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Board of Trustees

Role of WISR’s Board of Trustees

As is the case with the Boards of all non-profit educational institutions, WISR’s Board of Trustees holds final decision-making authority regarding all policies and actions at WISR. Throughout WISR’s history, we have been fortunate to have had Board members who deeply understand and appreciate WISR’s mission. Board members provide ongoing informal advice and collegial support to WISR’s President, faculty and students, especially regarding issues of institutional development and planning, educational improvement, and the formation of new policies and procedures (financial, administrative and educational). They take formal action on needed policies and substantive institutional changes, as well as make decisions on special matters that call for important and definitive attention. They take such actions and make such decisions, after carefully considering input from those at WISR who are most involved in the day to day workings of WISR.

WISR has also had the good fortune to have had great continuity in Board membership–some members of the Board have served for over 20 years, and most all Board members serve for at least 10 years. The Board gets the benefit of varied perspectives on the Board–in terms of gender, culture, professional background and types of involvement at WISR. The Board Chair and the Board Treasurer have each served on the Board for over 20 years. Two long-time volunteer core faculty members serve on the Board, thus ensuring strong input from WISR’s faculty, but without a personal financial interest. WISR’s President and co-founder has also been on the Board for over 20 years. One member of the Board is a graduate of WISR’s BA program and is almost finished with her Master’s degree at WISR. Two other members of the Board bring other broad community perspectives and have served on the Board for about 10 years each.

Members of WISR’s Board of Trustees

Robert Blackburn, PhD is Chair of WISR’s Board. He earned his PhD in Leadership in Higher Education, at the Union Graduate School (1984), the MA in Intergroup Relations, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (1964), and his AB, in Sociology and Education from Oberlin College (1957). He went to high School in Roslyn, New York and at the Texas Military Institute, San Antonio. Bob’s work history has included civil rights, school improvement and citizen action, regional director for the Peace Corps in Somalia, central office leadership in the Philadelphia public schools, Deputy and Superintendent for the Oakland Public Schools, Professor and Chair, and Department of Educational Leadership and Administration, Cal State East Bay. He has held Board memberships in various professional and civic organizations in Philadelphia and Oakland, and has served on the California Attorney General’s Commission on Hate Crimes. Now, he provides extensive mentoring and coaching for Oakland school principals through the Principal Leadership Institute of the University of California att Berkeley and Cal State.

Vera Labat, MPH is Secretary of the Board and has served as a member of WISR’s faculty for 30 years, and has volunteered in that part-time role for the past 27 years. Vera has her BS in Nursing from San Francisco State University (1964) and her Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley (1974). Vera has recently retired after a long career in the field of public health. For many years, she was in charge of immunization for the City of Berkeley, and prior to that, she was school health consultant for the Berkeley Unified School District. She taught community health at the University of California, San Francisco, and taught in the School of Medicine at the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. She was the founding Executive Director of the Over 60 Health Clinic in Berkeley.

Charles Greene, MBA is Treasurer of WISR’s Board. Chuck graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (Bachelor’s) and has his MBA from Harvard Business School. He is the Executive Director of the Cedars of Marin, which has model day and residential programs for adults with developmental disabilities. Chuck has more than 36 years of nonprofit management experience as co-founder and Administrative Vice President of World College West, as Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of San Francisco, and as Executive Director of The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Goldman Environmental Prize. He has been an interim executive director for nine Bay Area nonprofits, including at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Previous interim assignments include Chinese for Affirmative Action, Angel Island Immigration Foundation, Zen Hospice Project and the Marin Institute. .

Peggy Baxter, MSW received her BS in Education/Sociology from Hampton University (1958) and her MSW from the University of Denver (1967). In 2003, Peggy retired from Children’s Hospital Oakland in Oakland, CA and relocated to her native Greenville South Carolina. At Children’s Hospital Oakland at the time of her retirement she was Senior Administrator for Community Health and Governmental and Community Affairs. Her tenure there covered a span of twenty-four years. She began as Director of Clinical Social Work and after four years moved into an administrative role functioning as executive staff for most service areas throughout the medical center. Prior to joining Children’s Hospital Peggy worked in Community Mental Health in various roles from Psychiatric Social Worker to Director of a Community Mental Health Clinic for children and families. For several years she served as an adjunct instructor at a Community College where she taught Human Growth and Development and Urban Sociology. Today, Peggy serves her community as a member of the Sterling Land Trust Board of Directors, is a volunteer driver for Road to Recovery, a transportation program for cancer patients to receive treatment and staff’s a food bank one morning each week. On the South Carolina Cancer Alliance Board she is Secretary. She is on the American Cancer Society (ACS) National Assembly and the local ACS Leadership Council.

