Foundation Board of Directors

Volunteers who serve on the Board of Directors of SFCC Foundation have a wealth of experience in many disciplines including, arts, education, business, finance and endowment management, administration, and fundraising. They hold themselves to the highest ethical standards and endorse the College’s values: learning, community, empowerment, integrity, quality, diversity, and effective communication.

Officers and Chairs

Jeff Szabat

President, Board of Directors
Jeff Szabat, President, Board of Directors. Jeff is the Senior Vice President and Retail Manager with Century Bank and has 34 years of banking experience. Before joining Century Bank in 2002, Jeff worked for Bank of America and its predecessors for 18 years, rising through the ranks from commercial teller to Santa Fe market president. He has participated in many community activities, including volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Santa Fe Plaza Painting, and scholarship fundraising events. He currently serves as Board President of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, as well as serving on other boards including the Food Depot and the Santa Fe American Little League. His BS is in Economics from Pennsylvania State University.

Carmen Gonzales, PhD

Immediate Past President, Ex-Officio
Carmen Gonzales, PhD, A native Santa Fean, Carmen has a lifelong commitment to education. She played a leadership role as Vice President of Student Success at SFCC and at New Mexico State University where she also worked in the College of Education and the College of Extended Learning. As Education Advisor to Santa Fe Mayor Allan Webber, she helped craft Santa Fe’s education agenda, working with a cross-section of the City’s education-focused non-profits. She also serves on the national Board of Directors of the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, which awards grants and scholarships to teachers and student teachers.

Sheila Plunkett

Vice President, Philanthropy; Chair, Philanthropy Committee
Sheila Plunkett, Vice President, Philanthropy; Chair, Philanthropy Committee. Sheila has worked as a sales and marketing executive in strategic technology for financial services, transportation, and manufacturing. In addition to her service on the Foundation board, she is focused on committing time, energy and skills to nonprofit organizations in Santa Fe, including the Wheelwright Museum. She served as a board member and President of the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter in Minneapolis and as a board member and President of the Rosario Hill Compound HOA in Santa Fe from 2010 until 2015. Sheila holds a BS in Urban Planning from University of Minnesota, graduating with honors.

Stephen Gaber, MBA

Treasurer; Chair of the Finance & Investment Committee
Stephen Gaber, Treasurer and Chair of the Finance & Investment Committee. Steve was a founder and served as CEO of the Investment Counseling division of Mesirow Financial. A Chicago native, he worked at Mesirow from 1972 to 1996, when he retired and moved to Santa Fe. He serves as President of the Doris Goodwin Walbridge Foundation. He also served as Treasurer of the Santa Fe Community Foundation from 2003 to 2008 and 2011 to 2016 and as a board member and Treasurer for the Con Alma Health Foundation from 2008 to 2014. He received the 2019 Santa Fe Community Foundation Pinon Award for Philanthropic Leadership. He earned a BS from Washington University and an MBA from the University of California-Berkeley

Danika Padilla

Secretary; Chair, Leadership & Nominating Committee
Danika Padilla, Secretary; Chair, Leadership & Nominating Committee is the Senior Director of Social Impact at Meow Wolf and leads social and corporate responsibility planning, engaging local stakeholders and fostering long-term community relationships across all of Meow Wolf’s locations, including Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Denver. Danika has a decade of political activism, fundraising, and nonprofit experience. Previously, she served as managing director at Rio Strategies and on the South Central Finance team of Hillary for America, traveling across Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas engaging supporters. Originally from Washington, Danika holds a BS in Environmental Science from Washington State University.

Kelly A. Marquez, MBA

Executive Director, SFCC Foundation
Kelly A. Marquez, MBA, A native of Santa Fe, she has worked at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) since 1993. She joined the SFCC Foundation in 2011 and currently serves as the Executive Director. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Business Administration degree from New Mexico Highlands University. She owned a small business in Santa Fe for 17 years and understands both for-profit and non-profit ideologies. She led the Foundation in the implementation of a new Annual Fundraising plan and worked to increase awareness of the Foundation. During the last 10 years, she has helped to leverage $22 million while growing the endowment from $4 million to $10 million.

