Board of Directors & Staff
Bonnie Bowler is a retired Latin, English, and occasional Word Clues teacher who has lived in Helena since she was nine months old. She graduated from Montana State University (now UM) in Missoula with a degree in Latin in 1965. During her teaching career she was active in the Helena and Montana Education Associations and raised her daughter. Since her retirement, she has served on the YWCA board of directors. She currently serves on the Shakespeare in the Parks Committee and the Helena Sports Hall of Fame Board. She also volunteers at the Montana Historical Society and is a member of the Last Chance Gulch Corral, a group of Montana history lovers; the Fortnightly Club of Helena, a group of book lovers; and the Audubon Society. In 2018, she received the YWCA Women of the Year Award for her years of volunteer service to the community. Bonnie joined the board in 2022.
Nikki DesRosier moved to Helena in 2004. She was raised in Missoula, and after many stops along the way, lived in Minnesota about 35 years. She retired as a Grant Manager from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and then joined her husband as the CEO of a food distribution business. Eventually her cabin on Flathead Lake drew her back to Montana. She has been active in the community including a docent for the Holter Museum; co-chaired the last Artbeat’s Chef Tour and served on the board of Grandstreet Theatre. Nikki and her husband, Denny, love to travel and after visiting all continental states are working their way across the world. She especially likes hiking in the back country and spending time with her 3 small grandchildren. Nikki joined the board in 2020.
Pad McCracken, Treasurer
Pad McCracken and his wife Nisan Burbridge moved to Helena in late 2006. They were utilizing the Lewis & Clark Library to look for jobs when one day Nisan noticed a flyer at the Library seeking a Teen Services Librarian and pointed out to Pad that as a former high school English teacher, books and kids were right up his alley. Pad was fortunate to be hired and serve in that position for seven years. Pad currently serves as committee staff for various education committees for Montana Legislative Services. Pad grew up in Iowa and graduated from St. Olaf College in 1992. After spending the rest of the 90s in Winter Park, Colorado, Pad earned his M. Ed. in Instructional Leadership from Colorado State University in 2001 and taught high school English in Paonia, Colorado, and Wenatchee, Washington, before he and Nisan moved to Helena. Pad joined the board in 2020.
Bethany Flint grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where her youth was spent camping, hiking and spending time on the Pacific coast beaches. An opportunity to travel to Asia in her youth led to a passion for Asia’s arts and cultures. Following her passion, Beth attended The University of Puget Sound and received her BA degree in Asian Studies before attending Columbia University earning an MA degree in Chinese History. In 2003, Beth and her partner Mels Case moved to Helena and fell in love with the community and Montana’s wide-open spaces and unique landscape. After a short time working for Lewis & Clark Library, Beth became a founding staff member and Director of Operations of ExplorationWorks. In 2009, she was hired as the Office Manager at the Blackfoot River Brewing Co. and has been a co-owner and co-managing partner of the Blackfoot since 2014. When Beth isn’t working, you’ll find her outside gardening, camping, hiking or on the river with Mels and their dogs Lulu, Blue and Chloe. Bethany joined the board in 2019.
M. Susan Geise
Susan Good Geise is a teacher and longtime public servant who lives on an Augusta ranch. She was an Ada Comstock Scholar, graduating from Smith College with a degree in Government. She was the first Lewis and Clark County Commissioner from Augusta since 1906. She also served in the Montana House of Representatives and worked as a lobbyist and advisor to the Public Service Commission. Susan was a trustee on the Augusta School Board and worked as a librarian at the Augusta Branch. She is currently teaching at the De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning. Susan has two children who work every day to make the world a better place. She and her husband Ross, a rancher, have 4 grandchildren. Susan believes that grandchildren are the chocolate cake of life. She joined the Board in 2023.
