Alumnae Profiles

Chapin alumnae excel in a variety of ways. Click on the names below to read about some extraordinary Chapin women who have become leaders in their fields.

Alexandra "Jill" Remmel '67

Client Advocate, Gay Men's Health Crisis

Jill Remmel ’67 has devoted her life to helping and giving a voice to others. In her transformative work as Director of Client Advocacy for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the trailblazing non-profit that provides HIV/AIDS prevention and services, Ms. Remmel expertly guides her clients through the labyrinthine process of obtaining benefits through private health-insurance carriers and public programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Since its founding in 1982, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, GMHC has shifted its focus from desperately trying to keep clients from dying to supporting them throughout their longer lives. For more than 22 years, Ms. Remmel has offered invaluable support and an incredible wealth of knowledge, cementing her remarkable legacy. “I’m a fixture at GMHC. I am going to leave someday, which won’t be good for whoever comes after me.”

With her straightforward, well-informed style that is both compassionate and no-nonsense, Ms. Remmel explains complex information in plain language and tirelessly goes to bat for her clients to make sure they do not lose critical benefits. For people going through stressful events – such as the loss of a job or the death of a spouse – Ms. Remmel is a lifesaver. “I have built up a body of knowledge. My clients respect me. I am direct with them and accept them as they are,” she said.

Instead of applying a “one size fits all” approach, Ms. Remmel treats each client as a distinct individual with a unique set of challenges. She listens carefully and strategizes the best plan of action for each situation. “I love my job,” she exclaimed. “My clients keep me going on a daily basis. I have learned so much from them.”

Growing up on East 84th Street, across from Chapin, Ms. Remmel remembers happy years surrounded by her beloved teachers. “I had friends, access to books and great teachers like Miss Stringfellow, Miss Proffitt and Mrs. Berendsen,” she commented. After Chapin, she attended high school at Garrison Forest, a boarding school for girls in Baltimore, before enrolling at Hollins College, followed by Columbia University for a Master’s in Library Science, although she never worked as a librarian. After an uninspiring stint at a bank, Ms. Remmel took a job in the development office at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Later, seeking a way to make a difference, she applied to volunteer in that hospital’s emergency room, a decision that would change the course of her life.

For 10 years, Ms. Remmel diligently advocated for E.R. patients and their families. With no medical training to speak of, she nonetheless won the trust of patients and hospital staff alike with her proactive, positive presence. “It was an amazing experience,” she declared, an experience that would lead to a more meaningful vocation. Ms. Remmel elaborated: “One day, my husband asked me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ That’s when I decided to pursue a master’s in healthcare advocacy,” which she received from Sarah Lawrence College.

In 1996, degree in hand, Ms. Remmel started interning in the Health Care Advocacy unit of GMHC. Almost immediately, she knew it was where she belonged, even though, at times, she felt overwhelmed by the tremendous responsibility. “I was tossed into the deep end,” she said, recalling the early years. But she persevered, tailoring a position that elevated her strengths, while providing excellent care to scores of vulnerable individuals. “My job is rewarding beyond belief,” she said. “I am supremely lucky. Most people don’t fall into jobs that suit them to a T.”

Describing her education as “a lovely progression of learning,” Ms. Remmel credits Chapin, which she attended from first through ninth grade, for nurturing her and providing the encouragement she needed to discover her authentic self. “I was an idiosyncratic individual and I was accepted as I was at Chapin,” she stated, readily acknowledging the momentous role the School played in shaping the woman she became. “I’ve made my future with the support of Chapin and my family,” she reflected. “I had security thanks to Chapin, and I was fortunate to grow up with agency.”

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Alex MacCallum '99

Head of New Products Group, The New York Times

Alex MacCallum ’99 is Head of New Products and Ventures for The New York Times, where she has worked in several different capacities for the past five years, including in the video and audience development areas. A graduate of Brown University and UC Berkeley Law School, Ms. MacCallum previously worked for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. She took time out of her demanding schedule to share a little bit about her exciting career and her life after Chapin.

Can you give me an overview of your current position at The New York Times? What led you to pursue this opportunity?

