Being designated as a branch Named Gift Honoree is a very special honor in AAUW. The award is reserved for members who have made extraordinary gifts of time and hard work to the branch and AAUW. And the award signifies that branch members contributed a total of at least $750 to AAUW Fund.
Sue Cochran, 2021-22 Honoree
Sue Cochran has been President of AAUW California and the AAUW CA Special Projects Fund (SPF). She has held several positions on the CA State Board since the 1980s. Migrating to California in the early 70’s from Washington state, she and her husband currently live in Santa Rosa. She has been a member of AAUW for 50 years and always active in her branch, serving as president of Santa Rosa Branch twice. For our branch, she has most recently served on the committee reviewing the governance documents. She has served AAUW National on the Bylaws Committee and chaired the committee, on the Program Development Committee, and most recently on the National Governance Committee. Her education background includes degrees in Food Science and Nutrition, and Communications/Journalism from Washington State University, and graduate work in Business Administration, and Meeting Facilitation and Planning from Sonoma State University, and San Francisco State University. She has used her education throughout her diverse career and volunteer roles. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, quilting, needlepoint, and knitting. She and her husband pursue genealogy research and love to travel. She is also a certified meeting planner.
Shelly Johnson & Cherie Sorokin, 2020-2021 Honorees
Shelly Johnson, 2020-2021 Honoree
Shelly Johnson joined AAUW in September 1994, in the Orange, CA Branch. She says the first time she attended an AAUW meeting she found people she knew from other volunteer activities. At that same meeting, she was asked to take on the job of Newsletter Editor and she has had a job ever since. In 2005 she moved to San Luis Obispo and transferred her AAUW membership. In 2007 she also joined our California Online Branch. In her three branches Shelly has served as Newsletter Editor, Treasurer, President, Membership, Bylaws, IBC Rep, C/U Liaison, and Communications Chair, holding some of these positions multiple times. Shelly has been IBC Chair twice, and was AAUW CA Secretary and Local Arrangements Chair. She has served on several AAUW CA committees with 2 years on the Reproductive Choice Task Force, 4 years on the LAF Committee, time on the Bylaws Committee, and 6 years on the Communications Committee where she worked on the state website. Shelly says she got hooked on going to state and national conventions and always came home with new energy and enthusiasm for AAUW’s work. She also loves to keep track of her branches’ activities and has become the unofficial record keeper. From NJ, Shelly earned her BA and MA in Linguistics at Univ. of PA. She moved to CA in the 1970s after 10 years in Honolulu. She worked with mainframe computers, doing programming, system analysis and design. Married since 1968, Shelly has two children and 4 teenaged grandchildren.
Cherie Sorokin, 2020-2021 Honoree
Cherie Sorokin received an AAUW membership from her mother over 50 years ago when she graduated from Indiana University. Through the years, she has belonged to branches in Ft. Wayne, IN, Glen Ellen, IL, Fairfield, CT, San Francisco, and Marin County, CA. She joined our California Online Branch about 10 years ago because she loved the idea of using technology to bring people together across geographical boundaries and to offer programming that can be accessed anytime. Cherie began her branch service by doing advocacy work and speaking on the ERA. She has since served on the boards of her branches as President, Program Chair, Membership Chair, Newsletter Editor, and chair of an ad hoc committee on revitalizing the Marin Branch. She is currently serving a second term on the AAUW National Board of Directors. She works as a consultant on board governance and effectiveness with corporate in nonprofit, private, and public arenas. She is also President of Marin Villages, a grassroots nonprofit that helps older adults remain active, connected and independent while still living at home. She says this work dovetails nicely with the work AAUW does on economic security for women. A recent widow, Cherie says she is especially thankful for the new kittens who joined her this summer, since they are the only things we can hug during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cherie says AAUW has been truly important in so many ways, honing her feminist instincts, providing leadership opportunities, giving her tools to be an advocate for women in many different environments, not to mention connecting her to countless fabulous women.
Tobi Balma, 2019-2020 Honoree
Tobi Balma helped found her local branch of AAUW in 1972. In AAUW, she felt she had found her niche and quickly became a Life Member. Tobi is passionate about AAUW, belongs to four branches and has served in multiple capacities at the branch, state and national levels. For our branch she served on the board as the AAUW Fund VP. Tobi’s biggest passion is our Legal Advocacy Fund. Although no longer on the National LAF Committee, she remains focused on Pay Equity, gender discrimination, Title IX, etc., and keeps in touch with Aileen Rizo via Facebook & personal texts. Tobi is a member of the Legacy Circle and the Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle. She also serves on the AAUW CA SPF Board, developed their website and is the Webmaster, in addition to being very involved with Tech Trek. Tobi calls the Online Branch her “go to” for in-depth information about AAUW’s Mission and Public Policy. She says, “It is the best $10 I spend yearly.” and she keeps telling people about it. She wants you to know how honored she is to be selected as the Branch Named Honoree.
