Foundation Board of Directors
Volunteers who serve on the Board of Directors of SFCC Foundation have a wealth of experience in many disciplines including, arts, education, business, finance and endowment management, administration, and fundraising. They hold themselves to the highest ethical standards and endorse the College’s values: learning, community, empowerment, integrity, quality, diversity, and effective communication.
Officers and Chairs
Jeff Szabat, President, Board of Directors. Jeff is the Senior Vice President and Retail Manager with Century Bank and has 34 years of banking experience. Before joining Century Bank in 2002, Jeff worked for Bank of America and its predecessors for 18 years, rising through the ranks from commercial teller to Santa Fe market president. He has participated in many community activities, including volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Santa Fe Plaza Painting, and scholarship fundraising events. He currently serves as Board President of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, as well as serving on other boards including the Food Depot and the Santa Fe American Little League. His BS is in Economics from Pennsylvania State University.
Carmen Gonzales, PhD, A native Santa Fean, Carmen has a lifelong commitment to education. She played a leadership role as Vice President of Student Success at SFCC and at New Mexico State University where she also worked in the College of Education and the College of Extended Learning. As Education Advisor to Santa Fe Mayor Allan Webber, she helped craft Santa Fe’s education agenda, working with a cross-section of the City’s education-focused non-profits. She also serves on the national Board of Directors of the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, which awards grants and scholarships to teachers and student teachers.
Sheila Plunkett, Vice President, Philanthropy; Chair, Philanthropy Committee. Sheila has worked as a sales and marketing executive in strategic technology for financial services, transportation, and manufacturing. In addition to her service on the Foundation board, she is focused on committing time, energy and skills to nonprofit organizations in Santa Fe, including the Wheelwright Museum. She served as a board member and President of the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter in Minneapolis and as a board member and President of the Rosario Hill Compound HOA in Santa Fe from 2010 until 2015. Sheila holds a BS in Urban Planning from University of Minnesota, graduating with honors.
Michael C. Davis, Vice President, Communications; Chair, Communications Committee leads Merek.io, a
cybersecurity firm with a focus on human behavior as it relates to cyber-mindfulness and aware
ness. Michael merged his 22-year career in the United States Navy with his Information Security work with companies such as Boeing, IBM, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, to analyze and redefine technology markets, businesses, and mindfulness within cybersecurity. Michael will be a speaker for a TEDx talk series in January 2020. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language, as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.
Stephen Gaber, Treasurer and Chair of the Finance & Investment Committee. Steve was a founder and served as CEO of the Investment Counseling division of Mesirow Financial. A Chicago native, he worked at Mesirow from 1972 to 1996, when he retired and moved to Santa Fe. He serves as President of the Doris Goodwin Walbridge Foundation. He also served as Treasurer of the Santa Fe Community Foundation from 2003 to 2008 and 2011 to 2016 and as a board member and Treasurer for the Con Alma Health Foundation from 2008 to 2014. He received the 2019 Santa Fe Community Foundation Pinon Award for Philanthropic Leadership. He earned a BS from Washington University and an MBA from the University of California-Berkeley
Danika Padilla, Secretary; Chair, Leadership & Nominating Committee is the Senior Director of Social Impact at Meow Wolf and leads social and corporate responsibility planning, engaging local stakeholders and fostering long-term community relationships across all of Meow Wolf’s locations, including Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Denver. Danika has a decade of political activism, fundraising, and nonprofit experience. Previously, she served as managing director at Rio Strategies and on the South Central Finance team of Hillary for America, traveling across Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas engaging supporters. Originally from Washington, Danika holds a BS in Environmental Science from Washington State University.
Elise Arena, MPA, Chair, Art on Campus Action Committee. Elise is an expert in international trade and has served overseas in the Foreign Service. She currently works for OTR Global, a market research firm for the investment industry. She has worked in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North Africa. She also has served on numerous boards, including Glen Echo Park Partnership of Arts and Culture in Maryland, Art Perspectives International, the National China Garden Foundation, and the U.S. National Arboretum. She earned a BA from Hunter College, an MPA from American University, and she also studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Instituto Cultural de Guadalajara, and the Universidad Iberoamericana.
Edwin (Ed) Barker, PhD, Planetary Astronomer; Co-Chair, Science on a Sphere®(SOS)/Planetary Advisory Committee. A native Santa Fean and graduate of Santa Fe High School, Ed worked for the McDonald Observatory (Texas) for 40+ years as a planetary astronomer, as well as 5 years at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He is a consultant to NASA’s Space Junk Program and has published and presented papers on all the objects in our solar system; the space environment; 50+ comets; asteroids, and extra-solar planets. He volunteers as the SOS Coordinator and has trained a cadre of volunteers for screenings of the Sphere. He is a math and biology mentor at Capital High School and served for six years on the board of Menaul School in Albuquerque. He currently serves on the board of Desert Chorale. Ed holds degrees from New Mexico State University, Kansas University, and the University of Texas- Austin.