John Watkins, PhD John Watkins was born, raised and schooled in the in the Bay Area. After serving in the Navy for two years and graduating from UC Berkeley in 1961 with a degree in electrical engineering (EE), he was employed for three years at the Berkeley Lawrence Radiation Laboratory designing equipment for exploration in particle physics. His engineering career continued at three other companies, one that designed medical electronics, and included completion of a Master’s degree in EE in 1965. During the late 60s he joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and participated in protest actions against worker discrimination in the auto sales industry and later volunteered to counsel young men wanting to file for conscientious objector status during the Korean war. In 1971 John entered the field of psychology completing a Master’s degree in clinical psychology in 1973 with additional training as a school psychologist, and then worked half-time as a school psychologist in Oakland Public schools and half-time in a community mental health center in East Oakland. Later while continuing work in community mental health, he earned a MFT license in 1976 and a PhD in clinical psychology in 1985 . Retiring from clinical work in 1988 and having acquired rental property in the 70s and 80s he entered semi-retirement by working part time to manage and maintain three multi-unit buildings.

Sevgi Fernandez earned her BA in Psychology at WISR (2001) and she is now nearing the completion of her MA in Psychology at WISR. Sevgi has her own coaching practice in the East Bay. She specializes in working with culturally/racially diverse and blended families. In addition to individual and family coaching, she runs ongoing support groups for step-parents and teens.

David Yamada, JD, PhD completed his PhD at WISR in 2010 and has since been volunteering a significant amount of time to WISR as a core faculty member. David’s previous academic degrees are: BA, Valparaiso University, Indiana, MA, Empire State College, JD, New York University. David is also tenured Professor of Law at Suffolk University in Boston. He is concerned with the role of intellectual activism in contributing to social change. He is the most recent past Chair of the Board of Americans for Democratic Action. As part of his years’ of involvement in addressing the growing problem of workplace bullying, he recently founded the New Workplace Institute–a multidisciplinary, non-profit research and education center devoted to the creation of healthy, productive, and socially responsible workplaces. [from its website:] “The New Workplace Institute will serve as a vehicle for engaging in research and public education on important issues related to work and employment.” David has written numerous published articles on labor law and social policy and is a frequent presenter at professional conferences.

For decades, Jake Sloan has been a leader in promoting equal employment opportunities in construction in Oakland and neighboring communities. He has his MA in History from San Francisco State and he is a former President of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area. In his PhD studies at WISR, Jake is studying the history of the civil rights movement in the area of employment opportunities, and is compiling oral histories which draw on the wisdom of people engaged in this struggle during the past 50 years.

John Bilorusky, PhD is a co-founder of WISR (1975), has been WISR’s President for 30 years, and has served as a core faculty member at WISR since its inception. John’s academic degrees are: BA in Physics cum laude, and cum laude in General Studies, University of Colorado, 1967. MA in Social Foundations of Education, University of California at Berkeley (1968), and PhD in Higher Education, University of California at Berkeley (1972). He previously served on the faculty in Social Science Interdisciplinary Studies (University of California, Berkeley), Community Services (University of Cincinnati), and as Director of Graduate Studies at University Without Walls-Berkeley. He has written and published extensively on adult learning, action-research, and reform in higher education. Over the years, John has served as a consultant and project director for many educational institutions and community organizations, and for innovative action-research projects aimed at community improvements and educational reform.

Trustee Teaching Contributions

A number of Trustees, and former Trustees, serve as adjunct faculty members and teach WISR seminars. They serve as secondary advisers on students’ programs, and help to guide students’ study of areas in which they have special expertise. A number of these people have high and unusual educational qualifications. For example: Dr. Robert Blackburn (Chair of WISR’s Board)–previously a member of the California Attorney General’s Commission on Hate Crimes and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration at California State University, Hayward, as well as a former Superintendent of Schools in Oakland–has served as a member of Graduation Review Boards for a number of WISR Ph.D. students. Assistance has been given freely by former Trustee Mildred Henry, a nationally known researcher on teaching methods, faculty development, and student personality development. Charles Greene, formerly Executive Director of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and former Executive Director of the Volunteer Center for San Francisco, is a resource person for Board, faculty and students on matters of community service work, professional and community networking and business affairs. WISR Board member, Dr. John Watkins, holds a PhD in Psychology and was previously a practicing, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

In addition, by being involved with the teaching-learning at WISR, and taking advantage of their extensive academic expertise, WISR Board members are able to work with WISR faculty in evaluating the quality of the teaching-learning at WISR. This includes assessing how well student learning needs are being met, and noting any needed additions to the faculty or the curriculum.