Meet the Board

Who we are

Friends has grown into a 1000+ member organization with a vital active Board committed to serving the membership and supporting the Arboretum staff to further the Arboretum’s mission of connecting people to plants.

What we do

The strength of the Friends lies in its participants’ willingness to support the Arboretum with time, expertise, and financial contributions. Board members collaborate with the community and the Arboretum leadership to meet the organization's strategic objectives. The Board encourages and values input from the membership, acts as advocates and ambassadors for the organization, and facilitates committees and working groups that focus on fundraising and strategic initiatives. 

How to Join

Any one member, staff or community member is eligible to join the Board.

Interested participants can begin the process at anytime by completing this short application

Bylaws of the Friends of the Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

Friends Board Members, 2021-2022


Susan Leo, President

Marisa Gomez, Vice President 

June Heaton, Secretary

Campus Representative
Martin Quigley


At-large members:

Laura Alioto (bio pending)

Ferd Bergholz

Jan Biegenzahn

Bill Bishoff

Phil Dundas (bio pending)

Hilary Gillette (bio pending)

Marisa Gomez

June Heaton

Aideed Medina (bio pending)

Jennifer Straw (bio pending)


Science Advisory Council Members

Dr. Linda Anderson, Chair, UC Santa Cruz 
Dr. Kat Anderson, USDA, UC Davis
Dr. Jean Langenheim, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Michael Loik, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Bruce Lyon, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Todd Newberry, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Jarmila Pittermann, UC Santa Cruz 
Dr. Matt Ritter, Cal Poly, SLO
Dr. Barry Sinervo, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Lincoln Taiz, UC Santa Cruz  
Dr. Michael Vasey, SF State Univ.
Jim Velzy, UC Santa Cruz





Laura Alioto

Ferd Bergholz
Ferd was born and raised in Santa Cruz, as were his parents. After retiring from PG&E, he joined the Scotts Valley Senior Center Board. A few years ago, he took his camera to the Arboretum and soon became a volunteer photographer: his photos of plants, birds, and events are on the website and in the Bulletin newsletter. He enjoys taking his camera wherever he goes, whether traveling, whale watching, or exploring new places, and he also enjoys wood-working: several of his artistic creations are featured at Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop. As a Board member, he plans to focus on ensuring new visitors enjoy their time exploring the Arboretum.

Jan Biegenzahn
Jan spent the majority of her career in the legal field, most recently as a supervisor for the Superior Court of Santa Cruz. A life-long learner, she continually looks for new experiences and that led her to volunteer at the Arboretum. She has worked at Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop for the past two years and considers the time she spends surrounded by the natural beauty of the Arboretum a wonderful opportunity. As a Board member, Jan’s extensive experience in public service and in working with diverse groups of people is a considerable asset in helping to develop and expand community engagement and relations. 

Bill Bishoff                                                                                                                                                                            Bill is a retired high school science teacher whose lifelong hobbies and passion are photography and travel. In the Chicago suburbs, he worked for eight years as a staff photographer, photo editor, and leader of a monthly photo walk at the Chicago Botanic Garden. After Bill’s wife, Leda, retired from her job as a reference librarian, they traveled the seven continents. In 2015, they moved from Wilmette, Illinois, to Capitola, California. Currently he is a volunteer photographer for the UCSC Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Bike Santa Cruz County, The Human Race, and other non-profits. Bill enjoys theater, art, hiking along the ocean and among the redwoods, and sharing their travel adventures. His programs have been presented to libraries, civic organizations, and photography groups. As a new Board Member, his photography skills and experiences at the Chicago Botanic Garden are valuable assets; he plans to focus on promoting the Arboretum by using his photography and design skills to inform the public about its unique botanic treasures. 

Phil Dundas

Hilary Gillette

June Heaton
June Heaton was born and raised in Mountain View, California. She developed a love for the outdoors from her father, who frequently took her hiking, fishing, and foraging. June spent most of her career in Semiconductor/Information Systems Management fields. She “retired” to become a stay-at-home mom and caregiver to her parents and later began volunteering at her daughter’s schools, chauffeuring children to and from field trips and sporting events. She also has experience as a sales associate at the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop. Her past and recent activities all drew her to the Arboretum. Her experiences and knowledge gained as a current volunteer at Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop bring valuable insight to the Board.

Marisa Gomez
Marisa has a degree in English and Comparative Literature from San Jose State University and has experience in event planning, social media, graphic design, curriculum building, as well as knowledge of California's Next Generation Science Standards. Currently the Public Programs Manager at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, she is responsible for creating and leading educational programs for the public and youth groups. After completing the Arboretum’s California Naturalist Program in 2018, she was inspired to become more involved at the gardens and joined the Board. Her communication and program development skills add an essential component to the Board.

Susan Leo
Susan, a retired minister, is new to Santa Cruz but has found life here to be a good match with her long list of self-descriptions: naturalist, birder, and gardener, sports fan, music lover, dreamer, unabashed inquirer, respectful iconoclast, spouse, friend, mother, and grandmother. With her recent experience as a volunteer docent at Natural Bridges, she is ready to serve the Arboretum and surrounding community; her energy and creativity is a welcome addition to the Board.

Aideed Medina

Jennifer Straw