Our Team

Meet Our Team

Robert A. Byrd, Jr.*, Founder

Robert A. Byrd, Jr. is the founder of Bridging the Gap Learning Center, Inc. and a former basketball player for Marquette University’s 1977 NCAA Championship Team.  At Marquette, Robert was fortunate to be a part of the impeccable tradition and last recruit of legendary Coach Al McGuire.  Under succeeding coach, Hank Raymonds, Robert was taught and witnessed firsthand how athletics could be used as a means to achieve success beyond the athletic arena.  A lesson that he not only grasped hold of, but one that thrust him forward to embark on a mission to lay the foundation for at-risk youth and underserved communities to have access to the resources necessary to compete in the global economy.

Robert currently consults for Marquette University Office of Public Affairs and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).


Valerie Wilson Reed*, President

Valerie Wilson Reed is a successful entrepreneur and CEO of Valcooks, LLC. She has been a board member of Bridging the Gap for over 10 years and currently serves as its President.

A native Floridian, she received he BA from Marquette University in 1979 majoring in Communications. Valerie’s corporate career in sales and marketing includes Pabst Brewing Company, Hershey Chocolate Company and G. Heileman Brewing Company.

An ardent volunteer, Valerie Wilson Reed is a Past-President of the Marquette University Alumni Association National Board of Directors (MUAA) and Past-President of and founding member of Marquette University’s Ethnic Alumni Association (EAA). She has served on The Diederich College of Communication’s Advisory Board of Marquette University as well as numerous non-profit organizations is Illinois.

Valerie resides in Hinsdale, IL .


Anna Townes, Vice President

Cathy Stamps Covington*, Secretary

Mary Ellen Powers, Treasurer

Ann Koontz , Board Member

Marilyn Braddock*, Board Member

* Marquette Alumni