SPECIAL TO THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE--Joan Abrahamson poses for photos in her home, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002, in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)

Joan Abrahamson, JD, PhD

Joan Abrahamson is president and executive director of the Jonas Salk Foundation and president of the Jefferson Institute, a public policy institute that brings creative thinking to practical problems. The Jefferson Institute identifies innovative approaches to current policy problems and works to implement these solutions. A major emphasis of the Jefferson Institute is the future of cities. Joan’s other areas of activity are international security and economics, health, and the study of the creative process.

Born in Los Angeles, Joan earned a BA from Yale University, an MA from Stanford University, a doctorate in Learning Environments from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California at Berkeley. A former assistant chief of staff to Vice President George H. W. Bush, she is on the boards of numerous organizations. She also served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of California. In June 1985, she was named a MacArthur Prize Fellow.

Stuart Brown Founder of National Institute for Play

Stuart Brown, MD

Stuart Brown is the founder of the National Institute for Play, where he speaks, consults, and educates organizations, corporations, universities, and public policymakers about the importance of play in our lives and the unexpected, serious consequences of neglecting play.

Stuart received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine. After graduating he was trained in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic,and later in psychiatry and clinical research at Baylor. 

Stuart’s unusual journey to understand human and animal play began at Baylor when he was an assistant professor of psychiatry researching homicidal, violent, and antisocial behaviors. He found linkages between those behaviors and play deprivation in childhood that led him to research the possibility that free play could prevent antisocial behavior and help people develop healthy social-emotional skills. His work eventually led him to establish NIFP and publish Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  

Learn more about our founder.

Brendan Boyle Board of Director on the National Institute For Play

Brendan Boyle

Brendan Boyle is a toy inventor, adjunct professor at Stanford University’s Design School (, and partner at IDEO. He believes that play is the key to innovation and has spoken to creative leaders, entrepreneurs, and students about the importance of playful exploration and risk-taking.

He founded the Play Lab to uncover kid-centered solutions to the challenge of boredom, which he calls “the opposite of play.” Under his leadership, the Play Lab has invented and licensed hundreds of toys and apps, including the best-selling Jumperoo and Elmo Calls.

Brendan also consults with companies about redesigning their organizational behavior to include space for play, wrote (and still teaches) the course “From Play to Innovation” at, and co-authored the award-winning encyclopedia of never-before-seen inventions — The Klutz Book of Inventions.

Brendan holds an MS from the Joint Program for Design at Stanford University and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University.

Tony Christopher
Executive Director

Tony has a deep, passionate belief that play is important in every stage of life. He has often been playful as he led teams in developing virtual communities,  knowledge management and other online services for Fujitsu, Apple Computer, Cisco, NASA, the FAA and Stanford University. Early in the personal computer era, he was the founding product manager for AppleLink, Apple Computer’s visionary extranet service that connected its employees with its dealers and developers. He retired from salaried work to devote his time to the role of executive director of the National Institute for Play.

Tony has a BA from Columbia Univ. and MBA from Stanford Univ.

Jane Goodall Board of Director on the National Institute For Play

Jane Goodall, PhD

Jane Goodall is the world’s best-known woman scientist, has received many honors for her pioneering work in primatology, and was recently selected as humanitarian of the year by the United Nations. Her major interests in worldwide ecology, the education of children, and chimpanzee habitat preservation are implemented through the Jane Goodall Institute.

Goodall is an outspoken environmental advocate, a vegetarian who advocates for the environment and speaks on the effects of climate change on endangered species such as chimpanzees. One of the many things she has done with her foundation is collaborating with NASA to use satellite imagery from the Landsat series to remedy the effects of deforestation on chimpanzees and local communities in Western Africa by offering the villagers information on how to reduce activity and preserve their environment.

Tom Norquist Board of Director on the National Institute For Play

Tom Norquist

Tom Norquist is SVP Innovation & Business Development at PlayCore, having begun as Director of Sales & Marketing in 1993. He is Professor of Practice at Auburn University’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design and has been recognized with multiple Distinguished Service Awards over his 16 years there. Tom has been deeply involved in the play industry for over 30 years. He is a founding board member and past president of the International Play Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (IPEMA); under his leadership IPEMA launched the Voice of Play which has delivered the message of the importance of play to millions. He has served on the Boards of Directors or Advisory Boards of: the National Institute for Play (NIFP), National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), Recreation Access Advisory Committee, International Playground Contractor’s Association (NPCAI), and is a founding leader of the U.S. Play Coalition.  

Tom holds a BS in Finance, Law and Marketing from Portland State University.

Photo of Lauren Sundstrom

Lauren E. Sundstrom

Lauren Sundstrom, Dr. Stuart Brown’s youngest daughter, is honored to support the National Institute for Play as a Board Member and Strategic Advisor. Lauren attended Colorado College and St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, then spent nearly a decade in Washington, D.C., as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, and as a lobbyist for Holland & Hart. Lauren later joined Western Land Group in Denver, where she became a partner specializing in real estate transactions involving government lands. Lauren has served as a Strategic Advisor to Rickaroons and a host of community and sports initiatives. She and her husband Steve raised two children, Mia and Leo, in Boulder where they attended a play-based preschool and a K-8 Charter based on self-directed, playful learning with very limited tests, grades, or homework. Lauren is a social kinesthete for whom play is a daily practice.

Bowen White Board of Director on the National Institute For Play

Bowen F. White, MD

Bowen White combines the talents and expertise of a physician, consultant, speaker and author. He travels the world conducting seminars, consulting, and speaking to public and private organizations.

In 1983, Bowen founded the Department of Preventive and Stress Medicine for the Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Department of Wellness and Health Promotion before leaving to pursue a private practice and a career as a consultant and speaker.

He is the author of two books: Why Normal Isn’t Healthy, and A Clinician’s Guide to Spirituality with John MacDougal. In addition, he created two audio series: “The Cry of the Heart” and “Dr. White’s Complete Stress Management Kit.”