Jean Simutis, 2018-2019 Honoree
Jean Simutis joined the Alma (MI) branch of AAUW in 1977, having completed her graduate work and starting her first job at Alma College. After moving to California in 1990, she found the Concord branch and has been a member ever since. After listening to Jo Harberson talk about the CA Online Branch at state conventions, Jean decided it wouldn’t hurt to be a member in a second branch, so she joined our branch. She loved the fact that many of her AAUW friends from throughout the state were already members. She’ll be moving to Cottage Grove, OR, soon, and has already joined the Eugene-Lane County branch. Since she has a life membership, she believes she will always find a branch to call home. Jean has held several Concord branch offices, including President, Program VP and Treasurer. She also served as Online branch Treasurer and was Chair of the Contra Costa County IBC. At the state level, Jean served as Parliamentarian and as a member of the Nominating and Governance Committees. She has attended many state conventions and three national conventions. While learning a lot at these conventions, the best part was seeing her AAUW friends!
Donna Mertens, 2017-2018 Honoree
Donna Mertens is a past branch board member, having served as an at-large director and treasurer in the past, and she’s been a dedicated leader at the state level for years, serving as AAUW CA Chief Financial Officer (a HUGE job) and then President for the past two years (three, if you include her year as President-Elect). Through it all she has represented the best in AAUW, encouraged others, provided professionalism in a volunteer organization… and let’s not forget her unfailing good humor and basic kindness.
Cathy Foxhoven, 2016-2017 Honoree
Cathy Foxhoven has belonged to AAUW for over 25 years and has served on the AAUW California Board for 6 years as Program Chair. She is currently in her first year as the Board’s Leadership Development Chair and State Speech Trek Coordinator. Previously, Cathy was President of the San Mateo, CA Branch, President of the Findlay, Ohio Branch and District Director for AAUW Ohio. Cathy is now State Co-President Elect for 2017-2018.
Sandy Hansen, 2015-2016 Honoree
Sandy has been an AAUW member since the mid-1970s and has been active in several branches; she will be our 2016-17 branch President and has served in that capacity in the Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin and Visalia-Sequoia branches. She’s also quite active in her church. She served on AAUW-CA Committees for a number of years, and chaired the AAUW-CA Public Policy Committee for three years and is the ORIGINAL “mother” of the AAUW-CA website. She currently maintains websites for our branch (looking for volunteer replacement!) and the Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin branch. She was honored by AAUW of California as the state Named Grant Honoree a number of years ago.
Jo Harberson, 2014-2015 Honoree
Jo describes herself as an AAUW junkie. On the national level, Jo served on the Educational Foundation Board of Directors as well as the Association and Legal Advocacy Fund boards, back when there were three separate boards. She served on the AAUW Bylaws Committee and is currently serving on the AAUW Governance Committee. On the state level she has served or is serving in areas such as membership, district director, leadership development and governance. She served on the Nominations/Elections Committee which developed the every member voting structure for AAUW California. Jo has been honored by AAUW members who established in her name an international fellowship and a research and projects grant.
In her non-AAUW life Jo has taken up acting — most recently as Big Mama in a scene from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”! Jo loves to travel and has visited 113 countries to date. Her most memorable trip ended with her and her husband being hijacked at sea by Portuguese revolutionaries and held captive for two weeks. Maybe we can get Jo to tell us about that adventure sometime.
Krys Wulff, 2013-2014 Honoree
Krys Wulff joined AAUW in 1979, joining the Online branch in 2004. In the past two years (2012-14), she has provided outstanding program discussions to the branch and posted summaries for our members to share beyond our own branch. She has been a member of Napa County, Oakland-Piedmont, and Stockton AAUW branches, holding every board position except hospitality. Krys has served for 14 years in AAUW state leadership positions, including Women Issues Co-Chair, Reproductive Rights Chair, Public Policy Director, and Program Vice President. She was the AAUW CA State President from 1998-2000. Krys was elected to the national board of AAUW in 2003, serving for four years, where she served on the Public Policy Committee. She was appointed to the national board for an additional term, 2009-11, serving on the Finance Committee as Chair of the Audit Committee and Chair of Strategic Planning. Krys was an EF Grant recipient and Project Director for the National Educational Equity Conference at Mills College in 1992, and has twice been named an EF Named Gift Honoree for the Oakland-Piedmont Branch of AAUW. Krys is a retired management consultant, now a primary member of the Napa County Branch of AAUW.
