OWL Board of Directors
Margaret Hellie Huyck, Ph.D.
Margaret Huyck has been a gerontologist for more than forty years, beginning with her graduate studies with the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago. She is Professor Emeritus from the College of Psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology. She has published two books about aging (Growing Older: What You Need to Know About Aging, 1974; and The Psychology of Adult Development and Aging, 1984), and has lectured about the issues in the U.S., Norway, and the Netherlands.
Huyck has been working with two research projects, including work exploring the responses of blind individuals to the prospect or the reality of receiving a brain implant device intended to restore perception. Previously, she was the Principal Investigator for an intensive study of 150 families that explored the ways the generations influenced each other as they moved along the life course.
Her contributions have been recognized within IIT with the Julia Beveridge Award for Outstanding Women at IIT. She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She was awarded a Senior Science Policy Fellow by the American Psychological Association 1997-98; during that year she worked in the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at the National Institutes of Health.
Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, J.D.
Lida Rodriguez-Taseff is a commercial trial lawyer, who also handles intellectual property, employment discrimination and retaliation cases, and voting rights law. Among her professional activities, she provides legal commentary for national and international media outlets including BBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX, CNBC, MSNBC, Univision, and Telemundo. She serves on the Board of Directors of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Friends of the Bass Museum of Art, and South Florida Jobs With Justice; she is Chair Emeritus of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Among her distinctions, she was recipient of Business Leader magazine’s “Women Extraordinaire Award” in November of 2011. She is a partner in Duane Morris LLP, where she is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Joan Bernstein, J.D.
Joan Bernstein is an award-winning author on Social Security issues with a long and productive history with OWL. She has served twice as President of OWL National, as Vice President and Chair of the Public Policy Committee, and currently serves as treasurer. Bernstein was a leader in the “Medicare for All” initiative of OWL and is a nationally-recognized expert in Social Security and Medicare. She practiced law in St. Louis, MO where she was a Commissioner and Vice Chair of the St. Louis Housing Authority. She previously served as President of the St. Louis, MO chapter of OWL.
Janna Starr, M.A.
Janna Starr is a Policy Analyst for the Oregon Health Authority, working on health care transformation for Oregon’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) populations and state implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. Before returning to Oregon in 2007, she was Director of Disability Rights, Technology, and Family Policy for The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy Disability Policy Collaboration in Washington, DC.
Previously, she was Executive Director of the Oregon State Council on Developmental Disabilities; Director of Public Policy for the national Brain Injury Association in Alexandria, VA; Senior Policy Associate for United Cerebral Palsy Associations in Washington, DC; Policy Analyst for the Oregon Advocacy Center in Portland, Oregon, and Executive Director of The Arc of Oregon in Salem, Oregon, the Arc of the Capital Area in Austin, Texas and El Centro Social in San Marcos, Texas. Starr has been honored with numerous awards over the years for her work with individuals with disabilities and disability organizations.
Tina Bigdeli, M.S.W.
Tina Bigdeli has been advocating for women and girls for over ten years in many different capacities and is currently serving as Maryland Outreach and Direct Services Program Manager for FAIR Girls. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Mary Washington. She then worked for four years in the mortgage industry. However, because of her experiences as an advocate for women and girls, she felt a deeper passion for serving others. Bigdeli received her Master of Social Work from Howard University last spring. During this program, she served as an intern at OWL. In this capacity, she represented OWL at meetings with national partners, leaders, legislators, and stakeholders; contributed to the 2012 report; helped manage the member database; and researched development opportunities.
Carol Gardner, B.A.
Carol Gardner is the founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc., an international, multimillion-dollar company she started in her living room with greeting cards featuring her English bulldog, Zelda. When she was 52, recently divorced, depressed and in debt, her attorney told her to “get a therapist or a get a dog.” Choosing the latter made a world of difference; she leveraged her own background as a creative director in advertising along with Zelda’s good looks to build a hugely successful licensing business that includes calendars, books, greeting cards, canine costumes, cookie jars, cutting boards, clothing… you name it and Zelda’s image and wisdom appears on it. Zelda’s Day to Day Dogmas are sent to thousands of subscribers around the world every day and are available on her website: www.zeldawisdom.com.
Zelda and Gardner have donated their time and talent to help nonprofit organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation’s campaign to find a cure for canine cancer. Zelda and Gardner presently are working to promote the Zelda Children’s Hospital Initiative. They also continue to work with the Banfield Charitable Trust’s Pet Peace of Mind project. The PPOM project keeps people in hospice together with their pets. Gardner has also served on the boards of several organizations, including World Affairs Council, the Portland Symphony, Portland Art Museum, Emanuel Hospital, and the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center (OHSU).
Silver Spring, MD
Gracia Hillman provides nonprofit management and strategic development consulting services and is a Senior Fellow at Demos, contributing to the organization’s efforts to expand the freedom to vote for all of America’s citizens. Hillman’s areas of expertise include voter engagement, voting rights, election administration, as well as the interests and rights of women, racial minorities and people with disabilities. From 2003 to 2010, Hillman was a commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, serving as chair in 2005 and vice chair in 2004 and 2009. Her distinguished professional experience also includes having served as President and CEO of WorldSpace Foundation, Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State, Executive Director of the U.S. League of Women Voters and Executive Director of the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation. Her writings include “Toward A More Perfect Union: The Congressional Black Caucus & Voting Rights,” and “E-Voting and Democracy in America.”
Beedie Jones, M.Ed.
Beedie Jones is Manager of the Mather’s—More Than a Café, located in the Chatham community in Chicago. Nationally, Jones is an “aging network” advocate with more than 30 years of experience in the field of aging. She has extensive knowledge and expertise in management, training, counseling, project development, and community organizing. She serves on several boards in addition to OWL.
Prior to joining the Mather’s team, she was employed with AARP for 12 years in its Southwest Regional Office in Dallas, Texas, as the Operations Manager for the region and State Director for Louisiana and Arkansas. Other professional experiences include: Director of Mature Worker Training & Employment Program, Counselor at Pennsylvania State University, Texas Southern University, University of Texas Medical School, and Director of the Histology-Chemical Laboratory at Indiana University Medical School.
Peggy Parolin, M.A.
Kansas City, MO
Peggy Parolin has worked as the Director of Licensing Acquisitions-Editorial for Hallmark Cards, where she has partnered with Disney, Warner Bros., Peanuts, Marvel, DreamWorks, Lucasfilms, The Simpsons, Garfield, and other clients.
She was one of the original writers for Shoebox humor; her titles at Hallmark included Director of Humor, where she was responsible for strategic funniness; Idea Exchange Leader, where she was challenged with maintaining a non-corporate environment for the criminally creative; and Creative Product Director for both Season and Everyday Greetings.
Parolin remains active in her community, serving as the president of the Shade Tree Fund of Greater Kansas City, and is a past board member of the Kansas City Friends of Jung. She is a trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children and has volunteered countless hours across numerous organizations for the schools of her four children.