Board of Directors

Mike Rippey, President

Was president of the Ruth Bancroft Garden Board from 2011 through 2015 and is now Finance Committee Chair. Accomplishments at The Garden during that time-frame were:
Memberships increased from 400 to 1800.
Plant sales increased from $75,000 to $280,000.
Admissions increased from $25,000 to $55,000.
Auction income increased from $40,000 to $70,000.

Mike has built three companies during his career which had 300, 500 and 1100 employees; two of the companies went national doing business in all 50 states, and the third was a Bay Area coffee chain of 30 drive thru locations (Caffino). Mike also has extensive real estate experience, having developed housing subdivisions of 55 and 115 units, owning over 100 apartment units, and speculated in various land ventures. Mike graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in International Relations in 1970.

Richard C. Hansen

Dick is a retired telecommunications industry executive. Most recently he worked in the solar energy industry with CC energy as a designer, sales representative and project manager. Dick has served on the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for 12 years, including 2 terms as president. He has also served on the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce board for 6 years, including a year as interim Executive Director. Elected to the board in 2015, Dick is now the current President of the Board.

Nina Bancroft Dickerson

Nina is a graduate of Wellesley College. As a daughter of the garden founder, she grew up on what was once the Bancroft farm and has seen the Garden grow and develop from the beginning. As a community leader, she has served in official positions in many organizations including Monte Vista High School Keynoters, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, The PTA, and as President of The Equestrian Center of Walnut Creek. Her professional work has been in the area of Social Services. She is Vice-President of the Board and a member of the Garden’s Governance Committee.

Gretchen Bartzen

Former Executive Director since 2012. Fundraising professional with 22 years of experience, primarily for The Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek. Former secondary and junior college teacher of literature and public speaking for 20 years.

Susan Hewett Chapman

Susan is a long time resident of Danville, and very involved in the civic and cultural life of Danville, Walnut Creek, and the East Bay communities. She has been an active member of AAUW, and served 9 years as a trustee at Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek. She was chair of the Governance Committee there, and also helped with the Development Committee. She was also active with The Athenian School parent board. Susan is a graduate of Scripps College and the University of Minnesota. She is a former elementary school teacher and worked in business administration and human resources prior to raising her family. Susan has volunteered extensively in education and civic organizations since moving to the East Bay in the 1980s. She was elected to the Garden Board 2015.

Spencer Dress

Spencer grew up in Yuba City, CA and moved to Walnut Creek in 2012 where he attended Diablo Valley College and graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a degree in Political Science.

He now works with his Father in operating and managing personal storage facilities in Northern California. He was most taken by the beauty and variety of the drought-tolerant plants in the Garden and believes that civic engagement and education centered on drought tolerant practices will provide incredible benefits to the wellbeing of the environment and significantly increase the quality of life throughout the East Bay.

He is passionate about getting younger people involved in civic-minded activities and wants to help foster the next generation of leaders to ensure that our community remains one that we can all be proud to call home.

Carol Maerzke

Carol Maerzke and her husband John have been members of the Ruth Bancroft Garden since 2008, and Carol has served on the Board since 2011. She is an active member and past president of the San Francisco Garden Club, Glen Park Garden Club, and the St. Luke’s Hospital Auxiliary Board. Carol is also a sustaining member of the Junior League of San Francisco and the Fine Arts Museum Auxiliary. Some of her work experience includes teaching, public relations, marketing research, wholesale sales, and floral design. Now she considers herself to be a Professional Volunteer and finds pleasure in making a constructive contribution to the community. For Ruth Bancroft Garden she serves on the Governance committee, works on events, as well as helping to raise the Garden’s visibility in the local community and greater Bay Area. Carol enjoys traveling, gardening, floral design, photography, music, and activities at the Garden with John.

Jane Freeman

Jane is the retired Chief Financial Officer of Scientific Learning (SCIL), which uses developments in brain science and software to improve language, reading and learning skills for children and young adults. She was appointed to serve as the Garden Conservancy’s representative to the Board in 2013 and chairs the Horticultural Advisory Committee. She also serves as a Trustee of the Wells Fargo Funds. Jane is an avid gardener.

Gail Giffen

A mother of four, Gail has had a successful career in real estate investment and also owns two Bay Area pizza restaurants. Her hobbies are duplicate bridge and theatre; she is a big supporter of Playhouse West. Gail is an addictive sculpture collector and enjoys sharing this passion with her friends. She serves on the Finance Committee and the Committee for the Annual Sculpture in The Garden Show. Gail is in her second term on the Board.

