Annie Wright Schools are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization governed by a voluntary Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of parents, grandparents, alumni and community members whose time and expertise contribute to the operation of the schools.
Jim Defebaugh, Partner, Made Law, PLLC, and former Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer of TrueBlue, Inc., joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2014. Jim recently retired from TrueBlue after 15 years of service, which followed 22 years at Sears Holding Corp, most recently as Chief Legal Officer of Kmart Corp. and Chief Compliance Officer of Sears. Jim also served on the Museum of Glass Board of Trustees for six years. Jim and his wife, Kristina Maritczak, have two children, Miles ’25 and Katya ’26, at Annie Wright. Jim believes that AWS is at the top of the list of crown jewels that Tacoma has to offer at both the national and international level, and serves as Chair of the Board, Chair of the Governance Committee, and on the Executive Committee.
Lisa M. Hoffman, professor at UW Tacoma, joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2016. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Lisa has been at UW Tacoma in Urban Studies since 2002, holding a number of administrative leadership roles as well as being faculty. She and her husband, Bill Driscoll, currently have two children at Annie Wright and are passionate about supporting Tacoma and equity across Pierce County. They love the outdoors, their family animals (three dogs, a hamster, one snake), and the arts.
David E. Overton joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2018. David manages a fourth generation forest products business in Mason & Kitsap Counties and serves on community boards focused on community building and environmental stewardship. David and his wife Katherine Steuart have three children: Caroline ’26, Henry ’29 and Elizabeth ’31, at Annie Wright. David serves on the finance and building committees.
Janelle Guirguis-Blake MD joined Annie Wright Schools' Board of Trustees in 2019. A clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington, she practices and teaches full-scope family medicine with a focus on underserved populations. She has been working since 2003 with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality where she has served in the capacities of chief medical officer, program director, and technical advisor for the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Since 2013, she has worked as a principal investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research leading systematic reviews in the area of preventive medicine for the USPSTF. Her areas of expertise include health policy, guideline development, and evidence based medicine. She received her medical degrees from Dartmouth Medical School and Brown University School of Medicine, then completed her residency at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine and health policy fellowship at the Georgetown School of Medicine. Janelle and her husband, Jeff, have two daughters, Natalie ’21MS and Norah ’28.
Michele Cannon Bessler, MD is pleased to have joined the Annie Wright Board in 2015. Michele has worked in the Tacoma community now for over a decade in the role of a community pediatrician and is particularly impassioned with building relationships with families to help achieve optimal health and growth in all areas of development. She also is deeply rooted in volunteer roles in her Browns Point community and serves on the Mary Bridge Children's Foundation Board. After medical training and education in the midwest and east coast, she and her husband Robert Bessler settled in the Pacific Northwest to raise their three children (AWS Classes of ’14MS, ’20 and ’18MS), where Rob co-founded and continues to act as CEO of Sound Physicians, a physician-driven health care company. Michele serves as the Strategic Planning Task Force Chair and also serves on the Board’s Trusteeship Committee.
Sally (Peterson) Atherton '66 joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2017. After attending Annie Wright from 1952-66, she received her BA (Colby College), her MS (Trinity University, San Antonio), and her PhD (University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio). During her career, she studied herpesvirus infections of the eye and brain at universities in Florida, Texas and Georgia. In 2014, she became Senior Associate at Health Research Associates to coach biomedical faculty on NIH grant writing skills. Sally serves as a member of the Development Committee.
Diane Bai, MD, joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2020. She is a practicing gastroenterologist at Franciscan Health Systems in Tacoma, co-founder of South Sound Women in Medicine (SSWIM), and served as Medical Director of Service Excellence at Franciscan Medical Group. Prior to moving to Tacoma, she was Clinical Assistant Professor at UW Medical School, Medical Director of Gastroenterology Department, and a member of the Board of Trustees Finance Committee of Pacific Medical Centers in Seattle. She grew up in China and California. After receiving her medical degree at UT Southwestern, she completed her residency at Columbia University and GI fellowship at Duke University. Diane and her husband, Clay Zhang, are strong believers in the Annie Wright educational philosophy of nurturing young people to become principled, creative, and reflective thinkers and communicators in the close-knit AWS global community. They have two daughters, Sasha ’23 and Hannah ’25.
