Governance and Stewardship
Meritus staff, board, and advisory share a common vision for the future and that is to open the doors of opportunity to low-income youth in our community. All firmly believe in the transformative nature of higher education and the possibilities it brings forth.
Interim Executive Director
Jason Walthall is responsible for the overall leadership and management of the organization. He brings over 20 years of experience leading and growing organizations in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Jason is a Bay Area native and holds a B.S. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Southern California.
Director of Regional Partnerships
Mark Burke joined the Meritus team in 2017 with the goal of expanding the Meritus brand into the South Bay. As the Director of Regional Partnerships, he focuses on strategic partnerships and fundraising.
Mark is a passionate, mission-driven leader who has led organizations for nearly a decade. His approach emphasizes team building and developing strong business development best practices. An experienced leader in both the private and nonprofit sector, he lends a unique perspective on building organizations, developing teams and achieving results.
Mark graduated from Portland State University with a BS in Social Sciences. Additionally, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves and went on to play baseball professionally for 11 years. Mark lives in Morgan Hill, CA with his wife Toni and his baby girl Harper.
Director of Development
Jenna Ervice joined Meritus in 2016 as Development Director and provides strategic and creative leadership of development activities for the organization. She works closely with Meritus’ Board, Advisory Council, and Executive Director to ensure the fiscal sustainability of the agency, and has responsibility for special events, individual giving programs, corporate and foundation relations, and donor services operations. Jenna has 11 years experience in nonprofit development and most recently worked for Raphael House, a San Francisco-based agency that provides shelter and social services for homeless and at-risk parents and children. She was a Board member of Mission Graduates from 2002-2005 and is thrilled to advance the Meritus mission and help deepen its impact in the community. In her free time Jenna can be found playing tennis, walking her dog Max, or enjoying family life with husband Taz and her twin 10-year-old stepsons.
Sam Erwin joined Meritus in 2017 as the Development Associate. Sam is responsible for database management, gift processing, donor communication, and overall support of Meritus’ development activities. A native of Texas, Sam studied Journalism and Philosophy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Most recently, Sam served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Maker Ed, an education nonprofit based in Oakland, CA, where he supported the development and communication teams. Sam previously served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year: Los Angeles where he acted as a mentor, tutor, and role model at an elementary school in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA.
College Success Advisor
Cesar Lombera joined Meritus at the end of 2016 as a College Success Advisor. He comes to us with 6 years experience working in various capacities within different education organizations, all working towards achieving equity in access to higher education. He holds a B.A. in French from UC Berkeley and spent a year teaching English in France at schools in priority education zones that serve predominantly low-income and immigrant populations. It was this experience that inspired his desire to pursue a career in college access and success. Most recently, Cesar helped roll out and develop a college success program at Achievement First Brooklyn High School, a charter school committed to supporting scholars to and through college.
Director of Programs
Ellen Murray joined Meritus in 2016 as Director of Programs and works closely with the college success and career services team to provide meaningful and comprehensive support to all Meritus Scholars. In her role, Ellen sets program priorities and collaborates with her team to think strategically and creatively about college success and career development. Ellen has over seven years of experience in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, where much of her work focused on student engagement, leadership, and retention. Ellen holds a B.A. in Political Theory and Liberal Studies from New York University, and a M.S. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from Hunter College, CUNY. Having recently moved to the Bay Area, Ellen spends most of her free time exploring San Francisco, hiking throughout the region, and generally wondering why she didn’t move to the West Coast sooner.
Associate Director of Programs
Nicolas Rosa joined Meritus in 2014 with primary responsibilities in managing Scholar outreach and selection, supporting Scholars in their academic and professional pursuits, and coordinating scholarship, counseling, and career program efforts. Prior to joining the Meritus team, Nicolas founded FirstGen, a college campus based organization focused on assisting first generation college students as they work towards graduation. Nicolas also worked with college-bound students as an Admission Fellow for Pitzer College where he interviewed student applicants, gave informational presentations on college admission and financial aid policies, and assisted in the selection of the first year class. Nicolas holds a B.A. with Honors in Psychology and English & World Literature from Pitzer College and grew up in Las Vegas, NV. Nicolas is a first-generation college student who loves live music, a good book, blogging, and the occasional reality show every now and then.
College Success Advisor
Karla joined Meritus as a College Success Advisor in 2017. Originally from National City, Karla graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2014. She has her degree in sociocultural anthropology and a minor in ethnic students. Over the past several years, she has been serving low-income, first-generation students in multiple capacities. At UCSD, she strived to serve students by providing campus-wide programming, creating relevant resources, and sharing self care practices toward a pathway of success for underrepresented students. Karla’s experience in teaching and counseling middle school through college communities have made her more aware of socioeconomic deficits that exist in diverse Bay Area communities. She is passionate and determined to induce great change through their education. During her spare time, Karla enjoys taking road trips, spending time with her dog Toby, and attending artisan festivals.
