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

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 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 11 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 Treasurer & Chair – Finance Committee

Colleen Minde is CEO of REIX Corp, a commercial real estate technology firm focused on developing innovative cloud based data and analytics solutions. In her role she is responsible for leading strategic direction, product development and driving revenue growth.

Active in the real estate industry since 2002, her previous endeavors have focused on the intersection of real estate and technology including tenures at Newmark, SL Green, Yardi Systems, Leverton (MRI), and Real Foundations.

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.

Katherine Schmitt Secretary

Katherine Schmitt Secretary

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.

Board of Directors

Lindsey Counts Chair - Board Governance and Audit Oversight Committee

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

Christine Evangelides Donovan

Christine (Tina) Evangelides Donovan is the principal of Christine Donovan Consulting which specializes in marketing, communications and executive search in the nonprofit sector. She has broad experience with and a particular passion for the world of higher education. As a search consultant, Tina has successfully worked on and filled leadership positions in a range of organizations, from large to small, focused on higher education, arts and culture, social services, and the environment. She succeeds because she is adept at understanding complex organizations and their competitive landscapes as well as how to articulate their missions.

Tina became a consultant after a 25-plus year career in marketing/communications during which she held senior positions at The Episcopal Diocese of New York (EDNY) and The Children’s Aid Society as well as American Express, The New York Times and the Echo Design Group. In those positions she spearheaded the creation of new branding strategy and award-winning website for the EDNY; created, developed and deployed branding strategy for American Express Custom Extras winning her a Superior Performance award.

She joined the board of the LCU Fund for Women’s Education in 2009 where she serves on the grants and governance committees as well as being a past Vice President and Chair of the communications committee. She serves on the Parents Association Board at the Trinity School, co-chairs the reunion committee for her Brown University class and serves as a Parents in Action facilitator. She earned a BA in Art History from Brown University and an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Tina is a native New Yorker who lives in Morningside Heights with her husband and daughter.

Kathy Legg

Kathy Legg

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.

Valeta Prendergast Chair – Grants Committee

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.

Adela Ruiz

Adela Ruiz

Adela is a professor, activist scholar and project manager based in New York City. Throughout her time in philanthropy (most recently at The Ford Foundation) she has worked with hundreds of grantees, co-founded the Latinx/Blatinx, Disability, and Healing for Justice staff groups and led institutional/philanthropy-wide efforts to advance disability inclusion, diversity, and equity. At Open Society Foundations in addition to organizing international convenings, she managed the Global Legal Research Internship Program and served as the chair of OSF’s Disability Inclusion Working Group. In 2009, Adela co-founded Immigrant Advancement Matters, a non-profit organization in Queens, New York. Adela has led community/youth empowerment projects all over the world including Kenya, China, and Italy, helped develop a BA in Sustainable Development at St. John's University, and has taught undergraduate Sociology at Monroe College in the Bronx. She is passionate about creating opportunities for historically excluded groups like women, people with disabilities, queer, trans, black, indigenous, people of color (QTBIPOC), and immigrant families.

Adela was recently awarded a Líderes Fellowship from Hispanics in Philanthropy and a Clarke Fellowship at Binghamton University where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Sociology. She earned her BA/MA in Sociology and Romance Languages from St. John’s University and is also pursuing graduate Disability Studies coursework at the University of Maine and CUNY SPS.

Sofya Shuster

Sofya Shuster

Sofya Shuster is a Director of Real Estate Finance at ING in New York. In this role Sofya is responsible for underwriting, execution, and portfolio management of commercial real estate loans across the United States. She is also a Global Sustainability Champion for Real Estate Finance at ING, acting as a connector between Sustainable Finance and Real Estate Finance teams. Previously, Sofya worked in Loan Syndications at ING in Amsterdam and London, where she was responsible for underwriting, structuring, and distribution of syndicated loans in Europe. Over the course of her career she has covered a number of sectors, including infrastructure, energy, transportation, and commercial real estate.

Originally from Russia, Sofya received a BSc Cum Laude in Economics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Thanks to her participation in a prestigious international Huygens Scholarship Programme, she had an opportunity to continue her studies in the Netherlands. She received an MSc Cum Laude in Finance and Investments from the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University), which launched her career in international banking. Since 2014, Sofya holds a chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation. Given her personal experience, Sofya cannot underestimate the value of non-profit organizations supporting education and she is keen to contribute her time, energy, and resources for this cause. In her free time, Sofya enjoys visual and performing arts, reading, aerial acrobatics training, and travel.

Carol Ann Starmack

Carol Ann Starmack

Carol Starmack has over twenty-five years of senior leadership experience in the nonprofit arena, ten of them at the c-suite level. Most recently she served as the Chief Operating Officer of the American Montessori Society (AMS), a 16,000+ member professional society that sets standards for Montessori schools and teacher education programs and credentials Montessori teachers. It also offers high-quality professional development to Montessori administrators, faculty, and teachers. Prior to joining AMS in 2013, in addition to consulting for nonprofit organizations, she was the Senior Vice President of The Century Foundation, a progressive, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to foster opportunity, reduce inequality, and promote security at home and abroad. She served as its Chief Operating Officer.

Carol has a strong commitment to equality and justice and views the work of LCU as making a vital contribution to creating a more just world by helping NYC women of modest means succeed and thrive.

She holds a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College’s Executive program and a Bachelor of Science from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program. She is a native New Yorker.

Sandra M. Stevenson Co-Chair - Communications and Development Committee

Sandra M. Stevenson Co-Chair - Communications and Development Committee

Sandra M. Stevenson is an award-winning Assistant Editor in the photography department at The New York Times. She oversees digital photo editors on the news desk and works on visual content for Race/Related and the Gender, in addition to special projects such as "Overlooked." She’s originally from Albuquerque, NM and was raised in Cheyenne, WY. After receiving a BA in English from Syracuse University, Sandra spent four years working at NBC – first as a Page and then working on various news programs. From there, she became the program coordinator for the Black Filmmaker Foundation. During her time there, she held a deep commitment to helping people of color enter the film industry at various levels.

Sandra then returned to the news industry, by taking on a position at The Associated Press, where she spent eight years moving up from photo assistant to overseeing photo news coverage for Latin America and the Caribbean. She also took time to work on and an advanced degree in multimedia from L'Universite Toulouse in France. Sandra was a contributing writer in the book "Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives." Most recently, she was the picture editor and co-curator on the book "This Is 18."

She currently serves as a governor on the Overseas Press Club – America. Previously she was the board president at the Bronx Documentary Center as well as a board member of the American Montessori Society.

Linda J. Wright Co-Chair - Communications and Development Committee

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.”

Staff

Sara Espinosa Executive Director

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 the scope and quality 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.