Laurie Elwell, President
Laurie grew up in Upstate New York. She moved to Madison with her husband, Rick Niess, in 1978 to pursue a MSSW degree. She has devoted much of her professional career to working on behalf of crime victims. Laurie was an avid Girl Scout growing up, is the mother of two Eagle Scouts, and has served on the executive board of the local Boy Scout Council. She was the founding president of the board of directors of Friends of PACT, a program of Mendota Mental Health Institute that supports individuals living with severe mental illness in the community. Laurie is a certified Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer and a 2019 graduate of the Yahara Watershed Academy. As a naturalist volunteer she has collaborated with the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board and the Arboretum on projects to promote good environmental stewardship by property owners along the river and in neighborhoods in the Lake Wingra Watershed.
Kate Martin, Vice President
Kate is a retired civil and environmental engineer and UW–Madison alumna. She worked for the City of Madison Engineering Division and local engineering consulting firms on projects ranging from infrastructure to landfill design, environmental clean-ups, and utility-scale wind and solar power. She mentors the senior capstone design class of civil engineering. She has enjoyed walks in the Arboretum and lived nearby for several decades. For the last three years she has served as a volunteer receptionist and steward. Her favorite Arboretum walks are seasonal: Gallistel Woods during spring ephemerals, Grady Tract for lupine bloom, Curtis Prairie in late summer, and Wingra Woods in fall. She is an avid quilter and occasional gardener and has often observed tree and shrub specimens in Longnecker Horticultural Gardens before selecting them for her yard. She and her husband Michael have one grown daughter and a Westie.
Don Miner, Treasurer
Don is emeritus Assistant Vice Chancellor for Business Services at UW–Madison. He retired in 2010. In retirement, he volunteers as treasurer of the Friends of the UW–Madison Odyssey Project and the Daily Cardinal Media Corporation. He also volunteers to keep financial records for and financially advise Beth Israel Center and the Martin Luther King Coalition of Madison and Dane County. He also does volunteer database maintenance for the Oakwood Village Foundation and the Madison Literacy Network. He has a BS in Math and Computer Science from the University of Illinois and an MS in Accounting from UW–Madison. He grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago. His wife Kathy has been involved with the UW–Madison Arboretum for many years as an environmental educator, leading tours and watching over the Arboretum’s library. Don and Kathy have two married sons and two grandchildren.
Chris Smithka, Secretary
Chris is Corporate Counsel at Zendesk, a global customer service software company, and an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. He lives in the Harlan Hills neighborhood, just across the Cannonball Path from the Arboretum. He and his wife, Haben Goitom, enjoy hiking the Grady Tract trails and standup paddle boarding on Lake Wingra. He has enjoyed attending Arboretum Family Nature Programs with younger friends and family members and looks forward to showing his three-year-old daughter Sophia all that the Arboretum has to offer in the coming years. Chris is the Vice Chair of the United Way’s Business Volunteer Network and active in the Harlan Hills Condominium Association. He attributes his love of nature to the many summers he spent working at a canoe rental business on scenic Sugar Creek while growing up in central Indiana.
Susan has lived her entire life in Wisconsin, growing up in Sparta. She graduated from Ripon College with a Bachelor’s in physical education and elementary education. Susan taught for 34 years, 30 of them for Oregon Public Schools, all in the primary grades. She attended the first Earth Partnership class at the Arboretum and, with others, established a prairie garden at her school. She brought her students to the Arboretum on field trips and always thought it would be nice to volunteer there after retirement. She has been a receptionist at the Arboretum for more than 12 years. Her interests, besides love of the prairie, include shade gardening, singing and playing the piano, reading, playing bridge, snowshoeing, kayaking, and sitting on her porch watching her amazing birds.
Mary is a lifelong Madison resident. Her history with the Arboretum is also lifelong. In her early years she spent time exploring the areas around what is now Wingra Oak Savanna. She volunteered as a visitor center greeter and in the early 1990s helped to conduct a floral evaluation of Greene Prairie. She recently completed Restoration Team Leader training. She has an Bachelor’s Degree in botany and a Master’s Degree in Water Resources Management with an emphasis on wetland ecology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Mary also has past and current ties to the Key West Botanical Garden. In her professional career, Mary owned and operated Great Big Pictures, Inc., a graphics company. Recently she completed a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in the country of Georgia. Mary has two children and two grandchildren.
Pat retired from UW–Madison in 2009 after serving 16 years as the undergraduate Biological Sciences Advisor. She graduated from St. Olaf College with a BA degree in biology and chemistry and earned advanced degrees in biology from Stanford and Purdue. She and her husband, Chuck, are long-time supporters of the Arboretum and both have completed steward training. They both volunteer at the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery in various programs there. In addition, they have offered lab sessions on vision for middle school field trips. Pat submits Arboretum events monthly to the Isthmus, the Wisconsin State Journal, and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. Her mother was a great influence on her love of outdoors, and Pat carries that forward with her own family as they enjoy biking, hiking, camping, canoeing, and gardening.