I currently run the New Products group. That means I oversee product and marketing for our Crosswords and Cooking applications and business units as well as all of the new bets we’re making in digital products. I previously ran our video team and our audience development team in the newsroom as a senior editor on the masthead.

Chapin’s current theme is “Our Future, Our Voices.” What does this theme mean to you in your work at The Times? What does it mean to you personally?

I love the theme! In terms of my work, I’ve spent a lot of time at the Times in the last few years acting as a voice for thinking about inclusion – of all types of diversity but in particular women. I ran our audience development team, a new group in the newsroom responsible for bringing audience thinking into the report as well as distribution of Times journalism. Diversity and inclusion help us create a more robust report. A report with more perspectives is interesting to a wider audience.

And, as we tackle big business questions (a process I’m also involved in), I also try to make sure that we always include a diverse group. It’s incredibly helpful to have different perspectives in the room as we think through the future of the business – and that means lots of different voices. 

In what ways do you see technology continuing to have an impact on the work you do?

Thinking about the impact of technology on behaviors, distribution models and capabilities are critical parts of what I do. It’s a core part of my job. The Times is in the midst of a huge shift in its business model – from a print newspaper that made money from advertisers to a digital product that makes money from subscriptions. That transition is because technology has changed user behaviors as well as advertiser behaviors. Both advertisers and users are far less interested in print given new technology that makes reading news faster and more convenient.

Another part of my job is thinking about what opportunities technology presents us with – there are many! We’ve been able to create new products from scratch because technology has enabled us to create fun mobile games (Crosswords) or help people get dinner on the table (Cooking), and we see a lot more opportunities for the future.

What do you find most rewarding about your position? Most challenging?

I love my job! I love working at the Times. I care deeply about the mission of the organization. I think high-quality journalism is the foundation of our democracy. It is increasingly under siege by business model changes and partisan rhetoric. I care that there is a path for the Times in the future, and feel lucky to be part of it.

Can you share a bit about your educational and career trajectory?

I went to Chapin, then Andover for high school, Brown for undergraduate and U.C. Berkeley Law. I decided not to become a lawyer and don’t recommend getting a law degree if you don’t want to be a lawyer, but I loved my experience in California. I worked at The Washington Post as a columnist out of college then was the first news editor of The Huffington Post. I went to law school, decided not to be a lawyer and went into the business side of media, first at The Huffington Post, then at a couple startups, then at the Times for the last five years.

What stands out about your Chapin years?

I am still close with the women I met at Chapin and will have a lifelong connection to them. I think it helped me build a foundational confidence and commitment to excellence that has set me up for all experiences afterwards.

In what ways do you feel Chapin prepared you for college and the working world? What specific skills did Chapin help you develop?

Again, confidence. I was a shy, nerdy kid. I was obsessed with Broadway musicals. I carved sculptures out of soap with my other nerdy Chapin friends. We dressed up as the Phantom of the Opera, played Nerf tag through eighth grade, loved baking cakes and had homework parties to work on math problems. But all of that was OK. It allowed me to pursue what I enjoyed, with little judgment, in a way that has set me up to pursue what I love later on. I also, somehow, felt comfortable speaking up and collaborating – a critical skill in today’s cross-functional and collaborative work environments.

Most importantly, Chapin made me think I could do anything – literally anything – that I put my mind to. Despite being a small school, it felt like there were endless possibilities. And I truly believe there is for Chapin students! 

What other aspects of your life played a role in your career path?

I would say each experience had a different impact on me. I learned from every new environment. Boarding school was amazing for me – I learned how to be adaptable, how to be a very tiny fish in a huge pond, how to dig deep in passions, how to challenge myself in new ways that would be hard to do at a smaller place. College taught me how to structure time when it wasn’t structured for me. My husband has taught me how to (try!) to enjoy the ride. Law school taught me to pursue what I loved (not law!) but to love California and make the best of everything. Working at the Times has taught me how to navigate big, complicated and interdependent organizations and how to manage a business. 

Over the course of my life, I’ve made friends with a lot of women. I’ve leaned on them through life. I have two young children and my deep connections to my female friends have been a tremendous support and resource in how to “balance” (really, manage) a career and a family.

