Our Team

Shane Swanson Headshot

Christopher J. Viveiros, CLU®

Managing Partner

Chris started his career with New York Life Insurance Company in August of 2000 in the Boston General Office. Chris won numerous awards during his time as Agent such as qualifying for Executive Council*. After 3 years as an agent in the Boston General Office, Chris was invited to join the management team as a Partner. In September of 2007, Chris was promoted to Senior Partner in the Boston General Office.

After serving New York Life as a Senior Partner, Chris was then promoted to Managing Partner of the Norfolk General Office in May of 2011. In February of 2018, Chris accepted the position as Managing Partner at the Chicago North Shore General Office. His mission for the Chicago North Shore General Office is to be the premier financial services provider in the Chicago area.

Chris has earned the distinguished designation of Chartered Life Underwriter®, CLU®, from the American College as well as a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management with a minor in Finance and Psychology from Roger Williams University. Chris is also securities licensed for FINRA series 6, 63, 66, 7, & 24.

Erica Berning, LUTCF, CLF Headshot

Erica Berning, LUTCF, CLF, CLU®

Senior Partner

A native of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, Erica graduated from Central Michigan University where she received her Business Administration degree in Marketing. Erica joined NYL as an agent in December 2006 and within her first six-months she achieved Executive Council*. By year end 2008, Erica had achieved two Executive Councils* and was promoted to Partner at New York Life – Chicago in January 2009 at the very young age of 24. Erica is the most tenured Partner in the Downtown Sales Office of the New York Life – Chicago and has aspirations of one day running her own General Office as a Managing Partner. She consistently lets her team know that she truly sought out management to lead others and educate them on the endless opportunities that New York Life offers. Erica strives and wants to give her agents and potential agent candidates the career opportunity and high quality of life she has been able to achieve.

Erica and her husband Matt reside in Elmhurst along with daughter Harper and two sons, Matthias Jr. and Gunnar.

Celeste Garrett Headshot

Celeste Garrett


A native of St. Louis, Mo., Celeste graduated from the University of Missouri prior to beginning a career in journalism. Celeste began working at New York Life in 2011, qualifying for Executive Council* twice, winning Life Case Rate Leader and Annuity Champion Elite awards before becoming a Partner in 2014. Celeste and her husband, Bennie, a New York Life financial services professional, live in Hyde Park and have 2 children.

Click here to learn more about the personal side of Celeste.

Darinka Lora-Stepan Headshot

Darinka Lora-Stepan

Agency Associate

In 2015, Darinka started her career as an agent with New York Life after spending 12 years dedicating her time to her family as a stay-at-home mother.

The following year Darinka qualified as a Quality Council* agent within 6 months. Her upward trajectory continued when she achieved Executive Council* in 2017 and then President’s Council* the next year.

As an investment licensed professional, Darinka continues to dedicate her time to helping her clients achieve financial success. Her goal is to recruit and mentor others looking to pursue a career as a New York Life agent while still protecting those in her community and helping them build a strong and sound retirement.

Click here to learn more about the personal side of Darinka.

 Mary Beth Velzy Headshot

Mary Beth Velzy

Agency Associate

Mary Beth was born in Chatham, NJ and grew up in the East Coast and Midwest. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH with a degree in Retail and Fashion. After graduation she studied at the Paris Fashion Institute in Paris, France. Her first career position was in the buying office for Rich’s Department Stores in Atlanta, GA. She then moved to Chicago to work in sales for Hartmarx Corporation. After that, Mary Beth spent many years in the retail consulting and CPG/Brand Identity industry.

Wanting to start her own business, Mary Beth started with New York Life in 2011. She has a passion for helping successful executives, families and business owners with retirement planning and group benefits. She advises clients across the United States and is actively involved in The Rainmaker’s study group.

In 2017 she began volunteering with Money Management Educators marketing their unique services to nationally known corporations, associations and municipalities. Mary Beth is an avid supporter of promoting financial wellness in our corporate communities.

Living in downtown Chicago she enjoys trying new restaurants, urban gardening and spending time with friends and family. She also frequently travels and loves exploring unfamiliar destinations.

Brian P. Curry  Headshot

Brian P. Curry

Sales Development Manager

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brian started his career at New York Life in 2018 in the Constitution General Office. During his three years as an agent, Brian obtained several securities licenses and won numerous awards such as Executive Council*. He proudly represented New York Life as an active member of NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), a trade organization for insurance professionals and financial advisors.

With the desire of making a broader impact, Brian accepted an invitation to join the management team at Chicago North Shore in October of 2021 as the Sales Development Manager. His role is to develop and retain agents joining New York Life who can help the Chicago community they serve build a more secure financial future.

Brian is a graduate of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where he studied Finance.

