Our Founder and Board of Directors

Carol Weyland Conner, Founder and Principal Advisor

Dr. Conner was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma and raised in California's Central Valley. After earning her doctorate in clinical psychology, she taught adolescent psychology at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Returning to California, she opened a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she practiced for 25 years. During this time, she was also a volunteer counselor with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco.

Dr. Conner has always had a deep love for America’s cities. Having lived and worked in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, she has a special concern for the impact of poverty, alienation, and neglect on many children growing up in cities. Inspired by Francis of Assisi’s example of selfless service to all humanity, Dr. Conner conceived the Francis in the Schools program as a way to nourish feelings of love, kindness, and courage in children from low-income inner-city neighborhoods.

In addition, Dr. Conner founded the White Pony Express, an all-volunteer nonprofit program whose mission is to redistribute her area's abundant surplus of food and clothing free to those most in need.

Robert W. Carpenter, President

Mr. Carpenter retired in 2008 as president and CEO of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Washington, DC, culminating a 40-year career in nonprofit executive administration and senior management. Prior to that he had served as a development and fundraising executive with two universities and also with the national Highway Users Federation. Today Mr. Carpenter serves as the project director for the Sufism Reoriented New Sanctuary Project in Walnut Creek, California, and as the president of the Board of Directors of the Sufism Reoriented Building Fund. He is also a regular volunteer with the White Pony Express food rescue program in Contra Costa County, California.

An accomplished actor and singer, Mr. Carpenter has played the role of Francis of Assisi or Junípero Serra in the Francis in the Schools musical dramas since the beginning of the program.

Terry Hogan Johnson, Executive Director

Ms. Johnson has been the program director of Francis in the Schools since its inception in 2011 and has led its successful offering of 20 events for more than 10,000 inner-city children. She now also serves as the program's executive director.

Ms. Johnson has always loved working with children and teens. She has been a senior staff teacher at The Meher Schools in Lafayette, California, for more than 35 years. Since 1994, she has also been the music director of the White Horse Chorale and Consortium of the Arts choruses and the Meher Schools’ White Horse Youth Chorale. These choruses have performed at the United Nations in New York City; at Georgetown University in Washington, DC; in Baltimore, Maryland; in San Francisco, California; in Assisi, Italy; and in India.

Ms. Johnson has been active in community service programs throughout her life, especially those aiding children and underserved adults. She worked alongside Dr. Conner, our program founder, in charitable organizations in San Francisco. Today she volunteers regularly with the Gubbio Project, serving the hungry and the homeless in San Francisco, and consults with other Bay Area and national service and interfaith organizations. She is also the outreach coordinator for the White Pony Express food rescue program in Contra Costa County, California.

Judith Rutkin, Secretary

Judith Rutkin lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving with her family to Washington, DC. During her career, Ms. Rutkin held executive and senior management positions in a number of nonprofit organizations, including those dedicated to preventing youth violence in the Chinatown-North Beach area of San Francisco, providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and conducting social science research in the broad area of wellness. Ms. Rutkin retired as a senior manager at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where she led a team in workforce strategic planning for the federal government.

Ms. Rutkin has served on boards of directors and steering committees and facilitated numerous planning and implementation groups in collaborative problem solving. She brings an appreciation of organizational planning, listening for understanding, informed decision making, and focused follow-through.

She has been actively involved in Francis in the Schools in California for many years, as well as in associated projects in South Carolina and Washington, DC. She loves the energy of children and the opportunity to help them achieve their potential.

Benjamin Wells, Treasurer

Dr. Wells is professor emeritus at the University of San Francisco (USF), where he taught mathematics and computer science as a member of both departments for nearly 30 years. In addition, he regularly offered seminars that combined science and art, and taught several courses on science and religion.

Dr. Wells is the director of the Math & Art Fusion Project, a collaboration of the University of San Francisco; the University of Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, California; and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The program teaches middle-school students about mathematics through studying works of art.

Since retiring from USF, Dr. Wells has spent most of his time planning, documenting, and providing accounting for nonprofit events. He and his wife, Karen Wells, have been the co-coordinators of the Francis in the Schools Faires and also the staging coordinators for White Pony Express events in Contra Costa County, California.