Sheli Ryan, 2013-2014 Honoree
Sheli has been an Online branch member since 2009, and was branch president for two consecutive years (2011-2013), during which time she continued the branch’s tradition of always trying new ways to conduct business by instituting board meetings by conference call instead only by email list. She has served as the branch book group chair. She was a member of AAUW Benicia-Vallejo branch in Benicia, CA for 10 years. During her years in Benicia, she held positions as president (1994-95), treasurer, membership VP and newsletter editor. She also served on the steering committee for the “Expanding Your Horizons” conference that AAUW co-sponsored with Solano Community College and the Girl Scouts.
Nancy Shoemaker, 2009-2010 Honoree
Nancy joined the Online Branch in 2002, having served the national organization in a variety of capacities, working on the organization’s IT infrastructure and accessibility. She lives in North Carolina, serving as AAUW NC’s state president (2006-08), but has also given generously of her time and considerable talents to help our branch evolve and develop new ways of communicating, including helping to write the original branch bylaws, and serving as the branch tech chair in 2004-05. She was instrumental in encouraging AAUW members to join Facebook, to heighten AAUW’s visibility and enhance networking. In 2009, showing her trademark creativity, she founded the Tar Heel Branch, a new branch without borders in North Carolina. Also in 2009, working with another Onliner, Carlynne McDonnell, she developed a system to post AAUW board candidate information online.
Harriet Tower, 2009-2010 Honoree
Harriet joined the Online Branch in 2004, already a very active leader of the Santa Maria (CA) Branch as well as serving as an AAUW CA district director. She has been member of the branch board ever since joining the Online Branch: 3 times as treasurer (2005-07 and 2009-10), once as president-elect (2007-08), and once as president (2009-10). She has completed each position with efficiency, creativity and good humor. We honor her not only for the work she has done for our branch, but also for her distinguished accomplishments as the AAUW CA Director of Communications (2008-10) and AAUW CA Co-Vice President (2009-10). Under her tenure as state communications director, all the branches in California have benefited from a redesigned website and new email broadcast system, as well as a transition to online officer reports.
Jo Turner, 2009-2010 Honoree
Jo joined the Online Branch in 2006 and has been an active participant ever since, serving as our Legal Advocacy Fund chair in 2007-08, and as a Director At-Large in 2008-09. As we developed the branch blog, she became a regular contributor, and has been particularly faithful in keeping our readers informed about the Legal Advocacy Fund. She has also been a leader in the Riverside (CA) Branch of AAUW. Her passion for AAUW’s mission, and her enthusiasm to learn every new technology that comes her way is inspirational.
Teresa Cheung, 2007-2008 Honoree
Teresa is one of the founders of the Online Branch, which started in 2001. Her energy, skills, and positive outlook helped get this “branch of the future” up and running in the present. From 2001 to 2003 Teresa was co-president and tech VP. She also served on the bylaws committee. In 2004 Teresa continued as tech VP and added finance chair to her duties. She then “retired” from active duty as a branch officer and returned to school for a master’s degree. We can truly say that our fledgling Online branch would not have survived without Teresa’s years of dedication.
Amber Chiang, 2007-2008 Honoree
Amber took over as technology/communications VP in 2005, a position she still holds. She rebuilt the website and set up our email lists — the way we communicate, since we do not have meetings. Amber is on call to post, fix, delete, add, and link. She answers all our technical questions cheerfully, researches options that we would like to have, and tells us if they are possible. Her input ensured that our PowerPoint presentation for Association convention was professional in quality. On a daily basis Amber is a diplomat. She cheerfully and diplomatically redirects the endless flow of visitors who reach our site — when they really want AAUW – CA.
Sandy Kirkpatrick , 2006-2007 Honoree
Sandy was president of the Online branch from 2004 to 2006. She engineered the switch from chatrooms, which had proved unwieldy, to the current email list format. This change allowed us to make breaking news our program, with a focus on AAUW public policy priorities. Because online communication facilitates quick response, the branch was able to act when South Dakota passed an anti-abortion law. We quickly developed a resolution protesting South Dakota’s action, and the resolution was passed at the California convention. Sandy spearheaded a PowerPoint presentation for the 2007 national AAUW convention that brought national attention to the branch and recruited many new members from other states. She mentored a member who wanted to set up an online branch in Texas.