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Academic Angels News


Meet Some of Our Newest Angels 2015

New Academic Angels L to R: Erica Espinola, Heidi L. Homme and Heather Horning

Erica Espinola
Erica has more than 12 years experience in the financial services industry. She joined Merrill Lynch in 2006 after working in the accounting field at Ernst & Young, LLP as an auditor and Hilton Hotels Corporation as an accountant. Erica graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Business Administration - Accountancy degree.
Erica has served on the Academic Angels Advisory Committee for the past two years. 
Heidi L. Homme
Heidi has been a desert resident since 1989. She worked 17 years for a real estate team in La Quinta and has been a licensed real estate agent since 1999. Heidi recently created her own company specializing in serving the unique needs of Buyers & Sellers of probate and estate properties. Her many hats include serving as REALTOR salesperson and president of KMKC Properties Inc.
Heidi joined the Academic Angels because she believed in the importance of a higher education and had taken classes at COD in the past. My oldest daughter enrolled in COD after graduating from Cathedral City High School and moved on to the California State University San Bernardino Campus in Palm Desert.She is currently a teacher at Sunny Sands Elementary in Cathedral City.
Heather Horning
Heather Horning is a Banking Officer of FirstBank’s California Market – comprised of five branches within the Coachella Valley. Heather’s career with FirstBank began in 2012. Her primary responsibilities include oversight of the La Quinta branch, and generating consumer and commercial accounts and loans. She is a local to the area and started her education at College of the Desert in Palm Desert where she obtained an associate’s degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in business and technology. She then went on to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University.
In addition to being involved with the Academic Angels, Heather has also served the Coachella Valley community extensively via board positions and other volunteer involvement.She has served as Treasurer for the Palm Springs Desert Communities Junior League that frequently partners with other nonprofit organizations for volunteer opportunities and she sits on the Housing Commission for the City of Palm Desert.

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Welcome Back Reception - Fall 2014

From left, Academic Angels Membership Chair Cynthia Cottrell with new members Mary Jeanne
Chapman and Cathy Smith, long-time COD supporter Karen Miles, and guest Sunny Lee.

From left: COD Foundation Executive Director Jim Hummer, Academic Angels President Jan Harnik, College of the Desert President Joel L. Kinnamon, Ed.D., COD Foundation Board President Donna Jean Darby and Academic Angels Welcome Back Reception hosts JoAnn and Mark Nickerson.

The lovely hilltop home of JoAnn and Mark
Nickerson in Ironwood Country Club was filled with enthusiasm and excitement as Jan Harnik, Academic Angels President, welcomed members back to the new academic year and introduced guests to the work of COD Foundation. 
The Academic Angels serve as ambassadors for the Foundation and College while helping support student success through fundraising events and activities.
College of the Desert President, Joel L. Kinnamon, Ed.D., spoke about the impact of higher education on our community.
Academic Angels past president, Mary E. Latta, announced the upcoming Citizens of Distinction event set for December 3rd, honoring COD supporters Penny Mason, Betty Francis, Trisha Gehrlein and Dan Martinez.
Two COD alumni were on hand to share their personal stories of how their lives were changed by College of the Desert. Alumnus and caterer, Scott Robertson shared his story. His daughter is a current student and his father is a COD alumnus as well. Also sharing her story was alumna and First Bank officer, Heather Enos Horning, who told the audience how important COD was in helping her find a direction which led to a career in the banking industry.

Academic Angels 2014 Spring Luncheon

Photo from luncheon includes: Front Row: Past President Mary E. Latta; New President Jan Harnik Back Row: Charlene Hengesh, Susan Linsk, Connie Golds, Mary Ellen Blanton
Photo: Front Row: Past President Mary E. Latta; New President Jan Harnik
Back Row: Charlene Hengesh, Susan Linsk, Connie Golds, Mary Ellen Blanton
Over 85 members and guests attended the College of the Desert Foundation Academic Angels Spring Luncheon at the Desert Horizons Country Club.
Highlights of the event were:
  • President Mary E. Latta revealed that the Black Tie Chili Cook-Off III had netted $90,000, the most ever for this fundraiser.
  • Treasurer Sally Simonds announced that the Academic Angels will fund a $50,000 naming opportunity at the new COD Visual Arts Center. The Angels have also allotted $25,000 to a student scholarship fund to be awarded in the fall semester.
  • Peter Sturgeon, COD Foundation Development Director, said that an anonymous Academic Angel has offered to match donations for student scholarships up to $5,000.
  • Luncheon co-chair Susan Linsk explained a partnership between College of the Desert, the Academic Angels and Desert Best Friends Closet meant to educate COD students to dress properly for job interviews and the professional workplace. Connie Golds, President and Co-Founder of DBFC, showcased five COD students who modeled complete outfits which had been chosen for them by DBFC.
  • The 2014-2015 Academic Angels slate of officers was elected and installed. List below.
  • New President Jan Harnik encouraged everyone to broadcast the praises of College of the Desert and to spread the word of the relevance of the school to our communtiy and the future of the Coachella Valley.
Along with Susan Linsk, Charlene Hengesh and Mary Ellen Blanton were co-chairs of the event.

New officers for 2014-15 are as follows:

  • President  -  Jan Harnik

  • 1st VP  -  Eileen Hall
2nd VP Signature Event  -  Mary E. Latta

  • 3rd VP Membership  -  Cynthia Cottrell and Roberta Duke

  • Treasurer   -   Sally Simonds

  • Recording Secretary  -  Diane Denkler
Corresponding Secretary  -  Mary Ellen Blanton

  • Foundation Liaison  -  Donna Jean Darby


Coeta Barker Memorial Reception

From left: Carol Ammon and Nancy Harris

Members of the College of the Desert Foundation Academic Angels, their guests and COD administrators gathered at Carol Ammon's spectacular BIGHORN Country Club home for the annual Coeta Barker Memorial Reception.
Pictured left: (From left) Carol Ammon and Nancy Harris.  Below: A Jazz Trio and Vocalist  from College of the Desert Music Department
This season ending event, underwritten by The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, showcased students from the COD Music Department playing as a jazz trio and vocalist providing background music for the attendees. Each musician was introduced by past president Mary E. Latta, and it was revealed that two had received acceptance to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Jazz Trio and Vocalist  from College of the Desert Music Department

Nancy Harris, administrator of the Barker Foundation, said that Coeta was a founding member of the Foundation and had a sincere passion for supporting COD.  
"She would be so happy that the Academic Angels are continuing her enthusiasm for raising funds and friends for COD," Nancy said.
Attendees included Academic Angels Women of Distinction Jeane Hilb and Birgit Moller, COD President Joel Kinnamon, Ed.D., COD Executive Vice-President Anna Davies, Foundation Executive Director Jim Hummer, Foundation Board President Donna Jean Darby and Academic Angels President Jan Harnik.