The LCU Fund for Women’s Education is chartered as a non-profit foundation under the laws of New York State. It is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors:
Current Board Executive Officers
Leslie Ehrlich, President
As an advisor, staff member, and board member, Leslie has been nurturing innovation in the business and non-profit worlds for many years. Leslie began her career at The Boston Consulting Group and went on to lead product development and marketing organizations for Citigroup, Instinet, JPMorgan Chase, GE and Mastercard. An early advocate for the internet’s potential to transform our lives, her best-known and most widely used product is the chase.com online banking website, which underwent a top-to-bottom redo following the JPMorgan Chase/Bank One merger. In addition to websites, she has also launched credit cards and mutual fund families.
Her non-profit roles include serving as the President of the LCU Fund for Women’s Education, a 160-year old grant making foundation devoted to improving New York women’s lives through higher education. She also serves as the Treasurer of Double Entendre Music Ensemble, which produces concerts of and commissions new works for double reed instruments. She was also the co-founder of Think Tank for Schools, whose curriculum enhances college readiness by teaching high school students to think and work independently and the founding co-chair of the Dress for Success financial literacy program.
Leslie holds an AB degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University. She lives in New York City with her family.
Diana Polvere, Vice President
Diana Polvere is the Vice President, Annual Giving and Analytics at Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind Sesame Street, which reaches 183 million children globally. In her role at Sesame, she supports the Workshop’s mission to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder, through high-quality programming for all children, but especially children and families in need. Diana has been at Sesame for over 8 years and is responsible for building and strengthening the organization’s broad base of donors and potential donors through fundraising and engagement efforts, creating and implementing an annual giving effort, and managing donor analytics and CRM efforts. Previously, she was head of the Insights group, responsible for brand and audience measurement, market research and digital analytics.
Prior to Sesame Workshop, Diana worked at American Express for six years as Director of Research, leading a team in their Global Marketplace Insights group, providing research to inform key business initiatives, new product development, product line strategy, brand communications, acquisition and customer satisfaction. Her other experience includes client and supplier side positions across various industries including consumer packaged goods, travel, technology, financial services and media. Diana earned an M.B.A. from New York University’s Stern School of Business and completed her undergraduate degree in Marketing and Management at Cornell University. She currently resides with her family in Port Washington, New York.
Colleen Minde, Treasurer & Chair – Finance Committee
Colleen Minde is a Business Development Executive at RealFoundations, a real estate consulting firm. In her role she advises real estate firms on how to make better, more profitable decisions. Prior to joining RealFoundations, she spearheaded real estate technology sales for LEVERTON and Yardi Systems both domestically and internationally. Born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she began her career in real estate as an Associate Broker with Newmark Knight Frank and subsequently served as an Associate at SL Green Realty Corp in New York City. She strongly believes the empowerment of women begins with access to quality education. It is vital to providing women genuine possibilities to become everything they wish for. An art enthusiast, she is consistently captivated by the dedication and talent of the many grantees preparing for careers in the arts. Colleen holds a BA in Psychology.
Margaret Dietsche, Secretary & Co-Chair Communications and Development Committee
Margaret Dietsche grew up on a cotton farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California. She received a B.A. in English Literature from the University of California Santa Barbara and an M.A. in English Literature from Westfield State College in Massachusetts. The mother of two daughters and a former high school teacher of English, she is a strong believer in the power of women’s education to change lives, families and communities. In 2013 Margaret moved to New York City with her husband, Andrew, a bishop of the Episcopal Church, and is happily acclimating to city life. She serves on the board of the Global Women’s Fund, a mission of the Episcopal Church dedicated to educating women in the developing world.
Current Board Members
Lindsey Counts, Chair – Board Governance and Audit Oversight Committee
Lindsey Counts is a Senior Attorney with New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Fair and Equitable Housing Office. In this role, she advises on state and federal fair housing law and assists in the development of policy and procedure to promote access to affordable housing statewide. Prior to this position, she worked as an Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and as an Analyst at Goldman Sachs. A native New Yorker, Lindsey earned a BA in History from Yale College and a JD from Yale Law School. She is a co-chair of the Prison & Re-Entry Ministry at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, where she also serves on the vestry.
Christine Evangelides Donovan
Holly Hughes, Chair – Communications and Development Committee
Holly Hughes is a writer and editor based in Manhattan. A former executive editor of Fodor’s Travel Guides, she founded and still edits the popular the Best Food Writing annual anthology, and has written many travel guides for Frommer’s, including 500 Places to See Before They Disappear and 500 Places to Take the Kids Before They Grow Up. A native Hoosier, she earned a B.A. in English from Mount Holyoke College and an Honours B.A./M.A. from Oxford University, then made the Big Move to New York City to work at Scholastic Magazines; for months she hopped from couch-crashing to sublet to apartment share, trying to find a safe place to live on a junior editor’s modest salary. She and her husband, Robert Ward, have three children, all currently enrolled in college and graduate school, plus a rescue dog and cat. For more information, visit her website at hollyahughes.net.
