Leadership

President

John (Sean) Murray is the former husband of GirlsUP founder, Kelly Murray.  He shares Kelly’s vision of creating the GirlsUP program to empower girls’ strength, character and spirit.  Sean lives the GirlsUP message everyday as he fathers his and Kelly’s five surviving daughters.  Sean is an attorney at the law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, DC. His practice involves representing a variety of clients in a wide range of litigation and defending multinational corporations.  Sean was previously associated at the law firm of King & Spalding LLP where he counseled health care companies and hospitals and represented them in various judicial and administrative proceedings.  Prior to practicing law, Sean was a Naval Officer for 10 years and served as the Administrator of the White House Medical Unit as well as the Protocol Officer at Bethesda Naval Hospital.  He also gained significant business experience as an administrator in several civilian and military hospitals where he has held a variety of leadership positions.

Executive Director

Debra Soltis took over leadership of GirlsUP in the aftermath of founder Kelly Murray’s tragic accident, facilitating the program and leading the discussions and activities throughout the summer 2009 camp sessions.  Since that time, she has committed herself to continuing GirlsUP as a legacy for Kelly and the Murray family.  Debra is a founding partner of the law firm of Kiyonaga & Soltis, PC in Washington, DC, where she specializes in employment discrimination and civil rights litigation.  Much of her practice focuses on empowering women in the workplace to combat sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination.  Debra has been recognized as a top lawyer by Washingtonian magazine and has appeared as a commentator on ESPN and other media outlets.  She also has extensive teaching experience, as she has been on the adjunct faculty of Georgetown Law School since 1992, co-teaching a course on critical film theory with her husband, Paul Kiyonaga.  Debra began her career as a lawyer at Williams & Connolly, after graduating from Georgetown Law School in 1991.  She has four children – two girls and two boys – ranging from ages 12 to 3.

Program Director

Grace G. McNicholas joined GirlsUP as Program Director in the Spring of 2016. Grace believes in the mission of GirlsUP and aims to increase access to the program for all girls in the DC metropolitan area. Outside of GirlsUP, Grace works as an art teacher at The Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, Maryland. As an art teacher, Grace works to nurture each child’s individual talent while helping them find their own unique artistic identity. Grace has an undergraduate degree in Art History from James Madison University and a master’s degree in the History of Decorative Arts from The Smithsonian in Association with George Mason University. Outside of her professional work, Grace is married and has one daughter and one son.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Mary Kate Cary is a professional speechwriter specializing in political and corporate communications.  Located in Washington, DC, Mary Kate writes for a variety of national political and business leaders.  Some of her assignments have included State of the Union responses, Republican National Convention addresses and domestic and international speeches.  She is also a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, writing a daily blog and bi-weekly column on politics.  Mary Kate is a regular guest on National Public Radio and her television appearances have included such programs as “Fox News Sunday” and “Good Morning America.”  She has also taught speech-writing at Georgetown University and Texas A&M University.  Mary Kate is immediate past president of the Child Health Board at Children’s National Medical Center, and served as a member of the Children’s Hospital Board.  She is a member of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and of the executive committee of the Parents’ Association at National Cathedral School.  She is an incoming board member of the Capitol Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Mary Kate holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of Virginia.  She lives with her husband Rob and daughters Annie and Gracie in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Rev. C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J., PhD  is a spiritual sojourner. As a member of the Society of Jesus he has been missioned for apostolic visits to some 20 nations. These cross cultural experiences have broadened and deepened his identity as a priest, professor and pastoral counselor. Being exposed to people of many cultures has also served to inform his roles as the Associate Chair of International Studies and as the Director of Loyola MA in Spiritual and Pastoral Care.  His areas of research and writing generally involve the integration of psychology and spirituality which he often considers through a historical hermeneutic.  His book, Psychology and American Catholicism: From Confession to Therapy? illustrates this historical approach.  He has  also presented series pastoral workshops on the life of Fr. Henri Nouwen. Other recent psycho-spiritual pastoral research concerns have been issues of sexual abuse and trauma.  Most recently he co-authored an article on the psycho-spiritual issues surrounding Mother Theresa’s dark night of the soul (Spiritus,  Spring, 2010). Having served as a professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University Maryland since 1996, on July 1 2010 he will assume the position of Associate Provost at Loyola University of Chicago.

Catherine Ronan Karrels is the Head of School at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, one of the DC area’s premier all-girls schools.  Catherine is a Potomac, Maryland, native who attended Boston College where she received a Bachelor’s degree in English.  After graduation, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and spent a year teaching low-income students in an underserved community in San Diego.  She then moved to San Francisco, taught sixth grade for three years in an inner-city elementary school and pursued her Master’s degree in education at San Francisco State University.  She spent six years at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a Lasallian/Vincentian co-ed high school which serves 1,200 students, where she was an instructor in English and religious studies, director of student activities and later was named assistant principal for student life.  From 2001 to June 2008, Catherine served as the founding CEO and president/principal of De Marillac Academy, a Nativity/Miguel model school sponsored by the Christian Brothers and Daughters of Charity in one of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, San Francisco’s Tenderloin.  The school includes a year-round fourth through eighth grade program, as well as a graduate support program that tracks and assists alumni through high school and college.  Catherine has long believed in the importance of girls’ empowerment.  She attended all-girls school at Stone Ridge for 12 years, and alongside her neighborhood friends, formed the “Girl Power Dynamite Club,” which met on a regular basis in their backyard treehouse during her pre-adolescent years. Catherine and her husband, Jim, have one son, Matthew.

