You are here

All on Board!

June 14, 2022

Margie Chen, Sashi Raghupathy, Olivia Lee, Melinda Bitners, Cecilia Paul, Scott VanGerpen

Since its inception back in 1980, Meany Center has relied on its superlative advisory board to help guide and support our educational and artistic programming. This year, we’re thrilled to welcome six new members who come to us from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a wealth of skills and experience. No doubt you’ll run into them next season in the donor lounge or in the lobby. So, here’s the 411 on our newest members:

Melinda Bitners was born in Seattle. Melinda went to Nathan Hale High School and spent her free time with friends on “the Ave.” Together they attended concerts of all genres, from punk rock to opera. Many of her friends formed bands and were involved in Seattle’s music scene, some even gaining success and popularity.  In the early '90s, Melinda met her husband, Sven, and they hit it off right away, bonding over their love of good music, good food and winter sports. They are both big supporters of Meany Center — one of Melinda’s favorite shows was Mummenschanz, and one of her favorite pianists was Fazil Say. She recalls that the Lang Lang piano concert with his father as a guest performer was also amazing. As a board member, she hopes to help promote Meany performances to younger generations.

Margie Chen was born in Taiwan and raised in the United States — she considers herself fortunate to experience both eastern and western cultures growing up. She finds it particularly rewarding to combine her interest in performing arts and sharing cultural diversity. As a board member of the Taiwanese American Heritage Foundation (where she is their current chair), she has had the opportunity to sponsor performing artists from Taiwan across a range of genres including singers, folk dancers, instrumentalists, acrobats and even chefs who share their artistry and cultural heritage with the local community. A supporter of Meany for several years, she looks forward to working with the Meany Advisory Board to continue fostering diversity and cultural exchange across multiple communities.

Olivia Lee relocated to Seattle from her native Texas in 2013. She is currently Director of Scientific Communications and Education at bluebird bio, a biotechnology company pioneering gene therapies for rare, life-threatening diseases.  She is also passionate about the arts and is a 3-year patron of the Piano Series at the Meany Center. An avid pianist herself, she has been selected to participate in the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and Festival, scheduled for October 2022. She looks forward to making her way back to Texas for the event and meeting more fellow pianists.

Cecilia Paul has held many positions at the University of Washington — the last of which was as Communications Director for the College of Forest Resources. Early in her career, she worked at the Law School, where two life changing events happened: she met her husband Harry, and they were both introduced to the Discover Dance Series through a colleague who encouraged them to get staff subsidized subscriptions. They have been attending together ever since — 40 years and not missing a season! Cecilia says that if she could start over, she’d love to be a dancer. Her love for dance started with Discover Dance, and that strong love is what inspired Cecilia and Harry to fund the Live Music for Dance Endowment at Meany. Cecilia feels strongly that the performing arts are an essential catalyst in uniting our increasingly divided society — she would love to help the board connect with new and diverse audiences.

Sashi Raghupathy combines both the arts and the sciences in her life: an electrical engineer and computer scientist by training, she is also an aspiring artist, especially in areas of visual arts and horticulture. She has been studying pottery making for the past three years and is active within the horticultural community of the Pacific Northwest. Sashi and her husband are also regular attendees and patrons of the Crossroads series at Meany, going back more than 20 years.

Scott VanGerpen was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but did most of his growing up in Helena, Montana. After writing, directing, producing and starring in his own one-man show in his bedroom when he was eight, Scott realized he did not live in the cultural hot-bed that he deserved. Fortunately, patience and time allowed Scott to head “back east” to attend Boston University where he discovered the half-price theater ticket booth and hasn’t looked back since. Even though Scott did not pursue a career in the arts, his engagement with them has not waned. Scott has been attending performances at Meany for at least 30 years; his favorite (so far) was by Senegalese super-star Youssou N’Dour, who had a packed theater of normally reserved Seattleites on their feet dancing in the aisles. For Scott, the arts have always been about connecting with a community on and off the stage, about possibilities, points of view, dialogue and intellectual and emotional engagement.