Our Staff

Ann Alpers, President

Ann Alpers joined the S.H. Cowell board in 2004 and was elected president of the Foundation in 2005. Prior to joining the Foundation, she held public office as Deputy City Attorney for Health and Human Services for the City and County of San Francisco.

Ms. Alpers graduated from Stanford Law School. Following law school, she clerked for Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. She joined the faculty of the Program in Medical Ethics in 1992. She has taught health law and bioethics as a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, St. Louis University School of Law, and the University of California, Berkeley.  Ms. Alpers was a Mayday Faculty Scholar through the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics and the Mayday Foundation in New York, New York.

She currently serves as vice chair of the board of the Greenwall Foundation and chairs the board of Legal Services for Children and the Executive Committee of Friends of the Smith College Libraries.  She is a former trustee of Marin Country Day School and former board chair of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Lydia Burstyn, Program Assistant

Lydia joined the Foundation’s program team in 2020. As a Program Assistant, she supports all aspects of the Foundation’s grantmaking activities and serves as a main point of contact for applicants and grantees, with a focus on the Education and Youth program areas. Lydia realized her passion for philanthropy while studying at Chico State, where she served on the Student Philanthropy Council and worked for University Advancement, engaging alumni and fundraising for the campus. After graduation, Lydia worked with nonprofit organizations including the San Francisco Ballet, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Save Mount Diablo. These combined experiences inform Lydia’s appreciation and commitment to the work of our grantees.

Lydia holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico in Recreation Administration, Parks Management, and Hospitality with a minor in Ethics, Justice, and Policy.

Anu Cairo, Vice President Grants

Anu joined the Foundation’s program team in 2018. Previously, she served as Bay Area Director at the New Teacher Center, a national non-profit organization that works with school districts to build and sustain robust programs for teachers and school leaders to improve their instructional practice.

Anu also served as Senior Program Officer at Walter & Elise Haas Fund and Program Officer at the Bechtel Foundation. Earlier in her career, she worked in public school districts on the East and West coasts. Her prior roles included serving as Special Assistant to the Superintendent in San Francisco; establishing and directing the Washington, DC public school district’s Office of Parent Affairs; and serving as a Family Support Worker in the Seattle public schools.

Anu completed doctorate and master’s degrees in Administration, Planning and Social Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She also holds a bachelor in arts from Swarthmore College.

Cynthia Farley

Cynthia Farley, Administrative Assistant

Cynthia joined the Foundation staff in 2004. As Administrative Assistant, she supports the President, Vice President Administration, and General Counsel. She is responsible for the front desk and also serves as general office manager. Prior to joining the Foundation, Cynthia worked as executive assistant and office manager for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. She holds a B.A. in liberal arts from Sonoma State University, and is certified to teach elementary education.

Zuleika Godinez, Program Officer

Zuleika joined the Foundation’s program team in 2019. Previously, she was the Policy Manager for Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa, a policy and advocacy initiative housed at the Richmond Community Foundation. In this role, Zuleika worked with local elected officials, government agencies and non-profits, as well as faith leaders, businesses, labor and philanthropy, in a collective effort to ensure all county residents have what they need to thrive.

She has also served as Youth Program Associate at the James Irvine Foundation, working to increase the number of low-income youth in California who earn a postsecondary credential; as a Policy Fellow at the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C.; and as a Program Coordinator at Next Generation Scholars, an educational nonprofit that serves disadvantaged youth and families in Marin County.

Zuleika holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Sociology from Pomona College. She currently serves on the board of Next Generation Scholars.

Samuel Israel

Samuel Israel, Database Manager

Samuel joined the Foundation staff in 2008. As the Database Manager, he maintains the integrity of the Cowell grants database. In addition, Samuel is responsible for updating the content of the Cowell website. Before coming to the Foundation Samuel worked as a Technical Support Analyst in the corporate world. With over 20 years experience in IT, he holds degrees in electronics and computer networking.

Blia Moua, Program Officer

Blia joined the Foundation’s program team in 2019. As a child of former refugees, Blia understands the value and benefit of receiving support from the community. That is why she dedicated more than ten years of her career to working in family resource centers in San Francisco and other family-focused organizations in Sacramento. Blia held many roles in the social services sector. She was a social worker in private and public agencies and a manager of programs supporting under-resourced communities, and she led collaborative groups that consisted of public and private stakeholders with a shared goal to improve the lives of children, families, and the community.

Blia holds a master’s degree in social work, a teaching credential, and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from California State University, Sacramento.

Brittany Redelfs, Program Assistant

Brittany joined the Foundation’s program team in 2019. As a Program Assistant, she supports all aspects of the Foundation’s grantmaking and serves as a main point of contact for applicants and grantees, with a particular focus on the Families program area. Brittany joined Cowell with the desire to learn about philanthropy and the nonprofit sector after several years of administration roles in healthcare and property management. Her volunteer experience includes a development internship with the Orange County Child Abuse Prevention Center and one year as a mentor and academic tutor in the Lowell neighborhood of Fresno in California’s Central Valley.

Brittany holds a bachelor’s degree in English Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach.

Larry Yip, Vice President Operations

Larry joined the Foundation staff in 2022 and manages the administrative operations of the Foundation.  Larry has dedicated his career to supporting marginalized communities through work in the nonprofit sector, both as a direct service provider and administrator.  Prior to joining the Foundation, he oversaw all programs, data & evaluation, IT, and facilities as the Chief Operating Officer at Safe & Sound, a child advocacy organization in San Francisco that works to prevent child abuse and reduce its devastating impact by collaborating with parents/caregivers, community members, and public/private partners to enhance individual and community protective factors.  He began his nonprofit career as a counselor at the Redwood Center, a residential substance abuse treatment facility for the medically indigent in the Bay Area.

Larry holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco and bachelors’ degrees in Economics/Philosophy and Psychology from Columbia University.