for Wheels for the World, a program dedicated to providing mobility along with the hope of the Gospel to people affected by disability around the world.

About Joni and Friends: For 40 years, Joni and Friends has provided the hope of the Gospel and practical resources to people affected by disability around the globe. As the leading international non-profit providing Christian ministry to people impacted by disability, the life-affirming programs of Joni and Friends include Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, the Christian Institute on Disability, and church ministry training. Joni and Friends also delivers inspirational media such as the Joni and Friends radio program, television program, and podcasts. To find out more, please visit

For more information, please contact Carlie Sullivan, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing Services or (818) 575-1720.