Board of Directors

Friends Center’s Board of Directors is a dedicated group who stewards Friends Center and assures and oversees Friends Center and assure and oversee its organizational health and effectiveness. Working in close partnership with the Executive Director, they give their time, talents, resources and expertise to provide leadership and support to achieve agreed-upon goals and objectives consistent with Friends Center’s mission, vision and values.

Ivory Blount

Ivory Blount is a native of New Haven, CT. She is a wife, mother of two amazing children, and has worked as a registered nurse for more than 19 years. In her role as mom. she champions her 15-year-old son Tevis Jr., who excels in basketball and academics, and her 12-year-old daughter, Amaya, who is talented artist and student with high achievements. In addition to her own children, Ivory serves as a leader in the youth and young adult department of her church where she oversees the annual Vacation Bible School and organizes a host of other enrichment and development opportunities for young people. As a nurse, Ivory has been a dedicated advocate for her patients and their families and now, as a nurse manager, implements policies and improves practice efficiencies, while training and mentoring new nursing professionals. As a wife, she enjoys the support partnership of her husband of 17 years. Ivory is creative, a hard worker, a quick learner and dedicated to see all people reach their highest potential. She is happy to serve the Friends Center for Children community.

Jane Coppock

Jane Coppock is a returning volunteer who has been working with our preschool children for several years. She is a former clerk of the New Haven Friends Meeting and a past member of the Friends Center Board of Directors. She will be joining the downstairs preschool again this year.

Connie Dickinson

Connie Dickinson began her career as a high school English teacher who loved the challenge of igniting teenage passion for all manner of literature. Her teaching career included a stint in a New York City pilot program for seriously disturbed adolescent boys. After moving to Chicago, she began working for a marketing firm which led to a long marketing career that included consumer products and, eventually, high-end commercial and multi-family real estate. She started and led DickinsonGroup, which worked nationwide with some of the country’s leading real estate developers. She has served on many non-profit boards both in Chicago and Connecticut, where she moved in 2010. Her community commitments have often involved education and child welfare, and she has a special passion for helping first-generation teens realize their college dreams. She sees Friends Center as the ideal pathway to helping all children become their best selves. She and her husband of 55 years have two children and four grandchildren ranging from age 8 to 17 living on the east coast and view grandparenting as one of the great joys of life.

Carlos Galo

Robert J. Harrity, Jr

Bob is an Adjunct Professor teaching international finance at Sacred Heart University’s Welch School of Business and teaching corporate finance at the Dolan School of Business. He is a founding partner of RII, an advisory and consulting firm specializing in investment management and risk analysis. For more than 25 years Bob worked as a managing director for leading financial management and investment companies in New York City.

Bob received his MBA in General Management with a concentration in Finance from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and his BA in History from Trinity College. He has been awarded a certificate from the AACSB Bridge Program.

Bob is a member of The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). He has served as President of St. Anthony Foundation and as a Trustee of The Foote School. He is currently a Trustee, Chairman of the Finance Committee and member of the Executive Committee of the Whitney Center and Chairman (Clerk) of the Board of the Friends Center for Children.

Bob and his wife reside in North Haven, Connecticut. They have two grown children. He enjoys tennis, golf and wooden boats.

Suzannah Holsenbeck

Suzannah Holsenbeck is the executive director of Read to Grow, a CT based early literacy organization that promotes language and literacy skills for children, beginning at birth, and supports parents as their children’s first teachers. Read to Grow has distributed over 2.2 million books to children and families across CT since its inception in 2000. Prior to leading Read to Grow, Suzannah spent 15 years as an administrator and teacher in a wide variety of rural and urban public schools, including serving as a special education teacher on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and as the arts director at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School in New Haven. Suzannah oversaw all components of the CT Schoolyards Program at Common Ground, including the CT School Garden Resource Center, Schoolyard Habitat Programs, and partnerships with 23 New Haven public schools. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Yale and a M.Ed. in Urban Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has two young children who currently attend Friends Center for Children.