Sue Jackson grew up in a small town in Kansas and moved to Helena in 1977 looking to experience forests and mountains, arriving shortly after the new Lewis & Clark Library opened. She worked as an archivist for the Montana Historical Society (MHS) for a decade and then left to travel with a friend, keeping Helena as a base and working at a local bookstore when in town. After traveling, Sue worked at the Corette Library at Carroll College on a special grant project and then joined the Library Development Department at Montana State Library helping public libraries with grants and training. A long-time active member of the local Audubon chapter, she also volunteers in the Photo Archives at MHS. She happily spends time out and about (sometimes in a boat) looking for birds and other wildlife. Sue joined the Board in 2023.
Becca Leaphart taught English at Capital High for ten years before hiring on as the Deputy Director of the Helena Education Foundation. She grew up in Helena, then left home to earn a Bachelor's degree at Middlebury College in Vermont and later an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Montana. Before settling down to start a family in Helena, she and her husband Ben Brouwer teamed up for a couple of big adventures--building a boat and sailing the Inside Passage and working for non-profits in Bolivia. They now have two elementary aged children: Charlie and Sal. Becca joined the Board in 2023 and is proud to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Babs Leaphart, who previously served on the Library Foundation Board.
Taffy Miller has called Helena home since 1974. Her professional career comprised 35 years of management, energy conservation consulting, and consumer relations. After 15 years working for the Public Service Commission and the Department of Public Health and Human Services, she was recruited by Xenergy Inc, an energy engineering firm out of Boston, MA, and spent the next 20 years as managing director, senior consultant, and senior project manager for residential and small commercial energy conservation projects spanning the country from Ohio to Hawaii. She is thoroughly enjoying retirement, which has freed up more time for reading, cooking, and walking her sweet Pierre. Taffy joined the board in 2021.
Nikolas Griffith grew up across the world and the country before his father’s retirement from the Air Force landed his family in Great Falls. After high school, Nik attended Carroll College and worked in the Conferencing and Events departments which sparked a life-long love of entertaining and food. Growing up as an only child in a house of readers, Nik learned early just how impactful storytelling can be. Carrying that passion forward, he’s helped people create and share stories through a unique combination of creativity, strategy, and connection. From media packages for the Los Angeles and Sundance film festivals to legislative testimony for Fortune 500s, Nik credits his success in part to the hours and hours he spent reading books of all kinds in libraries and the encouragement of the people working in them. In 2021, Nik joined the staff of PureView Health Center as their in-house strategic planner and loves working in his adopted community. Nik lives with his yellow lab, Lord Eldon Kane, and spends what free time he can find playing board games, reading horror fiction, and working as sous chef in his father’s catering company, Adeline’s. He joined the Board in 2023.
Lorna Milne is a freelance journalist who lives on a small farm north of Helena with her husband and a menagerie of critters. In 2019 she retired from teaching at Carroll College to write full-time. She is the author of Evelyn Cameron, Photographer on the Western Prairie and is currently at work on a collection of essays. Lorna grew up in Eastern Montana, playing on the banks of the Yellowstone and exploring the badlands. She shares five children and five grandsons with her husband, Jon Motl. Lorna enjoys gardening, cross-country skiing, canoeing, walking, and, of course, reading. Lorna joined the board in 2020.
Virginia Reeves teaches writing and literature at Helena College, where she founded the oral storytelling project, Necessary Narratives. Her debut novel, Work Like Any Other, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and Booklist named it to their Top 10 First Novels of 2016. It has been translated into multiple languages and adapted into a graphic novel. Her second novel, The Behavior of Love, has been reviewed by The New Yorker, French Elle, and Le Monde, among others. Libraries feature prominently in Virginia's work, and she truly believes they represent the best of humanity through their pursuit of equity, accessibility, and knowledge. Virginia previous served on the Foundation’s board of directors as vice-president from 2018 to 2019 and returned in 2023.
