Board of Directors
Our diverse board of directors is composed of business leaders, conservationists, scientists and educators, and is representative of the Laguna’s broad appeal to Sonoma County’s many cultural and economic communities. Our strategic approach is collaborative, building a “big tent” embracing private landowners and public agencies to jointly solve problems and improve management of the Laguna’s natural resources. Our directorship, accordingly, reflects a wide range of perspectives and interests, but shares the common goal of improving the health and functioning of the Laguna.
Dr. Dianne Smith holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UC Riverside, she is an experienced field ethnographer and the recipient of numerous academic teaching awards. Her 35 year teaching career includes UC Riverside, CSU Los Angeles, SRJC, and she currently teaches in the Osher Life Long Learning Program at SSU. She has completed three years of fieldwork in the Colombian Andes and shorter field projects in Asia. Dianne currently works twice each year in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera (Bahamas) where she is recording oral history. At SRJC she served as Academic Senate President, three terms as an academic Department Chair, and was the District’s Policy Coordinator, drafting new and revised policies that were subsequently adopted in the district governance system. She was a key leader in establishing the SRJC Environmental and Global studies requirements for the AA degree, which was a first in the community college system. Her non-profit experience includes serving two terms as President of Congregation Shomrei Torah, chairing a multi-year capital campaign, and chairing the Building Committee for the new Bennett Valley Road synagogue property and facility. Her love of hiking, bird watching, wildlife, and environmental studies shapes her personal desire to share her varied organizational and educational skills at the Laguna Foundation.
Richard Peterson-Jones earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his law degree from Stanford Law School. He is married to a Santa Rosa native, and now lives in Santa Rosa after 34 years in Marin County. They have five children. Prior to his retirement in 2014, he practiced over thirty years as lead attorney for a major company in a variety of matters and large, complex transactions, many involving creating and implementing projects costing over one billion dollars each. He handled a wide range of issues relevant to the Laguna Foundation’s work, including environmental laws, permitting, contracting, strategic and project planning, human resources and employee benefits. He volunteers for the Laguna Foundation as a Learning Laguna Docent, providing legal services, and participating in various events. He has also served as a volunteer for the San Francisco Food Bank and the Salvation Army. He enjoys hiking, biking, backpacking, contra dancing, and tennis.
John Weinstein, his wife Heidi Stewart, and their two children moved to Sebastopol in 1997 from Oakland to enjoy the beauty of Sonoma County and a rural lifestyle. Having lived in an urban environment for all his life, he arrived to Sonoma County not knowing the difference between a watershed and a woodshed, but has over the course of time come to understand and appreciate the vital role the Laguna de Santa Rosa plays in creating and preserving the splendor that brought him here initially. As a member of the Laguna Finance Committee for two years, John is familiar with the Foundation’s finances. As the CEO of a retail financial services company since 1984, he brings practical business knowledge and experience to the Board. Inspired by our beautiful wetland and the mission of the Foundation, he is thankful to be able to contribute to its guardianship as a member of the Board.
Now retired, Dr. Curt Groninga served as the Vice President/Asst. Superintendent of the SRJC for 27 years with responsibilities for institutional planning and research, campus facilities planning, environmental health and safety and administrative computing operations. Among his proudest accomplishments were the preservation of the portion of Capri Creek which meanders through the SRJC Petaluma Campus, protection of several landmark valley oak trees at the Santa Rosa Campus and generation of new oaks established at the Petaluma Campus and several high and low technology “green” projects throughout the district. Curt was responsible for the development of new campuses and training centers and managed the college’s $335-million facilities construction and energy efficiency programs. Curt received degrees from CSU Long Beach and the University of Southern California with advanced graduate study at UCLA. His doctorate is in public policy and political economics. He previously served as a Board Member for Family Services Agency and the SRJC Foundation. Along with being a Board Member of the Laguna Foundation, Curt is also serving on the Board of the Santa Rosa Planning Commission and previously served on the Cultural Heritage Board.