Dr. Rowley, PhD

President, SFCC
Dr. Rowley was president of Clovis Community College (CCC) in Clovis, New Mexico since 2011. Prior to becoming president, she was Executive Vice President (Academics and Student Services) at CCC. Before moving into administration, she taught English as a fulltime faculty member at Clovis Community College for seven years. Since 2015, Rowley has been chair of the New Mexico Independent Community Colleges (NMICC). As chair of this group, Dr. Rowley regularly presents before the Legislative Finance Committee, House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on behalf of NMICC. She was a member of the 2009 Core Class of Leadership New Mexico. In 2018, she was named a “Woman of Influence” by Albuquerque Business First.

General Members

David E. Dooley, PhD

David E. Dooley, PhD; is the Chief Planning Officer for Weapons Production at Triad National Security, LLC (Los Alamos National Laboratory). He has 22 years of interdisciplinary expertise with hands-on experimental, manufacturing, modeling, design, environmental, and D&D experience with actinide materials in both the government and commercial side of the nuclear business, domestic and internationally. David is engaged in supporting higher education institutions in northern New Mexico to help increase the pipeline of talented graduates joining the workforce. He holds a BS in Nuclear Engineering from Kansas State University and a PhD in Materials Science from Colorado School of Mines.

Valentine (Val) Alonzo

Val Alonzo retired in 2023 as the Executive Director of the Regional Development Corporation, in Española, New Mexico. Alonzo has been involved in providing community and business development in Northern New Mexico. Alonzo is also a member of the Rural Economic Development Council, and board member of the New Mexico IDEA Statewide Economic Development Organization, and the New Mexico Student Loan Guarantee Corporation.

Debby Everett

Debby Everett has a BA in English and a MA in Education. She has worked as a child care center co-director and taught Early Childhood Education and Human Development at community colleges in California. For 30+ years, Debby worked as a writer/producer in Television where she produced news, public affairs programming, magazine shows, and documentaries. After moving to Santa Fe 15 years ago, she wrote and produced videos for non-profit organizations.

Marcos Maez, MBA

Director of Student Engagement and Recruitment
Marcos Maez Born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Marcos Maez currently serves as the Director of Student Engagement and Recruitment at Santa Fe Community College. Marcos joined the SFCC Recruitment team in 2011 after returning to SFCC where he graduated with an Associate of Arts in General Studies. After SFCC, Marcos transferred to the University of New Mexico, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and graduated Magna cum Laude. Marcos recently completed his Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from New Mexico Highlands University. Prior to taking on student engagement and development activities, Marcos served as the Director of Recruitment and Community Outreach where he oversaw the college’s outreach initiatives, sharing the benefits and advantages of attending SFCC with prospective students. As a first-generation college student, native of Santa Fe, and Capital High School graduate, Marcos can share his story and the stories of others who found their success, and in some cases, chose to stay and give back to their community. He understands, firsthand, the value of a college education and uses his passion and enthusiasm to connect with people to communicate that value and the possibilities it brings. Marcos has fifteen years’ experience working with diverse populations in both academic and professional settings, including as an Art Broker for the Chuck Jones Studio Gallery; however, he has found his true calling working with students and the community in programs such as ENLACE New Mexico, Mentoring New Mexico, Rotaract Club of Santa Fe and Toastmasters.

Martha Romero PhD

Dr. Romero was President/Superintendent of the College of the Siskiyous District in California. While in California, she established several leadership development institutes. One was a community leadership program much like Leadership Santa Fe; the other was to prepare professionals for community college presidencies in California. Dr. Romero was also the Founding Director of the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives (CCLDI) at Claremont Graduate University. She has taught graduate seminars in Organizational Development at the University of Colorado, University of New Mexico and Claremont Graduate University. She served as Vice President of Instruction at Pikes Peak Community College; served on the Board of Everest College in Phoenix and SIAS University, an American University in rural China and the accreditation commission for the Western Region in the US. While in California she was an active member of the Rotary Club. She currently also serves on the Boards of Kitchen Angels and New Mexico First.

