Vital Communities will honor 14 women leaders whose work has significantly contributed to the Upper Valley at its 2014 Heroes and Leaders celebration. The annual event recognizes community leaders and serves as a benefit for Vital Communities’ Leadership Upper Valley program. Read more below about the women we’re honoring and how they’ve helped shape the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Keynote Speaker: Sara Jayne Steen, President, Plymouth State University
Sara Jayne Steen became the 14th president of Plymouth State University on June 30, 2006. Before coming to PSU, President Steen was dean of the College of Letters and Science at Montana State University. A specialist in early modern English literature, she is the author or editor of five books and many other publications and has received awards for teaching and scholarship.
President Steen is active with businesses and civic groups and serves on many state, local, and national boards. Among them, she is a member of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission, the New Hampshire College and University Council, and Campus Compact of New Hampshire. At the national level Dr. Steen serves on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Presidents Group and on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Council of State Representatives and its Committee on Policies and Purposes, its public policy board.
Merilynn Bourne, Executive Director, LISTEN Community Services
Merilynn Bourne is the executive director of Listen Community Services, which provides crisis and family services to Upper Valley households. As director of Listen, Merilynn has recently overseen the development of River Point Plaza, a new facility in White River Junction where the organization operates a thrift store and houses its Teen Lifeskills Center and Community Dinners Program, which provides free meals to Upper Valley residents five nights a week. Under her supervision, Listen’s retail revenues have increased from $600,000 per year to $1.6 million. Merilynn recently ended a nine-year stint as Cornish’s first female selectman. She has also served on the board of directors for More Than Wheels and Twin Pines Housing Trust.
Merilynn and her husband moved to the Upper Valley in 1971 for the area’s healthy lifestyle. She raised four children in Cornish, New Hampshire, and enjoys home improvement projects and family time. She also loves to paint, draw and sculpt.
Barbara Couch, VP of CSR at Hypertherm, President of HOPE Foundation
Barbara Couch is Hypertherm’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, focusing on community engagement and sustainability in communities worldwide where the company operates. An Upper Valley resident for more than 30 years, her efforts in the community beyond Hypertherm have followed her passions around creating strong workplace cultures, education, and health care. Barbara is a Trustee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Boards of Overseers for the Geisel School of Medicine and Hopkins Center for the Arts, the Boards of Directors of New Hampshire Public Radio and New Hampshire Businesses for the Arts, and the leadership team for ReThink Health. She is a member of the Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing Education Council and was recently appointed to Governor Maggie Hassan’s NH STEM task force. She is on the Advisory Boards for the Montshire Museum of Science, Institute for Lifelong Learning at Dartmouth (ILEAD), NH Stay Work Play, and the Dartmouth Skiway. Barbara and her husband, Dick, have three grown daughters and two granddaughters, who are the center of her life.
Jeanie McIntyre, President, Upper Valley Land Trust
During her nearly 30-year career with the Upper Valley Land Trust, President Jeanie McIntyre has helped conserve 45,000 acres of land in a 45-town region, protecting some of the natural resources that define the Upper Valley landscape. After earning her bachelor’s degree at Davidson College in North Carolina – with an honors thesis on “Land Use and the American National Character,” good training for her future calling – her first career was in accounting for nonprofits and a small CPA firm. But the Lyme native moved back to the Upper Valley in 1987 after becoming pregnant with her daughter, and accepted an accounting position with UVLT – the beginning of her journey with the organization. Jeanie has served on the Lyme Conservation Commission, Budget Committee, and Planning Board, as well as the boards of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce and Twin Pines Housing Trust. She is currently involved in the East Central Vermont: What We Want sustainable community regional planning project with Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission.
Jane Kitchel McLaughlin, The Kitchel-McLaughlin Family Fund
Jane Kitchel McLaughlin has lived in the Upper Valley for 22 years and oversees the Kitchel-McLaughlin Family Fund, reviewing grants, conducting site reviews, and refining giving strategies as changing circumstances dictate. The Kitchel-McLaughlin Family Fund primarily takes a two-pronged approach to supporting nonprofits in the Upper Valley: It supports organizations that deliver essential services by awarding operational grants, and it also considers new initiatives and capital requests.