Julie Solomon Atwood has produced events generating over $2.5 million dollars for North Bay charities. Prior to her career in event planning, Julie maintained interior design ateliers in Marin and San Francisco. Julie has had the opportunity to turn these two career skill sets into an equally satisfying, community-based business called Julie Atwood Events. With a fantastic team of regional resources, Julie is an ambassador for Sonoma County and a spokesperson on the importance of sustaining family farms and local businesses. Julie has served, or is currently on the Board of, several regional non-profits, including Sonoma Valley Vintner’s & Grower’s Alliance, Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Riding Center, Valley of the Moon Children’s Home Foundation, Vintage House Senior Center and Slow Food Sonoma Valley. She is currently a member of the Children’s Home Auxiliary, plus a member of several prestigious Hospitality Industry trade organizations, including: ISES, WIPA, WCSEP, Women for Wine Sense, SF Professional Food Society, SVVGA & Sonoma County Vintners. Her interests range from riding, birding, photography, and trying to organize her ever-growing collection of farm, kitchen and tabletop antiques. She is also trying to become an accomplished kayaker. Julie lives on a historic ranch in Glen Ellen with her husband and varied cats, dogs, horses and waterfowl.
Carolyn Johnson has rejoined the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation Board of Directors, having previously served from 1998 to 2006. She brings fundraising, organizational and leadership experience after serving ten years on the board of Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO Conservation Science), including three years as Board Chair. She is a co-founder of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy; President of Fledgling Fund, a philanthropic family foundation. Carolyn holds an Interdisciplinary MA from SSU in wetland restoration and preservation and land use policy, a BA from The Evergreen State College.
Suzanne Knecht and her husband Jerry moved to Sebastopol in 2010, after 27 years in San Anselmo, in a process of reinvention, but mostly to be closer to their grandchildren. Suzanne discovered the Laguna as a great area to walk her dog and soon became captive to its beauty. Suzanne holds a BA in History from Connecticut College and has supplemented her formal education with art studies at the College of Marin. Before indulging her passion for art, she was a qualified retirement plan consultant in San Francisco designing programs to meet company objectives within the legal framework of ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. She has been a docent with the Bayshore Studies program in Tiburon, a Board member of the Environmental Forum of Marin, and directed fundraising efforts for The Friends of the San Anselmo Library. Suzanne and her husband are also sailors and both attained a lifelong goal completing a 30,000-mile voyage around the world in their 42' sailboat, about which Suzanne wrote a book. As a sailor, she feels a special kinship with water, the basis for her interest in working with the Laguna Foundation. The move to Sebastopol marks a departure from the sea in favor of their new life as farmers.
Nils-Michael Langenborg, B.S., M.B.A., draws on 25 years of business experience in marketing and brand-building experience with some of the best companies in America. For the past 15 years he has been intimately involved in the natural and organic products industry, more recently as President and CEO of Whole Health Marketing, a marketing consultancy for triple-bottom line brands. He received a Green MBA from Dominican University of California, which focuses on the total enterprise and its requirement to adopt sustainable business practices as requisite to everyday operations. He volunteers his time to the Sonoma Land Trust, Redwood Gospel Mission, Odyssey of the Mind, Inner City Advisors, CleanTech Open, Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster, among other non-profits. He is also Founder of the think tank, The Sustainable Adam Smith, which looks at Smith's works in their entirety including his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments as a manifesto for sustainable capitalism.
Dr. Robert Rubin holds a Ph.D. in physiological ecology from UC Irvine. He has served as program developer for the National Science Foundation Office of Public Understanding of Sciences, and the U.S. Depart. of Energy Office of University Programs. Presently, he is on the scientific advisory boards of the Save Our Seas Foundation, The Sea Watch Foundation, and The Manta Trust; and is the Director of the Pacific Manta Research Group. As a marine biologist he conducts field research on Manta rays and pelagic marine communities in the sub-tropical Mexican Pacific. This work has resulted in educational documentaries produced by The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic, and the BBC. As a member of the biology faculty at the SRJC, he served as Chairman of the Life Sciences Department, President of the Academic Senate, and on the Board of Directors of the College Foundation. Additionally, he originated and sought funding for the Faculty Fund for Advanced Studies and the Student Internship Scholarship at The Pepperwood Preserve. Dr. Rubin has been acknowledged for Teaching Excellence by the State of California, the SRJC, The University of California, and the Congress of the United States. In 1996, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected him as the California College and University Professor of the year.
Raini Sugg and her husband Steve Vallarino have lived in Sebastopol for 37 years and raised two daughters. Raini has a background in education with degrees from SF State University and SSU. She became a Laguna Docent in 1999, the Foundation’s first year of operating an all volunteer education program. She was instrumental in developing the Learning Laguna school program by creating curriculum, interfacing with teachers and training docents. She served on the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center board of directors for eight years, two terms as president. As an avid birder and advocate for the environment, she has spent the last 14 years increasing the public’s awareness of the beauty and importance of the Laguna.
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