Board Officers, Directors and Staff

Board of Directors & Affiliations – 2019

Dr. David Niebuhr
Jacob’s Ladder, Inc., Executive Director

Mrs. Molly Bittner
Community Foundation of Richmond, Senior VP Philanthropic Services

Mr. Garry Clay
Davenport & Company LLC

Mrs. Hoppie Cockrell
Rappahannock General Hospital

Mrs. Laura Domalik
VCU, Richmond Teacher in Residence Curriculum Coordinator

Mr. Aubrey Hall
Jacob’s Ladder, Inc., Founder & Executive Director Emeritus

Mrs. Bruce Hemp (Chair)
Fishersville Adult Learning Center Instructor

Mr. Edward Hipp, III (Treasurer)
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Mrs. Beth Monroe
Community Volunteer

Mr. Walter Ryland
Ryland Law, Retired

Mr. Charles Silver, II
Medline Industries, Retired

Dr. Kathy Tucker
Staunton Public Schools Administrator, Retired

Mr. Charlie Vaughters
Union Bank & Trust, Director-Corporate Banking

Biographies of Officers and Staff

David H. Niebuhr – Executive Director

Dr. Niebuhr is an expert in strategic planning, project management, and fund development. He earned his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at the College of William & Mary and an M.B.A. in non-profit leadership. He has managed more than $9.0M in funded education projects and has a broad background as a leader in the non-profit and education communities. With both a doctorate in science research and an MBA, he prefers to gather and analyze relevant data and then apply the results to insure organizational success.

W. Aubrey Hall – Founder and Executive Director Emeritus

Aubrey graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA degree in Education and began his career as a music coordinator and athletic coach in the Culpeper School system, later working as the a biology teacher and Athletic Director at Christchurch School in Christchurch, VA. After leaving Christchurch, he worked for seven years with Delmarva Properties as the Director of Marketing and Sales. In the late 1980’s, Aubrey went on a summer mission trip to the Eastern Shore. It was there – working with the children of migrant farm workers – that he recognized that bright, at-risk students were often overlooked by traditional gifted programs. In 1991, he started Jacob’s Ladder to provide gifted, at-risk students the opportunity to reach their full potential, and provide these students the support they would need year-round to excel.

Bruce Hemp – Board Chair

Bruce Hemp currently teaches adults at the Adult Learning Center in Fishersville, VA.  She retired from teaching mathematics after thirty-eight years in the classroom.  Hemp helped develop the curriculum for Algebra Functions and Data Analysis for Augusta County Schools and continues to mentor teachers.  She taught middle school, high school and college mathematics classes and designed and implemented the math program at Valley Vocational Technical Center (VVTC) for students who had not succeeded in the normal classroom.  As a National Teacher Training Institute Master teacher and NASA Educator Ambassador, she presented workshops at local, state, and national mathematics and science conferences.

Bruce holds a BA in Mathematics and Speech Communication from Westhampton College, University of Richmond, and a MEd degree in Mathematics from the University of Virginia. She has been a participant in the NASA Educational Workshop for Mathematics, Science and Technology Teachers (NEWMAST) and has been a recipient of several grants allowing her greater access to technology in the classroom.  

One of her most satisfying volunteer activities is hosting and organizing reunions for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan.  After supporting the 2nd MEB during their deployment in 2009-2010, she continued to involve her students at Ft Defiance High School in support of the Marines stationed in Now Zad, Afghanistan through 2012.  

Bruce has been on the board of directors of Jacob’s Ladder since 1995.

Joanne Ruffa – Middle School Advocacy and Summer Camp Director

Joanne grew up in Petersburg,Virginia, and after high school attended Madison College ( now JMU), then Virginia Commonwealth University for a graduate degree in counselor education. She worked for 30 years in Essex County as an elementary teacher, then a Visiting teacher (school social worker), a middle school counselor, and high school tennis coach. Joanne retired from public education and began working with Jacob’s Ladder. She has been with the program for 15 years, first as the counselor-in-residence and serving since 2013 as Summer Camp Director.

When not working with JL, Joanne enjoys travel, gardening, most water sports, and the thrill of seeing Climbers grow and develop into kind, successful adults.

Palmer Castrodale – High School Advocate and Summer Activities/RA Director

Palmer grew up near Tappahannock, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia for both her BA in History and French, and M.Ed. in School Counseling. Remaining in Charlottesville after her time at UVA, she worked as a school counselor in Buckingham County Public Schools for five years. Palmer began working with Jacob’s Ladder in 2006 as an RA, and in 2014 transitioned to Summer Activities Director. She has just joined the year-round team in the new position of High School Advocate.

High School Advocate

The position of High School Advocate (HSA) is an exciting new component for the Jacob’s Ladder Advocacy Program. In addition to receiving support during their middle school years, graduates of the summer camp will receive year-round support and mentoring by the High School Advocate. The HSA will visit all students and work with them to create plans for their future. The individual advising sessions will involve selecting courses, connecting students with area resources, and creating a timeline with important dates in the college/financial aid process.  As part of this Advocacy Program, there will be additional opportunities for enrichment for the high school Climbers. For example, the HSA will organize gatherings by region and age group to visit colleges, learn about summer opportunities, and more. This is an exciting opportunity to provide more support for our Climbers as they grow!

Support Staff

Janet Kirby – Office Manager

Ms. Kirby has been with Jacob’s Ladder since 1999. Twenty years later, she continue to work part-time for the organization four days weekly. Among her many duties, she serves as assistant to the Executive Director as well as assistant secretary to the Board of Directors. Sending correspondence to patron donors, staff, Climbers, Climbers’ families, gifted teachers, prospective Climbers and their families, and maintaining the Climber information database are just some of the things that Janet does every day.

Watching the program grow and personally experiencing Climber enrichment has also enriched her life. 

Jacob’s Ladder is fresh breath to my soul, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

Janet Kirby

Madge Vosteen – Grant Writer and Development

Mrs. Vosteen has a long association with Jacob’s Ladder. From the beginning of the program in 1991, she has taught swimming to Climbers, helped run activities at the Summer Enrichment Camp, as well as the Spring Retreat, and has served as a volunteer for Golf Classics and Winter programs. Since 2010, she has been both writing and administering the grants program for Jacob’s Ladder – a job that includes both the writing of grants as well as submitting grant reports and corresponding with the grant organizations.

Paul Vosteen – Media and Marketing

Paul started working with Jacob’s Ladder in the early 1990’s. Initially serving as a volunteer at fundraising events, he also started documenting the program through photo and video work. His current role is to maintain the website and provide media support for the events and activities of the program. He has a degree in Graphic Design from the Atlanta College of Art and has served on media teams both overseas and in the US.