Distinguished Alumna Award
The Distinguished Alumna Award presents a role model to alumnae and students by recognizing a woman who displays dedication and service in her volunteer or professional endeavors and who shows sustained interest in support of Santa Catalina and the Alumnae Association. The Distinguished Alumna award is given annually to members of the Alumnae Association.
- Distinguished Alumnae 2017
- Distinguished Alumnae 2016
- Distinguished Alumnae 2015
- Distinguished Alumnae 2014
- Distinguished Alumnae 2013
- Distinguished Alumnae 2012
- Distinguished Alumnae 2011
Laurie Bechtel Dachs ’67 is Vice-Chair of the board of directors and President of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. In addition to her leadership of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and Stephen Bechtel Fund, Laurie serves on the board of directors for the Water Foundation and on the advisory council to the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center. In the recent past, she served on the board of directors of the Land Trust Alliance and on the advisory council of Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.
In her work as president of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Laurie keeps STEM education at the forefront of the foundation’s focus. She specifically searches for programs that concentrate on math learning standards for K-8 students and on programs that expand STEM learning beyond the classroom to after-school activities.
Laurie has been an advisor or board member for many environment, education, and health organizations, including Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy of California, Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, Head Royce School, The Thacher School, Lawrence Hall of Science, and the Center for Underrepresented Students in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a founder of The Lake School, a nonprofit preschool in Oakland.
Laurie graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and she is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of the Florina Rusi-Marke Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. Additionally, Cynara is the Physician Liaison for the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons at SIUH and she holds an academic appointment of Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Previously, Cynara was a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, where she developed a successful clinical practice devoted to the treatments of both benign and malignant breast diseases. Prior to joining Mount Sinai Medical Center, she was a breast surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital.
As a medical contributor for Fox News and FoxNews.com, her clinical research and news reports are focused on women’s health—specifically breast cancer and breast health at all ages. Cynara is also on the Medical Advisory Board for the magazine Bella New York.
Cynara graduated from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 2002, and completed her surgical residency at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences Medical Center. Following her residency, she was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery. She is board certified in general surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Cynara is affiliated with numerous professional societies, such as the American Society of Breast Surgeons, American Society of Breast Disease, and American Society of Clinical Oncology, and is a recipient of several awards, including the Patients’ Choice Award, America’s Top Surgeons, and the Physician of Distinction from the American Cancer Society.
Jenny Budge ’71 graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in history and received her M.B.A. from New York University. Professionally, she is a Certified Public Accountant. After working in the audit division of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, an accounting firm in New York City, Jenny returned to California to work in financial planning for the Syntex pharmaceutical firm. Returning east to Maryland, she took a break from her career to raise her two children. During this time, Jenny focused her expertise on several nonprofit organizations. She held the positions of board chair of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, trustee of the Nature Conservancy’s Maryland chapter, trustee of Maryland Public Gardens Consortium, trustee of Bryn Mawr School, trustee of Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education, and board member of Tylerton Community Council. Finally, these service experiences and Jenny’s love of horticulture enabled her to assume the position of executive director of the Ladew Topiary Gardens, Monkton, MD. A few years ago, Jenny returned to California and continues her work in the horticultural world.
Currently, Jenny is president of Solid Rock Foundation, a trustee at Ladew Topiary Gardens, and a judge for the Garden Club of American Horticulture. She has been active on national committees for the Garden Club of America and is a trustee of Santa Catalina School. Jenny’s devotion to her Alma Mater is ongoing. She first served on the Santa Catalina School Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2003. She returned to the Board in 2007, served on the Trustee and Executive Committees, chaired the Finance Committee and currently chairs the Investment Committee. In addition, Jenny has served generously on our Alumnae Board. Always perfectly prepared for the meeting or job at hand, Jenny’s work is meticulous and her gift of time endless. As chair of the Search Committee, her leadership, her professionalism and her untiring attention to detail were instrumental in Santa Catalina’s eminently successful choice of Meg Bradley as the next Head of School. Jenny has worked selflessly on behalf of Santa Catalina for many years, and we are most grateful.