Kelly A. Marquez, MBA, A native of Santa Fe, she has worked at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) since 1993. She joined the SFCC Foundation in 2011 and currently serves as the Executive Director. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Business Administration degree from New Mexico Highlands University. She owned a small business in Santa Fe for 17 years and understands both for-profit and non-profit ideologies. She led the Foundation in the implementation of a new Annual Fundraising plan and worked to increase awareness of the Foundation. During the last 10 years, she has helped to leverage $22 million while growing the endowment from $4 million to $10 million.
Dr. Rowley was president of Clovis Community College (CCC) in Clovis, New Mexico since 2011. Prior to becoming president, she was Executive Vice President (Academics and Student Services) at CCC. Before moving into administration, she taught English as a fulltime faculty member at Clovis Community College for seven years.
Since 2015, Rowley has been chair of the New Mexico Independent Community Colleges (NMICC). As chair of this group, Dr. Rowley regularly presents before the Legislative Finance Committee, House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on behalf of NMICC.
She was a member of the 2009 Core Class of Leadership New Mexico. In 2018, she was named a “Woman of Influence” by Albuquerque Business First.
David E. Dooley, PhD; is the Chief Planning Officer for Weapons Production at Triad National Security, LLC (Los Alamos National Laboratory). He has 22 years of interdisciplinary expertise with hands-on experimental, manufacturing, modeling, design, environmental, and D&D experience with actinide materials in both the government and commercial side of the nuclear business, domestic and internationally. David is engaged in supporting higher education institutions in northern New Mexico to help increase the pipeline of talented graduates joining the workforce. He holds a BS in Nuclear Engineering from Kansas State University and a PhD in Materials Science from Colorado School of Mines.
Natalie Fitz-Gerald is the owner of Casa Nova Gallery in Santa Fe. Natalie served many years in finance and consulted for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. In addition, she helped form Nozala Investments, a women’s economic empowerment corporation and founded Luc Benoit Designer Accessories. Natalie also brings experience from serving on many boards in New Mexico such as the Museum of New Mexico Foundation; the Center for Contemporary Arts; Leadership Santa Fe; the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and the Women’s International Study Center. Natalie advises for the Santa Fe Community Foundation Development Committee, the La Familia Medical Center Development Committee, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Advisory Board. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and later received advanced degrees from the London Business School and the Stanford University School of Business.
George Gamble, PhD.George serves as an elected member of the SFCC Governing Board and as a Governing Board Representative to the SFCC Foundation. He is a cultural anthropologist (Ret.) from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he worked in public health and medical research. George served on the Santa Fe County Health Policy and Planning Board and as a volunteer tutor in the public schools. He completed his BA at Long Island University and his PhD at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In the midst of his education, George served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, Africa, where he helped build rural schools and teacher housing.
Debby Everett has a BA in English and a MA in Education. She has worked as a child care center co-director and taught Early Childhood Education and Human Development at community colleges in California. For 30+ years, Debby worked as a writer/producer in Television where she produced news, public affairs programming, magazine shows, and documentaries. After moving to Santa Fe 15 years ago, she wrote and produced videos for non-profit organizations.
Marcos Maez Born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Marcos Maez currently serves as the Director of Student Engagement and Recruitment at Santa Fe Community College. Marcos joined the SFCC Recruitment team in 2011 after returning to SFCC where he graduated with an Associate of Arts in General Studies. After SFCC, Marcos transferred to the University of New Mexico, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and graduated Magna cum Laude. Marcos recently completed his Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from New Mexico Highlands University. Prior to taking on student engagement and development activities, Marcos served as the Director of Recruitment and Community Outreach where he oversaw the college’s outreach initiatives, sharing the benefits and advantages of attending SFCC with prospective students. As a first-generation college student, native of Santa Fe, and Capital High School graduate, Marcos can share his story and the stories of others who found their success, and in some cases, chose to stay and give back to their community. He understands, firsthand, the value of a college education and uses his passion and enthusiasm to connect with people to communicate that value and the possibilities it brings. Marcos has fifteen years’ experience working with diverse populations in both academic and professional settings, including as an Art Broker for the Chuck Jones Studio Gallery; however, he has found his true calling working with students and the community in programs such as ENLACE New Mexico, Mentoring New Mexico, Rotaract Club of Santa Fe and Toastmasters.
