Executive Board 2017-2018

Elected Officers – 2017-2018:

President: Melanie Wade
President Elect: Deborah Wechsler
Program Co-Vice President: Robin Hallorin & Liz Williams
Membership Vice President: Ellen Severson
AAUW Funds Vice President: Mary Ellen Blake & Bev Nidick
Secretary: Kathy McKnight
Treasurer: Christine Ritter


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)

President Elect
Deborah Wechsler

Deborah first became involved with AAUW helping with the Expanding Your Horizons program, a STEM weekend program for Middle School girls, and as a docent for the Holiday Home Tour and the Garden Tour fundraisers. She began participating on the interview team for Tech Trek and was Tech Trek co-chair for 2016-17. Currently she is serving on the Board as President-Elect and Tech Trek Chair. Her passion for AAUW lies in the mission for equal education and opportunity for women, especially in Science, Math and engineering fields.

Deborah spent her first 18 years in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She earned a BS in Geology from Colorado State University, MS in Geophysics from the University of Utah, after which she worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on nuclear blast discrimination and seismicity of northern New Mexico. She joined Chevron at the research lab in La Habra, California and spent the next 26 years in various technical and management positions, moving from California to Denver, Oklahoma City, California Bay Area, Houston, Bakersfield, and eventually back to the Bay Area. While in Denver she earned an MBA from Regis University. She and her husband Bruce were transferred with Chevron to Sumatra, Indonesia, where they and their two daughters lived and worked for four years. Deborah retired when they returned to the Bay Area in 2007. She was on the Boards of the PTAs at Charlotte Wood MS and San Ramon Valley High School, ramping up her volunteer activity when her daughters went to college. Since then she has been Treasurer and then President of the Board for her synagogue and continues to serve on that Board. She also volunteers for Save Mount Diablo, a local land trust organization, as a property steward and on various fundraising activities. For the past 4 years she has been a coach for the San Ramon Valley High School Mountain Bike Club.

Program Co-Vice President
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 and as Co-President.

Program Co-Vice President
Robin Halloran

Membership Vice President
Ellen Severson

Ellen is originally from Wisconsin. She earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. While in school she opened and managed a successful retail store. After graduate school she relocated to San Francisco where she worked for Macy’s as a buyer. Subsequently she was hired by Bank of America as Vice President in charge of new product development. Additionally, as retail marketing VP she was a group product manager of retail deposit products and Equity Line. Ellen also spent five years as a marketing consultant working for such companies as Union Bank and the YMCA. For the last five years Ellen has been employed by Beth Chaim as a part time teacher and Hebrew tutor. She lives in Danville with her husband Steve.

AAUW Funds Co-Vice President
Mary Ellen Blake

A native of Pasadena, CA, Mary Ellen worked in the airline industry for 27 years. As the Director-Marketing Systems Design, she designed marketing information systems for both American Airlines and US Airways. She worked for Sun Microsystems for 12 years as World Wide Marketing Manager-High Performance Computing before retiring in 2007. Mary Ellen’s various positions enabled her to live in San Francisco, Greenwich Village, NY, Dallas/Ft. Worth TX, Washington DC, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL before returning to the Bay Area in 1998. Accounting/History at Pasadena City College and CSULA. Mary Ellen has served in the following positions since joining DAW-AAUW in 2010; 2011 & 2012 – Co-Chair Holiday Home Tour, 2013-2014 President Elect, 2014-2015 President, 2015-2016 Webmaster, 2016-2017 Publicity, 2017-2018 Co-VP AAUW Fund.

AAUW Funds Co-Vice President
Bev Nidick

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.

Christine Ritter

Chris is a native Californian, born in Berkeley, and now lives in Alamo with her youngest son. She has been a member of AAUW since 2015 and recently retired from her career as a marketing executive. Chris spent most of her over 40-year working life in medical equipment industry leading product development strategy and marketing. She took two short breaks from industry to work in non-profit organizations including teaching 8th grade science in San Ramon Valley Unified School District and serving as the VP of Membership and Marketing at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco. Chris credits her teachers and family who supported and encouraged her early interest STEM as key enablers of her subsequent career successes. She holds a BS in biology from Stanford, an MS in bioengineering from University of California in San Diego and an MBA from St. Mary’s College. In addition to her new AAUW role, Chris enjoys spending time with her two adult sons and grandchild and continuing her study of classical piano music.