Billie Hopper

Director of Special Projects on staff of RBG since 2012, and co-director of the Visitor and Education Center Building Campaign for the Garden. Retired manager of 25 years at Bechtel.

David Mitchell

Senior Project Manager at AECOM, San Francisco. David has 40 years of experience in construction project management and consulting services. He has managed a diverse variety of projects including transportation, power generation, medical and educational facilities, as well as various commercial projects. David has a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Economic Analysis from U.C. Berkeley and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of California and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He currently is employed by AECOM, a large multinational firm that provides a complete range of engineering and construction services to its worldwide clients.

Marco Vaticano

Marco is a passionate, tech-savvy real estate agent with Compass and proud San Diego State University alumnus. While he believes in the importance of technology in this new-age digital marketplace, he believes even stronger in building meaningful relationships with the very people that make this lifetime worthwhile. Marco is also an event planner for the Young Professionals Network and designs engaging events to connect, inspire and educate those within the real estate community. In his downtime he loves being in the garden, working out, and playing golf.

Gerriann Smith

Retired Senior Vice President and Regional Manager, Heritage Bank of Commerce. Over 20 years of experience in lending to small business and mid-sized corporations. In addition to her Ruth Bancroft Garden affiliation, currently holding committee and board member positions for two other local non-profit organizations.

Richard Watson

Retired architect and consultant to real estate industry. Over 50 years experience in design of hotels and entertainment facilities, litigation support, and expert witness services. Former peer reviewer for the American Counsel of Consulting Engineers, and former president of the American Institute of Architects.

Monique Young

Residential real estate broker in Walnut Creek since 1987. Long-time Tribunal Chair and mediator for Contra Costa Association of Realtor’s Professional Standards Committee. Diablo Valley College real estate instructor and mentor.

Mary Walker

Mary has worked in telecommunications for MCI for over 15 years. She and her husband now own Daily Graphics, a print service bureau which qualified as a Bay Area Certified Green business in 2005 and advocates the importance of using digital to print.

DDI was awarded Pleasant Hill Green Business for 2014, and recognized for “Sustainable Business Resource Management” in 2017 by Sustainable Contra Costa. Most recently the business was given the “Congressional Conservation Business Award” from the John Muir Society for 2018.

She is the founding member of the Pleasant Hill Green Committee, established in 2005, who recently convinced our city council to support and implement a city wide plastic bag ban. The committee’s mission is to advocate “green” business practices in the community.

In her spare time, Mary can be found gardening, planting vegetables, cooking, reading, and enjoying the outdoors.

Susan Van Dyne

Susan Van Dyne taught literature at Smith College in Massachusetts for four decades. She helped create the Women’s Studies Program in the early 1980s, which she directed for 20 years. Her academic research focused on American poet Sylvia Plath (Revising Life: The Drafts of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems, 1993) and more recently on queer graphic memoirist, Alison Bechdel, whose memoir Fun Home, became an award-winning Broadway musical in 2014. With Marilyn Schuster, she consulted with university faculty nationwide about strategies to bring women’s studies and ethnic studies into courses across the curriculum. They edited Women’s Place in the Academy: Transforming the Liberal Arts Curriculum, based on a decade of work in the field. In 2009 Susan established an undergraduate concentration in Archives that integrates coursework, research and internships in archival collections. Since moving to California in 2015, she volunteers at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden as a docent and head of volunteer propagation in Cacti and Succulents, and serves on the Advisory Board. At the Ruth Bancroft Garden, she is a docent and works in the nursery.

Julie Rose

Julie Rose is a retired attorney living in San Ramon, having moved there from St. Paul, MN in 1980. She first visited the RBG in 1992 where she was immediately taken by cacti and succulents and has grown and collected them ever since. Julie was the president of the California Cactus and Succulent Society in Oakland for 5 years. She has been a member of and volunteer at the RBG since 2010.

Bernie Rose

Bernie Rose is likewise a retired attorney also living, as one might surmise, in San Ramon. He has been a Red Cross water safety instructor, the manager of a skeet/trap range, a tennis instructor and a research chemist. His interests, in addition to the RBG, include classical and folk music, art, brewing beer, wine tasting and learning to play the hammered dulcimer.