September 26, 2012

Prominent Chicago Community and Business Leaders to Serve as Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program Judges

Distinguished panel of experts to help award $110,000 in grants and scholarships to outstanding students & nonprofit organizations in greater Chicago

Wellesley, Mass. (September 26, 2012) –The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF, TSX:SLF) today announced that five prominent community and business leaders including Marie Whitney, philanthropist and wife of Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Cubs Play by Play Announcer Len Kasper, will serve as judges for the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, the financial services company's signature national philanthropic initiative.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program recognizes nonprofits that redress low high school graduation rates and outstanding students who have overcome significant obstacles to succeed. The judges will help Sun Life award $110,000 in grants and scholarships to exemplary Chicago students and nonprofit organizations committed to enhancing educational opportunities for under-served youth. Each winning organization receives a $50,000 grant and selects an exemplary student they work with to receive a $5,000 college scholarship. Since the program’s inception, Sun Life has granted nearly $3 million to 54 students and 47 nonprofit organizations across the country.

The distinguished panel is comprised of some of Chicago’s foremost community and business leaders and philanthropists. Judges include:

  • Scott Baldwin, Area Senior Vice President, Gallagher Benefit Services
  • Shayna Barreca, Principal, Laurus Strategies
  • Len Kasper, Play-by-Play Announcer, Chicago Cubs
  • Greg Martens, Managing Director, Chicago Human Capital Practice; Executive Vice President, Willis of Illinois, Inc.
  • Marie Whitney, Local philanthropist & Wife of Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein

“We are thrilled to have some of Chicago’s foremost community and business leaders help us select this year’s Sun Life Rising Star organizations from the pool of outstanding applications we’ve received,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “Their keen understanding of the local education landscape will be invaluable as we continue to create sustainable programming that promotes financial literacy and helps these incredibly talented and deserving students and organizations embark on a path to a sound financial future.”

This year, Sun Life Financial expanded the program to seven cities from five in 2011, and will award grants and scholarships to outstanding students and nonprofit organizations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and South Florida.

Judges will evaluate applications and student nominations based on the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit’s commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to educational engagement and matriculation rates for secondary school youth under the age of 21
  • Nonprofit’s demonstrated partnership with a secondary or post-secondary educational institution
  • Nonprofit’s documented ability to respond to the needs of specific groups of youth in a manner yielding measurable results
  • Student nominee’s plan to pursue post-secondary education, leadership qualities, commitment to his or her community, and a 750-word essay on how financial education contributes to future success

In addition to monetary support, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program provides winning organizations with educational curriculum and resources to increase financial literacy among students. Sun Life recently partnered with dfree®, a movement developed by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. to galvanize the public to overcome the culture of debt and attain financial self-sufficiency. As part of the partnership, Sun Life and dfree® will provide Sun Life Rising Star Award students and organizations with the Breaking Free Workbook, which includes interactive activities and evaluation tools to encourage debt-free living using the program’s core principles and financial strategies. Soaries will also address winning organizations and students at a series of educational seminars in select Sun Life Rising Star cities throughout the fall.

Sun Life will surprise winning students with their $5,000 scholarships at a special presentation at Wrigley Field on October 2. The students will enjoy an exclusive Q&A session led by Theo Epstein, following a VIP tour of the historic field. The students will watch batting practice before the gates open to the public before receiving tickets to watch the Cubs versus Astros game that night.

About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. In the United States and elsewhere, insurance products are offered by members of the Sun Life Financial group that are insurance companies. Sun Life Financial Inc., the holding company for the Sun Life Financial group of companies, is a public company. It is not an insurance company and does not offer insurance products for sale in the United States or elsewhere, and does not guarantee the obligations of its insurance company subsidiaries. In the United States, Sun Life Financial provides a range of products and services to employers and their employees, including group and voluntary life, disability, dental and stop-loss insurance products. These products are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada in all states except New York. In New York, these products are issued by Sun Life Insurance and Annuity Company of New York. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. For more information please visit Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Media contact
Keith Gainsboro, elevate, 857-234-1481,

SLPC 24348 07/2012 (Exp. 07/2013)


Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program 2012 Chicago Judging Panel

Scott Baldwin
Scott Baldwin is the Area Senior Vice President for Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. He joined GBS in January, 2008 and has over 30 years of combined insurance carrier and brokerage/consulting experience in the Employee Benefit field.  Prior to joining GBS, Scott was the Senior Vice President/Employee Benefit Practice Leader in the Lombard, Illinois office of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs (HRH). Scott has participated in a number of civic activities, including serving on a local school board, leading community-based recreation programs, and holding a variety of positions within the Glenbard West Booster organization. 

Shayna Barreca
Shayna Barreca is a Principal of Laurus Strategies. She has overall responsibility for Laurus Strategies' client management services, and previously managed the Emerging Markets Segment within the Employee Benefits Consulting Practice.  Shayna has spent 15 years consulting with organizations to design and manage high performing employee benefit programs, recently helping to implement employee benefit solutions that help consumers obtain the highest value medical care while remaining productive in the workplace.  Earlier in her career she helped develop and implement a National Voluntary Benefit Worksite Practice. 

Len Kasper
Len Kasper, a Midwest native, is in his eighth season with the Cubs after doing Florida Marlins play-by-play for three years for Fox Sports Net. Prior to joining the Marlins, Len did play-by-play for select Milwaukee Brewers games from 1999-2001. Kasper's broadcast career also included a stint as the morning sports anchor at WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wis. He hosted pregame and halftime shows for the Green Bay Packers radio network and co-hosted a hot stove league show on the Brewers radio network. He spent nearly eight years working for WTMJ. Kasper graduated summa cum laude from Marquette University in 1993 with a degree in public relations. He was born on Jan. 21, 1971, in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Len and his wife, Pam, have one son: Leo.

Greg Martens
As Managing Director of the Chicago and Illinois Human Capital Practice, Greg Martens directs a staff of 55+ consulting professionals in areas of marketing, underwriting, sales, communications, compliance and customer service. He has helped design several unique web solutions customized to client needs and also conducted and managed major projects in Healthcare and executive compensation. He is an experienced instructor and seminar facilitator in the area of compensation technology.          

Marie Whitney
Marie received her Bachelor’s Degree from Boston University and her Master’s Degree from Harvard University. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Two Penny Blue, a fashion company that donates a school uniforms to a girl in need in Africa with every purchase.  She currently resides in Chicago with her husband Chicago Cubs President, Theo Epstein.