What advice would you give to current Chapin students or young alumnae, related to your career or otherwise? Do you consider yourself a role model?

I’d say do what you love with your life. Don’t care so much what people think. Challenge yourself to do things that are hard for you. Speak up, politely but always. 

Amazingly, some people at work seem to consider me a role model. I certainly would not consider myself one; I see success as making it out the door with my clothes on the right side out these days.

You are obviously very busy and accomplished. How do you unwind and recharge?

I don’t do a lot of that right now – I have a 14-month-old and a 2.5-year-old. So when I’m home, I’m changing diapers or mopping up some kind of other mess. I’ll get back to you on recharging in 18 years when they are out of the house.

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Wanda Holland Greene '85

Head of School at The Hamlin School

Q & A with Wanda Holland Greene, Head of School at The Hamlin School

Wanda Holland Greene ’85 is the Head of School at The Hamlin School in San Francisco, a position she has held since 2008. She is also a current trustee at Columbia University and Head-Royce School, an advisor to Common Sense Media and a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow at The Aspen Institute. Earlier in her career, Ms. Holland Greene taught at Chapin and served as the School’s first Director of Student Life. She was also a senior administrator at The Park School and a teacher at The Columbia Greenhouse Nursery School. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in curriculum design and instruction from Columbia’s Teachers College.

In what ways did your Chapin years inform your sense of yourself and the world?

At Chapin, I learned that being a strong woman was an asset and that being a smart, confident and empathic leader was a requirement. My self-efficacy, sense of purpose and proclivity for civic engagement were shaped at Chapin.

Chapin’s school-wide theme this year is “Our Future, Our Voices.” What does this mean to you, personally and professionally?

As the head of a girls school [The Hamlin School in San Francisco], this theme resonates with me deeply. To me, it means that strong female voices are essential for the success and stability of our country and the world. If women's voices are silenced, there will be a tragic loss of human capital, and the future will be bleak for everyone. I also like the emphasis on the collective “our,” which means that we are often stronger when standing together.

What advice would you have for Chapin students today?

I have seven pieces of advice:

1. Love yourself. Be proud of where you come from. Don’t cloak your identity to make others comfortable.

2. Work hard. The path to success is paved with sweat and grit. (But don’t forget to get enough sleep!)

3. Challenge and interrupt racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and any kind of injustice. Stand up.

4. Examine your own power and privilege, and understand where you stand relative to others. Be empathic.

5. Discern the truth. Don’t settle for superficial statistics and data. Go deep and discover what is real.

6. Resist the addiction to social media. Remember to embrace solitude and in-person conversations.

7. Take risks. Do something that scares you.

According to the School mission, Chapin prepares young women “to thrive and lead in a global society.” Does this statement resonate with you? How?

The statement does indeed resonate with me. I am thriving and leading in a global society, so I am living the mission! I wish I could say that thriving and leading is without complexity or challenge. In every industry, including education, women are underrepresented in leadership positions. Chapin women need to defy the odds, challenge the status quo and walk boldly forward. Fortiter et recte!

 

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Dr. Christina Weltz '79

Breast Cancer Surgeon, Mount Sinai Hospital 

An Alumna’s Winding Road to Success

The story of Dr. Christina Weltz ’79’s professional career could be called “Your Plans May Go Astray” or “Follow Your Heart.” As a student at Chapin, she loved politics, even interning for a senator in Washington, D.C. during her senior year. When she arrived at Harvard College in 1979, she took classes in history and literature, hoping they would help to prepare her for law school and, eventually, a job shaping public policy. 

Because Harvard required all students to live on campus, Dr. Weltz was looking for ways to connect with the Cambridge and Boston communities when she found herself volunteering at Boston Children’s Hospital on the Harvard Medical School campus. That’s when her life took a fateful turn.

One day, as she played cards with a young patient on the post-surgical floor, the attending surgeon came into the room to check on his progress. As Dr. Weltz watched in amazement, the child stood up and walked for the very first time in his life, having undergone successful surgery for a congenital hip disorder. Thanks to the talented surgeon standing next to her, this boy would be able to walk, run and keep up with other children his age. “It was very emotional,” she said of the experience. 