Jane also volunteers with Granite United Way, Friends of Hanover Crew, AVA Gallery and Art Center, the Hopkins Center for the Arts, and the Woodstock Community Food Shelf. An avid cyclist, she is active with World Bicycle Relief, an international organization committed to improving mobility in developing countries. Jane captains a Prouty team which has raised more than $500,000 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. She also enjoys theater, cross-country skiing, hiking, and spending time with her husband and three children.
Suzanne Long, Farmer, Luna Bleu Farm
Suzanne Long of Luna Bleu Farm in South Royalton has been influential in Upper Valley farming for decades, laying groundwork for the vibrant agricultural landscape we enjoy in the region today. Suzanne and her husband, Tim Sanford, launched one of the region’s first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and worked with schools and children long before formal farm-to-school efforts began. As a board member for NOFA-VT, Suzanne supported efforts to educate children and new farmers, and helped initiate the Farm Share Program to help low-income families access local foods. She worked with Vital Communities to create the Upper Valley Farm Worker Learning Collaborative. She has also been an active member of the Norwich Farmers Market and a strong proponent of the winter markets. Suzanne is on the board of BALE (Building A Local Economy). A Dartmouth graduate, she can also be found playing around the Upper Valley with the Old Sam Peabody contra-dance band.
Sue Mooney, CEO and President, Alice Peck Day Health System
Sue Mooney is President and CEO of Alice Peck Day Health Systems, including Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital and APD Lifecare, which includes the supported senior living facilities Harvest Hill and the Woodlands. Sue moved to the Upper Valley in 1998 and began working as a full-time OB/GYN at Alice Peck Day in 2000. In 2005, she took a leave of absence from the hospital to pursue her passion for improving healthcare quality.
Through a fellowship at the White River Junction VA Medical Center, Sue received a Master’s degree from the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth College. Upon her return to Alice Peck Day in 2007, Sue became Medical Director of Quality at the hospital and assumed the role of Chief Medical Officer in 2009.
As CEO and President, Sue works with a senior leadership team of six and oversees about 500 employees. She is also a corporator for Mascoma Savings Bank and an incorporator for Lebanon College. She lives at Eastman in Grantham with her partner and two sons.
Gail Dahlstrom, Vice President of Facilities Management, Dartmouth-Hitchcock
As Vice President, Facilities Management at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Gail Dahlstrom’s leadership has literally shaped the landscape of the Upper Valley. She managed the hospital’s move to its Lebanon campus – a three-year, $220 million project – and has overseen a range of expansion projects in the last decade. Her ability to bring together the right people and her willingness to learn have helped her become one of very few women leading facilities management for hospitals nationwide.
Driven by a desire to contribute to health and wellness from a non-clinical angle, Gail earned her Masters in Health Services Administration at The University of Michigan School of Public Health. She shares her expertise through the Built Environment Network and American Society of Hospital Engineers. A past Chair of the Upper Valley Housing Coalition board, Gail is currently Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Vital Communities.
Julia Griffin, Town Manager, Town of Hanover
Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin has lived in the Upper Valley for 18 years. As the chief executive for the municipality, Julia oversees the police, fire, public works, and recreation departments, as well as all administrative offices and both town libraries. Julia chairs the board of New Hampshire FastRoads, a broadband project that has worked to construct a broadband Internet backbone from Orford to Keene. She also serves on the boards of Granite United Way and the Friends of Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth.
In her free time, Julia likes to garden, ride horses, and walk her dogs. She also enjoys helping to feed her son’s high school crew team. Julia met her husband as an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, and has a daughter who attended the school, as well as a son who will enroll next year. She enjoys the quality of life the Upper Valley offers without the negative aspects of living in an urban area.
Jacqueline Guillette, Superintendent of Schools, Grantham SAU #75
Jacqueline Guillette is superintendent of the Grantham School District and owner of Capstone Consulting, LLC. As superintendent, Jacqui oversees the one-building district that serves students in grades K-6. She was previously superintendent for SAU #6, encompassing Claremont, Cornish, and Unity. She also serves on the New Hampshire Workforce Youth Council and the Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing Education Advisory Council. She is a corporator for the Claremont Savings Bank, trustee on the Claremont Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, and day planner for the Leadership Upper Valley Education Day.
Since 2011, Jacqui has worked with business leaders and educators to connect the education system with the manufacturing industry in the Upper Valley. So far, she has co-authored four classes with the help of other area teachers. The courses teach students about opportunities for young people in manufacturing and engineering.
