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Board of Directors


Margy Whitmer | President

Margy Whitmer was producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for a number of years until production ended in 2001 and continued with the company, producing live-action segments for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, through December 31, 2018, when she retired. Over the years, Margy has been the company’s liaison with PBS’s Ready To Learn Initiative; co-creator, writer, and producer for video-based early childhood professional development workshop materials; and project director for two series of picture books, “First Experiences” and “Let’s Talk About It.” Her previous experience includes production and administrative positions at WQED-TV for both local and national programs, including Once Upon a Classic and the National Geographic Specials. A Chatham College graduate and holder of a teaching certificate, Margy is also an active volunteer in community organizations having been a board member and subsequently Board President of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh,  steering Committee for the annual Empty Bowls event to raise hunger awareness and an ten year volunteer reader for Beginning with Books.​​​​

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Gene O'Sullivan | Treasurer

Gene O’Sullivan is the retired Chief Financial Officer of the Elliott Group, headquartered in Jeannette PA and Sodegaura, Japan.  Elliott is a worldwide manufacturer of compressors and turbines for the oil and gas industry. He began his career in Pittsburgh with Schneider, Downs and Co, where he was a certified public accountant.  During his career, he also served as CFO of Joy Manufacturing Co. (now Komatsu Mining Corp.) and IPEG, Inc. He is a graduate of Indiana University of PA. He has previously served on the boards of the PICT Classical Theatre (past president) and the Foundation for IUP (Chair of Investment Committee).  He has volunteered with Literacy Pittsburgh tutoring students in English as a Second Language and preparation for the General Equivalency diploma. He is a member of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Council, and an active volunteer with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. He believes literacy is a key to success in life, and that Dr. Seuss was right when he said: “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”​​​​


Claudia Davidson | Secretary

Claudia Davidson is a practicing attorney principally in the areas of criminal defense and labor law for almost 40 years and is an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. A longtime resident of the Swisshelm Park neighborhood, Claudia has served on the board of Three Rivers Community Fund and the Society for the Preservation of the Max Vanko Murals. She is an avid runner and a grandmother of two girls under three to whom she loves to read.

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Denise Dembski | Member

Denise Dembski works at UPMC as an RN, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Instructor and Pediatric Advance Life Support (PALS) Instructor. She has a history of volunteerism including being a volunteer EMT at the Munhall Ambulance Service and as a classroom volunteer, reading tutor, president of the Barrett PTA in the Steel Valley School District and long-time board member of MUSA. Denise and her husband, Rich Dembski, have lived in the Steel Valley for the past 30 years and have raised their two daughters who graduated from Steel Valley High School. She loves to share picture books with her two grandchildren.


Christopher Mark | Member

Christopher Mark is a mining engineer for the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) at the US Department of Labor. Chris received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University and serves as a researcher and safety consultant since 1986. He is a life-long lover of books and reading and raised his three grown children to continue in that tradition. Chris enjoys camping, running and hiking in his free time.


Caren Ponty | Member

Caren Ponty spent most of her career focusing on housing and services to lower income families. She located and established emergency shelters for New York City’s homeless population and spent over 20 years helping communities develop affordable housing in Gateway cities throughout Massachusetts. Along the way, she managed capital programs on Rikers Island and developed specialized housing for veterans, developmentally-challenged adults and wards of the state. Over the past ten years, she has concentrated on community engagement in the cultural sector, chairing her local cultural council and focusing on participatory arts. She has been an active Board Member of a range of nonprofits and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. 

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​​​Chardaé Jones | Member 

Chardaè Jones is a writer, published author, professional volunteer, and a connector of all things. From Braddock, PA the 2021 Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under 40 awardee has published over 15 books on behalf of herself and others. She holds a BA in Professional Writing and Communications from Carlow University. She is the current secretary for Pennsylvania Young Democrats and the Community Liaison of Barrel and Flow Fest. The former Mayor of Braddock enjoys community advocacy, playing with her husky, all things Halloween, traveling, cooking, hosting Murder Mystery Dinners, and eating her way around the Burgh. 


As a Councilwoman she hopes to work with her colleagues and the community to revive the parks, encourage equitable development, create more partnerships within the community, and continue to create a transparent and accessible government.


​​​Karen Lynn Williams | Member 

Karen Williams is the author of 17 books for children as well as stories and articles for reading programs and anthologies. She received a bachelor’s degree in Speech Therapy from the University of Connecticut, a master’s degree in Deaf Education from Southern Connecticut State University, and taught in an integrated program for hearing impaired children. She studied at the Institute of Children’s literature and has been an instructor for MFA programs in creative writing at Chatham University and Seton Hill University. Karen was a Peace Corp volunteer in Malawi where she taught English literature. She has lived in Haiti and on the Navajo reservation and has volunteered for the Pittsburgh Refugee Center. When not writing out of her life abroad, her stories are based on life with four children and six grandchildren. She is passionate about nature and the environment. She lives part time in Pittsburgh and part time in the Laurel Highlands. Karen enjoys hiking with her husband and their dog, biking, paddling, snow shoeing and cross -country skiing.


​​​Mary Denison, PhD | Founder and Executive Director 

Mary Denison is a retired school psychologist. She has dedicated her professional career to supporting children and families.  She has worked with school-age children with learning and developmental problems for over thirty years. Mary initially taught Special Education for children with learning and behavioral challenges. After graduating with her doctorate in School Psychology she provided psychological services at Shaler Area School District and later at PACE School. In 1995, she began working at The Day School at The Children’s Institute. Mary worked for 22 years developing an expertise with children with autism, genetic and neurological disorders. Mary has 3 children who are all grown. She is an avid reader and enjoys sharing her love of books with others.​

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