College Success Advisor
Mubeenah Shaikh joined Meritus in 2016 as a College Success Advisor. Mubeenah recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Public Health. A first-generation college student herself, Mubeenah is passionate about educational opportunities and access. She is a native San Franciscan and enjoys traveling, reading and watching Marvel movies.
Board of Directors
Mary Wolfe, Chair
Mary Wolfe is the founder and principal consultant at Wolfe + Associates, a boutique firm specializing in measuring client satisfaction for professional services firms. Previously, Mary spent over 15 years in start-up marketing working for a variety of tech and consumer companies on strategic marketing, product marketing and design, and new business development. Mary is an avid community volunteer. She is a chair emeritus and serves on the development committee of Raphael House of San Francisco. She also actively serves on capital campaign committees for the John Carroll School, the University of Virginia, and Schools of the Sacred Heart San Francisco. Mary graduated from the University of Virginia where she received her B.A. degree in English literature.
Sheila Larsen, Secretary
Sheila Larsen joins the Meritus Board of Directors with management experience in the non-profit, education and corporate sectors. She currently serves on the boards of Breakthrough Collaborative, and ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) National Foundation. She has been President of the Boards of ARCS Northern California, Children’s Theatre Association of San Francisco, and San Francisco School Volunteers. Other volunteer commitments include the Foundation of City College of San Francisco, The San Francisco Education Fund, and The Gladstone Institutes President’s Council. Sheila also worked on the development staff of the San Francisco Symphony and for Levi Strauss in merchandise and operations management. She earned her BA from Stanford University and also holds an MSJ from Northwestern as well as an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Madeleine Sinclair, Treasurer
Laura has spent the last 19 years working at large technology companies. She is a technology leader with a proven track record of delivering highly complex and challenging initiatives. In her current role as the Director of Software Development leading new initiatives at eBay, she leads a technical team and participates in company-wide initiatives. Laura has a great passion for mentoring and creating career opportunities for women in tech. She has served as the Chair of the Paypal’s Technology Mentoring Program and is an active member of eBay Women in Technology. Laura lives on the Peninsula and works in the San Francisco office of eBay. She is a frequent speaker at Women in Technology events.
Wynn Burkett is a career and executive coach with a lifelong interest in personal growth, leadership development, and community building. With a background in investment banking and 15 years experience as a principal with Burkett & Company, Wynn has coached hundreds of individuals and corporate teams to improve performance and increase emotional intelligence. Wynn is dedicated to children and families; she designed and led a five-year leadership development program for teenagers for the National Charity League, created a parent effectiveness workshop called Mindful Parenting of Teens, and was the original founder of the Golden Gate Mothers Group. She also wrote a book, Life After Baby, exploring the transition from career woman to motherhood. Wynn has been active in many local nonprofits and currently serves on the board of NapaShakes, an organization bringing world-class theater to the Napa Valley. She received her BA from Stanford University and MBA from Yale School of Management.
Alison Bowe Diessner
Alison Bowe Diessner is a Principal at Hall Capital Partners LLC focusing on investor relations, strategy, and business development. Prior to joining Hall Capital in 2013, Alison was Vice President of Investor Relations at Jasper Ridge Partners (formerly Oak Hill Investment Management). Previously, Alison worked at BlackRock for nearly seven years, in the iShares Business Development group. She was responsible for institutional asset managers and national account relationships, managing BlackRock’s mutual fund accounts and growing the firm’s assets in defined contribution plans. Prior to BlackRock, Alison spent three years with Bernstein Global Wealth Management, and began her career in equity research at Banc of America Securities. Alison holds a B.S. in international studies from Middlebury College and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kevin Lowry is a Vice President at TPG based in San Francisco and has been with the firm since 2010. Kevin works in TPG’s valuation and portfolio management team, where he primarily focuses on private equity valuations. Previously, he worked at HBK Capital Management based in Dallas in the derivatives group. Kevin graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in finance, a BS in economics, and a minor in Mandarin. He is a CFA charterholder and is on the Young Professionals Council at Meritus. Kevin has been involved with Meritus since 2013. In his free time, Kevin enjoys triathlons, CrossFit, and the great outdoors.
