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Members/Contact Us

Foundation Board

Executive Director: William Nelson

Chairman: Daryl E. Empen

Vice Chair: Dorothy Beck

Treasurer: Jan R. Garmong

Secretary: Krisan Steiger

Member: Fred Dasso

Member: John Gripp

Member: Frank Perez

Member: Toni Gasper

Member: Sam Odeyemi

Member: Jennifer Miller

Email Contact for the Foundation:

William (Bill) Nelson –


Bill is married to Mary (Jacki) and they have a son Kyle (wife Mackenzie), a daughter Katherine (Kat) and a granddaughter Evie.


His interests include being a volunteer Conductor for Iowa Interstate trains (once or twice a year) and in his membership of The Antique Tractor Association and Run the train at their fairgrounds. He is also a board member for The Botanical Center and Niabi Zoo.


Bill’s career started in Zion Park District and grew to become Park and Recreation Director in Stillwater, Oklahoma, then becoming the Director for Rock Island Park and Recreation.


During his professional career he was fortunate to be involved in many notable projects such as: the upgrading of two golf courses, four pools, rebuilding a large lake, including constructing a six-mile bike/hike trail around that lake.  He served as Chairman of Southwest Region of the National Recreation and Park Association, was President of the American Park and Recreation Society. President of Oklahoma Park and Recreation Society, and Legislative Chairman of Oklahoma Park and Recreation Society for ten years.  Bill has been very active in many community events in Zion, Stillwater and Rock Island.


His philosophy for life: “Do not make a decision that you may have to apologize for later.”


Why is he part of the Foundation: “I started work on the Foundation when it became apparent that there was not enough tax support to provide the park and recreation services needed.”



What the board knows about Bill: Where there is a will there's a way and Bill will find it!

Daryl Empen


Daryl and his wife Cynthia have two sons, Nils and Ian.  Their furry family members include two bunnies, Twinkie and Oreo.


He loves all sports and tries to stay active and says he plays badly at golf as his main recreation.  Daryl is Scoutmaster of Troop 258 in Rock Island and spends a great deal of time working with the scouts and camping.

He is active in Kiwanis Club of Rock Island and serves on several local Boards including GROWTH Corporation and Friendship Manor.


He and his wife are staunch preservationists.  They live in the Broadway Historic District in the landmarked Frank & Caroline Young House. They spent many hours restoring and preserving their historic home (their 2nd home in the Broadway neighborhood) having lived in this area for more than two decades.


Daryl graduated from Augustana College and began his career in the banking industry 26 years ago with Gas & Electric Credit Union.  In 1999 Daryl became President of Gas & Electric Credit Rock Island where he is continuing his career.


His philosophy for life: “Do what you can to improve your community and make this a better world in which to live.”


Why is he part of the Foundation:  “I believe strongly that Rock Island Parks and facilities are the best in the Quad Cities, and are critical to the quality of life in Rock Island.  I love my adopted hometown of Rock Island - I grew up in the small town of Forreston, IL- our beautiful parks are at the top. I want to ensure we are able to maintain these for future generations and that children of all ages have the opportunity to participate in our programs and use our facilities.”


What the board knows about Daryl:  You can count on him

Jan Garmong


Jan lives in Rock Island, IL.  Her son Robert Garmong PhD lives in China and works for Montessori Schools.  Jan’s grandson Roman Karl Garmong lives in China with Mom and Dad, so Facetime is an important tool for Jan.


Jan loves to golf, knit, read, garden and travel and is now retired after 32 years as a Medical Administrator.


Her philosophy for life: “I choose to make every day a good day!”


Why is she part of the Foundation: “I have passion for Rock Island and very much believe the parks are important to our quality of life.”


What the board knows about Jan:  She keeps our financial records straight and is incredibly thankful to all who participate in all aspects of the Foundation.

Fred C. Dasso


Fred and his wife Joe have four sons Kevin, Kurt, Kenneth and Kris and a daughter Liz.


Fred has an interest in hunting, fishing gardening and his work. Work is a pleasure for Fred so much so that his successful career as a real estate manager broker has spanned 51 years.


His philosophy for life: Accomplish a little each day - a big job is a lot of little ones let go.


Why is he part of the Foundation: “I have been involved with the Rock Island Parks since 1982 and the foundation is a new method to help recreation.


What the board knows about Fred:  He is very dedicated to his passion for work and very committed to the Foundation.

Dorothy Beck


Dorothy and her husband Byron live in Rock Island where they raised their children Amanda and Adam and where she has been active in numerous organizations ranging from Girl Scouts to soup kitchens.  


