Founder and President
As President of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE), Liz is deeply engaged in the non-profit community and passionate about youth development and education. The CAFE is focused on college access/success and career readiness and attainment. Also, through the foundation, Liz mentors and supports students and young professionals as they transition through life.
Liz grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing development and credits her parents, family, and a strong community for shaping her values and vision. When others wonder how she somehow “beat the odds” as a product of Cabrini, Liz firmly declares that her success is because of where she came from, not in spite of it.
Liz began working with non-profits in 1993 as founding Executive Director of City Year Chicago, a national service organization. Then in 1995, she served as Executive Director of an Early Head Start Montessori school in Denver, where she led a multi-million dollar expansion. In 1998, she became active with non-profit boards in the San Diego area, which further fueled her interest in philanthropy and education.
Prior to following her passion for youth development and education, Liz had a ten-year career with Ameritech Corporation after receiving an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University.
Liz is a director for Lamar Advertising Company, one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the world. She is also a director for Chicago Public Media/WBEZ , Chicago Beyond, and a National Director for Braven. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Partnership for College Completion, is Special Advisor to OneGoal, and is an alumnus of Leadership Greater Chicago. Liz is a past Trustee of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Most recently, Liz joined a distinguished cohort of Aspen Institute Global Leaders as a 2019 Pahara Education Fellow. She received the Dream Builders Award from the Chicago Child Care Society, the John J. Dugan Award from OneGoal, the Outstanding Community Leader Award from AFP Chicago, and was featured in Make It Better Magazine as one of “Chicago’s Top Black Women of Impact”.
In addition to her commitment to serving Chicago’s students, professionals and communities, Liz is the co-founder with her husband, Don Thompson, of Cleveland Avenue, LLC – a food and beverage focused venture fund. Cleveland Avenue provides financial resources, expertise, and individual support to entrepreneurs as they grow and scale their businesses.
Liz has been married to Don, retired CEO and President of McDonald’s Corporation, for 30 years. They have two adult children and live in metropolitan Chicago.