Pamela Anderson-Brulé ’76 graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and studied in France at both the Fountainebleau Schools and the École des Beaux-Arts. In a Palo Alto garage, Pamela co-founded Anderson-Brulé Architects (ABA), then a small boutique design firm and now a nationally recognized, full service design firm specializing in architecture, interiors, and strategic planning. For over three decades, ABA has continued to design award-winning projects, which have been nationally recognized as groundbreaking and first-of-a-kind. Pamela is a well-respected expert in her field and along with her numerous professional affiliations, has given many presentations on her work. Pamela is an active philanthropist and educator. Along with her firm, she has been the recipient of numerous awards and her work has been displayed in numerous publications and exhibitions.
Earlier this year, Pamela became the first woman in Santa Clara County to be elevated to the College of Fellows in the American Institute of Architects, the highest rank in the institute’s membership. She was elected by the jury for her notable contributions and her advancement of the science and art of architectural planning and design. By modeling strong leadership, Pamela influences other design professionals, inside and outside of ABA’s practice, to innovate their roles as leaders in the ever changing architectural industry.
Today, Pamela continues to transform people, places, and practices through strategic and thoughtful design. One of her most recent transformations was a building on the Santa Catalina campus. Dedicated on January 15 of this year,the Sister Claire and Sister Christine Mathematics and Science Center houses mathematics classrooms, science labs, faculty offices, collaborative gathering spaces, a cistern water filtration system, a live saltwater aquaria, and an interactive iGlobe display. Designed with social, environmental, and educational goals, the 26,000 square foot building is already becoming a project-based learning tool for the present and future of Santa Catalina School.
Tina Hansen McEnroe '70 was honored for her service and commitment to education. Tina is the founder of the McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where she is the associate director and a master teacher. This year, she is establishing a similar clinic at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Tina also conducts "Living History Days," a curriculum that she created for local public, private, and charter schools and which takes place at a restored 1869 schoolhouse on her Santa Ynez Valley ranch.
For many years, Tina taught middle school language arts, reading, and special education in California. She also taught special programs for Spanish-speaking farmworkers and served as a volunteer mentor for other teachers working with farmworkers and their families. In addition, she conducted an evening community educational outreach program on Rancho Tajiguas. Her accomplishments have been recognized with numerous community, state, and national awards.
In 2012, she received the Santa Barbara Junior League Woman of the Year Award, and in 2011, she was the Anti-Defamation League Education Honoree. Tina has also served and continues to serve on several boards such as the Dean's Council at UCSB's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She holds an M.A. in education from UCSB and a B.S. in education from University of Southern California.
Kim Wright-Violich '75 was commended for her dedication and service in her professional career. Kim is the cofounder and managing partner of Tideline, a consulting firm specializing in impact investing and strategic philanthropy. She is also a Visiting Executive Scholar at the Haas Business School at University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches, lectures, and helps design curricula on impact investing and philanthropy.
From 2000 to 2011, Kim served as CEO/President of Schwab Charitable, which offers services for donor-advised funds and charitable trusts. She grew the organization from a start-up to one of the 10 largest charities in the U.S., attracting more than $5 billion in charitable assets. Kim was previously an executive committee member of KQED Public Media for Northern California. She was named one of San Francisco Bay Area’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times for six consecutive years, and was named one of the 50 most influential women in the U.S. for 2009 in wealth management by Wealth Manager magazine.
Kim currently serves on several boards, including the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the World Affairs Council Bay Area. She holds a B.A. in human biology and public policy from Stanford University and has completed coursework at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Sister Lois Silva graduated from Santa Catalina in 1954. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Dominican College. She also attended Holy Names College (now Holy Names University) in Oakland before entering the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. In her first 15 years of ministry, Sister Lois taught at elementary schools in San Francisco, Marin, and Rancho Cordova. She also served as a school principal in Reno, Stockton, and San Francisco. In 1987, she was asked to transfer her skills to healthcare ministry.
After a year of sabbatical and study, Sister Lois began work at St. Joseph's Regional Health System and O'Connor Woods Housing Corporation, both in Stockton. During a 15-year tenure, she served as Senior Vice President for Mission Integration and as a trustee on many boards and corporations in the regional Catholic Healthcare West system. She also served on the board at Boys & Girls Club, St. Mary’s Interfaith Community Services, and Stockton Midtown Revitalization Policy Advisory Council.