Tenley Cederstrang joined the Board of Trustees in 2021. She works at RAIN Incubator in grant development and community outreach. With a bachelor’s in biology from Washington State University, her background is in business development, primarily in life sciences. She has also fostered start-up companies in apparel, fine art and real estate, and has served on the board for RAIN Incubator, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, AWS and Junior Achievement of Washington. Tenley and her husband Eric have two children who attended AWS, Avery ’11MS and Annika ’17 (lifer!). They credit Annie Wright with making them inquisitive learners and really nice people. She serves on the Philanthropy and Community Engagement Committee.
Stephanie Cook ’88 joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2016, after having served on the Annie Wright Schools Alumni Board. Stephanie owns South Sound Dental Management, offering management services to dental professionals and organizations. After graduating from Annie Wright in 1988, Stephanie received her bachelor's degree from Smith College and a master's degree in business administration from Seattle University. Stephanie’s daughter Lauren is in the Class of ’23. Stephanie serves on the Governance Committee.
Jeffrey E. Davis, CEO of Davis Property & Investment (DPI), joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2018. Under Jeff's direction DPI has become one of the most active privately owned commercial real estate developers and asset managers in Washington State. Mr. Davis and DPI are also very active in the local non-profit community, serving on the board and/or donating resources to several local organizations. Jeff is dedicated to giving back to Annie Wright for all that Annie Wright and its staff have given to his children, Jaeger ’18MS and Olivia ’24, over the years.
Laura Edman, vice president with The Alford Group, joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2015. Laura has served the not-for-profit sector for over 35 years in a variety of fundraising leadership positions as staff and as a consultant. Laura's son Tal and daughter Andrea both attended Annie Wright Schools through middle school. As a nearly life-long and multi-generational Tacoma resident, Laura believes in securing the legacy of Annie Wright Schools well into the future and co-chairs the Board's philanthropy and community engagement committee.
Misa Furumoto ’92 joined the Board of Trustees in 2021. After graduating from AWS, Misa attended Mount Holyoke College and Yale Divinity School where she obtained a master’s in religion. She and her husband Yasuhisa were ordained together as Anglican Church priests in Japan in 2015. Now she serves as a chaplain at a private girls school in Kyoto while serving at Nara Christ Church on Sundays. Misa and Yasuhisa have a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. She serves on the Philanthropy and Community Engagement Committee.
Manuel La Rosa joined the Annie Wright Board of Trustees in 2020. He is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon who graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is in private practice in Tacoma & Gig Harbor. He served as an Affiliated Instructor at UW and was president Washington State Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, where he served as President. He is passionate about advancing education and creating individual economic freedom. Manuel and his wife Silvia have two children, Sebastian '13LS and Sofia '23. Manuel will serve on the Head's Support and Evaluation Committee.
Martha Lantz joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2020. She is an attorney with more than 25 years of public sector experience, initially with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and, since 2009, as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Tacoma. Martha has served as a Board Member and volunteer for many local organizations, including the Grand Cinema, the Tacoma Pierce County YWCA, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation, and the Annie Wright Schools Parents’ Association and as an elected member of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission in 2016. She and her husband Andy Fitz have two children, Owen Fitz '12MS and Allison Fitz '19. Annie Wright has been instrumental to the growth and development of her children and Martha is excited for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Board.
Damani Leech joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2020. Damani is the NFL’s Chief Operating Officer of International, driving international fan development, player development, sponsorship and consumer products, as well as leading the planning and execution of International Series Games in key markets. Prior to his time at the NFL Damani spent 17 years at the NCAA national office in various roles. Damani, raised in Tacoma, is a graduate of the Annie Wright Middle School and serves on the Board's finance committee.
Marjorie Oda-Burns ’66 joined Annie Wright Schools' Board of Trustees in 2019. After attending Annie Wright as a boarder from Hawaii and graduating from Pembroke College (the former women's college of Brown University) Marjorie completed medical school at Yale, with only seven women in her graduating class. After her internship at Stanford, Marjorie spent her career as an orthopedic surgeon in California while pursuing an active interest in medical ethics. Marjorie and her husband John's daughter, Theresa '04, also attended Annie Wright.
