Our Leadership

Karen Leshner

Karen Leshner

Founder & President

Karen founded Intrepid in 2008, and has been involved in her family’s philanthropy since 1997 through a predecessor organization. Her personal passion in philanthropy has centered around the idea of answering one question: “What can we do to make sure that great people go into the career of teaching and stay in the career?”

Prior to launching Intrepid, Karen was the founder and portfolio manager of an investment business based in Palo Alto, CA. Before her work in finance, she spent the first several years of her career as an engineer. Karen also worked for eight years as a volunteer music teacher at her local elementary school. Karen has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia, and a Masters degree in Business from Vanderbilt University. Karen is also a Board Member of the New Teacher Center.

I encountered my favorite teacher a few years ago while traveling on my path as a lifelong learner. Patricia Ryan Madson teaches a spectacular course in “Improv Wisdom” through Stanford Continuing Studies. Her gift of showing students how to be present, be attentive to others and make time for play and spontaneity have become a part of my everyday life.

Rebecca Payne

Rebecca Payne

Board Member

Rebecca has served on the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation’s Board of Directors since its inception, and is responsible for grantmaking to advance teacher professional development, to improve the provision of education to under-served communities and to address reproductive justice issues. Ms. Payne also serves as an Advisory Board member of the BelleJAR Foundation. Ms. Payne is a corporate and securities attorney for emerging growth companies and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. She received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a director of the Reproductive Rights Law Project. Prior to law school, Ms. Payne worked in education research and for the Office of the Public Defender. Ms. Payne received her undergraduate degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

My junior year high school English teacher had an infectious enthusiasm that resonated at a time when my resentment towards structured education was peaking. She was barely old enough to have any authority to assert over us, with a nose stud and bouncy curls. No matter our grades, she wanted each of her students to share the joy she found in stories and writing and debate, and encouraged all of us tirelessly.

David Wagonfeld

David Wagonfeld

Treasurer

David joined Intrepid as Treasurer in 2013. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, was the Treasurer for three years, and currently remains on the Investment and Finance committees. In addition, David serves on the Finance and Endowment committees at the Nueva School in Hillsborough and on the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation in San Francisco.

David is a co-founder of Mt Tam Capital, an investment firm, and Whirl Partners, which owns and operates 40 Jamba Juice franchises in California and Colorado. Prior to these roles, he spent 12 years as the technology portfolio manager and then president of Standard Pacific Capital, a global asset management firm based in San Francisco. He received his B.A. from Stanford University and MBA from Harvard Business School.

My eighth grade history teacher first opened my eyes to the importance of challenging assumptions about common narratives of historical events. He taught me the value of understanding the perspective of the author and its role in shaping the interpretation of the events we were studying.

David Wagonfeld

Steve Hope

Advisor

Steve has been a Senior Advisory Board member to the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation and its predecessor foundation since 1997. Steve has had a varied career in public education over the last 36 years. He has served as a social studies teacher, assistant principal and principal at a comprehensive high school in Mountain View, California. After serving at the school site for 18 years, Steve moved to the district office as the Associate Superintendent of Personnel and Technology. In this capacity for the last 18 years, he has overseen a wide variety of both professional development initiatives for teachers and technology projects for a high-performing California public high school district. Steve received a BA in International Relations and MA in Education from Stanford University.

Among my favorite teachers was Sister Joan King. Her gifts to me as a high school student were patience, high expectations for who I would become and her ability to see that I was a work in progress. She knew when to lead me, when to follow and when to provide support in my educational journey. Her ability to ask the right, probing questions whether they were about the subject matter or about life choices was something I tried to copy in my own teaching career.

Jenny Maehara

Jenny Maehara

Advisor

Jenny has been an Advisory Board Member for the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation since 2010. She works in Santa Clara Unified School District as a literacy specialist, professional developer, and coach. Prior to this role, she spent seven years working as a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Ponderosa Elementary School. During that time, she received National Board Certification in Literacy and Language Arts, the PTA Golden Oak Award, and her California Administrative Credential. Jenny also applied for and received grants for over $70,000 for resources, technology, and professional development to improve the learning opportunities for students and teachers at her former school. Jenny graduated with a BA in Human Biology and MA in Education from Stanford University.

So many teachers have mentored and inspired me.  My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Tsujimoto, sparked my love of poetry, reading, and writing.  He helped me see the beauty and importance of words.  When I teach writing to young students, his words echo in my mind.

Joanne Schneider

Joanne Schneider

Secretary & Program Advisor

Joanne serves as Secretary of and Advisor to the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation. Joanne is a Senior Philanthropic Advisor with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA). She guides individuals, families, corporations and foundations in determining their philanthropic priorities and developing grantmaking programs and portfolios that meet their philanthropic goals. Prior to working at RPA, Joanne held positions at a private foundation, in corporate philanthropy and nonprofit organizations. At the beginning of her professional life, Joanne served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Central Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a MBA from Columbia Business School, where her focus was Social Enterprise. Joanne serves on the board of Reading Partners SF Bay Area, a national literacy organization.

My fourth grade teacher made science come alive for her students through hands-on, creative projects. She encouraged us to be young scientists and inventors and nurtured my love of biology and chemistry.

Sueli Shaw

Sueli Shaw

Program Coordinator

Sueli is a member of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and helps donors execute philanthropic strategies, manage grantmaking initiatives, and coordinate events. Her previous experience in grantmaking includes internships in corporate philanthropy and a small New York City family foundation focusing on environmental and juvenile justice initiatives – both issues that she has a strong commitment to. She also worked and volunteered in organizations in the field of food and urban sustainability in New York before returning to her native Bay Area. Sueli currently serves on the Steering Committee for the SF Bay Area chapter of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and as a peer review facilitator for the Foundation Center’s Proposal Writing Bootcamp. She received her degree from Vassar College.

Sueli joined the LIGHT Awards team in 2015 and coordinates the program, application process, and grantee events including the LIGHT Awards Annual Convening.

I am still in touch with my first and second grade teacher Mrs. Lee Hardaway. When we reconnected while I was in college, she brought old photos of me and stories that she remembered from when I was in her class. She shows commitment and appreciation for her students – as people – in an amazing way.

Important Dates

Spring
2017
2017 Awardees Announced
May 1
2017
Cohorts 1, 2, and 3 Reunion Event
August 3‑4
2017
2017 Awardee Convening
Fall
2017
Application Process opens for
2018 Grant Cycle

Keep In Touch

Sign up for occasional email updates from the LIGHT Awards program. We’ll let you know about approaching deadlines, provide application tips, and share what our grantees are doing.
Copyright ©Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation. All rights reserved. LIGHT Awards is a program of Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation, San Francisco, CA. Contact us at info@lightawards.org or use our contact form.