Valerie Grimley, Ph.D.

Valerie Grimley is currently the Senior Honors Project teacher at my alma- mater, the Santa Fe Indian School. I teach all 12th grade students and provide them instruction for a yearlong, community based, action-oriented research project that intentionally works toward positive contributions to school, family, and community. The dual credit course addresses real concerns affecting today’s Native American and Indigenous communities worldwide. The work of SHP requires a commitment to developing research, writing, and interpersonal communication skills. I have been teaching at the Santa Fe Indian School for nearly 7 years. As an adjunct faculty for SFCC and IAIA, I was able to obtain feedback from students and my colleagues and communicate with students in a manner which enhances student learning and understanding. I was also able to utilize a variety of teaching methods and resources for the courses taught. The success of my position relies on my ability to encourage the development of student involvement, responsibility, and critical thinking skills as well as understand the needs of the communities we serve. In addition to my experience at SFCC, I was a Preparing Future Faculty Student Intern at New Mexico State University from August 2011- May 2012. I co-taught two college courses to students who were pursuing a bachelor’s degree in secondary education as well as graduate level students who were teaching middle school language arts. My experience at the NMSU with various responsibilities helped me develop strong organizational skills that I can apply in dynamic educational environments. Some examples of what the job entailed included managing the classroom to ensure the best use of instructional time while creating n atmosphere contributing to learning and self-discipline. I love working in an atmosphere surrounding critical, confident, independent and interdependent, life- long learning. I understand the importance of community involvement and am committed to helping our pueblo and Native communities.

Elizabeth “Libby” Keefer, JD

Elizabeth (“Libby”) Keefer; Libby is an attorney with over 45 years of legal and administrative experience, primarily in US government and higher education institutions. She began her career in government service first at the Federal Trade Commission as a mergers and acquisition attorney, then at the Department of State as Assistant Legal Adviser for Near East and Southeast Asia, and finally at the Department of the Air Force as Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs. She also spent several years in corporate legal practice as a partner at Hughes Hubbard and Reed, and served as General Counsel to Teledyne, a large California technology conglomerate. In 1997, she was appointed General Counsel at Columbia University. After 11 years at Columbia, she moved to Washington, DC to take a position at a crisis communications firm, McGinn and Company. She enthusiastically returned to academia in 2011 as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Administration at Case Western University where she oversaw university administrative functions in addition to general counsel duties. In 2021, she retired from her professional career and moved full-time to Santa Fe after being a part-time resident for many years. In addition to the SFCC Foundation Board, she currently serves as the Chair of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden board as well as serving on the board of Assistance Dogs of the West. She is a former board member of the Women’s Refugee Commission. She received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1971, and her J.D. from George Washington University in 1977.

Carolyn Stewart, MBA

Carolyn Stewart is an energy industry veteran with more than 45 years of electric and gas utility, renewable energy development, and energy consulting experience. She worked with Native American communities across the U.S. for more than 20 years, most recently as Director Tribal Relations for NextEra Energy. At NextEra Energy she led development of an industry-leading Tribal Relations initiative that transformed energy development and construction processes by working collaboratively with Tribes to protect sensitive Tribal cultural resources, as well as established Native scholarship programs. She earned a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois and a M.B.A from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Jody M. Pugh, MBA

Jody Pugh, is the SFCC Governing Board Secretary, is a senior engineer with the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) at the Los Alamos Field Office. In this position, she works with NNSA and laboratory leadership on a variety of areas that affect the NNSA mission, organization, and/or operations in national security. Ms. Pugh has over two decades of leadership, management, and technical experience in a wide variety of programs across the DOE/NNSA. She is well known and respected for being a consensus builder and team player both within the government and the community. Ms. Pugh has earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from New Mexico State University, an MBA from West Texas A&M, and a master’s degree in national security strategy from the College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University and a bachelor’s degree in science from Western New Mexico University.

