Sonoma Speaker Series Board of Directors
Kathy Witkowicki - President / Co-Founder
Kathy Witkowicki is the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk youth in Sonoma, California. Since 1996, the program has served more than 1700 disadvantaged kids by matching them with long-term, committed volunteer mentors. As a result of the program’s enduring success, she presented mentoring workshops at the local, state and national level for 16 years. She has received wide recognition for her work with young people in Sonoma Valley, including a 2013 Jefferson Award for Public Service, 2014 National Classic Woman Award from Traditional Home Magazine, and the Jewel of a Woman Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern California.
She 'retired' from the Mentoring Alliance in 2015, and co-founded the Sonoma Speaker Series in 2016.
Kathy raised 4 children, and stayed very active in their schools, as well as their sports. She has lived in Sonoma since 1979, and has been a mentor to Jackie for more than 10 years.
Wendy von Wiederhold - Secretary / Co-Founder
Wendy von Wiederhold is a clinical psychologist and the Interim Executive Director of A Home Within, a national organization, with 50 chapters in 23 states, which provide open ended, pro bono psychotherapy to current and former foster children and youth, as well as, tools and trainings to those living and working with at-risk, traumatized, and foster youth.
She is in private practice in San Francisco and St. Helena and a partner in Beyond Coping, a group practice specializing in treating the psychological effects of major medical illnesses and conditions, with offices in Sonoma, San Francisco, Oakland, Marin, and St. Helena.
Kathy Richards - Treasurer
Alex Chadwick - Co-Founder
Alex Chadwick is an independent journalist whose distinctive work makes him one of the most recognized reporters in public radio.
At NPR, he was a co-creator of Morning Edition, the most widely heard news program in public radio, and a host of that program as well as All Things Considered. As chief correspondent for the Radio Expeditions series from NPR and the National Geographic Society, he won the Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001 for exposing the story of illegal mining in eastern Congo of coltan, a substance used in high-tech electronics. Other honors include The Overseas Press Club for Outstanding Foreign Reporting (twice) and sharing in a Dupont Award for general excellence to Radio Expeditions. In 2012, he was recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a special documentary on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima, Japan.
He has worked as a writer and feature reporter in network television (CBS, ABC, National Geographic), and for the online political magazine Slate.com, where his popular feature Interviews 50 Cents was named ‘must see’ video by the New York Times. He wrote the 1996 three-hour CBS News television documentary In the Killing Fields of America that won a national Emmy, a Peabody and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for reporting on the disadvantaged.
David Bolling - Board Member
Bob Smith - Board Member
Laura Zimmerman, Board Member
Laura Zimmerman is the former Executive Director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation for more than 6 years. She brings a background in communications, fundraising, and community service to the post. Like many before her, Laura got involved in school related activities as her own children entered the California public school system. Volunteering for a decade or so led her to choose a path in the non-profit (or better said, social-profit) sector. She worked with Paul Newman’s camp for seriously ill children called ‘The Painted Turtle,’ and also served as the Director of Development for the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Previously, Laura worked in television news as a reporter and anchor. She reported the daily news for several Bay Area TV Stations including KNTV, KGO-TV and KTVU. She and her husband Jeff have three grown children and they are also grape growers in the Sonoma Valley.
John McChesney - Co-Founder - In Memory (1939-2018)
John McChesney joined NPR in 1979 where he developed NPR’s first national desk, a team of reporters based in cities across the country. He later created NPR’s first foreign desk, initiating major coverage of the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the Lebanese civil war, and the fall of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He then went on to become a correspondent reporting on Silicon Valley during the rise of the internet. After nearly ten years on that beat, he reported on agricultural technology and the organic revolution. He ended his NPR career covering the war in Iraq (three embeds) and the severe impact of the war on military families at home. In a major investigative piece aired on All Things Considered, he reported the CIA’s torture and killing of an Iraqi detainee at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
John won several awards for his work: the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for his documentary on grand jury abuse; the World Hunger Media Award for reporting on famine in Chad; Dartmouth’s Champion-Tuck Award for reporting on health care costs in America; twice a participant winner of Overseas Press Club Awards for work done as editor of NPR’s foreign desk.
Before he joined NPR, John completed four years of graduate work at Stanford and was an assistant professor of American Literature at Antioch College for six years. After leaving NPR, he returned to Stanford at the Bill Lane Center for the American West. There he directed a program researching the rural West.
“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
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