Senior Leadership

Executive Management Team

Kathy Spahn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Helen Keller International, works closely with the Board of Trustees, global leaders in public health, staff members throughout HKI, partner organizations, and HKI supporters in carrying out her responsibilities. Prior to joining HKI, Ms. Spahn was President and Executive Director of Orbis, a global non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of blindness in the developing world.  At the time, the organization had four affiliate offices and five country programs, and a medical volunteer corps of 370. Prior to her work with Orbis, she was Executive Director of God’s Love We Deliver, a New York-based AIDS service organization dedicated to combating malnutrition and hunger among people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Spahn serves on the Boards of Directors of the Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF), InterAction and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and formerly served on the board of the Bernadotte Foundation for Children’s Eyecare. She is a founding board member of both the North America chapter of IAPB and the Association of Nutrition Services Agencies (ANSA), and a founding partner of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control. She also serves on the 2020 and Strategic Advisory Council of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and IFPRI’s Leadership Council Compact of 2025. She joined HKI in March 2005 and is located at headquarters in New York City.

Patricia Manyari, Chief Financial Officer, oversees all fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities of the organization. In her role, she ensures that HKI has strong financial and accounting systems in place in order to provide transparency, accountability and efficiency in all financial transactions of the organization. Ms. Manyari started at HKI in January 2012. She brings 23 years of experience in financial management of international non-profit organizations, implementing sound accounting practices and high financial standards, both in the field and at the headquarters level; and has extensive experience in compliance with various governmental regulations. She comes to HKI from the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) in Washington, D.C., where she served as Director of Finance for over six years, three of them in Bogota, Colombia. At PADF headquarters, Ms. Manyari managed the organization's annual budget of $55 million and monitored approximately forty projects in seven different countries in Latin America. Other prior experience includes serving as Deputy Chief Financial Officer at CHF International’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. for five years and as VP for Finance at PACT Inc.’s Washington headquarters for ten years, three of them in Peru.

Vice Presidents

Rolf Klemm, Vice President of Nutrition, has more than 25 years of professional experience in international public health nutrition with expertise that spans nutrition efficacy and effectiveness research and program design, management and evaluation. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Philippines, 1979-81), Indochinese Refugee Program Supervisor (1982-84), Program Manager and Country Director for Helen Keller International (Philippines, 1986-98), Senior Technical Advisor and Technical Director of USAID’s flagship A2Z micronutrient program (2009-11), and Hopkins faculty member and principal and/or co-investigator (1998-present) for studies in Asia (Nepal, Pakistan,Bangladesh, Philippines) and Sub-Saharan Africa (DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia). He currently serves as Vice President for Nutrition with Helen Keller International and holds a faculty appointment at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Nicholas Kourgialis, Vice President for Eye Health, provides administrative and programmatic direction and oversight for HKI’s eye health programs worldwide. HKI’s eye health programs seek to eliminate avoidable blindness and visual impairment due to cataract, refractive error, trachoma and onchocerciasis and also to support integrative education and rehabilitation efforts for visually impaired children. Eye health programs are currently conducted in over eighteen countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Mr. Kourgialis joined HKI in December of 2003. He brings over thirteen years of related experience to his work at HKI, having spent his career specializing in public health and social service interventions addressing the needs of disadvantaged children. He is based at headquarters in New York City.

Ric Plaisance, Vice President for Information and Operations Systems, has worked with Helen Keller International since 2004. He is responsible for the development and management of systems that support the work of headquarter operations and HKI's international network of field offices. Previously, Mr. Plaisance served for ten years as the Executive Director for Settlement Health where he managed the operations and services of this community health center providing primary health care to the East Harlem community. In addition Mr. Plaisance created and led the NinthBridge program of EngenderHealth, providing information system consultation services to the international NGO community.

Helen Keller International-Europe, an affiliate organization

Alix de Nicolay, Managing Director of Helen Keller International Europe, reopened the Paris office in 1998 with the two-fold mission of raising funds and increasing visibility. She is responsible for positioning, developing and managing the Helen Keller International brand in Europe, which includes: identifying individual, corporate and foundation donors; establishing corporate and institutional partnerships; and writing and submitting proposals. She also manages European-funded programs, establishes media relations, organizes special events and works closely with the Paris Board of Trustees. Mrs. de Nicolay was formerly in charge of development for the French-American Foundation in New York. She has previously worked for several French and American companies, UNICEF’s Special Events Section, and the Department of Information at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. She joined HKI in December 1998 and is located at the Paris office.