Women We Admire
Nine women who demonstrate grace, generosity of spirit and remarkable achievement.
Principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
Her students love her. They really, really love her. That’s because Karen Lockard, principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and a Montgomery County educator for more than 30 years, teaches them something not offered in the course selection guide: how to treat others with respect, how to see the best in people, how to demonstrate grace under the most extreme circumstances.
“You always hear people say, ‘It’s all about the kids,’ ” says Matt Gandal, president of the B-CC Educational Foundation. “But for her, that’s reality. You can see in her actions and hear in her voice the respect and love she has for them.”
Students routinely hug her, seek her advice and tell her, sincerely, that they love her.
“You could tell she truly loved every one of her students, and we truly loved her back,” says Julius Bodie of Chevy Chase, a 2010 B-CC graduate. “Seeing her waiting to greet you in the hallway with a big smile on her face just made you feel happy to come to school.”
Lockard, 55, who lives in Bethesda with her husband, David, says she approaches students “the way I would want someone to treat my biological children.”
Lockard’s daughter, Kate, graduated from B-CC in 2001; her son, Adam, in 2006. Last January, Adam died in an apartment fire near Western State College of Colorado, where he was going to school. Some 1,000 parents, students and friends showed up for a memorial service at the high school. And on Lockard’s first day back in the office, students wore bright yellow shirts to pay homage to the young man she called her “sunshine.”
On her darkest days, Lockard says, the “energy and joy these young people exude lifts my spirit.”—Amy Reinink
Anamario Hernandez’s paintings of lace and tablecloths are so realistic that it’s hard to resist reaching out to feel the fabric. That realism, combined with a certain mystical quality, has won her admirers around the world. In 2007, she received the 5th Premio Lorenzo Il Magnifico award in painting at the Florence Biennale—an international, invitation-only exhibition featuring work by more than 850 artists.
(Did we mention that she’s completely self-taught?)
Hernandez maintains a surprisingly low profile in Bethesda, where she now lives and paints, despite having grown up in the spotlight of one of Mexico’s most prominent families. Her great-grandfather, Plutarco Elias Calles, was president of Mexico; her great-uncles fought alongside Pancho Villa; her great-aunt founded the Ballet Folklórico de México; and her father is an internationally known architect.
Hernandez continued her family’s artistic tendencies by falling in love with painting. “I need it. It is like breathing, so it is a part of me, the way I express myself,” says the dark-haired 60-year-old, whose Spanish accent remains strong even after 25 years in the Washington area.
Hernandez’s Mexican heritage permeates her work, along with those mystical leanings. Many paintings include a single thistle resting on a table, a box, or reflected in a mirror. “For me, the abrojo [thistle] symbolizes love, fertile and powerful. But if you hold it too tight, it will hurt,” she says.
“Anamario Hernandez has accomplished a balance and harmony between her Mexican heritage and her American life in her still-life paintings and their subject matter,” says Vivienne Lassman, who curated the artist’s 2009 exhibition at the Mexican Cultural Institute in the District.
Hernandez, whose paintings range in price from $2,000 to $17,000, maintains a studio behind her Bethesda house where art collectors and art lovers can view her work. —Louisa Jaggar
Sheryl Brissett Chapman
Executive director of the National Center for Children and Families
Sheryl Brissett Chapman heads the National Center for Children and Families, overseeing an average annual operating budget of nearly $18 million and a staff of 200.
Still, when a child comes to her office with a problem, Brissett Chapman, 60, drops everything to help.
“She’s a leading child welfare expert who understands the research and academics,” says Anniglo Boone, executive director of the Consortium for Child Welfare in Washington, D.C. “But she’s also accessible to kids and families in a way that’s really extraordinary.”
When Brissett Chapman came in 1991 to Bethesda-based NCCF, then called the Baptist Home for Children, “I promised the board I wouldn’t change much.”
Instead, she “changed everything.” She turned a group home serving fewer than 100 children annually into a comprehensive center with wide-ranging programs, including housing, foster care and parenting education. Today, the organization serves roughly 3,000 children and families annually.