Kaaren Janssen

Kaaren’s career in science began in the research lab – after graduate school and postdoctoral work, she became a research associate at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. Her growing interest in science communication – teaching, writing and editing – led her into the world of scientific publishing, where she became exposed to a wide range of research topics, discussion and planning with an active and entertaining Editorial Board, helping to sort out the next big application of interest to the readership. At the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Kaaren became further involved in acquisitions and development programs, communications and project evaluation in academic publishing and education, mentoring students. She currently devotes her time to science communication and education, as well as serving as consultant to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, working for the preprint server bioRxiv. Kaaren’s community work has focused on supporting education – as a member of the Guilford Board of Education for 8 years; on the Board of Guilford, A Better Chance for 12. She is now so pleased to be involved with the Friends Center, seeing what a difference can be made when the focus on high quality care and education and family support begins early. Kaaren has two children, now grown – neither went into science, but each married a scientist. Her family all shares a love of hiking and open water swimming.

Joseph H. Johnson, PhD

Dr. Joseph Hamilton Johnson is the youngest child and only son of Peggy Johnson and former New Haven Public Schools educator, Joseph H. Johnson, Sr. (deceased). A native of New Haven, Dr. Johnson is a proud graduate of St. Brendan School and Hillhouse High School. After high school, Dr. Johnson continued his education and obtained his Bachelor degree in Special Education from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Later, he earned his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Educational Psychology from Howard University in Washington, DC. While in DC, he served as an Associate Researcher for the Capstone Institute and Assistant Principal for the District of Columbia Public School system. Currently, Dr. Johnson is the Research and Development Coordinator for the State Education Resource Center (SERC) in Middletown, CT., and an Adjunct Professor of research at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.  

After being away for 15 years, Dr. Johnson recently moved back to his hometown of New Haven in order to make a positive contribution to the community that helped raised him. He continues to stay active in local events, and work with local kids in New Haven through his participation with local community action agencies and his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. His commitment to, and passion for, the people of New Haven motivated his return to Connecticut and, moreover, fuels his desires to become increasingly involved in city life and politics. Along with his wife Edith Johnson, Principal of Wilbur Cross High School, Dr. Johnson hopes to make a lasting impression and impact on the youth and people of the great city of New Haven.    

Jerry Leaphart

Joanna Meyer

Joanna Meyer brings more than 16 years of experience in education to her role as a Friends Center board member. At The Consultation Center at Yale, Joanna’s work focuses on early childhood education through the Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER) and on social and emotional learning through school-based research in Connecticut and New York City.

Prior to her work at Yale, Joanna worked for two years at the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (MainePSP), a school-university partnership that focused on improving the teaching and learning of science in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. Joanna provided professional development and leadership to teachers implementing MainePSP curricula in their classrooms and engaged in STEM education research.

Joanna began her career as an educator, with ten years of teaching experience that spanned three school districts, a Job Corps center, and two experiential learning settings. As a high school STEM teacher, Meyer led her school’s decennial accreditation process with New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Meyer also served as a fellow of the Maine Writing Project, a mentor teacher for the teacher preparation program at the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development, and a coordinating teacher for the NSF GK-12 program at the University of Maine’s College of Engineering.

Joanna is also a proud parent of two Friends Center alumni.

Caroline Park

Caroline is a Connecticut native, and has lived and worked in New Haven since 2012. Caroline earned a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College in 2008 and went on to graduate from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2011. Upon graduating law school, Caroline clerked for the Honorable F. Herbert Gruendel at the Connecticut Appellate Court. Following her clerkship, Caroline joined the New Haven law firm of Wiggin & Dana LLP, where she is now counsel in the Labor, Employment & Benefits Department. Caroline represents employers in federal and state court litigation of employment-related disputes, proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, grievance and arbitration proceedings, and labor contract negotiations, and advises employers on a broad range of personnel-related matters.

Caroline is honored to have served on the Board of Directors of Friends Center since 2015, and is incredibly proud of the work Friends Center is doing in her community. She lives in Westville with her husband Max, a middle school English teacher, and their beagle.

Rose Beatriz Pudlin

Allyx Schiavone

Allyx has 29 years of experience in early childhood development and elementary education – as a teacher and administrator in CT and NY. She holds dual Masters’ degrees from Bank Street College of Education in Early Child Development and Elementary Education and a Bachelor’s degree from Union College. A third-generation New Haven native and long-time resident of Fair Haven, Allyx maintains ownership in a New Haven real estate development corporation which she managed from 1998-2009.

