2015 – 2016 DAWC Branch Board

Elected Officers – 2015-2016:

Co-President: Kathy McKnight and Liz Williams
President Elect: Melanie Wade
Program Co-Vice President: Charla Gabert and Judy Lauper
Membership Vice President: Soni Leighton
AAUW Funds Vice President: Carol Highton
Secretary: Kate Reed
Treasurer: Marilyn Lawver


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 degree. 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 2014. She is currently the Co-President Elect. She participates in a movie group and interviews for Tech Trek.

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 Datalink. Liz has served as a Co-VP Membership for the past two years and is currently the Co-President Elect.

President Elect
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. Melanie is Program Co-Vice President. As a volunteer for AAUW-DAW, Melanie continues to serve on the web team for the redesigned website. Melanie also serves as Social Media Manager and leadership committee member of Canadian Women’s Club (2.0) of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Program Co-Vice President
Charla Gabert
Charla Gabert grew up in Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated from Brown University with a BA in semiotics. She also holds an MA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins and an MS in communications management from Simmons College in Boston. Charla and her husband David Frane moved to the Bay area from Boston in 1997 when her employer, Teradyne, relocated them. Charla spent 20 years in marketing and communications at tech companies in the computerized typesetting and electronics test industries. In 2005 she started a marketing communications consulting business and then retired herself in 2011. Since retiring, she has enjoyed traveling, Nia dance, African drumming, learning to make mosaics, and writing in her various blogs. She is a member of the branch’s writing group and has worked as a docent at the holiday house tours. Charla is a strong supporter of the AAUW Funds and recently joined the Legacy Circle with a planned gift. She has also volunteered with Save Mount Diablo since 2001, serving first on the development committee and then spending seven years on the board of directors, including stints on the Executive Committee and as Chair of the Audit Committee. Charla also served two years on the grants board of the Safety Net, a nonprofit established by Dave Duffield to provide financial assistance to former PeopleSoft employees.

Program Co-Vice President
Judy Lauper
Judy attended Brigham Young University and received her Master’s degree 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. She is now retired. In AAUW she has served as Treasurer, Hospitality Chair, and Program VP. She loves to travel, quilt, garden, bake, attend Storytelling Festivals, and visit family.

Membership Vice President
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 working in the Engineering department researching and writing in the area of engineering design and construction defect litigation under British law. Beginning in 2004 she began easing into retirement by acting as court appointed attorney for minors in guardianship cases in Contra Costa County. She loves traveling, gardening, cooking and the special friends she has made in the special interest groups of AAUW.

AAUW Funds Vice President
Carol Highton
Carol is a native of Northern California. She has led companies, large and small, high tech to low tech, locally and internationally. Recently she has been consulting to develop strategic plans for smaller organizations, including non-profits. Carol enjoys cooking, entertaining and generally being creative. She has served AAUW as a reliable volunteer for most of the fundraising activities since she joined four years ago.

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. She retired in June, 2014 from 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. Currently, Kate is training to be a Contra Costa County Master Gardener with plans to assist in school garden programs focused on improving nutrition.

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 first grade. When her girls were young, Marilyn seemed to find herself as treasurer for every organization, PTA, and even the summer camp 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. 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 looking forward to continuing her involvement in AAUW by being the treasurer for a second year.