Founding Advisory Council of The Women’s Institute at Russell Sage College

Mary Altpeter  (RSC ’71)

Mary Altpeter served as an Alumna Trustee from 2015 to 2019, participating on the Russell Sage College Alumnae Association (RSCAA) Board of Directors as well as the Board of Trustees (BOT). During her BOT tenure, she chaired the Marketing, Enrollment and Management Committee, and served on the executive, facilities, investment, trusteeship and academic affairs committees, and on the RSCAA executive and finance committees. 
Dr. Altpeter is trained in social work, gerontology and public administration. Recently retired, she was a Research Scientist at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Altpeter has over 40 years of experience working with national, state and community partners to design, implement and evaluate health promotion programs for middle-aged adults and older adults. She has published extensively in the arthritis and aging fields and has received several awards for her publications. 
Dr. Altpeter has taught for the European Union, the Pan American Health Organization, US AID and the Soros Foundation, and has made more than 150 national and international conference presentations.  She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and received the Southern Gerontological Society’s 2012 Gordon Streib Academic Gerontologist Award and the 2013 North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services Dr. Ewald W. Busse Award for her leadership in improving the quality of health care for older North Carolinians.

Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Alpeter helped to design and test the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease (WWE) program. WWE is a low-impact, six-week program that can be helpful in this time of COVID-19 when people are looking to be physically active in their home environment. WWE has been shown to: reduce the pain and discomfort of arthritis; increase balance, strength and walking pace; build confidence in one’s ability to be physically active; and improve overall health. 

Although WWE was originally created for people with Arthritis and/or joint pain or stiffness, it is also beneficial for those who don’t have arthritis but have been sedentary and want to learn to exercise safely and comfortably. To learn more about WWE and sign up, go to: www.WalkWithArthritis.org. You’ll receive a free Guidebook by mail if you complete a very short survey. Once you’re enrolled, you’ll also receive weekly emails that share tips and techniques to help support your walking and symptom management. (If you don’t want to enroll in the program, you can purchase the Guidebook at: https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Ease-Arthritis-Foundation/dp/0912423056).

In her role as a founding member of the Women’s Institute Advisory Board, she writes, “I believe that establishing a Women’s Institute at Russell Sage will continue the historical commitment to the feminist orientation of the women’s college while creating timely opportunities to explore women’s roles and social inclusiveness within contemporary contexts, both domestically and abroad. I hope to assist the Institute in becoming a widely recognized center of scholarship and locus of public outreach and programming available globally.” 

​Rajani Bhatia

Rajani Bhatia is Associate Professor of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University at Albany. Bhatia’s research focuses on reproductive technologies, health, bioethics and biomedicine. Through engagement as a scholar-activist within international and national women’s health and reproductive justice movements, Dr. Bhatia contributed to feminist analysis of global population control, right-wing environmentalism, coercive practices and unethical testing related to contraceptive and sterilization technologies both inside and outside the U.S.  Bhatia is author of Gender before Birth: Sex Selection in a Transnational Context (University of Washington Press, 2018).

Donna Esteves (Honorary Member) (RSC ’70)

Donna earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Russell Sage College in 1970. A master’s degree in Education at Tulane University in 1974, and went on to begin a diverse and successful career. 

Donna taught grade school in the Louisiana bayou and high school and junior college in the New Orleans suburbs. She became one of the top 20 salespeople with a national cosmetics company.  Donna then founded Free Lighting Corp., and under her leadership, it become the largest energy conservation contractor of its kind in the U.S.

After selling Free Lighting Corp. in 2001, she began to work on behalf of dozens of organizations and causes as a volunteer and philanthropist. The Newcomb Women’s Institute at Tulane University, arts and cultural institutions in New York City, and international projects promoting education and health care for women are all beneficiaries of Donna’s involvement. 

The greatest beneficiary of Donna’s generosity, by far, has been The Sage Colleges.

As a member of The Sage Colleges Board of Trustees from 2015 until 2017, and chair between 2008 and 2014, she guided Sage through a presidential transition and strategic initiatives in academics, athletics, marketing and fundraising. 

Donna chaired the $60 million Centennial Campaign for Sage, positioning the campaign to become the most successful fundraising effort in Sage’s history. Her over $10 million leadership gift to the campaign –– the largest gift to Sage, ever –– has provided ongoing support for the School of Education, facilities renovations and the endowment. 