Paul grew up in Milwaukee and came to UW–Madison in 1973. He fell in love with the city and the lakes and never left. Originally, he came here to be a microbiologist but gradually drifted to environmental policy and law, which required less math. He is currently a senior partner with the law firm Stafford Rosenbaum LLP where his practice focuses on water law issues including wastewater, drinking water, stormwater, wetlands, and shoreland development. Most of his clients are municipalities, but some are private entities. He has co-taught environmental law at the UW–Madison Law School for over 30 years and has published several books and articles on water law issues. He has two adult sons, one in Los Angeles who is also a lawyer, and one in Pewaukee who has toddler twins and a newborn. Being a grandfather is one of his many pleasures. He also enjoys folk music, reading, hiking, swimming, church activities, and travel.
Leslie has lived in the beautiful UW–Madison Arboretum neighborhood for the past 17 years. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, she earned degrees in Speech Pathology and Deaf Education at the University of Michigan and Smith College. She taught the deaf at schools in St. Louis and northern California and also served as an elementary principal. In 2003 Leslie and husband Bill Hantke, newly retired, moved to Madison. Since then, Leslie has found numerous opportunities to serve and volunteer in her community—with the Literacy Network, Madison Sewing Guild, Schools of Hope, Junior League of Madison, the Madison Civics Club, the Patient and Family Advisory Council at UW Hospital, and as secretary of the Arboretum Neighborhood Association. She served as FOA board secretary for two years and then as FOA staff member assisting the Luncheon-Lectures, trips, and NewsLeaf committees.
Kathy and her husband Bob are long-time Friends and supporters of the Arboretum. Their children and grandchildren were brought up hiking in the Arboretum. Kathy is a native of the suburbs of Washington, D.C., but came to Madison (her mother’s hometown) to attend the UW–Madison School of Nursing, where she earned both her BS and MS degrees in nursing. She spent most of her professional career at the university, retiring in 2007 from her position as executive director of University Health Services and clinical professor with the School of Nursing. Kathy has been active with the Wisconsin and American Nurses Associations, holding appointed and elected offices with both. Since retiring, she has been a volunteer bookstore assistant at the Arboretum Visitor Center, a board member of the West Madison Senior Coalition, and a member of the City of Madison’s Committee on Aging. Kathy and Bob live in Nakoma in the 100-year-old house where her mother grew up. They have two grown daughters, five grandchildren, and a great granddaughter.
Carl Sinderbrand is a senior partner at the Axley law firm in Madison, Wisconsin, where he primarily practices public advocacy environmental law and construction litigation. He also has served on the board and as chair of several non-profits, including Clean Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wetlands Association. A graduate of Oberlin College and UW–Madison Law School, he came to love the Arboretum during his very first days as a student. Over the years, he and his wife Maryann Sumi have treasured the Arboretum for biking, hiking, nature walks, the beauty of spring among the lilacs and other flowering trees, and the joy of winter skiing in Curtis Prairie and the woods. Maryann and Carl have three grown children and two adorable granddaughters.
Laurel is the Chief of Sustainability for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Her work allows her to engage with businesses and municipalities across the State and support them in reaching their sustainability goals. A veteran of the WDNR, her commitment to the environment does not stop after 5 p.m. Laurel is also a Master Naturalist and is thrilled to serve as a board member to support programming and opportunities for residents and visitors to experience all that the Arboretum has to offer. Originally from Milwaukee, Laurel and her partner, Michael Mucha, have made their home on the near east side of Madison where they can often be seen towing a bike trailer containing their very pampered standard poodle, Juneau.
Dr. Tipple attended UW–Madison and then Marquette University School of Dentistry, graduating in 1985. He spent three years on active duty in the United States Air Force Dental Corps and later led the Madison-based Wisconsin Air National Guard Dental Corps prior to retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. Dr. Tipple volunteers for many organizations around the Madison area including Donated Dental, Madison Dental Initiative, and many others. Dr. Tipple is a Madison native and grew up on Jefferson Street. He actively participates in the community and spends his spare time with his wife and three kids. His father was a UW–Madison campus architect and served on the early Arboretum committees.
Judy loves the Arboretum and has been a volunteer here for more than 20 years. She served as a naturalist guide for 5th graders at Mosquito Hill Nature Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. Upon returning to Madison in 1996, she started volunteering as a receptionist at the Arboretum and as an assistant guide for Earth Focus Day Camp. As a retired nurse specializing in home care and hospice, she now volunteers at Agrace Hospice. Judy and her husband Sal enjoy all that the Arboretum has to offer. Besides being on the Friends board, she is on the Friends of Wisdom Prairie at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Her interest in prairie restoration continues there and here at the Arboretum.
Alli is a long-time resident of the Madison area; she grew up in Mount Horeb and attended Edgewood High School. She received her bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison in botany in May of 2016. After college, she taught kids’ gardening education through AmeriCorps in Colorado, then returned to the Madison area to be a farm manager at a local organic vegetable farm. She currently works at a small insurance company, Wisconsin Reinsurance Corporation, but spends all her free time outside and maintains a fairly impressive apartment plant collection. One of her favorite summer activities is running on the trails in the Arboretum during the golden hour.