Academy Board

Toni Larson Toni Larson

Dr. Toni Larson served as executive director of Independent Higher Education of Colorado, a nonprofit organization that conducts the government relations work for Colorado College, Regis University, and the University of Denver.  Prior to this position she served in several capacities in the League of Women Voters. Currently, her main volunteer activities include the League of Women Voters of the United States (Vice President), Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations (co-chair, Public Policy Committee), and homeowners’ association board (President). She has been an affiliated faculty member at Regis University and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver.  Dr. Larson received a B.A. from Colorado College where she majored in English and minored in Zoology.  Her Master’s in Nonprofit Management is from Regis University, and she has a Ph.D. in Higher Education with an emphasis on policy studies from the University of Denver.

ArtGeorgi Contiguglia
Vice President

Georgi Contiguglia served as President and CEO of History Colorado and as the Colorado Historic Preservation Officer. Earlier she was Curator of Decorative and Fine Arts, managing seven house museums and curating many exhibitions. She graduated from Barnard College, majoring in mathematics and minoring in art history. She received a Master’s Degree in art history from Hunter College in NY, has worked at the Brooklyn Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum. She taught art history at the Front Range Community College and the Academy. She has served on the Boards of Directors of the American Association of Museums, the Mountain-Plains Museums Association, and the Beacon Center, and currently serves on the Board of Historic Denver Inc., and the Scenic & Historic Byways Commission.


Ruth pictureRuth Hiebert

Ruth Hiebert lived in San Diego and worked in Telecommunications for 30 years before moving to Denver 21 years ago to get a Masters In Tax from the University of Denver. Along the way, she got an undergraduate degree in Accounting, a Masters in Business and a CPA license. Currently, the co-owner of a small business and the Treasurer of her Home Owners’ Association she looks forward to serving and contributing to the Academy. As most of her life and study has been spent in the business environment, her current interests run toward reading and traveling to learn about history, the arts, other cultures, and seeing as many Unesco World Heritage sights as possible.



WoodyEmlenWoody Emlen
VP-Curriculum/Course Leaders

Dr. Woody Emlen is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California (San Diego) School of Medicine.  He was Professor of Medicine and Immunology at the University of Washington and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center for almost 20 years, where his practice was in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, where his research focused on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.  In the late 1990s, Dr. Emlen pursued a career in biotechnology, serving as VP of Scientific Affairs for Palo Alto-based InterMune Pharmaceuticals.  In 2004, he co-founded his own Denver biotech company, Taligen Therapeutics, serving as CEO until the company’s acquisition in 2011.  He is retired from medicine but serves on the Boards of several early-stage Biotechnology companies.

Academy Board, Curriculum CommitteeSheila Porter
At -Large

Sheila Porter has an undergraduate degree in Art History, a PhD in Psychology and 30+ years as a clinical and forensic psychologist. She has joined those interests in her retirement to study and lecture on the impact of artists’ psychological makeup on their artistic production. Sheila has said, “I always return to the
study of art and artists because it is good to remember that the world has always produced beauty in spite of itself.” Sheila divides her time between the Academy, where she chairs the Curriculum Committee, doing psychological evaluations of victims of torture seeking political asylum for Healthright International and her grandchildren who make her laugh and look to the future.


Jack BeattieJack Beattie

Jack Beattie retired from USWEST after a long career working in a variety of finance and accounting assignments. His last assignment was VP-Controller of USWEST Marketing Resources Group, Inc. a subsidiary of the larger company. He enjoys activities with his family and grandchildren and keeping physically active which he does in a variety of ways (like hiking and camping!). He is a long-time member of The Academy and has attended a wide range of classes, mostly related to history, economics and current world problems. As a new Board member, his is looking forward to working with other Board members to help the Academy grow and become more successful.


Connie Hyde
VP-Marketing and Volunteers

Connie Hyde spent her college and graduate years immersed in literature, resulting in BA and MA degrees and an unsatisfied itch for less academic pursuits. After taking a JD, she spent the next several decades practicing in the decidedly un-academic world of commercial real estate. Since retirement, Connie has returned enthusiastically to her first loves of literature, history, politics, music and art (and, of course, grandchildren). She has taught varied courses at The Academy—from literature (Shakespeare), to law (First Amendment), to history (The Thirties), to popular music as a lens through which to view cultural history (Protest Music, The Blues). “I continue to be fascinated by the way that literature, music, and art interact with history and politics to shape our present world.”