Allyx has served as Program Coordinator for New Haven-based Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES); Early Childhood Classroom Observer for Southern Connecticut State University; and Budget Coordinator for the New Haven Board of Education facilitating a $2 million grant. Allyx has taught in NYC, New Haven and Greenwich in several elementary schools and pre-school settings, directed summer camps and written and supervised curriculums at elementary, middle and high school levels with an emphasis on literacy, math, science, and multidisciplinary studies.

Allyx is a founder of the New Haven Children’s Ideal Learning District (NH ChILD). NH ChILD is a coalition of local and national early childhood proponents that have come together to create a place-based pilot program in New Haven. NH ChILD proposes to revolutionize the early care and education landscape by bringing the community together around a common vision of Ideal Learning with a focus on equity. The goal of NH ChILD is to provide high-quality early care and education experiences for all 15,000 New Haven children ages zero to eight.

She currently serves as an advisory member of the University of New Haven’s Nonprofit Certificate in Leadership, Innovation and Organizational Sustainability and on the Mayoral Appointed New Haven Early Childhood Council. She is a 2019 recipient of the Southern Black Nurses Association Community Service Award and the 2019 Amity Club Distinguished Italian-American Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also Exchange Magazine’s Master Leader award and the recipient of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Marvin Maurer Spotlight Award. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is a former; board member for Connecticut Voices for Children; appointee to the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Reading; and leader of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund Community Leadership Program. She is the mother of two fantastic teenaged children and has a lovely black dog named Blue.

Michael F. Wajda

Michael Wajda is a longtime Quaker who has served various staff and volunteer leadership positions in Quaker organizations for most of his adult life. Michael retired in 2015 from Friends General Conference in Philadelphia after serving nineteen years as its Director of Development. Friends General Conference provides a broad range of services to Quaker meetings across the United States and Canada. Michael currently provides part-time consulting services to several Quaker organizations in the United States and around the world.

Michael has experience in Quaker education as a board member, staff member, and parent. All three of his children (now adults) attended Quaker schools in the Philadelphia area.

Michael has a B.A, Phi Beta Kappa, from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.  He is a member of Goshen Friends Meeting in West Chester, PA, although he and his wife, Alison Levie, recently moved to Bennington, Vermont and attends the Friends Meeting there. One of Michael and Alison’s sons lives with his wife and two children live just three blocks from them.  It is a joy to be so close to his young grandchildren.

Michael became enthusiastic about Friends Center for Children by serving on the Quaker Advisory Council. He sees the Friends Center vision and model as a movement for high quality early childhood education for all children everywhere and is deeply moved by what has been accomplished already.

BIll Walkauskas

Drawing on experiences from his traumatic childhood, Bill Walkauskas dedicated himself to helping children avoid the problems he had. He began working at ACES in a special education classroom and continued to work there for 30 years, where he served as the union president and helped hundreds of youth.
Searching for a strong environment to raise his own kids, he found the Quaker community, meeting at the Yale campus. He served as clerk of the meeting and helped spearhead the decision to build a meeting house off campus, and acquire and build the current meeting house on East Grand Avenue. He continues to serve on the permanent board of the New England Yearly Meeting.
He currently serves on Friend Center’s Quaker Advisory Council and as a board member, where he combines his love of children and his Quaker faith.

OrLando Yarborough, III

OrLando Yarborough III, PhD is a scientist, leadership coach and strategist who helped train 19,000 Guatemalan leaders in the first-ever national transformation effort. He coaches and trains a diverse and international portfolio of young professionals, academics, and community and business leaders in leader development, professional skills and personal growth.

His passion is to help shape our environments to be launching pads and landing places, to create healthy systems where leaders are equipped, encouraged and empowered to live transformed lives and multiply their influence to create positive change.

OrLando is the founder of the Well Company, Yarborough Coaching Solutions, and is an Executive Director of The John Maxwell Team. He is a Meyerhoff Scholar and holds a B.A. in Biology/Africana Studies from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a Ph.D. and M.Phil in Genetics from Yale University, and certificates in marriage counseling and pastoral leadership.

OrLando pastors The Black Church at Yale. He and his wife have a four-year-old daughter at the Friends School. OrLando is most grateful that his values and the values of Friends Center align, and highly respects Friend Center integrity in promoting and executing its mission.