In her quest to help kids, she’s “always looking to be on the cutting-edge of best practices, and to push everyone around her to be better, too,” Boone says. “She’s not someone who’s OK with the status quo.”
Brissett Chapman lives in Silver Spring with her husband, Mamadou Seck, and has three adopted and two biological kids. She says she’s looking ahead to retirement in the next few years, after overseeing the construction of a multimillion-dollar recreation center, which will include a gymnasium and a chapel, and art, dance and photography studios.
Even with that agenda, she stops everything if a child knocks on her door. “When a kid shows up at her door unannounced, we may see it as an interruption,” says Steffi Benjamin, NCCF’s director of public policy and advocacy. “She sees it as a connection.”—Amy Reinink
President of Women’s Microfinance Initiative
She didn’t have a background in economic development and knew little about women in Africa. But Bethesda’s Robyn Nietert did have a desire to help others and a can-do attitude. That spurred the Carderock resident to found the Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) with her neighbor, Betsy Gordon. In the past two years, WMI has helped 1,400 Ugandan and Kenyan women start or expand small businesses.
Nietert is a classic example of the axiom that dedicated individuals can effect major change.
In late 2006, she had retired from a successful career as a telecommunications attorney and was reading Banker to the Poor, Muhammad Yunus’ 2003 account of starting a micro-lending program in Bangladesh. Coincidentally, a member of her church told her women in Uganda needed loans to start businesses. “You know what,” Nietert said, “we can do that.”
In January 2008, Nietert, Gordon and a small board of directors formed WMI, using $3,000 of their own money for loans. Today, WMI has a revolving loan fund of $200,000, thanks to donations. Interest on repaid loans and a 100 percent repayment rate fund salaries for the women who run the program in Africa—all WMI “graduates”—and the construction of facilities there.
Nietert, 57, has long believed in her ability to make big ideas happen. She put herself through George Washington University Law School, eventually becoming a partner in the firm that became Brown, Nietert & Kaufman, where she once worked as a paralegal.
“A lot of people talk the talk,” says David Kaufman, Nietert’s former law partner. “Robyn follows through.”
Nietert has traveled to Africa multiple times, including with her husband, Malcolm Stevenson, and two daughters, and she stays in contact with the women she helps.
“I’m not an economist or a Ph.D.,” Nietert says. But “it’s important to believe in your ability to analyze a problem and develop solutions to it.” — Amy Reinink
President of the Montgomery County Bar Association
When Trish Weaver was elected president of the Montgomery County Bar Association last May, she became only the sixth woman to hold the position in the organization’s more than 100-year history. But that’s only part of what makes the 47-year-old Bethesda resident exceptional.
Her experience as a principal and a litigation attorney with the Bethesda law firm of Paley Rothman stretches from contract work to appeals, and has included such cases as a triple-homicide in which she helped secure $1.5 million for a victim’s family.
“There’s nobody I’ve worked with who’s better able to pick apart and analyze issues,” Paley Rothman Principal Glenn Cooper says. “There aren’t many people I would feel comfortable sending in to argue an appeal for me on a big case. With her, I would have no reluctance.”
Weaver’s brilliant law career almost didn’t happen. It wasn’t until her relationship with her college sweetheart ended, leaving her a single mom, that Weaver considered the law. With a psychology degree and a 2-year-old son, she moved in with her parents and started law school at the University of Maryland, graduating with honors in 1991.
Weaver plans to tackle a variety of issues during her presidential year, including raising awareness about human trafficking and developing laws to protect its victims.
Mostly, though, she would like to help improve how lawyers are perceived.
“It sounds sappy, but the people in the Montgomery County Bar really are some of the finest people I know,” says Weaver, who is engaged to patent attorney Mike Dimino of Novak, Druce + Quigg in Washington, D.C. “They are good parents, they are Little League coaches, they are volunteers at soup kitchens—and I would really like to bring more public attention to that.” —Amy Reinink