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Board of Directors

Board Members

Valerie Lewis

Interim WELFund Chair, retired after serving more than eight years as the Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Connecticut. She worked in many different areas of the Department of Higher Education, including both Assistant and Deputy Commissioner. In October 2003, she was elected the national President of the State Higher Education Chief Executive Officers organization, which provides the 50 states with opportunities to share data, undertake multi-state initiatives, and work collaboratively to address the nation's most difficult higher education issues. As Connecticut's commissioner, her responsibilities included: developing and implementing collegiate policies of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, providing oversight to multiple areas of state investment such as financial aid, research, teacher education, international educational partnerships, and workforce development. In her work as commissioner, she was especially concerned with aligning all levels of education from preschool forward so students were prepared to move through the various levels of education and into the workforce. She has a special interest in adults returning to complete their education.

An alumna of Hartford College for Women, Ms. Lewis completed her bachelor's degree in English at Mount Holyoke College and then taught English and coordinated the General Equivalency Degree Preparation (GED) Program in East Hartford and New Jersey. While studying for her M.A. in Education at the University of Connecticut, she worked as a special assistant in the offices of both the provost and the president. She was Director of Admissions and a member of the faculty at Hartford College for Women and also served in a variety of administrative positions in both public and private colleges. At retirement, she was awarded two honorary doctorates for her work to improve educational opportunity for Connecticut citizens.

Arnold West
WELFund Vice Chair, is a senior vice president at ING Investment Management, where he is responsible for new business development. He began his career in 1990 at Aetna, where he served as an attorney supporting various Aetna Financial Service businesses and also served as counsel to Aetna Foundation, Inc. He received a B.A. in organizational behavior and management from Brown University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia, and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Arnold was a participant in Leadership Greater Hartford and has been involved in organizations focusing on education and mentoring. He also served as a trustee on the City of Hartford Municipal Employees' Retirement Fund. Arnold and his wife, Nadine Francis West, live in Hartford.

Diane Smith
WELFund Secretary,
is the Community & Program Development Officer at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and is responsible for the facilitation and development of new programs and products for the Authority. Prior to her joining the Authority, Diane worked at the Department of Economic and Community Development, where she held the position of Executive Director over the divisions responsible for urban development and housing development. During her tenure she was responsible for administering both state and federal programs associated with business, community, and housing development. During her years of public service she has worked in the disciplines of planning and public policy, business recruitment, urban and regional development, program development and administration, housing development, and marketing. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is completing service on the Board of Regents for the University of Hartford, is a steering committee member of the Hartford Studies Project for Trinity College and is listed in the Who's Who Among African Americans.

Dr. Elizabeth Ivey
WELFund Treasurer, is a physicist who was a faculty member for 34 years, followed by serving as the provost at two institutions of higher education, including the University of Hartford. Her research expertise is in the area of indoor and outdoor noise and vibration reduction. Gender equity for women students and women faculty has been the focus of her service efforts for over 35 years. She serves on several college Boards of Trustees, has testified before Congress on gender equity in the sciences and engineering, developed the first engineering program solely for women (at Smith College) and recently completed a two-year term as the president of the national Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She remains on the AWIS board as chair of their Endowment Committee and co-chair of their Grants Committee.

Bobbi McNeil was elected to the Board of Director of the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund (WELFund) at the University of Hartford in 2014.  She is the retired Director of Imaging Services at Hartford Hospital where she held several positions before retiring after 16 years. Her prior positions were that of an Interventional Technologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. She is an alumna of the College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions (ENHP) at UHart, Class of 1994 and the Hartford Hospital School of Radiography, Class of 1966.  She is on the Board of Regents at UHart and serves on the following committees: Executive, Governance, University Education, the Board of Visitors of ENHP, and the Alumni Board, where she serves on its Governance Committee. She is on the Board of Directors for the Hartford Healthcare Federal Credit Union and the chair of its Human Resource Committee. She is a past member on the Board of Directors of My Sisters Place and is a member of its Development committee.

Patricia Salner (Pat) is the Community Programs Director for Achieve Hartford! and is a long time Hartford area resident with deep roots in the not for profit and arts community. In her role, she incorporates her passion for creating and administering educational opportunities for children with her long developed knowledge of Hartford as she works collaboratively with Hartford community members, including educational professionals, civic leaders, community based organizations and business professionals. Prior to her joining the staff of Achieve Hartford! she was the Executive Director of the Hartford Education Foundation, the predecessor entity of Achieve Hartford!, which largely focused on supporting innovative teaching in Hartford. She is a Board member of the Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations, The Women's Education and Leadership Fund at the University of Hartford, and the Hill-Stead Museum. She is an honorary docent at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Pat is a member of the Association of Fundrasing Professionals, and is involved in a host of local community organizations. Pat has a Bachelors of Arts degree from Wheaton College and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Hartford.  She has received numerous academic honors including Phi Beta Kappa and a Woodruff Fellowship.

Joan Sittard is an implementation and training manager for McCracken Financial Solutions Corp. She is responsible for client software installation and training. Her background includes over 17 years of commercial loan servicing experience. Joan is a 1981 graduate of Hillyer College and a 1983 graduate of ENHP at the University of Hartford. Joan currently serves on the Hillyer College Board of Visitors. She has served on the board of the University of Hartford Alumni Association. Joan and her husband, Paul, reside in the Boston Area.

Kate F. Stoddard (CFRE), is the assistant director of the Development Core Center for interdisciplinary research on AIDS at Yale (CIRA). She was previously with the Alzheimer’s Resource of CT. She has been a development professional since 1981, with 30 years of advancement experience in higher education at Quinnipiac University and Saint Joseph College. Kate served as director of corporate and foundation relations, director of development, associate vice president for development and vice president of development and alumni relations at Quinnipiac University. She managed $1 million annual fund programs, 3 capital campaigns, major and planned gift programs and worked closely with the President of Quinnipiac on strategic planning and Board development. She is a certified fundraising executive, recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kate holds an associate's degree from Hartford College for Women, her bachelor's degree from University of Connecticut and a master's degree from Saint Joseph College. Kate is an avid reader, gardener, and runner.

Dr. Diane Ullman is currently the director of the Administration Preparation Program at Neag School of Education at the Universtiy of Connecticut. She is also a senior advisor and consultant to the School District Management Council. Previously she served as the interim chief talent officer at the state of CT Department of Education and prior to that was the superintendent of schools in Simsbury, CT. She also served as the assistant executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). Dr. Ullman also acted for seven years as the assistant superintendent of the Farmington, CT school district. She earned a Ph. D. in Educational Administration from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston, and an undergraduate degree from Regis College in Weston, MA. Dr. Ullman serves as a Commissioner for the NEASC Commission on American and International Schools Abroad and is a council member of the New England Secondary Schools Consortium. She is also a member of the Connecticut Superintendent’s Network. Additionally, Dr. Ullman is an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Ullman and her family reside in Simsbury.

Lucille M. Nickerson
Founding Board Chair, is president of Nickerson-Zegarelli Consultants, LLC, and specializes in strategic planning, leadership, governance, and board-related issues for non-profits and small businesses. Over a number of years, she served successively as legal counsel, corporate secretary, and senior business executive at a Fortune 100 company. Lucille's education credentials include a J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law, a master's degree from the University of Connecticut, and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College. She is currently chair of the University Board of Regents and was a trustee of Hartford College for Women.