Executive Board

Executive Board2019-12-05T17:57:01+00:00

Judith Cohen

Chair of the Board
Executive Director, Handful Players

Former President, CoMotion Corporation
San Francisco, California

As a former CPA with an MBA, Judith brings considerable management expertise acquired over her 12 years running Handful Players as a self-sustaining organization and over her 30-year business career. For the 10 years prior to founding Handful Players, she was President of CoMotion Corporation, which she founded to help companies transform their business through communications. Similar to her role with Handful Players, she managed talented consultants to fulfill client objectives by producing creative work on time and within budgets. Before starting CoMotion, she was a Senior Vice President with the public company Xceed Inc.; an account manager with the international human resource consulting firm, Watson Wyatt Worldwide; a tax accountant with the global accounting and management consulting firm, Deloitte & Touche; and a Director of Finance for Jewish Family and Children Services. Ms. Cohen holds an M.B.A. from Golden Gate University and a B.A. in sociology from Mills College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 2016, Judith was honored with a Community Connector Award for providing San Francisco’s Western Addition youth with quality enrichment opportunities by MoMAGIC, a collaborative created by San Francisco’s Public Defender. In 2015, Judith was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service by CBS San Francisco and the Legacy Award for her sustained support of theater by Theater Bay Area Association. Since the start of Handful Players in 2007, Judith is fulfilling a lifelong dream to help children thrive through the transforming power of theater.

Sheryl Evans Davis

Executive Director

San Francisco Human Rights Commission

San Francisco, California

Ms. Davis was appointed by San Francisco’s Mayor, Ed Lee, to be the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in September, 2016. Ms. Davis previously served as a Commissioner between 2011 and 2016, including a tenure as Vice Chair of the Commission.

Prior to joining the HRC, Ms. Davis was Executive Director of Collective Impact, a community-based organization in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco. As Executive Director, she oversaw Mo’MAGIC, Magic Zone, and the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. Mo’MAGIC, a collaborative of non-profit organizations, addresses challenges facing low-income children, youth and families in the areas of economic development, community health, and violence prevention. Magic Zone provides education and wraparound services to K-12 students and transitional aged youth. The Ella Hill Hutch Community Center provides community-building services and workforce development opportunities to neighborhood residents. During her tenure at Collective Impact, Ms. Davis forged private and public sector partnerships to provide critical health and social services to historically under-served communities across San Francisco. Ms. Davis has also served on the San Francisco Police Department’s Fair & Impartial Policing and Community Policing Advisory Committees, Fillmore Community Benefits District, and Redevelopment Agency’s Western Addition Citizen Advisory Committee. Ms. Davis was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service by CBS San Francisco.

Ms. Davis holds a BA degree from San Francisco State University, a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco and is currently pursuing an Ed.D from the University of Southern California.

Peter Fitzsimmons Art Director and Curator

Peter Fitzsimmons

Art Director and Curator, Get Global Art, and Professional Actor

Former Artistic Director, Jazz Heritage Center
San Francisco, California

Mr. Fitzsimmons brings San Francisco community, music, theatre, art, and business expertise to the Board. Mr. Fitzsimmons, has a distinguished career developing art galleries to showcase the work of emerging and established artists. He is the founding artistic director of the web based business “Get Global Art”, specializing in Cuban Art. He also curates rotating art exhibits in San Francisco’s Financial District. With his extensive expertise in visual arts, he opened the Lush Life Gallery as part of the revitalization of San Francisco’s historic Fillmore District. He was also the founding Artistic Director of the Jazz Heritage Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving San Francisco’s jazz legacy and creator of the first permanent jazz exhibition space, highlighting San Francisco’s role as an originator of jazz. He was the Director of the Richard MacDonald Galleries, responsible for Sales and Marketing. Mr. Fitzsimmons has also been a key Bay Area figure in implementing fundraising events and artist receptions. Mr. Fitzsimmons is an accomplished actor appearing in television, movies and theater. In 2014, he performed the leading role in Yasmina Reza’s Play “Life X 3,” at the Phoenix Theater in San Francisco. His role in the short film, “As Ye Sow” won an award at the 2019 Amsterdam Film Festival. In the business world, Mr. Fitzsimmons was VP of Sales for Swing Solutions, a high tech hardware and software company, specializing in “motion capture” for all sports, including golf. Mr. Fitzsimmons is a native San Franciscan, earned his B.A. in Literature and Theater at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and studied playwriting in the MFA program at UCLA. Mr. Fitzsimmons is the Co-founder of the Fellowship Theater Guild and is currently co-directing a new theatrical presentation: “First Steps Towards the Dream: The Letters of Alfred Fisk and Howard Thurman”. Mr. Fitzsimmons is also co-writing a one-man show based of Jeffrey Stewart’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography “The New Negro – The Life of Alain Locke”.