From 2003 to 2009, Sister Lois served on the Leadership Council of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. In 2009, she asked to assist two of her sisters in San Francisco, one a fellow Catalina alumna Sister Cathryn de Back '60, Director of Rose Court Community Affordable Housing sponsored by the San Rafael Sisters, and the other Sister Anne Bertain, the Pastoral Associate for Community Service at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco. At one of Sister Anne's projects, the Lima Center, Sister Lois continues to minister daily to guests who walk or live on the streets of the Fillmore District in San Francisco.
Lijin Aryanada graduated from Santa Catalina in 1994 and now lives in Zurich, Switzerland. A member of the electrical engineering honor society, Eta Kapp Nu, Lijin holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a bachelor’s in electrical science and engineering, a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science, and a doctorate in humanoid robotics. While working on her Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks, Lijin studied at MIT’s Humanoid Robotics Group. The product of her doctoral thesis was MERTZ, an innovative human-like robot head capable of interacting with the public. In 2007, Lijin moved to Switzerland, where she conducted postdoctoral research on robotic locomotion at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the University of Zurich. She later served as managing director of the Swiss National Center of Robotics.
In 2011, Lijin joined QualySense AG as its chief technical officer. In this role, she led the technical support development of a new agricultural machinery product. In August 2012, Lijin began working for Hocoma, an innovative Swiss-based robotic rehabilitation company. There, she leads the Technical Project department, the Robotic Technology focus, and the technical product development for the Lokomat, a gait rehabilitation robot for people who have neurological diseases or have had neurological injuries.
Basia Belza, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, is the Aljoya Endowed Professor in Aging at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing in Seattle. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health.
Basia has a sustained record of thoughtful and energetic activity directed toward improving the health of older adults through research. She has built interdisciplinary teams and worked with community partners in testing, disseminating, and adopting evidence-based disease prevention programs for older adults. The effects of these programs have led to improved health outcomes for older adults.
As lead of the UW Coordinating Center for the CDC-Healthy Aging Research Network, Basia has overseen regional and national initiatives and developed successful training and tools for practitioners on topics of importance for older adults such as a healthy brain, mobility, and environmental and policy changes.
She has a strong interest and passion in improving physical activity in older adults as a way to maintain independence. She is one of the lead researchers for EnhanceFitness, a community-based group exercise program. EnhanceFitness is offered in more than 500 communities throughout the country and currently reaches more than 12,000 older adults.
Through her interests in environmental and policy changes to support healthy aging, Basia and her colleagues developed a number of initiatives including webinars and searchable databases of online resources for healthy aging, healthy communities, built environment, and mobility. One of these resources, the Environmental and Policy Change Clearinghouse, received the 2011 APEX Award for Excellence in Publication.
As a leader in the field of rheumatology, Basia developed the Multidimensional Assessment of Fatigue scale, which has been translated into 25 languages. Through her scholarship, she has increased the awareness and improved the measurement of fatigue. She served as the scientific editor of the American College of Rheumatology’s Postgraduate Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Rheumatology Training Program. This comprehensive, online educational program is an innovative approach to training a critically needed workforce. In recognition of her contributions to rheumatology, she was honored with the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals 2010 Distinguished Scholar Award and 2012 Distinguished Lecture award.
Basia is principle investigator of a three-year HRSA-funded gerontological training grant. She mentors undergraduate and graduate students through teaching, advisement, and service on thesis and doctoral committees.
Basia is a graduate of the University of Pacific, where she studied prenursing; Georgetown University, where she received a bachelor of science in nursing; the University of Virginia, where she received a master of science in nursing and an Adult Nurse Practitioner certification; and The University of California, San Francisco, where she received a doctorate in nursing.
Tamara Monosoff, Ph.D. is a business author, educator, media spokesperson, entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Mom Invented®. Mom Invented® is a dynamic company with the mission to "inspire, inform, and boldly promote courageous women in business" and "celebrate the creativity of moms by launching Innovative Mom Invented® products around the world." Tamara is a best-selling author and columnist and has been called "America’s favorite business mom" by the media.
With more than 15 years of experience in communications and program management, Tamara combines a strategic vision and an entrepreneurial spirit with media savvy. After going through the product development process when inventing the TP Saver®, Tamara found the support and guidance of other entrepreneurs to be invaluable. This inspired her to create a web-based community and the Mom Invented® brand of products.