Nick Telles, MBA

Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Ex-Officio
Nicolas M. Telles became SFCC’s Vice President for Finance & CFO in November 2014. During Nick’s tenure, he has led the team that increased cash reserves to the college from $750,000 to what is now more than $12 million to stabilize the finances of the college. Nick has also maintained a healthy AA2 bond debt credit rating from Moody’s for Santa Fe Community College. In 2017, Nick led the effort to persuade Santa Fe county voters to approve a no-tax increase bond election which provided $17 million in bond proceeds to SFCC which allowed for the construction of the Automotive Technologies Center, Learning Space Improvements, information technology improvements, and infrastructure construction projects. Nick has led the innovative effort to work with the NM Finance Authority to finance the replacement of old inefficient campus utility infrastructure, through an Investment Grade Audit, and Energy Performance Contract—with the ultimate goal of making the college more sustainable and lowering CO2 emissions. Nick was appointed to the New Mexico State Investment Council on January 21, 2020 by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham fulfilling the requirement that a chief financial officer of a state institution of higher education be a Member of the Council. Nick is a member of the NMSIC Council Investment Committee and he is the Chair of the NMSIC Audit Committee. On the NMSIC, Nick oversees the prudent investment of over $42 billion of NM permanent funds. Nick has dedicated nearly two decades of his career to public service in the areas of public finance, legislative education policy, higher education and leadership. Nick also has extensive legislative experience working for NM Senate leaders on the Senate Education Committee and in the Senate Majority Leadership Office. In this capacity, he worked directly on education public policy and finance matters related to early childhood education, K-12 education, need based scholarships, dual credit, adult basic education, and higher education. Nick is also a board member of the NM School for the Arts-Arts Institute and he is the Chair of the NMSA-AI finance Committee. Nick earned an M.B.A. and Bachelors of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance, both from the University of New Mexico, Anderson School of Management.

Advisors

Hue-Chen Karels, MS

Hue-Chen Karels has a 20-year record of accomplishment in solution-focused organization and management consulting including visioning and strategic alignment; corporate culture assessment; workforce needs assessment and planning, and team building. She has expertise in FDA regulatory compliance and quality management programs for the Pharmaceutical, Biologics and Medical Device Industries. She is the owner of Open Kitchen, a culinary events venue launched in 2009 in the Washington DC Metro area and in Santa Fe. She is passionate about designing and implementing systems, processes, and learning opportunities to develop sustainable teams and organizational effectiveness. Hue-Chan holds a Master of Science in Organizational Development from American University and is a certified MBTI® practitioner.

Regis Pecos, MA

Regis Pecos has served multiple terms as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Cochiti Pueblo. He also served on the traditional Tribal Council for 30 years. Regis served as Chief Executive of the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs, Chief of Staff for Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, and Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Ben Lujan. He is Co-Director of the Santa Fe Indian School’s Leadership Institute and Director of the Leadership Institute and Indigenous Think Tank and faculty at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is Princeton’s first Native American Trustee. He has published many articles on subjects including education, environment, health, indigenous customary laws and governance, Pueblo language and culture, land tenure, water rights, and Indian policy and laws. Regis holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA from the University of California-Berkeley, and has attended Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Sandy Zane

Sandy Zane, Sandy is the owner of form + concept gallery and with her husband, Ned Bennett, owns Zane Bennett Contemporary Art. She is an accomplished artist and has exhibited her prints and paintings in more than 25 solo, juried, group, and invitational exhibitions, primarily in New York and New Mexico. She has served on the board of the New Mexico State University Foundation, and currently serves on the boards of Creative Startups Santa Fe. In 2012, Ms. Zane was a Remarkable Woman Honoree of the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Ms. Zane and Mr. Bennett are philanthropists, contributing to Alzheimer’s research, the Safety Foundation of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and to Santa Fe-area educational and arts organizations, including the New Mexico Museum Foundation and the New Mexico School for the Arts. Ms. Zane earned a BA in Arts Administration from Bard College.

