Our Staff

Ann Alpers, President

Ann joined the Foundation 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.

Ann 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 at the University of California, San Francisco in 1992. Ann co-directed the required medical ethics course and sat on the ethics committee. She also 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. Ann 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 on the boards of the Greenwall Foundation and the Marin County Day School and chairs the board of Legal Services for Children.

Anu Cairo, Program Director

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. Anu currently serves on the boards of Pacific Primary School and of Mindful Schools.

Ken Doane

Ken Doane, Executive Vice President
Chief Program Officer

Ken leads our grants program team to execute the place-based, complementary grants strategy and to uphold the Foundation’s ethic of leadership through service. Since joining Cowell as a program officer in 2001, Ken has developed the Education grants program while recommending and managing grants in all program areas and guiding our processes for knowledge management and evaluation.

Inspired by years as a summer camp counselor, Ken started on a career in education with a vision of making school more like camp; that is, more grounded and meaningful for students. He worked as a middle and high school teacher, as a field investigator and writer for a university research center, and as program director of a nonprofit school improvement organization. More recently, he has served as a consultant and trustee with school districts, foundations and nonprofits with interests in outdoor and contemplative learning, teacher development and educational equity.

Ken holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he earned a secondary teaching certificate through the National Writing Project at the University of California, Berkeley. He chairs the board of Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

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.

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.

Donald Roberts

Donald D. Roberts, General Counsel

Don has provided general counsel to the Foundation since 2004. He has also served on the Foundation’s board. He is a retired partner of the international law firm Thelen, LLP (now dissolved). His primary area of legal and practice includes probate and estate planning, real estate and related business and tax matters.

Don has been admitted to the State Bar of California, the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Don holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and received his law degree from University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Nina Washburne, Vice President Administration

Nina joined the Foundation staff in 2013 and manages the administrative operations of the Foundation. Prior to joining Cowell, Nina was Administrator for the Goldman Environmental Foundation and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund where she managed the finance, human resources and operations of both foundations.  She began her nonprofit career at the San Francisco Adult Day Services Network, a consortium of eldercare agencies serving frail and disabled adults in the City.

Nina studied at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan and the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.  She received a B.A. in Anthropology from San Francisco State University.