She is currently serving on the Rock Island County Board.  Dorothy is a retired Professor of English and Philosophy at Black Hawk College where she also served on the College’s Board of Trustees.  


Her philosophy for life: Her philosophy for life comes from James Thurber's fanciful character the Gollux who “makes mistakes but is on the side of Good.”  


Why is she part of the Foundation: “I love Rock Island, I love parks, and I love recreation.”


What the board knows about Dorothy: She is the grammarian, the Robert’s rule of order and the one who will ask the question that everyone thinks about asking when it needs to be asked!

Toni Gasper


Toni has been married for 40 years to her husband Steve.  They have son James (head golf coach Mr. Austin / played on Rocky Golf Team) daughters Jackie and Jennifer.  Her furry family is Nemo the cat.


She is a graduate of Alleman High School, a member of St. Pius Rock Island.  She is a friend of Hauberg Civic Center and the President of the Milan Rotary Club.


Toni has been in the banking industry for 40 years.  She loves to help people with their finances. She is currently the Vice President of Blackhawk Bank & Trust.


Her philosophy of life: “Treat others how you would want to be treated.”


Why is she part of the Foundation: “GIVING BACK to this beautiful city of Rock Island. We love all the parks in Rock Island. I enjoy using all the beautiful parks, baseball fields we have in Rock Island, playing on the playgrounds, letting the dogs run in the parks, enjoying nature! Love all the parks in Rock Island and love to play tennis and ice skate!


What the board knows about Toni:  She is dynamite - just ask and she will be the first to help!

Frank Perez


Frank has been married to his wife Julie for more than 20 years.  They are parents to Matt Luebbers, Dominic, and Sam.  They are grandparents to Jack. Their furry family includes two German Shepherds named Max and Suni.


Frank enjoys the great outdoors especially leaning toward the warmer temperatures. He and his family boat and camp in Wisconsin on the Mississippi River.


He is currently with US Bank of North America as a personal banker. His office is in Rock Island.


Franks philosophy for life: “You only live once but if you do it right, once is all you need.”


Why is he part of the Foundation:  “When I was invited to be a member I knew that this would be a great opportunity to become involved in my own home town community.”


What the board knows about Frank:  Just ask, the answer is always YES!

John Gripp


John was born and raised in Rock Island. He and his wife, Lynn, have been married for eighteen wonderful years. They have two sons Andrew and Ethan.  Their furry family member is their dog Miles.


John enjoys family, hiking, golfing, fishing, swimming, boating - basically anything outdoors!


John’s first job was a lifeguard at the old Rock Island YMCA (now RIFAC). After graduating from college, he returned to work at the RI Parks and Rec Department as the Aquatic Director. From there he grew as Superintendent of Recreation, then Assistant Director to now the Director of Parks and Recreation for Rock Island.


His philosophy for life: “Eat, Drink and Be Merry!”  - Dave Matthews.


Why is he part of the Foundation: “I am part of the Foundation because it is critical to a successful future for the Department.  There can be a lot of uncertainty as administrations come and go, so a strong Parks Foundation is key to remain stable. Plus, I really love Rock Island and all of the awesome parks and facilities we have!!”


“Parks and recreation is an important component to any city. This can often get overlooked during challenging financial times.  Parks attract people to live and visit a community. The parks, recreational programming and facilities provide necessary experiences that appeal to wide range of people. Parks and recreation opportunities stimulate our local economy, and there is data to support this.”


What the board knows about John:  He has a great sense of humor and loves to pull pranks!

Sam Odeyemi

Samuel Odeyemi is originally from Chicago Illinois but currently resides in Rock Island since 2018. He studied Urban and Regional Planning at The University of Iowa. During his tenure in Iowa City, he volunteered with various organizations such as Practical Farmers of Iowa, IRenew, Citizens Climate Lobby, and The Johnson County Food Policy Council.


Samuel currently works as a Real Estate agent for Keller Williams Greater Quad Cities. He joined the foundation because he wanted to continue to give back to his community no matter what place he calls home. He also volunteers for the Riverbend Foodbank and Habitat for Humanity organizations as well. He is also a member of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

Dr. Jennifer Miller

Dr. Miller lives in Rock Island and serves as the Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Black Hawk College.  She is a former high school English teacher and she taught at the college level in teacher education.  She is originally from northeast Ohio.  She has a daughter, Dicey, who is a senior at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.  

Jennifer likes to cook and bake.  She also enjoys gardening and is an avid reader.  

Her philosophy: Be Strong.  You never know who you are inspiring.

She joined the Foundation because she is new to the Quad Cities and wanted a way to meet people and be involved in her new community. She enjoys the outdoors and as a former teacher, she is always interested in ways to promote youth activities.