Kathy Legg retired from her role as Executive Director of Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children in the spring of 2011. Ms. Legg had been the director of this child welfare and adoption agency for 21 years. Prior to this position she held several government jobs with the City of New York, including serving as the deputy executive commissioner with the City’s Human Resources Administration and as the City’s first Coordinator of Homeless Services. A graduate of Connecticut College, she received her MBA from NYU in 1978 and earned a Master of Library Science in 2002. She is an honorary board member of Search and Care, a small nonprofit serving the homebound elderly and is on the board of the Buck Hill Conservation Foundation in Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania.
Joan Oriel Rodney
Valeta Prendergast, Chair – Grants Committee
Valeta Prendergast is a seasoned nonprofit professional with over 15 years of experience working in finance and budgeting, contracts and procurement, vendor relations, travel risk management and safety and security. In May 2018 Valeta decided to pursue a lifelong dream of owning her own company and launched The VP Approach; a consultancy firm dedicated to helping nonprofits and corporations that have social responsibility programs with donor prospecting, grant writing, researching, general writing and editing as well as budget analysis. Valeta works diligently with key decision makers within an organization to manage projects so they can achieve success in furthering their mission.
Born on the sunny island of Jamaica, Valeta immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was three years old. Growing up in the Northeast Bronx with her close-knit and extended family, Valeta learned the value of hard work, dedication and compassion. It’s these life lessons that continue to drive her each day. In 2004 she received a BA with a double major in English Literature and World History from Hunter College. That same year, she won the highly competitive Clark Fellowship Award through NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service while simultaneously obtaining a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and Planning, all while working full-time for an international nonprofit organization.
In her downtime, Valeta enjoys spending quality time with her husband and family, volunteering for her favorite charities, traveling, painting, writing poetry, reading mystery novels, watching horror movies and taking acting classes.
Katherine Schmitt is a Manager in the People Advisory Services practice at Ernst & Young (EY). She specializes in organizational design and change management, specifically helping Fortune 500 companies navigate large-scale transformations. Katherine graduated from Cornell University in 2015 with a B.S. in Industrial & Labor Relations. As a native of New York City and a current resident, Katherine understands first-hand how outstanding educational opportunities in NYC are often accompanied by unaffordable housing. She is delighted that she is able to use her knowledge and experience to help underprivileged female students find safe and affordable housing. In addition to the LCU, Katherine volunteers for the New York City Mentoring Program, the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network and various outreach programs at the Church of the Heavenly Rest.
Carol Ann Starmack
Carol Starmack is the Deputy Director of the American Montessori Society (AMS), where she is responsible for ensuring the strategic alignment of AMS’s human, material and financial resources with the organization’s mission and goals. Prior to joining AMS in 2013, in addition to consulting for nonprofit organizations, she was the Senior Vice President of The Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research organization, serving as its Chief Operating Officer. In that role, she was a senior advisor to the foundation’s president with senior management responsibility for strategic planning, finance, budgeting, operations, administration, human resources, cross departmental functionality and oversight, and board relations. Carol holds a BS from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program and an MPA from Baruch College. She is a native New Yorker.
Linda J. Wright, Co-Chair – Communications and Development Committee
Linda J. Wright migrated to NYC in 1970 from a small, rural town (pop. less than 1,000) in Massachusetts. Graduating from Wagner College, Staten Island, with a dual B.A. in English Literature and Religion/Philosophy, she saw a future in lifting up others while exploring the world. Her first stop was west London, where she taught for two years in a struggling secondary girls’ school composed in equal thirds of working-class whites and recently settled immigrants from India and the Caribbean. When her visa expired, she returned to NYC to pursue an M.A. in TESOL, expecting to be back overseas soon. To pay for her studies she took a clerical position in the development office at Teachers College, Columbia University. This decision led to a professional sea change: Linda now saw the non-profit sector–focusing on institutional development, fundraising, and management–as an even more effective, inclusive way to reach people in need. As her multi-decade career at Teachers College and Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children wound down and she looked to supplement past volunteer/board commitments, Linda embraced the LCU Fund for Women’s Education. Heartfelt testimonials from supported students reinforce how much the LCU Fund’s housing grants have contributed to their success and remind Linda that many of us share a dream: “To be the first in our families to go to college; to have a meaningful, successful career; and to remember to make giving back to others a priority.”
Sara Espinosa – Executive Director
Sara Espinosa is the Executive Director of the LCU Fund for Women’s Education. She is an accomplished non-profit executive with over 25 years of wide-ranging experience in foundations, community-based organizations, and government. Prior to joining the LCU Fund in 2009, Espinosa served as Executive Director of Afterschool Works New York, a statewide membership organization that promotes quality services to children and families through credentialing, training and evaluation of school-age care providers and youth development professionals.
Previously she established and led the Department of Children, Youth and Family Services for the City of Newburgh, New York where she successfully increased access, quality and availability of city services for children, youth, families, and seniors.
Prior to relocating to New York in 2005, Espinosa co-founded and was Deputy Director of Community Learning, an office designed to advance educational equity through early learning programs, family support and partnership practices, extended learning opportunities and community engagement for the Seattle School District and City of Seattle.
She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in from the University of Oregon and a Certificate in Non-Profit Executive Leadership from the University of Washington Graduate School of Social Work. Sara lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband Gilbert where they are actively involved in animal rescue efforts and the local music scene.