Board of Trustees
Sandi Blackaby, President
Blackaby, a retired community college educator, was born in California, raised in Oregon and moved to Walla Walla in 1985. Her degrees from the University of Oregon and Washington State University influence her interests in education and community service, such as Camp Fire, Altrusa and tutoring at Farm Labor Homes. She is married to Earl and has a son, a daughter and a granddaughter. Family and friends are the focus of her life, with travel and golf squeezed in to her free time.
Gary Ponti, Vice President
Ponti is an attorney with the law firm of McAdams, Ponti, Wernette and Van Dorn, P.S. He was born and raised in the Walla Walla Valley and attended DeSales High School. He graduated from Gonzaga University, spent four years in the U.S. Navy and then returned to law school at Gonzaga. While attending law school, he met his wife Marilyn, who is currently the Director of Financial Aid at Whitman College. They have two sons, Mark and Bryan. Ponti is currently a member of Walla Walla Exchange Club and is on the Audit and Development and Marketing Committees.
Jay Takemura, Secretary
Takemura is a retired wheat farmer from Columbia County and has spent the last eight years working as the Community Relations Coordinator for Puget Sound Energy and Portland General Electric with the permitting and construction of the new wind turbine facilities in Columbia and Garfield counties. Jay is a graduate of Washington State University where he met his wife, Kris. He is active in the Dayton community including serving as a board member for the Dayton/Columbia County Washington Fund. He enjoys traveling, golf and spending time with his two grandchildren.
Mark Sherry, Treasurer
Sherry, born and raised in Walla Walla, is a graduate of Walla Walla High School and University of Washington. Mark, along with his wife Debbie, daughter and son, operate the family dry land wheat farm. He is a past board member for the Northwest Grain Growers. He enjoys travel, sports, family and friends. Mark serves on the Community Foundation's Investment and Farm committees.
Norm Passmore, President Emeritus
Passmore is a dentist in Dayton and has lived in the Blue Mountain area since childhood. Active in many community service capacities, especially in the development of Dayton, he also currently serves on the Board of the Touchet Valley Arts Council that runs the Liberty Theater. He recently served as board chair for Community Council.
Billingsley, an emergency room physician at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, was born and raised in Walla Walla. The father of four joined the Foundation's Board in January 2011, and also serves on the board of Walla Walla Community Hospice.
Clayton grew up on a small farm in Waitsburg. She graduated from Waitsburg High School in 2004 and Washington State University in 2007. Prior to attending law school at the University of Idaho, Clayton worked as a paralegal and taught ESL and GED classes in the evenings at Walla Walla Community College, She graduated from law school in 2013 and holds law licenses in Washington and Idaho. Clayton practiced law in Walla Walla for three years and in 2016 was hired as the State Monitor Advocate for the Employment Security Department, monitoring the agency's regulatory compliance in its service delivery to migrant seasonal farmworkers (MSFWs) and advocating for MSFW interests within the agency and the agricultural industry. Most recently, Clayton joined Hernandez Immigration Law. Clayton and her husband live in Walla Walla with their toddler. She serves on the scholarship committee.
Coffey, raised in British Columbia, is a graduate of Walla Walla University. She works at Coffey Communications, has one son and is married to Alan. Coffey also serves on the board of Home Team, is a trustee of Children's Home Society of Washington and is a member of The Exchange Club of Walla Walla. She also serves on the Scholarship Committee.
Drabek is the SPED, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Director of Davis Elementary School in College Place. A graduate of Walla Walla High School and Whitman College, he returned to Walla Walla in 1999 to raise a family with his wife, Marquita. They have two daughters. He also serves on Walla Walla University's Professional Education Advisory Board, the Walla Walla Community College Early Childhood Education Advisory Board and the Exchange Parent Aide Advisory Board.
Kajita is President and CEO of Baker Boyer Bank, a regional wealth management institution, which is headquartered in Walla Walla. Kajita was born in Walla Walla and is an Overseer of Whitman College. He is active in the community through the Episcopal Diocese Foundation and the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.
Michelle Y. Janning, PhD
Michelle Janning moved to Walla Walla in 2000, and received her BA from St. Olaf College and her Master's and PhD in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is the Raymond and Elsie Gipson DeBurgh Endowed Chair of Social Sciences and Professor and Chair of Sociology at Whitman College. Her main teaching and research interests are in the areas of family, gender, childhood, culture, popular culture, community-based research, and education. She has published numerous academic and popular pieces on these topics, and has published three recent books: The Stuff of Family Life: How our Homes Reflect our Lives (2017); Love Letters:Saving Romance in the Digital Age (2018); and Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: From News Headlines to New Research (editor, 2019). A leading national family scholar, she has appeared on radio and television interviews and been quoted in many news sources, including The New York Times, Real Simple, and the Washington Post. Over the last two decades she has been involved in a variety of local community-based research projects relating to children, schools, and families. She gives frequent public talks, and is on the 2019-2020 Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau. A native Minnesotan and frequent visitor to Scandinavia, Michelle lives in Walla Walla with her husband Neal Christopherson and their teenage son Aaron. She serves on the Scholarship Committee.
Michelson is chief executive officer of the Walla Walla Clinic. Born and raised in Walla Walla, he returned to the community in 2009. Michelson and his wife, Heather, have three daughters. He also serves on Providence St. Mary Medical Center's Community Ministry Board and enjoys golf, traveling, reading and spending time with family and friends. Michelson serves on the Investment Committee.
Thomas P. Sawatzki
Tom is a CPA and forensic accountant whose career began with Price Waterhouse, and includes stints in the communications industry and wine industry. Tom specializes in litigation support and business valuations. He is a long-time member of the Audit Committee of which he is Chair. He is a graduate of Walla Walla High School and Eastern Washington University. Tom has served on a number of not-for-profit boards in the area. His children are grown so he has time to volunteer as an assistant coach for the men's and women's tennis teams at Whitman College.
Steven Van Ausdle
Van Ausdle was President of Walla Walla Community College from 1984-2016, when he retired and was named President Emeritus. He is a native of Pomeroy, WA, in Garfield County. Among his many achievements was playing a key role in the transformation of the economy through education, training and vision for a thriving wine industry.