Tamara Tuttle has been a physical therapist for 16 years and is currently managing the clinic where she practices in Central Oregon.  She obtained her undergraduate degree in Psychology from University of Washington and her Masters of Physical Therapy from California State University, Fresno.  She is very active in her community both in organizing and participating in charity events and fundraisers.  Tami has two girls at the impressionable ages of 11 and 13 in whom she hopes to instill the strong morals, values and beliefs that she and her sister Kelly Murray were raised with.  Tami is amazingly proud of her sister’s vision in creating the GirlsUP program and of her six wonderful nieces that are the inspiration of Kelly’s legacy.

ADVISORY BOARD

Curriculum Development
Dr. Mary-Margaret Lewis is a pulmonary, sleep and critical care physician. She is currently in private practice in Arlington, VA. Mary-Margaret received her undergraduate degree from Boston College and her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine. She completed her medical and sub-specialty training at Georgetown University Hospital. Mary-Margaret has four children ranging from two to twelve years of age, two of whom are girls. She believes in the limitless potential each of us possesses and in our responsibility to foster that promise in the today’s rising generation of girls.

Operations
Kelly McMahon
spent 20 years as a political and issue advocacy consultant working on Congressional, Senatorial and Presidential Campaigns. She worked in the Clinton Gore Administration, served on the Obama Transition team and now works on special events to help Mrs. Obama share her message of fighting childhood obesity and promoting a healthy, active lifestyle for children.  Kelly is dedicated to the GirlsUP mission of helping girls build a happy life one choice at a time.

Public Relations and Marketing
Maura Cullen Seher
has more than 20 years experience in the health and human service field.  She is currently a senior consultant to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Her work with the Foundation focuses on policy opportunities to promote economic security for vulnerable children and families. Maura is the mother of three children.

Sara Knoll has more than 20 years of professional experience in public relations and communications, with the past 12 years focused on providing strategic counsel and developing and implementing communications strategies for national and local non-profit organizations. She is presently a Senior Associate at Burness Communications, a company whose mission is to advance social change for non-profits worldwide. Additionally, Sara has held volunteer leadership positions with several non-profit organizations including DC Stoddert Soccer, where she served on the scholarship committee and as the coach of several youth soccer teams. Sara is the mother of two middle-school girls, ages 14 and 13.

Development
Laurie Rosen
came to Washington D.C. in 1984 to work for a United States Senator and never left.  Since that time, she has developed significant expertise in fundraising, public affairs and media relations.   She is currently on the board of the Young Women’s Project, a long time youth development program for at-risk girls in the District of Columbia.  She has also been actively involved in the Montgomery County Public School System, serving this year as the Chevy Chase Elementary School PTA President. She and her husband Steve and their two daughters, Grace and Frannie, have lived in Chevy Chase for twelve years.

Finance
Stacy Murchison
is the Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director at Chevy Chase Trust, an independent and locally-based wealth management firm for individuals and families. Prior to joining Chevy Chase Trust, she had her own firm for 16 years specializing in investments, insurance and retirement planning for attorneys. She is a strong advocate of women in business, co-founding two groups for women executives to mentor, and share stories and business development. Stacy is a mother of four children including twin daughters who have attended GirlsUP twice.

Community Outreach
Maria Leonard Olsen
writes regularly for Bethesda Magazine, serves on the Catholic Coalition for Special Education board and is a foster parent to newborn babies who are awaiting adoption. She has served on Blessed Sacrament’s parish council, where she is a Eucharistic Minister and sodalist, and has led a Renew prayer group for the past eight years.  Maria also was a Girl Scout troop leader for seven years and led the first M.O.M.S. group in her parish.  Maria is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and served  in the Clinton Administration Justice Department.

Tax, Audit and Accounting Advisor
Janene Mitchell
is a senior manager in the Bethesda office  of the  Reznick Group’s National Nonprofit Practice.  Prior to joining Reznick Group in 2006, she provided services to nonprofits with PriceWaterhouseCoopers for more than 17 years.  Janene has provided audit, tax and consulting services to a variety of nonprofits including environmental and social services organizations, trade and membership associations, foundations and other nonprofits, including those subject to the requirements of OMB  A-133.  She has provided consultation and analysis on business operations and technical issues including accounting and reporting  for unrestricted, temporarily and permanently restricted contributions, non-monetary donations; endowments, alternative investments, revenue recognition, expense allocations; nonprofit restructuring and consolidations; internal accounting controls; lobbying activities and unrelated business income.  Janene served as a director/treasurer of a nonprofit organization and in that capacity supervised all financing and investing activities and ensured compliance with all reporting, regulatory and grant requirements.  Janene has a Bachelors of Science degree in accounting from University of Virginia and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


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