Kay Satre is a Professor of English at Carroll College. Raised in Helena, she is a graduate of Helena High School, earned a B.A from Carroll, an M.A. from Boston College, and a Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At Carroll, she has loved working with colleagues and students for over three decades; her specialties are 19th Century British Literature (she loves long Victorian novels), the study of empathy and literature, feminist criticism, and teaching writing. Kay and the late Timothy Meloy raised their three kids in Helena amidst an extended family that invested a whole lot of time and enthusiasm in reading, learning, playing, and all sorts of outside adventures. A daughter-in law, son-in-law, and granddaughter have recently been added into this wonderful, multi-generational mix. Kay also serves on the board of the Jerry Metcalf Foundation. Kay joined the board in 2021.
Wendy Wheeler grew up in upstate New York and moved to Helena in 1980 with her husband, Gregg. As a child, her mother thought she should spend more time outside rather than inside reading. Wendy’s solution was to take her books up into the backyard maple tree where she could read in peace. Wendy is passionate about libraries and literacy. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of Lewis & Clark Library in the 1990s when funds were scarce (this was before the mill levy passed), including time as chair. She has volunteered as a tutor for the Lewis & Clark Literacy Council and served on their board of directors for six years. She has a B.A. in History and retired from the Montana State Information Services Division after 30 years in state government. Wendy joined the board in 2022.
Bruce Whittenberg, Vice President
Bruce Whittenberg was Director of the Montana Historical Society from 2011 to 2020. Bruce was the founding executive director of Leadership Montana, a statewide effort to develop a sustainable network of leaders who share a commitment to the future of the state. In the 1990s, Bruce was publisher of the Helena Independent Record and the Billings Gazette. Bruce’s long record of public service most recently included serving on the board of directors of Humanities Montana, Parmly Billings Library Foundation, Western Heritage Center, and the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings. Currently, Bruce serves on the board of directors of the Friends of Montana PBS and the Myrna Loy Center, and is the Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Foundation. Bruce joined the board in 2021.
Opal Winebrenner, President
Opal Winebrenner grew up in Fort Benton - the birthplace of Montana - and spent many hours in the Chouteau County Carnegie Library. She received both her History and Political Science bachelor and law degrees from the University of Montana. She was a researcher for the Montana Local Government Commission, and was U.S Senator Lee Metcalf's 1977 Congressional Fellow. She served as a lawyer with Montana's Public Service Commission and Attorney General's Office. She and her husband, Mike Shields, moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1987. There she worked as a U.S. Senate senior legislative assistant and legal counsel, and a senior health care policy analyst with Congress's investigative agency, the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She retired and returned home to Big Sky Country in 2014, enjoying the quieter life and renewing her interest in Montana history. Opal joined the board in 2018.
John Finn, Secretary and Library Director
John Finn is the Director of Lewis & Clark Library. In this capacity he also serves as secretary of the board of the Lewis & Clark Library Foundation. In 1997 he was hired by the Montana State Library as a public library consultant based in Great Falls. John became head of the Information Services Department at the Great Falls Public Library and also served as President of the Montana Library Association. In 2005, he moved to Anaconda to be director of Hearst Free Library. This is where he honed his skills as a library director and married Maggie, his longtime librarian crush. John and Maggie moved to Oregon, where they both worked for Beaverton City Library. Back in Helena (Maggie’s hometown) they have settled into life with family, pets, mountains, and fun. John has ushered many changes at Lewis & Clark Library, most notably the recent completion of the $6 million remodel of the Helena branch of the Library system. He came on board in 2016.
Patti Borneman, Executive Assistant
Patti Borneman was hired in 2015 to serve as the part-time Executive Assistant. Along with supporting the board with meetings and minutes, fundraising and donor outreach, she writes and designs the Foundation's publications, including the website, and also helps plan the Foundation's events and special activities. Prior to this position, she was employed by the Office of Public Instruction, the National Institute on Money in Politics, the Biomimicry Guild, the National Parks Conservation Association, and Montana Historical Society. Patti loves to hike the hills around Helena, embark on urban homesteading projects, and farm-to-fork cooking. She and her husband, Bill, have lived in Helena since 1979, and enjoy spending time with their son, granddaughter, husky mutt, and six-toed cat.