Our Team

John W. Kiser III

Founder

John Kiser is one of AEP’s founders. He is an author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He serves on the board of the William and Mary Greve Foundation from which position he has been spearheading, for the past twenty-five years, projects to address America’s dangerous ignorance of the Muslim faith. It is an ignorance, he has learned, that also infects Muslim communities.

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His engagement with the Muslim world began in 1994, after winding down Kiser Research, Inc. in Washington D.C., a business that challenged the conventional wisdom about Russian secretiveness and won national attention by documenting and implementing opportunities for acquiring advanced technologies and intellectual property rights from Russia. His innovative thinking was recognized by both congressional intelligence committees and the Russian Academy of Science in 1993.
In the early 90’s John took his family to France for a sabbatical. His goal was to improve his French, read the Bible, and expose his children to other cultures. Ten years later, two books emerged: “The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria”, and “Commander of the Faithful: A Story of True Jihad”. In 2012, John’s book about French Benedictine monks was the basis for the Cannes Festival’s award-winning film “Of Gods and Men”.

In 2008, the launch of the book “Commander of the Faithful” in Elkader, Iowa, led to the creation of the Abdelkader Education Project. AEP is now developing strategies for the globalization of Abdelkader as a teacher for the world. Today, audiences for the Emir’s demonstrated values and universalist thinking include educators, civic leaders, diplomats, religious communities and the military.

Kathy Garms

Founder

Kathy Garms, AEP Co-founder, revived Elkader’s sister city program with Algeria, and reorganized the program, strengthening cultural understanding by renewing friendships and building relationships between the U.S. and Algeria. She organized the 2008 Elkader launch of John Kiser’s biography, Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader. Together they told the Abdelkader Story and created the Abdelkader Essay Contest that evolved into the 501c3 non-profit Abdelkader Education Project with its many components. Kathy has led AEP’s efforts and continues to expand its network at home and abroad through education and outreach. Kathy and her husband live near Elkader where they raised their three sons.

Daisy Khan

Ms. Khan is the Chairperson of AEP. She is also the Executive Director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a women-led organization committed to peacebuilding, equality, and justice for Muslims around the world.

Ms. Khan is a frequent media commentator on topics such as Muslim women’s rights, Islam in America, Islamophobia, and violent extremism. In 2017, Khan published “WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism”, a report intended to prevent the rise of hate and extremism and develop narratives of peace. Her memoir, “Born with Wings”, was published by Random House in April 2018. Khan has consistently been recognized for her work. She was listed among Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” the Huffington Post included her in their “Top Ten Women Faith Leaders,” and More Magazine has described her as “a link between moderate Islam and the West.”

Frank Raiter

Mr. Raiter currently serves as co-treasurer and financial advisor to AEP. Prior to his retirement in 2005, Mr. Raiter was a Managing Director with Standard & Poor’s and head of the Mortgage Backed Security Ratings Group. From March 1990 to March 1994 he was the Assistant Director, Office of Securities Transactions, of the Resolution Trust Corporation where he was involved in the structuring and sale of residential and commercial mortgage backed securities. Mr. Raiter earned a B.A. in Economics with honors from North Carolina State University and an MBA in Finance from the University of North Carolina. He was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps.

Dana Peterson

Mrs. Peterson is a career educator with twelve years of professional experience. She is currently the managing director for a national education organization, and has experience in educational design, teacher development, and leadership programming. Mrs. Peterson is a career educator with twelve years of professional experience. She is currently the managing director for a national education organization, and has experience in educational design, teacher development, and leadership programming.  She completed undergraduate studies with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in Politcal Science and International Relations. She holds a Master of Education degree from Christian Brother’s University, and a Certificate of Excellence in Adult Learning from Teach for America. 

Matt Peterson

Mr. Peterson is the Executive Director of AEP. His career in the military enabled him to travel around the world to more than 30 countries where he experienced the conflicts caused by cultural ignorance firsthand.

After retiring from the military, he came to AEP with a passion for resolving conflicts by building bridges between people with different backgrounds.  He has B.A. degrees in Philosophy and Government from New Mexico State University and a M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. 

Neil Ruggiero

Mr. Ruggiero is a dynamic career communications professional with 20 years of experience delivering internal and external communications strategies for a globally recognized brand. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer with a deep understanding of leadership, management, community, and public relations. During his career in the Marine Corps Mr. Ruggiero served globally as a director of communications and public relations manager.

He earned a B.S. in Communication from Florida State University, a M.S. in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee, and a M.S. in International Relations & Military Studies from the Marine Corps Command and Staff College.

Kaitlin Kleiber

Ms. Kleiber serves as the Director of Government and Military Affairs for AEP and is the board secretary. Following her graduation from Notre Dame with a B.A. in Cognitive Science and a minor in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Ms. Kleiber worked as a Research Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses in the Cost Analysis and Research Division in Arlington, VA., and was then commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps.

As a Marine Officer Ms. Kleiber has worked in a variety of assignments around the globe. Her current assignment is as a Defense Fellow for the U.S. Congress. Ms. Kleiber is proficient in French, has completed a Fleet Seminar Program with the Naval War College, and will complete a M.A. in Public Policy from George Mason University in 2020.

Ed Eagar

Mr. Eagar currently serves as co-treasurer for AEP. Over his 20 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Eagar served in increasingly responsible technical and managerial positions dealing with electronic warfare, range test and evaluation, and threat simulator development. Following his retirement from the Air Force, Mr. Eagar worked in the private sector and established a Washington area office for Georgia Tech Research Institute and became the youngest director of Georgia Tech Research Institute at that time.

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A four-year program through the Episcopal Church, Education for Ministry refined Ed’s interest in contributing to a society that would seek to reject bias toward Islam and seek to establish mutual understanding and personal respect for others.

Ed’s latest volunteer effort is a Rappahannock county-wide program to help seniors stay and age in their own home. Rapp at Home Inc., an IRS approved 501 c.3 non-profit, is modeled on the concept of the Village to Village National organization. Now over four years old, Rapp at Home membership is approaching 180 members. A graduated scale, based on individual income, provides reduced/or no cost memberships. Ed was a founding Board Member and continues to serve on the Board and as Treasurer.