Her gifts have funded science resources on Sage’s Troy and Albany campuses; business incubator space on the Russell Sage College campus in Troy; and Celebration, a beloved sculpture that captures the spirit of Russell Sage College students, and is installed at the Shea Learning Center in Troy. She endowed the Edith E. Robinson Memorial Scholarship Fund for Education students in memory of her mother, and made significant contributions to the English, Visual Arts, Creative & Performing Arts and Management programs as well as to the Department of Athletics.

Most recently, Donna and her husband, Rich, have committed funds to support an Assistant Director of Enrollment for Veteran Recruitment and a strong veteran student organization, initiatives that will positively affect enrollment and campus life at Sage. 

The Esteves School of Education and Esteves Science Hall on the Albany campus are named in her honor. In 2015, the Russell Sage College Alumnae Association bestowed its highest honor, the Doris L. Crockett Medal, on Donna, in recognition of her career achievement and service to the college. In 2016, The Sage Colleges awarded her an honorary doctorate in Public Service in recognition of her achievements as an educator, entrepreneur and philanthropist. 

Donna has been an inspiration to the entire Sage community. She will bring her deep love for Sage, a wealth of institutional knowledge about the college, and a passion to empower women to her honorary advisory capacity on the board.

Nicolé Grottoli (RSC ’92, SGS ’96)

A member of the RSC class of 1992 (Golden Horseshoe), Nicolé earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology. She started her professional career at Albany Medical College as a research technician, supervising day to day operations in the lab. She later earned her Master’s in Health Education (SGS ’96) and her teaching certificate, working in public education for almost 10 years. She then ventured into a new career working for the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). She started out in a customer support role while learning the operational and market-related aspects of the energy industry. Once there was an opportunity to become a technical training instructor with the organization she took it. In her most recent role, she oversees leadership programming and other professional development initiatives. She also proudly serves on the Women in NYISO – WIN Board of Directors. Her career spans more than 25 years, most of which has been spent developing and implementing learning programs. She believes many of her Sage experiences, including involvement in Student Government, Rally Day, and The Sagettes, have all contributed to her success.

Laurie A. Halloran (RSC ’82)

Laurie Halloran founded Halloran Consulting Group in 1998.  Her time as a pediatric ICU nurse inspired her to start a company that would help move new therapies through FDA processes into the hands of patients desperately in need. By providing a strategic development team, innovative start-up companies could have access to world-class expertise at a fraction of the cost.  Since its humble beginnings, Halloran has grown into a leading consultancy of like-minded experts who are dedicated to improving human health by making life science companies better at what they do. 

As a passionate advocate for workforce development and women in leadership, Laurie started early in her career to promote these values as she developed worldwide training capabilities within Clinical Operations at PAREXEL International Corporation during the 10 years of the company’s rapid growth into a leading international Contract Research Organization. Her efforts have continued for 25 years, partnering with local and global trade associations and educational institutions to create entry points into the life science community in Massachusetts.
In 2018, Laurie was named Women’s Business Enterprise Star by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and won a 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Award from Enterprising Women Magazine.  Halloran Consulting Group was also named an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for the past five years in a row.  In 2015, Laurie was honored by the Boston Business Journal as a Woman of Influence, in 2010 was selected as one of the 100 Most Inspiring People in Life Science by PharmaVoice, and in 2009, she was awarded Clinical Researcher of the Year by the New England Chapter of the Associate of Clinical Research Professionals.
Laurie lectures at Boston University Medical School and the Tufts Center for Drug Development Post-Graduate program. She previously taught at George Washington University and Harvard University.  Laurie earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Russell Sage College and a Master of Science in Management from Lesley University.  She is also a Prosci Certified Change Practitioner.