Dr. Romero was President/Superintendent of the College of the Siskiyous District in California. While in California, she established several leadership development institutes. One was a community leadership program much like Leadership Santa Fe; the other was to prepare professionals for community college presidencies in California. Dr. Romero was also the Founding Director of the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives (CCLDI) at Claremont Graduate University. She has taught graduate seminars in Organizational Development at the University of Colorado, University of New Mexico and Claremont Graduate University. She served as Vice President of Instruction at Pikes Peak Community College; served on the Board of Everest College in Phoenix and SIAS University, an American University in rural China and the accreditation commission for the Western Region in the US. While in California she was an active member of the Rotary Club. She currently also serves on the Boards of Kitchen Angels and New Mexico First.
Adam Stramel, Adam is the Vice President-Business Banker II at First Citizens Bank. He has a BBA with a concentration in Finance from New Mexico State University and an MBA from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.
Hue-Chen Karels has a 20-year record of accomplishment in solution-focused organization and management consulting including visioning and strategic alignment; corporate culture assessment; workforce needs assessment and planning, and team building. She has expertise in FDA regulatory compliance and quality management programs for the Pharmaceutical, Biologics and Medical Device Industries. She is the owner of Open Kitchen, a culinary events venue launched in 2009 in the Washington DC Metro area and in Santa Fe. She is passionate about designing and implementing systems, processes, and learning opportunities to develop sustainable teams and organizational effectiveness. Hue-Chan holds a Master of Science in Organizational Development from American University and is a certified MBTI® practitioner.
Regis Pecos has served multiple terms as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Cochiti Pueblo. He also served on the traditional Tribal Council for 30 years. Regis served as Chief Executive of the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs, Chief of Staff for Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, and Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Ben Lujan. He is Co-Director of the Santa Fe Indian School’s Leadership Institute and Director of the Leadership Institute and Indigenous Think Tank and faculty at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is Princeton’s first Native American Trustee. He has published many articles on subjects including education, environment, health, indigenous customary laws and governance, Pueblo language and culture, land tenure, water rights, and Indian policy and laws. Regis holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA from the University of California-Berkeley, and has attended Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Sandy Zane, Sandy is the owner of form + concept gallery and with her husband, Ned Bennett, owns Zane Bennett Contemporary Art. She is an accomplished artist and has exhibited her prints and paintings in more than 25 solo, juried, group, and invitational exhibitions, primarily in New York and New Mexico. She has served on the board of the New Mexico State University Foundation, and currently serves on the boards of Creative Startups Santa Fe. In 2012, Ms. Zane was a Remarkable Woman Honoree of the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Ms. Zane and Mr. Bennett are philanthropists, contributing to Alzheimer’s research, the Safety Foundation of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and to Santa Fe-area educational and arts organizations, including the New Mexico Museum Foundation and the New Mexico School for the Arts. Ms. Zane earned a BA in Arts Administration from Bard College.
Rick Abeles, JD, Immediate Past Board President and Emeritus Board Member. Rick co-founded the Santa Fe Children’s Museum and has served on many local boards including the Metropolitan Water Board. He received his BA in Physics from Amherst College and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.
Dr. Rachel Belash served as vice president of the board and chair of the Philanthropy Committee, and now chairs the board of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center. Her eclectic career includes teaching Spanish and Latin American Literature at Dartmouth and Vassar Colleges, Head of School at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT, and vice president of the Trust Division at Bank of America. She is a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe, and previously served on the board of United World College USA. Her BA and MA are from the University of Oxford and her PhD is in Latin American Studies from the University of Kentucky.
Carole Brito Besser served as chair of the Leadership and Board Development Committee. She now serves on the board of directors of the Santa Fe Community Foundation. Retired from New Mexico Highlands University, she spent 30 years as a K-graduate level educator. She is also founder and president of the consulting firm LEAD: Leadership, Education, Assessment and Development for Excellence. Ms. Brito has a BS from the University of New Mexico and an MA in Educational Administration from Highlands.
Dr. Robert Glick served on the Leadership and Board Development Committees. He is a former executive director of the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation. Dr. Glick earned his doctorate in Comparative Literature from Indiana University. He was a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Maryland, and a Visiting Fellow at Yale University.
Nancy Witter, PhD; served on the Philanthropy Committee. A retired clinical psychologist, she has served on numerous professional and nonprofit boards in Santa Fe. She was a Phi Beta Kappa scholarship recipient, and earned a BS from the University of Iowa and an MS from Purdue University.