A lifelong educator, Jacqui has lived in the Upper Valley for almost 25 years and enjoys reading, learning, and riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with her husband.
Sara Kobylenski, Executive Director, Upper Valley Haven
Sara Kobylenski is Executive Director at the Upper Valley Haven, where in her five years at the helm she has overseen a tripling of services provided in response to community need – including sheltering, case management, and food assistance – and equal growth in support from the community. Sara has been involved in social work in the Upper Valley since 1981, working for both nonprofit and state agencies with a focus on child welfare and human services. Sara served for 22 years on the Vermont Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Family Rules, for nine years on the board of Alice Peck Day, for eight years on the Hartland School Board (she and her husband have two children), and is a past 4-H leader. In addition to her work at the Haven, Sara is currently involved with the Rethink Health initiative and is on the boards of both the Vermont Parent Representation Center and Mascoma Savings Bank. Sara has a Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.
Betty Porter, Founder, Vital Communities
Betty Porter is the founder of Vital Communities and a 45-year resident of the Upper Valley. She began her volunteer career as a member of the League of Women Voters in Hanover, where she helped petition the national league to enable the board to work across the Vermont-New Hampshire state line. She also served on boards of the United Way of the Upper Valley, the Montshire Museum of Science, the Upper Valley Community Foundation, and Dartmouth Medical School.
Betty has endowed three community-meeting rooms in the Upper Valley, stipulating that the rooms remain free-of-charge for use by nonprofit groups. In 1995, she founded “The Upper Valley: 2001 and Beyond” to serve as a “neutral convener” where individuals and organizations could come together in a safe space to discuss ways to collaborate. Out of this project came Vital Communities, located in White River Junction. Betty grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and attended William and Mary College. She enjoys kayaking and walking in the Upper Valley.
Allie Quinn, Founder, Montshire Museum of Science
Allie Quinn has a long history as an activist – or, as she says, a “troublemaker” – working to make life better here in the Upper Valley. As a new member of the League of Women Voters in 1957, she helped spearhead work toward regional collaboration in an area crossing two states and four planning districts. Although her résumé includes decades of work with a variety of organizations, she is most recognized for her role as a Founding Trustee and hands-on volunteer of the Montshire Museum of Science.
Allie was among those visionary community members who, in the 1970s, accepted Dartmouth College’s offer of its collections to provide the base for a regional public science museum. The Montshire has since grown into a recognized institution benefitting rural schools, nonprofit organizations, and the “young at heart of all ages.” A former board member and current advisor to Vital Communities, Allie has raised three children and enjoyed traveling the world as assistant to her late husband, Tuck School Professor Brian Quinn.
Bente Torjusen, Executive Director, AVA Gallery
Bente Torjusen moved to the Upper Valley in 1982 from Tuscany, Italy, and began working as AVA Gallery’s Executive Director four years later. In 1990, she moved AVA from a one-room gallery in Hanover to the former H.W. Carter Overall Factory in Lebanon. Bente oversaw the renovation of the old factory as well as the capital campaign, raising $4.5 million. She focused on combining the raw space of the factory with contemporary design, and in 2007, the LEED-certified building reopened to the public. AVA Gallery is intricately tied to the Upper Valley community and works with other local organizations, such as Listen Community Services, to provide opportunities for children to participate in summer camps and art classes free-of-charge.
A native of Oslo, Norway, Bente studied abroad in France and Italy and met her late husband, Clifford West, while working in the Munch Museum in Oslo. The couple eventually moved to Tuscany, where they lived with their two daughters until moving to the Upper Valley.
Kathy Underwood, President and CEO, Ledyard National Bank
As President and CEO of Ledyard National Bank, Kathy Underwood oversees 100 employees at seven branches and one wealth management office in the Upper Valley. A nine-year resident of the area, Kathy is also Vermont’s delegate to the Independent Community Bankers of America and serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve of Boston and the New Hampshire Banker’s Association. As the audit chair for the Federal Reserve of Boston, she informs the board about economic growth in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Outside of the banking world, Kathy chairs the Strategic Planning Committee for Kendal at Hanover, serves on the Upper Valley Corporate Council from Vital Communities, and works as the Upper Valley Go Red Chair for the American Heart Association. Kathy enjoys the combination of a rural area with a rich quality of life in the Upper Valley. She skis, reads, and travels to relax, and also enjoys spending time with her husband and three daughters.