Board of Directors
Lezlie Johnson, Founder
Marianna Fisher, Chairperson
Gloria Waldinger, DSW, Secretary
Andrew Harwood, CPA, Treasurer
Carla Du Manoir
Jennifer Mintz Eidinger
Neal Halfon, MD, MPH
Jo Kaplan, Esq.
Tracey Stevens, Esq.
Kathleen West, DrPH
On December 5, 2013, Westside Children’s Center Board Member Karen Smith Elstad passed away. Below, WCC board members share memories of the way in which Karen touched their lives and the lives of so many children throughout her 25 years of service. Karen was universally admired and loved and will be greatly missed.
A memorial was held on January 25 at the Southwestern University Law School campus.
Karen lives in my heart and mind as the epitome of a true lady, a loving mother, a woman dedicated to her family, her personal ethic, her world as a lawyer and as a friend. She always made time for us at WCC. She had a devoted family life and a vigorous career. Yet, she was always there to guide us with her cunning smile and wry sense of humor. I can still see her a couple of weeks after her husband Robert’s sudden unexpected passing this past September, when she joined at our quarterly Board meeting. When speaking with her later, I expressed sadness at her loss and the grace in her fortitude. She simply said “The Board meeting was important and it felt normal to be to be there”. She was a true friend and mentor. She never gave in to being impaired by her health struggle. She just carried on. I salute you Karen. We will continue on with your WCC dream.
- Marianna Fisher, WCC Board Member since 1994
“Since my first day joining the Westside Children Center’s Board 24 years ago, Karen has been the steady voice of reason, the rational thinker, the one displaying a persistent smile even in difficult times, the confidant to all of us. I will miss all of those attributes that Karen shared with us but mostly I will miss my good friend.”
- Andrew Harwood, WCC Board Member since 1989
“Karen and I came onto the Board of Westside at about the same time (in the late 80s). From the start, it was clear that Karen was a valuable addition to the Board. She brought both her professional expertise – as an attorney and law professor at Southwest Law School – and her personal experience as parent of a preschool child. But she brought more than that – she brought commitment and loyalty to the agency, wisdom, clear thinking, and a willingness to do whatever was needed. And her wit and laughter were infectious.
“Early on, Karen and I fell into the role of personnel advisor, at a time when the agency had no human resource or personnel staff. In her gentle way she mentored me, demonstrating successful collaboration, how to be respectful of other opinions, but offering her own views to expand the discussion.
“I loved Karen, and was grateful for the opportunity to work with her. I always thought that she must have been a wonderful mother, wife, teacher and client advocate. She was a private person, so I never got to know much about those aspects of her life. But she enriched my life, and played a significant role in bringing Westside to its current position of excellence in the child welfare community. I will cherish her memory always.”
– Gloria Waldinger, WCC Board Member since 1988
“I have lost a friend and a mentor, and WCC has lost one of our most steadfast, impactful and thoughtful leaders. Karen and I worked very closely together for the past 18 years, and her honesty, integrity and sage counsel guided us through many challenging and thought-provoking times. In all her years at WCC, Karen offered her immense talents and time over and over again to help build WCC into the agency it is today. Karen was so calm and even keeled but her wicked wit and dry sense of humor revealed the more playful side of her. Just one sideways look with her eyes and a throaty chortle was worth a thousand words! I am immensely blessed to have known her and to have been part of one important aspect of her life.”
- Susan Newirth, WCC Board Member since 1997