Takija Gardner, MPA Executive Director

Takija Gardner, MPA

District Executive Director
Bayview Hunters Point and Buchanan YMCAs
San Francisco, California

Through Ms. Gardner’s professional and volunteer efforts, she has focused on providing community services and opportunities that develop individual and family competence, belonging, and empowerment. For the past 17 years, Ms. Gardner has worked for the YMCA of San Francisco, a non-profit organization that has been in existence for over 160 years. Ms. Gardner, as the District Vice President of the YMCA of San Francisco, provides senior level operational support to four Y branches and provides strategic advancement of Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Engagement initiatives. Previously, Ms. Gardner served as the Executive Director of the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA, and before that the Associate Executive Director with the Buchanan YMCA, handling a vast array of wellness, educational, recreational, cultural, civic engagement, and leadership development programs, designed to address the needs of an underserved, predominantly African American, community. She has also worked on the YMCA’s Youth/Community Development and International Initiatives. She represented the YMCA of San Francisco and the United States at the 16th World Council of YMCAs in Durban, South Africa and was a recipient of the 2006 New Perspectives/Character Development Award. Ms. Gardner also supports community development through her active volunteer involvement with the Take Wings Foundation, Youth Lead Leadership groups, and her church. Ms. Gardner is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an organization that has been committed to Sisterhood, Scholarship and Public Service since 1913. Ms. Gardner is a graduate of California State University, East Bay (Hayward) with a B.S. in both Criminal Justice Administration and Sociology, and has a Master of Public Administration degree with emphasis in Public Management. Ms. Gardner is also a 2008-09 National Out of School Time Fellow, University of California, Berkeley.

Malcolm Gissen

Secretary and Treasurer of the Board
Managing Director
First Republic Investment Management
San Francisco, California

For over 40 years, Mr. Gissen has founded, helped develop, and served on the boards of nonprofit organizations devoted to youth, criminal justice and prison reform. One of the organizations he founded in Wisconsin and Mississippi, Project Self-Help and Awareness, operated for over 40 years to bring over 3,000 African-American children from Mississippi to Wisconsin to live with families for the summer. He also founded a reading program, Book Buddies, operated by San Francisco’s Temple Emanuel in five San Francisco inner city elementary schools. He founded Touché, an inner city fencing program, operating in three San Francisco middle schools. In 2015, Mr. Gissen and an African American community leader founded the Unity Group, an organization that brings together African American and Jewish clergy to discuss social and racial issues of concern and seeks actions to make changes. In addition to his community outreach experience, Mr. Gissen brings seasoned business and legal qualifications to his Board role. After serving as Legal Counsel to Grosvenor Properties, a San Francisco-based real estate syndicator, he founded a financial advisory and money management firm in San Francisco. In 2015, he merged the firm with First Republic Investment Management (a subsidiary of First Republic Bank). Mr. Gissen holds a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a B.S. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He was awarded the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award by CWRU for his years of significant contributions and service to the Bay Area community.

Amy Mueller Artistic Director

Amy Mueller

Artistic Director, Playwrights Foundation
San Francisco, California

Ms. Mueller is an award-winning theatre director, experienced manager and instructor of children’s theatre, and successful producer of theatre events. For 18 years, she served as the Artistic Director of the Playwrights Foundation, a 40-year old organization dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging American playwrights in the development of new plays. During her tenure, she transformed Playwrights Foundation into a national new play center and has been at the forefront of the effort to support artists of color and women in the theater. Playwrights Foundation has won two Will Glickman awards for best new play to premiere in the Bay Area, and was honored with a Legacy Award from the Theatre Bay Area Association in 2017 for its considerable contribution to theater. She has directed numerous plays including those staged at Berkeley Rep, San Diego Rep, A.C.T. Seattle and Arizona Theatre Companies. She has taught in the University of San Francisco’s Performing Arts and Social Justice Department. She has directed children and youth theatre at the University of San Francisco, Gateway High School, Mills College, Gallup Area Performing Arts Academy, Bennett TheatreLab, ACT Young Conservatory, ISOMATA & Presidio Middle School. In addition to her many years teaching drama in the public school system, Ms. Mueller also brings a vested personal interest and expertise to Handful Players as the parent to two adopted children from SF’s foster care system. As a family of white parents and transracially adopted children, Ms. Mueller brings a wealth of experience regarding the special needs of children who have undergone the kinds of trauma that many of our inner city children face on a daily basis. Ms. Mueller holds a BA degree in theater, awarded cum laude with Special Honors, from Sonoma State University.

Sherri Young Executive Director

Sherri Young

Executive Director
African American Shakespeare Company
San Francisco, California

Ms. Young founded The African-American Shakespeare Company in 1993 and has served as its Executive Director ever since. The mission of the African-American Shakespeare Company is to open the realm of classic theatre to a diverse audience; and provide an opportunity and place for actors of color to hone their skills and talent in mastering some of the world’s greatest classical roles. Ms. Young promotes diversity through the Company’s telling of stories, particularly ones that are part of the classical canon, in a way that they integrate cultural traditions that resonate with communities of color. And through her Company’s community outreach programs, Ms. Young helps youth of color learn that theater provides the opportunity for them to express themselves. Her Company has worked with over 2,368 youth a year, providing the opportunity for students from San Francisco Bay Area public schools to attend professional theater and participate in innovative and educational workshops about the productions. Ms. Young manages the approximately 60 Company members and volunteers for the African-American Shakespeare Company’s programs and continues to build audiences and funding support for the Company. She has personally directed sixteen productions and produced and executed four programs for The African-American Shakespeare Company, including the creation of their signature and highly acclaimed holiday performance of “Cinderella.” Ms. Young was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service by CBS San Francisco and selected as one of six awardees in 2018 to represent the Bay Area at the national awards. An M.F.A. graduate from the American Conservatory Theatre; Ms. Young was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom to serve as a Commissioner for the San Francisco Art Commission.