And just like that, law school and politics were off the table. Instead, she was determined to pursue a career in medicine. “Being a doctor was the most meaningful thing I could do in this world,” said Dr. Weltz, who spoke at Upper School News on January 17, 2018.

This unusual senior-year change required not only additional coursework, which she completed at Harvard and Stanford University, but tenacity and perseverance, traits she said she developed at Chapin. Dr. Weltz attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where she “fell in love with surgery.” She then did her surgical training at Duke University, ultimately choosing to specialize in the surgical treatment of breast cancer.  In 1997 Dr. Weltz returned to New York to join the faculty of Mount Sinai Hospital, where she currently treats breast cancer patients, teaches medical students and residents, and conducts clinical research.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in American women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer). One in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. These sobering statistics compelled Dr. Weltz to specialize in this area of oncology. She knew she could help women navigate “one of the hardest times in [their] life.” Being there for her patients in every way possible – from providing state-of-the-art treatment options to offering psychological and emotional support – remains the most important aspect of her work.

Dr. Weltz couldn’t be more pleased with how her professional life turned out. “I never regretted my decision and I never looked back.”

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Celina Cabán '04

Founder, Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program

Lawyer Celina Cabán ’04 excels at paying it forward. As a student at Chapin, she was surrounded by caring adults who guided her learning and nurtured her dreams. In the years since, she has herself become an empowering mentor dedicated to helping young people build brighter futures.

“It was very important to me to help cultivate a generation of students so they understood careers in law and also the importance of why the law matters,” explained Ms. Cabán, who grew up in the Bronx and entered Chapin in Class 9 as a Better Chance Scholar.

Motivated by this deeply held aspiration, in 2014, while she was at CUNY Law School, Ms. Cabán came up with an idea for an intensive summer enrichment initiative designed to expose 11th graders throughout New York City to careers in the legal profession. Determined to reduce high-school dropout rates, Ms. Cabán reached out to underprivileged students from diverse backgrounds, especially those attending schools with limited resources.

Guided by one of her trusted advisors – the Honorable Denny Chin, United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit – Ms. Cabán developed her program’s mission and recruited accomplished law professionals to lend their expertise. Through her perseverance, more than a dozen distinguished judges signed on to support the inaugural cohort of 17 high school students. “The first summer was a huge success!” she remarked.

In 2015, Ms. Cabán’s program merged with the Joint Minority Bar Judicial Internship Program to form the Sonia and Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program, adding a law school component. As a result, high school students now have access to a greatly expanded network of judges, law students and mentors, and more young people are able to participate, including the 32 this summer. For four weeks, Mondays through Thursdays, the interns work in the chambers of the judges to whom they were assigned, assisting with online research and writing assignments and observing court proceedings. On Fridays, they attend educational and professional development workshops.

Ms. Cabán, who never forgot the first time she met the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor as a law student, wished to name her program for the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice and for her mother, Celina Baez Sotomayor. Their unbreakable relationship was detailed in Justice Sotomayor’s 2013 memoir, “My Beloved World,” which chronicled the Justice’s remarkable path from a trying childhood in Bronx public housing to her barrier-breaking career as a federal judge. “I know in the background was Justice Sotomayor’s mother, the silent giant on whose shoulders she stood,” Ms. Cabán said.

About a month after Ms. Cabán wrote to Justice Sotomayor asking for her permission to name the program in her honor, she heard back. Not only did Justice Sotomayor agree to the name, she generously offered to host an annual private reception for the interns, which is now a highlight of their summer experience. The name has proven to be a smart decision. “The high school students can identify with her and connect with her story,” she explained. “I hoped that would motivate them to go to law school.”

Incredibly, Ms. Cabán’s exhaustive volunteer work as secretary of the Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program is on top of an already demanding career as a housing court lawyer advocating for clients facing evictions. “I’m so passionate about the mission of my program,” she remarked. “It’s a labor of love.”