Tamara’s best-selling book, The Mom Inventors Handbook, was launched by McGraw-Hill in 2005. Her Secrets of Millionaire Moms hit bookstores globally in May 2007. Her third book, The One Page Business Plan for Women in Business, coauthored with Jim Horan, launched in January 2010, and her fourth book, Your Million Dollar Dream, hit No. 1 in marketing, entrepreneurship and homebased businesses on Amazon at its launch in May 2010. She was Working Mother magazine’s “Hero of the Month,” was selected by the Contra Costa Times as one of the 10 most “Influential Women of the East Bay,” and was honored by the Contra Costa Council as Small Business Person of the Year. Tamara was selected as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by the East Bay Business Times.
Tamara and her products have been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, TIME, and Fortune Small Business Magazine. She has appeared on programs such as ABC’s The View, NBC’s Nightly News, CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and CBS’s Inside Edition. She has been broadcast on CNN Radio, National Public Radio, The Dave Ramsey Show, and BBC Scotland.
Prior to founding her company, she worked as senior communications associate for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race, education director for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, and chief of staff for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.
Tamara is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship, marketing and social media, innovation and creativity, and women and leadership. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a doctoral degree in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco and a B.A. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Renata arrived at Santa Catalina as the immigrant daughter of parents who survived war-torn Germany, the firestorm bombings of Dresden, and a concentration camp. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, she began her path to U.S. citizenship, learned the ways of her adopted country, and realized her dream of becoming a physician.
Her journey has been far from ordinary. For years, she has worked to make peace with a world at war and a life with parents who suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. Through these difficulties, she credits her success to her mother, whose love and support was ever-present, and the gift of four years at Santa Catalina, where she says she was “accepted, encouraged, and cared about.” She went on to graduate from Stanford University and complete her medical degree at Georgetown University. Since then, she has served more than 40 years as a military doctor, currently stationed at the Army Medical Corps at the new Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Renata entered the field of medicine at a time when women were not encouraged to do so, and yet she became a specialty department leader and training program director at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. While there, she established a new training program for physicians in clinical laboratory immunology and built the Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network, a congressionally directed program within the Military Health System that advocates for service members and their family members who struggle with concerns about and possible reactions to vaccines, frequently in the context of complex illnesses.
Despite a focus on career and caring for family, Renata says she is “blessed by the gift of a wonderful and loving man,” John David Nichols, her husband and best friend of more than 34 years. While not blessed with children of their own, she says their lives have been filled with endless opportunities to teach and mentor children and adults as they learn and journey through the obstacle courses of life.
For a lifetime of service to others, many times at their hours of greatest need, and for her professional accomplishments, Col. Dr. Renata Engler is named one of this year’s two Distinguished Alumnae.
Julia has an abundance of ties to Santa Catalina, which she refers to as her home away from home and an extension of her immediate family. Her connection with the school began in 1971, when she and sister Isabelle Janko Murphy ’83 enrolled in the Lower School. Brother Alexander Janko ’83 LS was a member of one of the first coed classes in the Lower School.
Since graduating from Santa Catalina, Julia has continued what is now more than 40 years of involvement with the school and has served in many volunteer roles within the Santa Catalina community. Giving of her time and talent as a Class Secretary, Reunion Class Coordinator, Parents’ Weekend speaker, and member and vice president of the Alumnae Board, she currently serves as a Board of Trustees member. Julia’s long history of service to the school is what led to her selection as a Distinguished Alumna.
Julia earned a B.A. in art history from Georgetown University in 1986, and prior to starting a family with husband Brad, she spent nearly 15 years in the healthcare sector. She worked as the executive director of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research and the American Society of Nephrology. She was also the director of professional relations for Merck & Co., special advisor for global health at the University of California, San Francisco, and executive director for Operation Access, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that mobilizes a network of medical volunteers, hospitals, and community clinics to provide uninsured patients with free medical care.
Equally important to Julia is her involvement in her community. She has served as a board member for the San Francisco Ballet ENCORE! and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in California. In addition, she was an active participant in Georgetown University’s various alumni programs and a coordinator for the United Way’s volunteer corps.
While Julia looks forward to continuing her commitment to Santa Catalina, she also has recently been selected to serve as co-president of the Glenwood Elementary School Foundation, which supports the school where son Matthew attends and daughter Alexa will attend.
As soon as Nina Gates Motlow finished her own studies to become a doctor, she started working to teach other students of medicine what she knew about women’s health. She has continued doing this throughout her career.
