Board of Directors

Friends of Freiburg was founded in 2016 in order to support initiatives by Freiburg Alumni in the United States and Canada. As a non-profit with 501(c)3 status, Friends of Freiburg strives to create opportunities for US students to live in Germany and study at the University of Freiburg on a temporary basis while also assisting German students in gaining valuable international experience in the US. Initiatives range from organizing an array of cultural events in the United States to identifying internship opportunities and support of students and alumni with entrepreneurial ambitions.

Jeffrey HimmelJeffrey Himmel, President; retired CEO, Artco Group
Jeffrey Himmel studied abroad twice in Freiburg for both undergraduate and graduate studies and has developed strong ties to the University. He was previously President and CEO of The Artco Group which comprises several steel manufacturing enterprises across the United States. Jeffrey is also the founder of Alumni Freiburg North America and the President of the Board of Directors of Friends of Freiburg. Jeffrey is also on the Board of Directors of the American Institute for International Steel, The Lake Club in Wilton, CT, and volunteers for and supports the Leo Baeck Institute in NYC. He is married and has three children.



Dr. Martin Breckheimer, Treasurer; Venture Capital Partner, Vine Ventures
Martin Breckheimer has had an international outlook throughout his life. He attended a German-French high school in Cologne, studied Contemporary History and Political Science at the University of Freiburg and the University of Iowa, graduating with a M.A. in Iowa and a doctoral degree in American and Eastern European history and a minor in Political Science from the University of Freiburg. He did internships with Rep. Jim Leach in Washington, D.C. and the Germany-American Chamber of Commerce in Houston. As an international trade finance and export finance banker he worked first with Commerzbank AG in Germany and then in the US. Later, he worked as a relationship banker, heading  the corporate business of LBBW New York Branch. He is now working as a venture capital partner with Vine Ventures Corp. now. He holds dual U.S. and German citizenship and is also fluent in French and Spanish. He is married and has two sons. It is his goal – together with the other active alumni and Board Members – to build an alumni organization here in New York which is intellectually stimulating to a wide range of multinational professionals forming the alumni network. It is another goal to be self-sufficient in this endeavor. These two goals are related, however, since meaningful events lead to the readiness to invest your own time, funds and more.

Jackson JanesDr. Jackson Janes, Board Member; President Emeritus, American Institute of Contemporary German Studies
Jackson Janes is the President Emeritus of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989. Currently, he also holds a position as a Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Atlantic Council of the United States. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee , Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS) and serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Katrin KempinersKatrin Kempiners, Board Member; Senior Consultant, Ernst & Young
Katrin Kempiners is an alumna of the University of Freiburg where she received master’s degrees in both American and German studies. She is also an alumna of the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, where she obtained her MBA in 2019. As a consultant in Mergers & Acquisitions and Corporate Growth Strategy at EY Parthenon, Katrin understands the importance of intercultural competencies and diverse networks in today’s international work environment. Katrin’s interests lie in growing the alumni network in North America through creating opportunities to connect alumni to each other as well as current students, be it as mentors, employers or angel investors.


Sarah Stephens, Board Member; Co-Founder, Stephens Nicolson Artists Management
Sarah Stephens is the Co-founder & President of Stephens Nicolson Artists Management, an international agency for opera based in New York and Berlin. She studied German Literature at the University of Freiburg, the University of Vermont and received her BA and MA from the University of Minnesota. Sarah began her first opera management agency in 1994 in Bremen, Germany. In 2008, she moved to NYC to expand her work and founded the current agency. Her management agency represents opera singers, conductors, stage directors worldwide. Sarah is Co-founder and on the Executive Board of OMAI – Opera Managers Association International. Recently, she was appointed by the Minnesota State Arts Board as an Artist Evaluator and Panelist. As an FoF board member, she has moderated many panels and given opera introductions.