Laurie believes a Women’s Institute at Sage has a unique opportunity to teach, mentor, and guide in a critical space right now, and to show young women who seek opportunities to lead that they can do that. A recent McKinsey article that says women are missing the first rung on the leadership ladder is missing a big point: It’s not a ladder, which implies only one way up! It’s a path, with many forks in the road, and opportunities to make decisions based on where you want to go in your life! 
She will bring to the Women’s Institute her insights from the path she navigated from a staff nurse to a CEO to the creator of a space to build a business that no one ever thought of. She’ll also bring her passion for talent development at every stage in a career and for challenging traditional thinking. 
Laurie told the Institute that while she worked as a nurse for five years, she decided to devote her skills and energy to starting her own company with a focus on the life sciences (pharma, biotech, medical device and diagnostics).  Her company helps startups with strategic planning when they are in the discovery space, noting that a major milestone for these small companies is entry into clinical trials. They need help raising enough money, developing a clear plan, and prioritizing the specific disease(s) they believe their product has the best chance of affecting. They then use science and data to build the case for the FDA to “allow” them to proceed. 

Laurie quickly saw the potential impact of this work – to give every company the chance to bring medicines to market to change the lives of patients. She saw this as a powerful way to make a difference on a much larger scale and worked on some of the earliest HIV drugs.  This, she said, gave her a purpose and vision she had not had before.  Laurie said “A lot of our work is regulatory, and we have been absolutely slammed by companies seeking to get emergency clearance from FDA to clear treatments/vaccines/diagnostics to go straight to patients” affected by the coronavirus. Many companies are making decisions in the short term to postpone new clinical programs, or to evaluate the ethical implications of changing existing clinical trials and finding “methods to both get the subjects their critical safety assessments (labs, other diagnostic tests) and to have assessment of progress and/or side effects.” Laurie noted that they were just asked to support a Gates Foundation initiative and that her team is hosting weekly town halls to share insights, tools and workarounds to help 150+ companies continue business.

Kathleen M. Jimino

Kathleen Jimino served in local and state government for her entire career culminating in a sixteen-year tenure as Rensselaer County Executive.  Kathy’s administration of county government was known for its consistent drive to assure that County residents benefit from the streamlining of services while at the same time emphasizing that departments adhere to her strict budgetary standards.  Kathy’s tenure was also noted for aggressively advocating for new businesses in the County, and encouraging expansion for the ones who already called the County their home, resulting in thousands of new jobs.  Prior to serving as County Executive, Kathy worked for the New York State Senate Finance Committee, the City of Troy and the Rensselaer County information technology department.

Kathy grew up in Troy and was educated at Catholic Central High School.  She has a Bachelor’s degree from Siena College and a Master’s degree from SUNY Empire State College.  She retired from public service in 2017 and currently serves on the boards of St. Peter’s Health Partners, the Commission on Economic Opportunity, the Arc of Rensselaer County and WMHT.  She lives in Sand Lake with her husband Vince.  They have two children and two grandchildren.

What she hopes to bring to the Board of the Women’s Institute is first and foremost enthusiasm about the mission of the Institute.  “Our region has been blessed with many great women leaders but I know there are more out there who perhaps have not had to opportunity to demonstrate their greatness.”   Kathy thinks it is also important to encourage young women to expect we will need them to lead!  She hopes to provide knowledge from her own career and provide connections to others whose leadership experience can educate and inspire students and community members alike.
She talked about her efforts during this pandemic from the perspective of her numerous board memberships.  Her main priority in that capacity is to provide the assistance and direction needed to ensure that the amazing people who lead these organizations and their capable staff can continue to get the job done during these trying times.

Kathy noted for instance, the Arc of Rensselaer County, which provides residential and community based services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families.  At this time, they are challenged with keeping the people they serve safe and healthy while also finding ways to engage them while they are apart from family and community ties.  

Kathy also sits on the Board of Directors of CEO in Rensselaer County.  CEO provides Head Start and Early Head Start programming and a host of other community-based services to low-income people in Rensselaer County.  And this year Kathy is serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for WMHT.  While all their employees are working remotely, they continue to deliver outstanding content on television, radio and online.  (Like many others, Kathy has been bingeing on the Great British Bake Off while at home!) WMHT has added new content to support children who are home from school, and to help their parents as they struggle to balance work responsibilities, parenting and now teaching!  The “Home Classroom” programming, created in conjunction with the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), provides learning materials for grades 4-12 and is available online and on WMHT World Channel on television. 

Lastly, Kathy is a member of the Board of St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP) the largest health system in the Capital Region.  “What can I say about the amazing people who are serving on the frontlines of this pandemic and providing such outstanding and compassionate care!  I keep them in my prayers daily that they will be able to continue to deliver life-saving care to so many in our communities, and beyond, while also staying safe from this virus themselves.”