Edwin (Ed) Barker, PhD

Planetary Astronomer; Co-Chair, Science on a Sphere®(SOS)/Planetary Advisory Committee
Edwin (Ed) Barker, PhD, Planetary Astronomer; Co-Chair, Science on a Sphere®(SOS)/Planetary Advisory Committee. A native Santa Fean and graduate of Santa Fe High School, Ed worked for the McDonald Observatory (Texas) for 40+ years as a planetary astronomer, as well as 5 years at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He is a consultant to NASA’s Space Junk Program and has published and presented papers on all the objects in our solar system; the space environment; 50+ comets; asteroids, and extra-solar planets. He volunteers as the SOS Coordinator and has trained a cadre of volunteers for screenings of the Sphere. He is a math and biology mentor at Capital High School and served for six years on the board of Menaul School in Albuquerque. He currently serves on the board of Desert Chorale. Ed holds degrees from New Mexico State University, Kansas University, and the University of Texas- Austin.

Elise Arena, MPA

Secretary; Chair, Leadership & Nominating Committee
Elise Arena, MPA, Chair, Art on Campus Action Committee. Elise is an expert in international trade and has served overseas in the Foreign Service. She currently works for OTR Global, a market research firm for the investment industry. She has worked in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North Africa. She also has served on numerous boards, including Glen Echo Park Partnership of Arts and Culture in Maryland, Art Perspectives International, the National China Garden Foundation, and the U.S. National Arboretum. She earned a BA from Hunter College, an MPA from American University, and she also studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Instituto Cultural de Guadalajara, and the Universidad Iberoamericana.

Natalie Fitz-Gerald

Natalie Fitz-Gerald is the owner of Casa Nova Gallery in Santa Fe. Natalie served many years in finance and consulted for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. In addition, she helped form Nozala Investments, a women’s economic empowerment corporation and founded Luc Benoit Designer Accessories. Natalie also brings experience from serving on many boards in New Mexico such as the Museum of New Mexico Foundation; the Center for Contemporary Arts; Leadership Santa Fe; the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and the Women’s International Study Center. Natalie advises for the Santa Fe Community Foundation Development Committee, the La Familia Medical Center Development Committee, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Advisory Board. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and later received advanced degrees from the London Business School and the Stanford University School of Business.

Emeritus Members

Rick Abeles, JD

Rick Abeles, JD, Immediate Past Board President and Emeritus Board Member. Rick co-founded the Santa Fe Children’s Museum and has served on many local boards including the Metropolitan Water Board. He received his BA in Physics from Amherst College and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

Rachel Belash PhD

Dr. Rachel Belash served as vice president of the board and chair of the Philanthropy Committee, and now chairs the board of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center. Her eclectic career includes teaching Spanish and Latin American Literature at Dartmouth and Vassar Colleges, Head of School at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT, and vice president of the Trust Division at Bank of America. She is a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe, and previously served on the board of United World College USA. Her BA and MA are from the University of Oxford and her PhD is in Latin American Studies from the University of Kentucky.

Carole Brito Besser

Carole Brito Besser served as chair of the Leadership and Board Development Committee. She now serves on the board of directors of the Santa Fe Community Foundation. Retired from New Mexico Highlands University, she spent 30 years as a K-graduate level educator. She is also founder and president of the consulting firm LEAD: Leadership, Education, Assessment and Development for Excellence. Ms. Brito has a BS from the University of New Mexico and an MA in Educational Administration from Highlands.

Robert Glick PhD

Dr. Robert Glick served on the Leadership and Board Development Committees. He is a former executive director of the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation. Dr. Glick earned his doctorate in Comparative Literature from Indiana University. He was a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Maryland, and a Visiting Fellow at Yale University.

Nancy Witter, PhD

Nancy Witter, PhD; served on the Philanthropy Committee. A retired clinical psychologist, she has served on numerous professional and nonprofit boards in Santa Fe. She was a Phi Beta Kappa scholarship recipient, and earned a BS from the University of Iowa and an MS from Purdue University.

Thank you for being part of our donor family at Santa Fe Community College Foundation!