Florian Otto

Florian Otto, MD, PhD, Board Member; Co-Founder / Chief Executive Officer of Cedar
An accomplished entrepreneur and former physician, Florian now drives growth and sets overall direction across all facets of Cedar’s operations. Prior to founding Cedar, Florian was an executive at Zocdoc where he drove the commercial adoption of the platform. Florian also founded a daily deal company in Brazil (ClubeUrbano) that was eventually acquired by Groupon. After the acquisition, he became Chief Executive Officer of Groupon Brazil, growing the company to one of Groupon’s top three international markets. Florian began his business career as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company within their healthcare practice. Florian holds a M.D., D.D.S. and PhD from the University of Freiburg, Germany.


Daniel Zimmermann, Board Member; Partner, WilmerHale
Daniel Zimmermann is a corporate partner and Co-Chair of WilmerHale’s Emerging Companies Practice and based in Palo Alto. He is an accomplished lawyer with extensive experience in complex corporate transactions and venture technology issues. For more than 20 years, he has advised entrepreneurs, emerging companies and technology startups, and draws on his global experiences counseling companies in the United States and Europe. His technology clients span the industry, including telecom, infrastructure, digital media, software, energy, clean tech, ecommerce, FinTech, edtech, digital health and healthcare IT, robotics and big data.  Mr. Zimmermann is a member of the California and New York Bar Associations and the International Law Sections of the American, California and New York Bar Associations.  He studied law at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and Uni-Freiburg and UCLA Law School. He is admitted to practice in New York and California. Mr. Zimmermann has served as Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Law Section of the State Bar of California for the 2009-2010 term and as Chairman of the Board of the German American Business Association of California. Mr. Zimmermann also previously served as president and board member of Alto International School in Menlo Park and serves as primary pro bono counsel to the School, and currently serves on the board of Paltown Development Foundation which grows communities of hope and empowers patient leaders. He is widowed and spends as much time as possible with his three children, dragging them to modern art museums. He loves traveling to exotic places and enjoying the beauty and serenity of the California Pacific Coast and the Sierra Nevada, but don’t call him early Saturday mornings. Those are usually reserved for SC Freiburg Bundesliga games.

Robert E. Lewis, Board Member
Robert Lewis is an active investor in start-up ventures, primarily in the Insuretech, Medtech, Fintech, and Envirotech industries.   He is passionate about education and in assisting creative and innovative entrepreneurs realize their business development aspirations.  Bob holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in German literature from Davidson College and Duke University, respectively, and was fortunate to have studied Germanistik at both the University of Marburg while an undergraduate and at the University of Freiburg, as a DAAD stipend recipient, as a graduate student.  He started his 35-year career in financial services in 1976 with the Chase Manhattan Bank in Frankfurt.  After 6 years in Germany, he continued his career in New York with Chase, ING Bank and AIG, where he spent 18 years as its Chief Credit Officer and Chief Risk Officer.  After assisting AIG, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Department of Treasury through the 2008 financial crisis, culminating in AIG’s repayment of all financial assistance provided by the US Government, Bob retired from AIG in 2011.  Since that time, he has served on the Board of Trustees of Landmark College in Vermont (10 years as Chair) the premier college serving students with learning differences and disabilities.  He is married to Anette, whom he met while studying in Freiburg.


Prof. Dr. Bettina Fries, Board Member; Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Stony Brook University
Dr. Bettina Fries is a nationally recognized physician-scientist in microbiology and is currently a tenured Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University in New York. Dr. Fries graduated with a medical diploma from the University of Freiburg and completed her medical doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. In the US, she first completed a research fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, followed by an Internal medicine residency and Infectious diseases fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Before her appointment at Stony Brook, Dr. Fries was faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. She also served as an Associate Program Director in the Internal Medicine Residency program. Dr. Fries has received uninterrupted support from the National Institutes of Health for her research. Her research focuses primarily on the pathogenesis of chronic fungal infections and the development of monoclonal antibodies against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Nationally, Dr. Fries is a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America, the Academy of Microbiology, the American College of Physicians, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In the past, she served as the President of the Infectious Diseases Society of New York, the Medical Mycological Society of the Americas, and as a distinguished lecturer for the American Society of Microbiology. Dr. Fries has published over 110 original scientific manuscripts. She is also a regularly invited speaker at international and national conferences.

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