Soma Golden Behr

Executive Director and co-founder

Soma Golden Behr is a former reporter and editor at The  New York Times. Her interests in poverty, income distribution and social policy produced the award-winning projects "Children in the Shadows, How 
Race is Lived in America," and "Class Matters."

Ms. Behr came to The Times in 1973 after 11 years at Business Week magazine. She served in many reporting and editing positions at The Times, playing a key role in several Pulitzer Prize projects. She retired as an assistant managing editor in 2005 and spent the next five years as director of the New York Times College Scholarship Program, on which Scholarship Plus is modeled.

Soma Golden Behr photo
Executive Director, Soma Golden Behr

Melanie Rosen Brooks

Director and co-founder

Melanie Rosen Brooks, a former New York Times business executive for over two decades, has worked in and around education for years.  Beginning in 2005, she was career counselor for the 80 college students in the New York Times Scholarship Program, helping them find summer jobs and counseling them about their careers.  Earlier, Ms. Brooks was Director of Education and Business Development for The New York Times's News Services Group.  She created and managed revenue-generating ventures with education partners including Pearson Education, the Tribune Co., and Scholastic, and, as General Manager, led the revitalization of NYT Upfront, a news magazine aimed at high school readers, adding a web version and managing the business for two years after its startup.

Melanie Rosen Brooks photo
Director, Melanie Rosen Brooks

Judith Watson

Academic Adviser

Judith Watson is the associate dean and chief academic officer for the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, which she helped found in 2006.  She had previously served as special projects assistant to then-CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.  Before her academic career she had been the New York bureau chief of United Press International.  In her years at UPI she had worked as a reporter, columnist and print and broadcast editor.  She is a past president of the New York State Society of Newspaper Editors.

Judith Watson photo
Academic Adviser, Judith Watson.

Ellen Marson

Manager of Group Funding

Ellen Marson is a former National Executive Director of Hadassah, the largest women's membership organization in the United States.  Before that she was a longtime Professor of Spanish at the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she mentored students, was faculty director of a number of campus organizations, and directed independent studies.  At Scholarship Plus, Ellen helps select scholarship recipients and directs the system of "Pods" -- groups of donors who join together to support individual students over their four years in college.   

Ellen Marson photo
Ellen Marson directs the "Pod" program for donors who join together to support individual students.

Kate Fenneman Stokes

Program Manager

Kate Fenneman Stokes is the former director of the The Seinfeld Scholarship Program, where she was responsible for recruitment, program management and student support for the group of 200 scholars.  Kate joined the Scholarship Plus team in 2012 to help with scholar selection and other areas of program management.

Kate Fenneman Stokes photo
Program Manager, Kate Fenneman Stokes

Michael J. Leahy

Michael J. Leahy, a former senior New York Times editor, works closely with the directors on many aspects of the program, as he did formerly for many years with the New York Times Scholarship Program.


Fran Lester

Fran Lester, a former teacher and student adviser at Brooklyn Tech High School, has helped the scholarship program for years in various areas of her expertise.

Michael J. Leahy photo
From left, Nancy N. W. Ward, a longtime supporter of the program, Michael Leahy and Fran Lester.

Karen Blank

Academic Adviser 2009 - 2013

Scholarship Plus mourns the loss of Karen Blank, our founding Academic Adviser, whose warmth, kindness and deep knowledge graced our program from its earliest days.  Karen drew on her decades of experience as a university dean at Barnard, Columbia and elsewhere in working devotedly with our students.

All of us who were privileged to know her are grateful for the gift of her life and saddened by her death on Dec. 31, 2013.

Karen Blank photo
Karen Blank, Academic Adviser 2009 - 2013.