After two years serving as Assistant Professor of Gynecology and obstetrics at John Hopkins School of Medicine, Nina began teaching at the University of California, San Francisco. She has been on staff there since 1988 and is now a Professor of Clinical Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences.
Additionally, Nina is President of the Medical Staff at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. In this role she immerses herself in patient care and teaching students the process of providing clinical care. She mentors students and faculty while also working in the Birth Center and teaching in the Gynecology Service department.
Nina also serves as Chief of the Gynecology Service, a role which required her to assist in the planning of a new hospital. She collaborated with architects, planners, and administrators in the construction of the Women's Hospital and in the development of its programs. Nina's medical research topics include medical ethics in reproduction and women's health. She has examined and reported on ethical issues such as the implications of the Human Genome Project, the introduction of new surgical technologies into women’s health care, and donor consent for embryo and stem cell research.
Since 2006, she has been a member of the Federal Advisory Committee of the National Children's Study. The study examines the effects of the environment and genetics on the growth, development, and health of children in the United States. In 2008, she became a member of the March of Dimes Ethics Committee.
Nina also studies the ways her patients make decisions about their treatments. She has worked for more than a decade to investigate patient attitudes about such topics as prenatal genetic testing and noncancerous uterine conditions in an effort to understand how women make choices about treatment, and how their treatment choices impact their quality of life.
Nina lives with her husband Geoff and their two children, John and Anne.
Katharine Folger Yeager ’86 has committed both her professional and personal life to helping victims of child abuse.
After graduating from Tufts University with a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Psychology and English, Katharine earned her JD from the University of San Francisco’s School of Law in 1995. She then began her legal career in the Boston area as an assistant district attorney in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office. In 1998 she was promoted to the superior court and assigned to the Child Abuse Unit (CAU).
As the Chief Prosecutor for the Child Abuse Unit, Katharine supervises the investigation and prosecution of all child abuse cases in the most populous county in Massachusetts.
She is also the Director of the Middlesex Children’s Advocacy Center. She works closely with local hospitals to investigate cases of child abuse and murder.
The CAU investigates about 1,200 allegations of child abuse and child exploitation each year. Together with a local children’s advocacy center, Katharine’s office is dedicated to minimizing secondary trauma to child victims by streamlining the investigation and prosecution processes.
Katharine oversees eight assistant district attorneys, five victim’s witness advocates, four child interview specialists, a pediatric nurse, Child Fatality Review Team coordinators, and a support staff who work together to reach outcomes that are in the best interest of the child.
Katharine also dedicates much time to community outreach, specifically the recognizing and reporting of child abuse and neglect. In 2010 she wrote and launched Massachusetts’ first online training program for mandated reporters of child abuse - like teachers, medical personnel, and police officers. More than 8,600 people registered for the training in its first six months.
Katharine, who has twice received the John A. Droney Award for dedication and excellence of service in the superior courts, is married to Nathaniel Yeager. The couple has a son, Jackson.
Nominate an Alumna
The Distinguished Alumnae Award is given annually to members of the Alumnae Association. Alumnae will be recognized at Reunion. Recipients are recognized in the following categories:
1) For dedication and service to school an alumna is recognized for her: dedication and devotion in service to Santa Catalina School and its mission; sustained interest in support of the school and Alumnae Association; actions as a role model for alumnae, current students, and future graduates of Santa Catalina School.
2) For service and dedication in professional or community endeavors an alumna is recognized for her: dedication to lifelong growth and learning; service to humanity; caring commitment to her profession or community above and beyond standard expectations; habits of heart, mind and action which are examples and inspiration to the Santa Catalina community.
All alumnae are encouraged to nominate Santa Catalina Alumnae whose accomplishments and contributions exemplify the Santa Catalina mission through extraordinary personal achievement and outstanding service to Santa Catalina School, to community, family and profession.
Please submit nominations using the form below. If possible, a resume or brief biography should also be included. Other letters of support are welcomed.
Distinguished Alumnae are selected by the Alumnae Board and the Administration.
The Distinguished Alumnae Award is presented annually at the Alumnae Reunion. Speeches given by Distinguished Alumnae have become an inspirational cornerstone of Reunion Weekend. The recipients are honored with an engraved gift as a keepsake, name recognition on a permanent plaque displayed on campus, a feature article in the Bulletin, and a profile on the Web site.