Abhay Parekh is CEO of Lytmus Inc., an early stage startup founded in 2013, and has been Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at University of California at Berkeley since 2003. He has spent a bulk of his career in the Bay Area as an entrepreneur, investor and academic. He received a B.E.S. in Mathematical Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1983, an S.M. in Operations Research from the Sloan School of Management at MIT in 1985, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Dr. Parekh spent a number of years in industry (AT&T Bell Laboratories, T. J. Watson Research Center IBM, Sun Microsystems) working on various research problems, mostly in the area of computer networking. His research from that period is highly cited and has won awards such as the IEEE Communications Society William Bennett Prize Paper award. He was co-founder, President and CEO of San Francisco-based FastForward Networks, which developed products to enable the large-scale distribution of broadcast video on the Internet. In 2000, FastForward Networks was sold to Inktomi for $1.3B, where its technology and products formed the basis of Inktomi’s content networking offerings. After the merger, Dr. Parekh remained with Inktomi for a brief time as General Manager of the Media Products Division. From 2002-2008, he was associated with Accel Partners, an early stage venture capital firm as a Venture Partner. He continues to make individual investments in companies as an angel. Dr. Parekh has a strong interest in supporting access to high quality education. He has been on the board of MIT’s Open Courseware Initiative for a number of years and was on the board of Advisors of San Francisco Breakthrough. He lives with his wife Kay and two teenage children in San Francisco.
Jennifer Sweeney, an attorney, joined the Meritus board in 2014. She has served as General Counsel for several start-up companies, practiced corporate law for a large law firm, and worked in private equity and investment banking. She is currently Director, Strategic Partnerships for Little Pickle Press, a publisher of meaningful books and media for children and serves as Board Chair for Iqra Fund, a non-profit providing educational opportunities to girls in remote areas of Pakistan. Jennifer is also working with the University of Notre Dame to expand the scope of its undergraduate admissions and recruiting efforts in California. Jennifer holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Janie Richardson, a former senior employment and labor attorney, joined the Meritus board in 2014. She has extensive experience in counseling, arbitration, negotiation, training and litigation and previously worked for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, as a Deputy City Attorney, Labor Team. She was responsible for administration of all of City’s grievance arbitrations and supervised the work of other attorneys in this area. Janie successfully defended the City in grievance and interest arbitrations, mediations, and administrative proceedings, including PERB and the DFEH/EEOC, and has represented management in labor negotiations with numerous unions. She earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School, in addition to a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Middlebury College. Janie serves on The Thacher School’s Board of Trustees, speaks fluent Spanish, and has traveled throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. She also enjoys tennis, hiking, running, gardening and reading.
Mona Zhao is a 2008 Meritus Scholar. Professionally, she is a Product Manager at Captricity, an award-winning cloud-based service that turns paper information into digital data. Prior to Captricity, she cofounded Dotfully, a shared-economy technology startup located in San Francisco that was acquired in August 2015. In addition, Mona has been an active member of the Meritus Alumni Circle (MAC) and the Young Professionals Council (YPC). Mona developed a strong sense of devotion for work that provides social good. Her professional and personal experiences give her a deep appreciation of interpersonal connection as the secret sauce to progression and positive impact. In 2011, Mona received her BA in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz with a focus on cognitive science and human behaviors.
Advisory CouncilSheila Antrum,Chief Nursing and Patient Care Services Officer, UCSF
Linden Berry, MFT
Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Carmen Castro-Franceschi, Executive Managing Director, First Republic Bank
Belva Davis, Broadcast Journalist and Author
Howard DeBow, SVP, Product Marketing-Wealth Management, Wells Fargo Bank
Bill Drypolcher, Founder and President, Zephyr Real Estate
Kathryn Hecht, EdD
Sy Kaufman, Founder, Crosslink Capital
Kate Kelly, Feature Reporter, CBS5
Mary Ann Mason, JD, PhD, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Mauree Jane Perry
Liz Steyer, Executive Director, Mission ASAP
Legal Counsel: Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Young Professionals CouncilSophia Aguinaga, Facebook
Ashley Bledsoe, Zephyr Real Estate
Ryan Fay, Zephyr Real Estate
Hansen Fu, Deloitte
Joanne Fung, Marsh
Nicole Grossling, Google
Seth Hoskins, Sandler O’Neill & Partners
Janice Kha, Dropbox
Milton Lee, SAP
Kevin Lowry, TPG
Marissa Morrison, LinkedIn
Pedro Parjus, TPG
Oliver Peng, TPG
Jonnie Ramirez, PwC
Calvin Ruan, Multifamily Investment Partners
Annie Tam, PwC
Tara Vaziri, Rocksbox
Meritus Alumni Circle LeadershipJanelle Charles, 2002 Scholar
Bilingual Residential Case Manager, Raphael House
Hung Fong, 2007 Scholar
Campaign Manager, eBay
Raquel Gonzalez, 2003 Scholar
Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley
Antricia Kimuyu, 2004 Scholar
Human Resources Manager, Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies
Mona Zhao, 2008 Scholar
Product Manager, Captricity
Are you an Alumni Scholar looking to join the Meritus Alumni Circle Leadership? Contact Raquel Gonzalez: Meritus.firstname.lastname@example.org