John Parrott first joined the Annie Wright Schools' Board of Trustees in 2010. In 2017 John returned to the board as Chair. He worked for Saltchuk a local NW company were he served as President at Foss Maritime and prior to that as President of TOTE Maritime Alaska. A strong believer in communities and education, he serves on both local and national non-profit boards. John has a BS in Marine Transportation from the US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) and an MBA from Seattle University. He and his wife, Lynne, an active member of the Parents' Association, Strength to Strength campaign chair and Gator Gala auction chair, have three children, Thomas ’14MS, James ’16MS and Anna ’22.
Merritt (Klarsch) Pulliam ’92, photographer and writer, joined Annie Wright Schools' Board of Trustees in 2018. Merritt worked for 20 years as a television producer and writer specializing in promotion. She worked for PBS/KCTS 9, Harpo Studios, and Birdhouse Creative before starting Merritt Pulliam Photography in 2012. She continues to write professionally. She spent nine wonderful years as a student at AWS and graduated in 1992. Merritt is passionate about Annie Wright's tradition of excellence and eager to help sustain its future.
Kevin Sanders joined the Board of Trustees in 2021, and is a radiation oncologist at Sound Cancer Care in Puyallup, Washington, and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital and MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. He received his medical degree from University of Illinois College of Medicine. Kevin and his wife Brenda have two children attending AWS, Alyssa ’24 and Natalie ’26. He serves on the Finance Committee.
Monica Torrez-Pfiser joined the Board of Trustees in 2021. She is an attorney with over a decade of specialized experience in employment law, currently serving as Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at TrueBlue, Inc., a Tacoma-based global company that is a leading provider of staffing and specialized workforce solutions which connects over 500,000 people to work each year. She has earned academic and professional honors, and served on community boards such as Lawyers Helping Hungry Children, Association of Corporate Counsel, Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, and has served as the Employment Law Chair of the Hispanic National Bar Association. Monica and her husband Bill have three children attending AWS, Maxx ’28, Maison ’34 and Mia ’35. She serves on the Head’s Support and Evaluation Committee.
Aliya Merali Virani ’96 joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2016. Aliya has worked in independent schools for the last 20 years in various capacities, from teaching elementary grades to serving as Curriculum Director, Director of Inclusion and Community Building, and then Director of Admissions at a school in Vancouver, BC. She currently serves as the Lower School Director at Bush School. Aliya obtained her master’s in elementary education from NYU and a master’s in private school leadership from Columbia University. Annie Wright inspired Aliya's love of learning and service. Combining her love for travel and service-learning, she co-founded an international summer program called Global Encounters where she continues to serve. Aliya serves on the head's support and evaluation committee.
Bishop Brian N. Prior joined the Board of Trustees in 2021 after serving on the Breck School’s and the Shattuck-St.Mary’s School’s Board of Trustees when he was the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Brian now serves as the Assisting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and owns his own business, Prioritize Coaching. Summer Camp Director, High School Girls’ Basketball Coach and frequent Keynote presenter at youth conferences, Brian loves working with young people. He serves on the Philanthropy and Community Engagement committee.
Dawn Turnipseed, real estate broker, joined the Annie Wright Schools Board of Trustees in 2020, representing the AWS Parents' Association where she serves as president. Dawn is a local realtor, specializing in the Greater Tacoma area. She has three daughters and a foster son, of which the two eldest daughters currently attend AWS and her husband Joshua is an alumnus.
Jake began serving as Head of Annie Wright Schools in July 2020, but his tenure at the school began long before that. He joined AWS as a second-grader when his mother became the school’s Director of Communications. He stayed through Grade 8 and was in the first class of boys to graduate from Middle School. After high school, he earned a bachelor's from Pomona College. In 2000, he launched his 20-year career at AWS, serving in a range of roles including English & Humanities Teacher, Basketball Coach, Director of College Counseling, Director of Summer Programming, Interim Director of Admissions, Assistant Director of Upper School, and most recently, Director of Upper School for Girls. These two decades of service to AWS were only interrupted by his EdM at Harvard University from 2002 to 2003. Learn more about Mr. Guadnola here.
The 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, affirmed by the Board of Trustees in April, 2016, took nearly 18 months to develop, with input from more than 140 people in the community, including students. This vision statement informed their efforts: Annie Wright Schools will be internationally recognized as educational leaders where tradition meets innovation and every student is inspired to make a profound contribution in the world.Learn more about the Strategic Plan.