Kirk R. Johnson, MBA, CLU, FLMI, LUTCF Headshot

Kirk R. Johnson, MBA, CLU®, ChFC®, CLF®, FLMI, LUTCF

Regional Director of Development

A native of the Chicagoland area, Kirk spent 6 years of his youth in Colombia, South America where he became fluent in Spanish. He attended North Park University prior to beginning a career in Health Insurance Operations while also obtaining his MBA. Kirk entered the financial services industry with New York Life - Chicago in 2001, qualifying for Council* 5 times including President's Council*, before entering management in 2008. After becoming a Development Manager in 2010, Kirk gained experience in 3 diverse offices and was promoted to Director of Development in 2017 and to Regional Director in 2020. During that time, he has helped agents qualify for Council* and consistently been a leader in agent development and retention, being elected to the National Development Manager Advisory Council*. Kirk and his wife Carolyn have resided in Libertyville since 1996 and have 4 boys.

Jason Spears Headshot

Jason Spears, MS, CLU®, ChFC®, CLF®, RICP®

Regional Director of Development

Jason P. Spears joined New York Life Insurance Company in 2012 as an agent in the Montgomery General Office. After achieving various awards he was called into management. After serving in various General Offices in the Development Manager role throughout the West Central Zone, (Nebraska, Greater Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas, & Houston) he now serves in the New York Life - Chicago Office; a Tier I General Office in the New York Life Agency System. Some of his responsibilities include but are not limited to the following: retention, marketing, increasing sales, case development, and new agent development.

Jason is a graduate of Tuskegee University with a B.S. in Finance and Auburn University with a M.S. in Urban Planning & Community Development. While working with New York Life he has obtained numerous securities licenses. He dedicates himself to helping individuals obtain financial stability.

Click here to learn more about the personal side of Jason.

Johnathan Headshot

Johnathan "Blake" Worrells

Director of Agency Standards

Johnathan “Blake” Worrells currently serves as Director of Agency Standards for the Chicago North Shore General Office since May 2017. Blake also serves as Director of Agency Standards in the Illinois General Office since August 2022. Prior to this he served as an Agent/Registered Representative for New York Life from June 2012 to March 2016 in the Mississippi General Office. Blake works consistently to increase his knowledge, and he strives to grow as an asset and leader for New York Life.

wally Headshot

Wallace Foreman

Corporate Vice President

Wally Foreman began his career in management with New York Life in 1990 and has worked in several office locations across the country (Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas and Utah).

Ron Dickstein

Ron and Barbara have 3 wonderful children and added a son-in law in 2014 (he is also wonderful). Ron also has two wonderful granddaughters, Sadie (3) and Brooklyn (1).

Ron and Barbara enjoy cooking as well as experiencing a variety of restaurants, riding their bikes and travel. They also enjoy spending time with family and friends. The family are all big baseball fans (Go Cubbies!)

Darinka Lora-Stepan

Darinka Lora-Stepan is a graduate of DePaul University. She has 3 beautiful children. Her oldest has joined her team as a New York Life agent, her middle child is a successful tennis player at a university in Iowa, and her youngest is a talented teen figure skater. In Darinka’s free time, she continues to be a full-time mother and loves spending time with her family, cooking, playing tennis, and most recently, golfing.

Jason Spears

jason Collage

Jason Spears is a Development Manager in the New York Life Chicago office. Inspired by his father, mother, and several other family members who have served as teachers, principals, and school administrators, Jason’s move to training and management work naturally fits the family’s commitment to facilitating others’ learning experiences.

In his downtime, Jason moonlights as an unpaid TV and movie critic and chef. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys exciting games, but his allegiance belongs to teams from his alma mater, Tuskegee University. He also loves to spend time with his family in the southeast.

Chad Noyes

Chad has many passions – family, fitness, friends and fun are some of them. The Noyes family are big Cubs fans and they’re still celebrating the 2016 World Series Championship.

Chad used to own an international student travel company, loves to play live music and subscribes to the “work hard, play hard” motto. He’s quite passionate about the work he does with Gigi’s Playhouse – Down syndrome achievement centers that offer free programs to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

Celeste Garrett

Ozzie Collage

Celeste Garrett is an award-winning former journalist whose 20-year newspaper career included work as a Chicago Tribune editor and Chicago Sun-Times editorial board member.

She also worked at newspapers in St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis, with assignments that included coverage of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Illinois Gov. George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Celeste is a the daughter of Silas Garrett, an aerospace engineer who developed both the concept and design for the aviation lighting system atop the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and Jean Garrett, a music educator. Away from the office, Celeste and her husband are avid soccer fans and their children are collegiate soccer players. The family also includes three cats, M.J., Stripes, and Puurcy, and two dogs, Blue and Penny.


*Council is an annual company recognition program based on agent production from July 1 - June 30.

**The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), The Premier Association of Financial Professionals, is recognized globally as the standard of excellence for life insurance sales performance in the insurance and financial services industry.