Success Stories!

ensuring that that the story of AIDS
and the lessons learned never be forgotten

Today, the history and lessons of AIDS are at the core of all of the programs and work of the National AIDS Memorial.  

John Cunningham

Executive Director

John joined the National AIDS Memorial as Executive Director in 2009

Michael Bongiorni

Interim Director, Quilt Operations

Michael joined the National AIDS Memorial team in 2020  

Jim Brandt

Director of Advancement

Jim joined the National AIDS Memorial in 2020  

Brian Holman

Quilt Curator & Display Coordinator

Brian joined the team at theNational AIDS Memorial in 2020

Matt Kennedy

Operations Associate

Matt joined the National AIDS Memorial in 2014.

Gert McMullin

Quilt Conservator & Production Manager

Gert McMullin joined the National AIDS Memorial team in 2020

Steve Sagaser

Development Manager

Steve became a member of the National AIDS Memorial staff in 2009

Roddy Williams

Quilt Operations Manager

Roddy manages Quilt Operations for the National AIDS Memorial

John Cunningham, Executive Director

John joined the National AIDS Memorial as ExecutiveDirector in 2009. John is a fifth generation Californian, having grown up in the East Bay before relocating to New England at the age of seven. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he received a degree in political science and organizational behavior. John presently resides in Oakland with his husband Joel and their two dogs.  

John’s professional career has spanned over 25 years working for several Fortune 500 companies holding management positions in human resources, risk management and organizational development. In 1993 he founded and served as president of Golden Gate Granite Group, focusing on human capital management and effectiveness. In 2004 he realigned his career, merging his passion for community activism with his relationship development skills, joining the non-profit Positive Resource Center as Director of Development. John has held numerous non-profit board level positions, serving as President of the CastroCommunity Business Alliance, Board Chair of the New Hampshire AIDS Foundation,Vice President of Folsom Street Events, and Board Member of Positive Resource Center. John’s passion for improving his own quality of life through service to his community has long been his guiding principle. 

“I came to the Grove because I feel strongly that theAmerican story of the AIDS epidemic must be told and the National AIDS MemorialGrove should be the one to tell it.” 

Learn More About John
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Michael Bongiorni, Interim Director, Quilt Operations

Michael joined the National AIDS Memorial team in 2020as interim director of Quilt Operations. 

In 1983 Michael began his AIDS activism as one of the founders of the AIDS Foundation Houston Food Bank, Stone Soup. In 1988 Michael was the logistics chair for the Houston AIDS Quilt Display. During that display he learned that combining art to a memorial would not only provide solace but would move people to action. After that display, Pete Martinez, Dr. James McKinley and Michael established the Houston NAMES Project. 

As a volunteer he joined the second National Tour of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as it traveled across America. This tour was followed by the Irish Quilt Tour and taking a leadership role during the many QuiltDisplay on the Washington Mall. 

In the mid 1990’s Michael joined the staff of NAMESProject, the AIDS Memorial Quilt. He served as the Director of Quilt Operations from 1995 to 2001. After leaving the staff of the AIDS Quilt in 2001 he worked at Under One Roof, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, Marin and San MateoCounties. He also served as board chair of SCRAP-SF, the nation’s first ReuseArts project. During this period of his career Michael honed his business management skills and expertise in not for profit management. 

“At countless Quilt displays mothers handed me their child’s panel and said, “Take care of him.” Today I rejoin the Quilt to fulfill that compact to which I have been entrusted.” 

Learn More About Michael  

Jim Brandt, Director of Advancement

Jim joined theNational AIDS Memorial in 2020. Previously, he was CEO of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and The Jewish Community Foundation, where he served for 11years.  Jim oversaw an array of educational and community development programs, and the annual distribution of over $10 million in grants. During his tenure, the Foundation's endowment grew from $65M to$150M.  

Jim began his career in fundraising as the Executive Director of Congregation Beth Shalom inCambridge, Massachusetts where he led a capital campaign to rejuvenate the synagogue's historic sanctuary and open a state-licensed child care center.  In the 1980's, Jim served as a member and chair of the PastoralConcerns Committee of AIDS Action, Boston pastoring to young men living withAIDS and their families. This experience led Jim to pursue the rabbinate. In1998, following studies at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, Jim was ordained as a rabbi. Jim served as a chaplain atVanderbilt University in Nashville, and in congregations in Houston and NapaValley. 

Jim grew up in LosAngeles. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a in Environmental Design. He earned his Master of Architecture degree from MIT. Jim has two children, Rudy and Jesse. He lives in Berkeley with his partner, Matt and their dog, Jack. 

“The cause and mission of the National AIDS Memorial speaks to me. Over the years, I have pastored to those suffering from illness and helped families  accept, support and grieve for their sons. To continue that work by uplifting the memory of all those we lost to AIDS and to teach the lessons of the AIDS movements to the next generation is a special blessing."

Brian Holman, Quilt Curator & Display Coordinator

Brian is responsible for coordinating displays of the AIDSMemorial Quilt and curating the block selections for each display.  Having joined the team at the National AIDSMemorial in 2020, he continues to work remotely from Atlanta, where he began working with the NAMES Projection Foundation in 2001.  Brian’s Theatre background and passion forArt History lends itself perfectly to his position with National AIDSMemorial.   

