2014-2015 DAWC Branch Board

We are pleased to announce the following elected 2014-2015 officers:

President: Mary Ellen Blake
Co-Presidents Elect: Kathy McKnight and Liz Williams
Programs Co-VP’s: Judy Lauper and Melanie Wade
Membership Co-VP’s: Tena Gallagher and Soni Leighton
AAUW Funds VP: Carol Kennedy
Secretary: Kate Reed
Treasurer: Marilyn Lawver

Below is background information on these officers; some have been supporting AAUW for years (Tena & Carol) and some are new members. (Kate & Marilyn).


President: Mary Ellen Blake: Mary Ellen is a native of Pasadena, CA. She worked in the airline industry for 27 years. As Director-Marketing Systems Design, she designed marketing information systems for both American Airlines and US Airways. Additionally, she worked for Sun Microsystems as World Wide Marketing Manager-High Performance Computing for 12 years before retiring in 2007. Mary Ellen was CO-Chair for the 2011 and 2012 Holiday Home Tour, manages the Great Decisions Interest Group, and participates in movie night. She also volunteers for the San Francisco Victorian Alliance assisting with their annual Victorian home tour. Mary Ellen has lived in San Francisco, Greenwich Village, NY, Dallas/Ft. Worth TX, and Washington DC. before returning to the Bay Area in 1998. Pasadena City college and CSULA.

CO-President Elect: Kathy McKnight: Kathy was born in Los Angeles and after a 4 year stint in Dallas moved to Northern California with her parents. She attended CAL and earned a BA in English with a history minor. She received a teaching credential from Cal State East Bay. After her husband’s graduation, she and Steve spent two years in the Peace Corps in Thailand teaching English in the Secondary Schools. After their return, they settled in Fresno. Their daughter, Diane, was born in 1967. During this time Kathy sponsored a Y-Teen group of at risk girls. Subsequently, the family moved to Phoenix so Steve could earn his Master’s. After a return to the Bay Area, Kathy began working as a part-time teller at Bank of America to earn a down payment on a house. This morphed into a 30 year career during which time she became a vice-president and traveled around the US setting up loan centers and standardizing procedures. She is currently retired and volunteers teaching English to adults through the Project Second Chance program sponsored by the Library. She also visits and reads to seniors in a residential care home in Walnut Creek. Kathy was co-chair for the Garden Tour in 2013 and is co-chairing the event for 2014. She participates in a movie group and interviews for Tech Trek.

Co-President Elect: Liz Williams: Liz Williams joined AAUW in 2010 after electing an early retirement option from Cisco Systems where she worked as a Human Resources Executive. Liz has over 30 years of experience in her field and has worked with a variety of high tech companies across Silicon Valley. Liz completed a BA in Public Relations and an MA in Instructional Technology from the University of Arizona and San Jose State University. Currently, Liz is consulting part-time with Lee Hecht Harrison in Walnut Creek. Liz and her husband, Tom Thomas, live in Danville and enjoy travel and all the wonderful outdoor activities available in Northern California. Liz has one daughter, Laura, who recently completed her Masters Degree in Urban Planning at San Jose State University and is now working as an Account Manager at Bear Data Solutions. Liz has served as a CO-VP Membership for the past two years and has also been a volunteer for the Tech Trek Program.

Programs Co-VP: Judy Lauper: Judy attended Brigham Young University and received her Masters in math education from Cal State Hayward. After all of her six
children started college, she began working outside the home teaching high school math. In AAUW she has served as Treasurer and Hospitality Chair. She loves to travel, quilt, garden, bake, attend Storytelling Festivals, and visit family.

Programs CO-VP: Melanie Wade: Melanie was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. A graduate of the doctoral program in education at the University of California, Irvine and UCLA, Melanie’s dissertation is based on research from AAUW that focuses on the gender gap in applied technology education and careers. Melanie was Principal of Fremont Adult and Continuing Education in Fremont, California and previously administrator for adult education in Garden Grove, California. She also served as adjunct faculty at UCI. As a volunteer for AAUW-DAW, Melanie redesigned the website. In addition, Melanie has participated in numerous Expanding Your Horizons, Garden Tours, and Holiday Home Tours. Finally, Melanie is a natural science docent at the Oakland Museum of California. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Membership CO-VP: Tena Gallagher: Tena grew up in Colorado and taught special education before moving to the East Bay in 1980. Her husband, John and she opened Oak Tree Animal Hospital in Danville in 1983 where she was the office manager until they sold it in 2004. She misses the people and the animals but since selling she has been able to volunteer in many of her interests, including holding many positions in our branch besides being president for two years: Save Mount Diablo, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), Danville Alamo Garden Club, ushering at the Lesher, Village Theater for Role Players Ensemble, and Firehouse Arts Center in Pleasanton, treasurer of Auxiliary to the California Veterinary Medical Association for 18 years, member of AAUW Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle, California Horticulture Society and has coordinated twice monthly senior hikes for the Town of Danville for almost four years.

Membership CO-VP: Soni Leighton: Soni is a native Californian who was born in Oakland and at a young age moved to a small farm in Modesto with her family where she lived until moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area as a young adult. As a result farmers and fresh farm produce have always been near and dear to her heart. As an adult, with three children, she obtained a JD from John F Kennedy Law School in 1981. As a partner in a small firm, she had an office in Danville and limited her practice to construction defect litigation. She was active in the legal community and was one of the founding members of the Women’s section of the Contra Costa Bar Association. In 2002, she had the honor of being selected as adjunct faculty for the University of Bath in England for the express purpose of writing a report on how construction defect litigation affects engineering design. Beginning in 2004 she began easing into retirement by acting as court appointed attorney for minors in guardianship cases. She loves traveling, gardening, cooking and the special friends she has made in the special interest groups of AAUW.

AAUW Funds VP: Carol Kennedy: Carol was educated at Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington. She taught school, raised a family of 3 children and is now retired. This year Carol will be a 40 year member of AAUW. She has enjoyed many interest groups including Books, Movies, Gourmet and Great Decisions. She has held numerous board positions and has always supported the Educational Foundation & Legal Advocacy (now AAUW Funds). Carol & her husband Jim have lived in Walnut Creek for 37 years and love travelling the world!

Secretary: Kate Reed: “Kate” is a Bay Area native, whose marriage and career took her up and down the state and back and forth to the D.C. area. This June, she is coming to the close of a university career as a professor in the field of teacher education. Prior to her university work, she retired from 22 years of teaching high school math and foreign language. Kate is recently widowed. She has two married daughters living in Virginia and Ohio, and two teenaged grandchildren in Ohio. Kate enjoys hiking, gardening, playing piano, and reading. She is looking forward to AAUW activities in the coming years. Kate is new to AAUW.

Treasurer: Marilyn Lawver: Marilyn grew up in rural Louisiana and graduated from LSU in 1969. She met her husband Bryan while living in Houston, and in 1974 they moved to California. She and her husband have two daughters, both of whom teach in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and one granddaughter who is in kindergarten. When her girls were young, Marilyn seemed to find herself as treasurer for every organization, PTA, and even the summer camps her girls attended. Marilyn spent 30 years working for H&R Block and seems to enjoy the one thing that the rest of the population despises – taxes. She continues today volunteering with AARP Tax-Aide helping people with their taxes. She also volunteers with VESTIA, (Volunteer Emergency Services Team in Action). In their free time; Marilyn and Bryan have been enjoying life by traveling regularly, watching their granddaughter, and nagging their youngest about the number of cats she owns. Marilyn is new to AAUW but is looking forward to continuing her involvement in AAUW by being the treasurer.