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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 and ethnicity, 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. The Treasurer has extensive CEO experience at Bay Area nonprofits and has an MBA from Harvard. One long-time volunteer core faculty member serves on the Board, thus ensuring strong input from WISR’s faculty, but without a personal financial interest. Two members of the Board are WISR alumni, one of whom is a tenured professor at a regionally accredited university. Another member of the Board is a current student who is also a widely recognized and respected professional and community leader, having served as President of 100 Black Men on more than one occasion. Two other members of the Board bring relevant professional and community perspectives and have served on the Board for about 10 years each. WISR’s President and co-founder has also been on the Board for over 20 years.

Vera Labat, MPH is Chair 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 Chair of the Board of Directors of New Horizon Family Health Services.

John Watkins, PhD, is Secretary of the Board, and 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 Master’s in Psychology at WISR.  She has worked as a diversity coach/consultant for the past decade, both independently through her company Diverse World Coaching, and as Senior Vice President of Race and Cultural Diversity at ARMCGlobal. She recently founded an organization, Together We Stand,(TWS), that advocates for victims of racism, discrimination and police brutality. The hope is to develop a TWS youth academy that will educate teens on social justice advocacy particularly through changing legislation.

David Yamada, JD, PhD.  David Yamada, a WISR PhD alumnus, is a Professor of Law and Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, where he is a globally recognized authority on workplace bullying and psychological abuse and has authored leading law review articles on the topic. He is a frequent invited speaker at interdisciplinary conferences in fields such as organizational psychology, health care, and labor relations, and he has been sought out often by the media on employment relations topics, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Chronicle of Higher Education, National Public Radio, MSNBC, and ProPublica. David’s extensive academic and civic affiliations have included leadership positions with the Association of American Law Schools, Americans for Democratic Action, International Therapeutic Jurisprudence Project, Workplace Bullying Institute, and Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Network. His blog, Minding the Workplace, is a popular source of commentary about dignity at work, employment and labor law, and employee relations. David has earned degrees from WISR (Ph.D.), New York University School of Law (J.D.), SUNY-Empire State College (M.A.), and Valparaiso University (B.A.).

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. He has just finished writing a book on the 21 African American workers on Mare Island Naval Base, who, in the early 1960s, took great risks in filing a successful employment discrimination complaint against the Navy.  That book will be published by WISR Press.

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.

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert Blackburn, served as a Board member for over 30 years. WISR was blessed with his wise council, his unequaled and loving sense of humor, and his unwavering commitment to social and racial justice and to quality learner-centered education. He passed away, September 11, 2016

WISR President, John Bilorusky shares some of his recollections of Bob:  “Bob served on WISR’s Board for many, many years, going back to the 1980s (for over 30 of WISR’s 41 years) until he had to retire a year or two ago, for health reasons.  During much of that time, he served as Chair of WISR’s Board.  Bob also served on a number of dissertation committees and was often available to have advising consultations with students.  Beyond this, we often called on him to lead and facilitate all school gatherings and sessions of our annual conferences–because Bob always did this with a joyful, uplifting and non-pretentious sense of humor, and with a very down-to-earth grace.  We had one Board meeting (near Halloween) when walked through the door to our Board meeting dressed as a Cardinal, right out of the Vatican.  Another time, when he was participating in the Graduation Review Board of Richard Allen, he sat down at the conference table, with an old style briefcase (hard cover, luggage type) in his hand.  He dramatically sat the briefcase on the table and clicked open the lid of the briefcase.  He pulled out a big linen napkin and wrapped it around his neck, then he pulled out Richard thick dissertation and placed it on the table, and finally, he reached into the brief case and pulled out a very big carving fork and knife.  He rubbed the knife and fork together and said:  “Now, let’s carve this sucker up!”  And as was so often the case when in Bob’s presence, we all laughed, felt really good about ourselves and about life, and then we proceeded to have a wonderful and collegial discussion of Richard’s outstanding dissertation.  Bob knew how to live life fully, and I imagine he, more than most of us, always appreciated life.  In 1973, when the Symbionese Liberation Army murdered African American Oakland School Superintendent, Marcus Foster, Bob (who was Marcus Foster’s Deputy Superintendent and close friend) was nearly killed–many more than a dozen bullets went in and through his body.  He once told me of an “out of body/near death” experience he had on the surgery table.  He survived, and the world and so many of us, have been blessed that he went on to live for more than another 40 years.  I know I have lived my life better because of my good fortune to have associated with Bob for so many years.”

Robert Blackburn 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 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 held Board memberships in various professional and civic organizations in Philadelphia and Oakland, and served on the California Attorney General’s Commission on Hate Crimes. He provided extensive mentoring and coaching for Oakland school principals through the Principal Leadership Institute of the University of California at Berkeley and Cal State.

Trustee Contributions to Student Learning

A number of Trustees, and former Trustees, serve as valuable resources to students and are sometimes invited to speak at WISR seminars. They provide added advice on students’ programs, and sometimes help to guide students’ study of areas in which they have special expertise. A number of these people have had high and unusual educational qualifications. For example: The late Dr. Robert Blackburn–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–often provided added advice to students while working on their theses. Assistance was 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.

WISR Board member, David Yamada, often consults with students on their studies having to do with the growing epidemic of bullying in the workplace in particular, and throughout the society in general.  In addition, David is serving as editor of our new newsletter, Social Research/Social Action (SRSA). It will be a semi-annual newsletter that shares stories, resources, and tools for applying research and analysis to social change initiatives.

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.