Having worked with the Quilt for 19 years with the NAMES Project, curating this extensive collection for 16 of those years, he is grateful to continue in his work with National AIDS Memorial.  In addition to working with the individualDisplay Hosts, he also curates Quilt for the nine Chapters across the US.  He strives to personalize each display in order to elevate the connection between the Community and the Quilt they receive. 

“Working with the Quilt has been the most rewarding work of my life.  To hopefully educate and influence life decisions through displays of the Quilt makes what I do so much more meaningful.”

Matt Kennedy, Operations Associate

Matt joined the National AIDS Memorial in 2014. Having spent the previous 8 years as a print broker alongside his partner, he decided to return to the nonprofit world in hopes of reconnecting with the community found through HIV/AIDS service organizations. Matt first became involved with the STOP AIDS Project as part of the Positive Force team and worked with passionate members of both staff and the community to create impactful programming and creative ways to engage those living with HIV/AIDS. Finding employment with the National AIDS Memorial helped to rekindle that drive andMatt remains grateful for the opportunity to participate as part of the administrative team. 

“Working at the National AIDS Memorial is so uplifting and inspirational.  To be part of something bigger than yourself and helping ensure that the story of AIDS isnever forgotten and that future generations understand the pain, heartbreak and loss, as well as so many heroes who helped with the healing.”

Gert McMullin, Quilt Conservator & Production Manager

Gert McMullin joined the National AIDS Memorial team in 2020 as Quilt Conservitor & Production Manager.  Cindy Ann McMullin grew up in a loving raucous Oakland Hills family. In the 1980’s she emigrated to the CastroDistrict of San Francisco. While working as a box office manager and as Macy’s“cosmetic sales gal”; She was well known among the Union Square retail workers.It was common to hear the comment, “Did you see what SHE was wearing today?”She would often change her name tag to reflect her mood. “Gert” was the girl that was sarcastic and a bit caustic. 

During this period she could be found sharing those magical days of new found freedom and acceptance in the Castro. It was a magical time when gay men and lesbians came from around the world to experience true acceptance. She was there and indeed part of that experience. 

When AIDS began to attack her friends, Gert McMullin was born. She was heartbroken and angry that this would happen to her boys. InApril of 1987, Gert went to a meeting about making a memorial quilt. There were only 5 gay men and Gert, plus she realized that these men knew nothing about sewing. She made her first quilt for activist Roger Lyon and she has not stopped sewing in all of these thirty-three years. Gert is the only person that has caressed and/or had a hand in sewing each and every panel of the AIDS MemorialQuilt. 

“I loved my friends. Through all of the tragedy and horror of watching all of my friends die one by one, I am truly lucky to have found The Quilt. It and the people who work with it saved my life. I walkthrough those doors every day to thank it. Everyday.” 

Learn More About Gert   
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Steve Sagaser, Development Manager

Steve became a member of the National AIDS Memorial staff in 2009, serving in the capacity of operations and development support, and manager of the Grove’s volunteer programs and opportunities. Previously, Steve served as development director and volunteer coordinator at Under One Roof, a twenty-three year San Francisco non-profit gift shop that raises money for AIDS service organizations in the Bay Area. Steve graduated with a degree in legal studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 1991, and was paralegal to general counsel of a national IT solutions company for several years prior to becoming involved in the non-profit sector. Steve lives in San Francisco with his partner of many years, Marcel Calma. 

“I lost my late partner Sergio Anguiano to AIDS in 1993. Sergio was just shy of his twenty-second birthday when he died, and is the most courageous person I’ve ever known. My commitment to the mission of theNational AIDS Memorial is inspired largely by my dedication to Sergio, who is memorialized at the Grove, surrounded by life, beauty and the very best inhumanity, and also on the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Through my work, I hope to ensure that that the story of AIDS and the lessons learned never be forgotten.” 

Learn More About Steve

Roddy Williams, Quilt Operations Manager

Roddy manages Quilt Operations for the National AIDS Memorial, joining the team in 2020 and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area from Atlanta, GA, where he worked for the NAMES Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt since2003. 

After working the corporate grind for years at GE Capital inJacksonville, FL and then in Atlanta, Roddy found himself in search of a way to give back and the AIDS Memorial Quilt was just the opportunity he was looking for. 

During Roddy’s 17 years with the Names Project Foundation, he was charged with  many responsibilities with theQuilt, including packing in the warehouse for displays happening across the country, managing panel maker and donor databases, coordinated annual fundraising campaigns and assisting individuals with the creation of their loved ones panel. 

Roddy continues those responsibilities today. 

“I have always felt honored and privileged to do what I do with The Quilt and now with The National AIDS Memorial – to care for and share the stories of AIDS from loved ones who have died and the ones who loved them.  This is a passion that drives my purpose EVERYDAY.”

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Our work helps ensure that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story of AIDS is known by future generations - so that never again will a community be harmed because of fear, silence, discrimination, or stigma.