Michelle SternMichelle Stern

Having been blessed with the gift of curiosity, Michelle has found the perfect “retirement home” in the Academy, where she eagerly pursues her interests in everything from astrophysics and neurobiology, to genetics and economics. After practicing law for 30 years, she is now gratefully enjoying, in addition to classes at the Academy, biking (i.e. a trek up the French Alps last Fall), sewing, knitting, painting, spending time with an array of wonderful grandchildren, the occasion ski day and volunteering at a senior living facility. She looks forward to meeting and getting to know every member of the Academy, or at least trying. Michelle says if you’re interested enough in the board to read all the bios, you should think about joining it, or at least volunteering!



Bjelland Board

Linda Bjelland

Since discovering the Academy through an opera course in 2010, Linda has been an active member, taking 15-20 courses and volunteering in a number of capacities. After receiving a BA in Economics from Colorado College, she spent 35 years in software development for the travel industry, working for IBM, United and Continental Airlines. She then completed Certification as a Paralegal at Arapahoe Community College and spent 4 years as a Paralegal, primarily in construction-related civil litigation.  Since retiring, she has enjoyed pursuing her interest in opera (she’s seen around 300), and travel (mostly for opera), and is currently learning Italian (for opera and travel).  She also volunteers at the Lone Tree Arts Center and with the Denver Lyric Opera Guild.


Elinor Katz Board

Elinor Katz

Ellie Katz has been involved with educational activities for most of her life. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a teaching degree and continued her education at the University of Denver where she earned a doctorate in Educational Psychology. She has taught in elementary schools, special education programs, and at the graduate level in the College of Education. At DU she was the Dean of the College of Education and on the faculty of the Educational Leadership Program.  As a new member of the Board she is looking forward to working with The Academy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Paul Turelli BoardPaul Turelli

Paul Turelli is a retired middle school teacher and administrator from Littleton Public Schools.  He studied literary and film criticism as a graduate student in college and also taught literature during his teaching career.  He has a vast interest in music, art, literature and history.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Brad W BoardBrad Whittlesey

Brad Whittlesey is a Denver native. He has a civil engineering degree from Princeton University and is retired from the home building business he owned for 25 years.  He has taken taking numerous classes over the past 4 years and is new to the Board.  He and his wife Joan love to travel, ski and spend time with family, from 2 and 5 year old grandchildren to his 96 year old father!



 Academy Board, Secretary

Bil Buhler

Bil Buhler was born and raised in central Idaho. He received his Masters degree from DU in Computer Science when he first fell in love with Denver. He worked in Seattle and Chicago before moving to Denver 20 plus years ago. After retiring from computer programming his avocation as a potter became a primary focus. He thinks he should have made that switch much sooner, because he’s having so much fun with his creations. “Mr. Pots” has been accepted into multiple juried art shows, including the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and enjoys demonstrating his craft for others.



Jack KeenanJack Keenan

More background information soon.
We Googled him and he is either a bar owner in Philly or a Broncos Fantasy Football Correspondent. Perhaps an attorney in Texas. You choose.





IMG_0014Kay Taylor

Kay has held a variety of managerial positions including Regional Director of a non-profit, consulting with a large accounting firm and fundraising with a municipality. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in Finance and Accounting following her graduation from Vassar College, with a BA in mathematics. International travel, independent films and theater both live and improvisational are a few of her interests. In 2009 Kay initiated and executed a year long story telling and photo project culminating in an exhibition at the French Cultural Center in Blantrye, Malawi, Africa. In retirement Kay is a storyteller in the Denver Public schools, a mentor to women in prison through the Making Choices program and a new grandma.


Rosalie Goldman

Rosalie Goldman, a Denver native, feels like she discovered a real treasure when she started taking classes at the Academy in 2010 because her life has been so enriched by this participation.  She has served on the Curriculum Committee and has created several successful  lecture series class on current or controversial issues and she also recruits instructors for classes on other topics that she thinks would appeal to Academy members. Rosalie has a BS in Education from Ohio State University and an MA in Educationally Handicapped from UNC.  She has a keen interest in current events and political science. Since her teen-age years, Rosalie has been involved as a volunteer for many community organizations and is a strong believer in the virtue of volunteer service. She was on the Board of Directors for Project Angel Heart for five years and is excited about serving on the Academy Board.