Ms. Cabán also remains passionate about Chapin, at which she shone in both academics and sports as a three-season athlete (soccer, basketball and softball). “The education I received helped me develop into the leader I am today. I don’t take that for granted,” she noted. She felt exceptionally well prepared for Barnard College, where she pursued economics and Latin American studies.

During her precious off hours, Ms. Cabán, who was married in June 2018, enjoys cooking dishes celebrating her Puerto Rican heritage and her husband’s Indian heritage. She also loves to run in nearby Prospect Park and spend time with her close-knit family.

When asked if she considers herself a role model, Ms. Cabán reflects, “When a student asks, ‘Can you be my mentor?’ it is such an honor. So, yes, I think I am a role model because of those moments. I hope I am.”

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Tameka Walter Koney '01

Global Business Marketing Lead, Twitter

Tameka Watler Koney ’01 leads global business marketing initiatives for the social-media platform Twitter. She joined Twitter’s New York office in January 2017 after serving in product management and customer engagement roles at American Express. Earlier in her career, she held consumer marketing positions at Condé Nast and Time Inc. After Chapin, Ms. Koney attended Williams College and received an MBA from Harvard. She was delighted to bring us up to date on her eventful post-Chapin life.

Can you share an overview of your current position? What led you to pursue this opportunity?

There was no grand plan, but I have always had an interest in what motivates people in their behavior. A year and half ago, through networking, I found an opportunity at Twitter. I was not actively searching for a new job, but through a colleague from [former employer] Time Inc., the opportunity came to me, and I was really excited about it. Basically, I help clients decide why they should consider advertising on Twitter. I work cross-functionally and rely on internal partners to understand what is coming down the pipeline. I also work with partners across the globe. We hope to educate our clients on the power of platforms.

What do you find most rewarding about your position? Most challenging?

Working at Twitter is really interesting and challenging. The company is much smaller than American Express, although the scope of my decision-making responsibility is significantly bigger. It’s a nice mix of analytical work, while also being creative -- I have always been creative at heart. No day is the same. The pace of technology is constantly changing, and there are always shifts in the industry, so I am never bored. We don’t have the ability to shut down.

Can you share a bit about your educational and career path?

Chapin provided a solid academic foundation and definitely prepared me for my transition to college. I attended Williams College, and I credit Chapin for that choice. Something just felt right. It was a community, like Chapin, where I could be my authentic self. I had a great experience at Williams. I met my husband there! Then, I wanted to explore more strategy work, and getting an MBA seemed like the right next step. In 2009 I went to Harvard Business School. In my second year, I got engaged and began building a life in New York. After graduating, I joined American Express, where I was at a director level. It was really hard to move up, and very few opportunities existed there that I was excited about. Twitter offered me something new and exciting. It felt like a no brainer.

Chapin’s current theme is “Our Future, Our Voices.” What does this theme mean to?

Thinking about that theme, I’d say Chapin was the place where I found my voice and it was encouraged.

 What stands out about your Chapin years?

I was very involved in dance at Chapin. I am so grateful to [former Dance Department Head] Ms. [Martha] Hirschman and [Dance Department Head] Ms. [Sarah] Rutledge. They helped develop a spark in me. They gave me confidence going forward. I was also the Vice President of CAP, the Cultural Awareness Program at Chapin. It was a safe space for those of us – and there weren’t many of us – to share, to express our voices to the administration and to feel encouraged. I felt empowered and heard there. Also, my two bridesmaids were from Chapin. They are lifelong friends. I’m so grateful.

What advice would you give to current Chapin students or younger alumnae, related to your career or otherwise?

What gets you excited? What problems are you interested in solving? Ask about people in companies solving these kinds of problems. Where can you find intellectual bursts of energy? Those roles do exist. Technology may not be the first thing that comes to mind. I never considered tech before. It is important to keep an open mind and work to build skills early in your career. Set yourself up to land where you need to be.

You are obviously very busy and accomplished. How do you unwind and recharge?

We have great weekends, the four of us together [her husband, Owuraka, and their daughters, Tegan, 3, and Tesahni, 8 months]. I love spending time with my family – aunties, grandparents, sisters – and hearing laughter constantly. My heart is full.

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