Gwendolyn Hamilton

Dr. Hamilton is a board-certified pediatrician who has practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1979. She brings a wealth of pediatric experience to the board of the Francis in the Schools program, including knowledge of the impact of such programs on the psychological well-being of children from disadvantaged communities.

In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Hamilton has served as medical director for California Children’s Services, a state program for children with special healthcare needs, and as medical director for a regional program for children with autism and ADHD. She has provided pediatric education and consultation to several community programs and schools in the Bay Area. Dr. Hamilton has also served as chair of the board of the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation in Washington, DC, and as a board member of the Foundation for Autism Support and Training and many other community organizations.

Dr. Hamilton has acted as the host for numerous Francis in the Schools programs and has served as assistant director for the musical play offered during these events.

Leslie Linn

Ms. Linn brings to Francis in the Schools her organizational and event-planning skills for nonprofit organizations, businesses, and the performing arts. She is presently the executive assistant to the president of an international consortium of universities dedicated to the operation of science facilities for the acquisition, management, and open distribution of seismological data. Before this, she served as a meeting and event planner for the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national nonprofit whose members protect juvenile offenders in the court system. In the business world, she has managed finances and distribution initiatives for a national ice cream company.

Also a theater, film, and television actress, Ms. Linn has worked with Academy Award–winning director Steven Spielberg and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, as well as with nonprofit organizations. She has appeared in many of the musical plays included in the Francis in the Schools programs.

Denis J. Madden

Dr. Madden is the auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he oversees nearly 100 parishes and 25 schools.

From 1996 to 2005, he served as associate secretary general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a relief and development agency for the Vatican. Among his duties, Dr. Madden served as chief negotiator among the three ecclesiastical authorities responsible for repairing the dome of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. Earlier he had served as the director of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine office in Jerusalem.

Dr. Madden was a co-founder of the Accord Foundation, a humanitarian organization that has worked since 1988 in the West Bank and Gaza. He also served as chair of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions.

Dr. Madden leads monthly prayer walks in Baltimore neighborhoods where there have been recent shootings or murders; people of all faiths are invited to participate. He has been supportive of the Francis in the Schools program since it was founded in 2011.

Tom Smith

Mr. Smith is a retired business executive and entrepreneur. He began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching high school in West Africa, and then served as a recreation director for a Bay Area program for children and adults with brain damage and disabilities.

Mr. Smith spent the next 28 years in management positions with building maintenance companies in the Bay Area. Then, for more than a decade, he ran a small landscaping business that specialized in stone work and waterfalls. He was a member of the Oakland Rotary Club for 20 years, chairing a number of committees and serving on the board of directors.

Today Mr. Smith is a full-time volunteer with the Francis in the Schools and White Pony Express programs in Contra Costa County, California. He also coordinates a 100-member volunteer cleaning program at The Meher Schools in Lafayette, California, which he has done for over 40 years.

Karen Wells

Ms. Wells brings expertise in community outreach to the Francis in the Schools program. She worked for more than 30 years as an advertising sales representative for Pacific Bell/SBC Communications, where she called on small business owners throughout Northern California.

Ms. Wells’s community experience has included the staging of many large, seasonal neighborhood parties for children. This proved to be valuable preparation for her role as co-coordinator, with her husband, Benjamin Wells, of the Francis in the Schools Faires. She and Dr. Wells also serve as staging coordinators for White Pony Express events in Contra Costa County, California.

In addition to her work with the Francis in the Schools program, Ms. Wells is involved in other volunteer community endeavors, including coordinating a weekly dinner group with more than 90 members and volunteering at a preschool in Lafayette, California, where she co-founded a volunteer reading program.

Jay Steptoe

Jay Steptoe was appointed the East Coast Director for Francis in the Schools in February 2018. He retired from NASA in January 2018, following a 28-year legal career at the agency, most recently as the Deputy General Counsel. Jay helps develop and implement Francis in the Dunes programs on the East Coast, including those in Myrtle Beach, SC
and Washington, DC.