She continued, “While I have seen an awful lot of people of who are struggling at this time, I have also seen a tremendous number of people helping in too many ways to list here.  I am so grateful to all who have set aside their own concerns and sometimes fears to be there for others.  It is their efforts that will ensure that once this is over we will recover and perhaps be an even better, more generous, more grateful community.”


Dr. Heidi Knoblauch

Dr. Heidi Knoblauch earned her doctorate in History of Science and Medicine from Yale University in 2015. Her dissertation was on the history of patient photographs in the United States and the impact photography had on patient privacy. She owns a restaurant in Downtown Troy – Plumb Oyster Bar – and is the founder of Receipt HQ, Inc. She is also the chairperson of the Troy Industrial Development Agency and the Local Development Corporation. Heidi has also been recently appointed as Pioneer Bank’s Venture and Growth Relationship Manager.

Before starting her two companies, she worked on a Ford Foundation project called the [email protected] Project at the CUNY Graduate School where she worked with activists, the media, and academics teaching strategic digital communications strategies. After working on the [email protected] Project she was hired as the Digital Projects Coordinator and led a Mellon Foundation initiative at Bard College. She sits on the board of the Alliance for the Creative Economy and the Emma Willard Alumnae Association Council.

“As an Emma Willard alum and female business owner, I’m excited to join the board of the Women’s Institute at Russell Sage. The Women’s Institute is needed now more than ever and I am excited to help form a place for people to gather and create meaningful connections.” 

On Wednesday, April 1, in her role as Venture and Growth Relationship Manager at Pioneer Bank, Heidi teamed up with Urban Co-Works to provide clarifying information on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed to assist with the economic downturn. This act is meant to aid Americans, small businesses and major industries during these trying times.

Pam Warren
Pam Warren has spent over twenty years of her career in financial services supporting both institutional sales and trading businesses and private client wealth management. She is Managing Director of Operations Treasury & Security Services at JPMorgan Chase. She worked previously at Citi-Smith Barney, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America. Pam has a B.S. from The College of St. Rose and is a graduate of the Executive Development Program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Before making the transition to financial services, Pam was a Director of New Business Development and Implementation for Bell Atlantic/NYNEX, where she was responsible for the startup and launch of nontraditional telephony businesses, such as Cable TV, Long Distance and Internet.
Pam has also served on the Board of Directors for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation and on the Business Advisory Board for the College of Saint Rose. Pam received her BS in Special Education from the College of Saint Rose and Executive Professional Development at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I am so excited to serve on the Women’s Institute Advisory Board and have the opportunity to inspire and mentor women to seek their highest level of potential and help them reach their personal and professional goals.  Sharing lessons learned, providing opportunities for growth, collaboration, leadership development and network building are all areas that I hope to bring to the Women’s Institute. This is a wonderful opportunity to help empower women to reach their full potential and influence.”

Susan Pagano Wright (RSC ’82)
Susan’s career in real estate finance, development, marketing and sales commenced more than 30 years ago. She has held various Executive Management positions, including overseeing bulk/end loan financing and directing multiple teams to market and sell commercial as well as new and renovated large-scale residential condominium developments. Throughout this process, she has collaborated with attorneys and renowned architects, developers and designers to identify floor plans, assess pricing for new and converted projects and evaluate target markets. Her vision, efficient budgeting, and keen direction of marketing plans aided in achieving maximum sellout results for her clients.

In 2006, Ms. Wright brought her cumulative years of experience to Marlboro Group International (MGI) where she has combined her knowledge of business, building, marketing, finance and technology with all facets of value-based, solution-focused completion of projects. Her leadership ability and strategic business planning and market development proficiency has led her to taking the helm as MGI’s President in 2009.

Susan holds a BS degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Spanish from Russell Sage College, and has taken additional MBA and Real Estate courses at Union College and New York University. She supports a number of philanthropic organizations, and has completed her LEED credentials. Ms. Wright has also obtained the distinguished Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification (WBENC) for MGI. This certification affirms the business is woman-owned, operated and controlled. In 2017, Susan received the Women of Influence award from the Russell Sage Alumnae Association.

Susan resides in New York City with her husband, Richard, and has five children and two grandchildren.