Women's Innovation Center

Behind Every Great Idea Is a Hardworking Board

Alexandria, VA – NCWI Founder Jane Plitt’s inspiration alone won’t achieve this huge undertaking. She has recruited strong, accomplished women and men as NCWI board members and advisors. Here are brief introductions to four of them. Space doesn’t allow us to tell their full stories. For that and much more about NCWI, visit womensinnovations.org.

Julie Chapman, Vice Chair

Were you among the hundreds of people who converged on the Alexandria waterfront on April 29, along with over 500 pooches? You can thank Julie, the brainchild behind ALX Dog Walk, founded in 2021 to educate people about plastic-free and sustainable living.

“Living next to the Potomac River opened my eyes to plastic pollution. Knowing how much Alexandria cares about its environment and loves dogs, I decided to create an event that could build community and deliver educational messaging in a lighthearted yet meaningful way,” Chapman says.

Julie moved to Old Town Alexandria in her twenties and fell in love with the city. When she married Greg, the couple settled in Potomac, Maryland, her hometown, where they raised two sons. The family often spoke of returning to Alexandria, and they made it happen four years ago.

“I’m a social entrepreneur at heart. I like to take risks and apply business practices to solving social problems. That’s why I was so drawn to the work of NCWI and the importance of lifting and recognizing women entrepreneurs who took huge risks to create incredible innovations.”

Julie noted that ALX Dog Walk has raised $107,000 in two years. “As we like to say at ALX Dog Walk, “Bark on, NCWI!”

Lucelle O’Flaherty, Board Secretary

Lucelle calls herself an “Alexandria Girl,” and her Alexandria roots run deep. Her family have been members of Trinity United Methodist Church for three generations. Lucelle was a vice president at Wells Fargo for 35 years before retiring to spend more time with her then-aging parents.

These days, you can find Lucelle all over town, photographing City Hall events, the July birthday bash, parades, festivals, and Christmas tree lightings, with her Yorkie mix KAY K often in tow. Lucelle is the social photographer for The Zebra Press.

“I was introduced to NCWI in its embryonic stage,” Lucelle says. She met Board Chair Jane Plitt and was impressed with Plitt’s achievements. “She’s spent her life advocating for women. When I heard about uncovering women innovators, I wanted to be part of that. I was humbled when they offered me a board position. I am delighted to have gotten in early, to help launch it, and be a founding board member of this national nonprofit in Alexandria.”

I’m just someone who grew up here,” Lucelle says. “I’m well connected now because of Zebra, and that’s an asset to the NCWI board.”

Theresa Peterson, Board member and gala co-chair

Theresa is senior executive director of GE’s government affairs and technology programs. She is also the mother of two children. That wouldn’t leave much time left over for civic engagement.

Still, this Del Ray resident was captivated by NCWI’s mission. “It is compelling to me because we’re celebrating women innovators. I have two children, a boy and a girl, and my daughter has always been interested in engineering. I’ve tried to put her in a position where she could embrace the fact that she was a young lady interested in engineering, math, and science and not be afraid of it.”

Petersen has lived in Northern Virginia since 1987. She resided in Lorton with her husband Terrence and two children, who attended private schools in Alexandria. Wanting to live in the same community as their children’s schools, the family moved to Alexandria at the height of the pandemic. They are active members of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Old Town.

“I love the walkability of Del Ray. I can buy fresh meat at Let’s Meat on the Avenue, and the farmers market is a stone’s throw away from me. I love taking my afternoon walk down Mount Vernon Avenue and continuing to Old Town on Saturday mornings. My husband and I love to sit on our front porch and watch people go by.“

Jennifer Ferrara, Member

NWCI began for Jennifer Ferrara, Vice President, Relationship Manager with John Marshall Bank, when Jane Plitt became her client and they visited the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial in Occoquan together. “Jane was inspired to create an organization highlighting the women we don’t know about and the magnificent work they had done,” says Ferrara. “What drew me to NCWI is that I did not know over half of the women Jane researched, their inventions, and entrepreneurial missions.”

Referring to Dr. Gladys Brown West, the gala honoree, she says, “That we have somebody in our own state who created the mathematical calculation for the GPS is amazing! But she has gone unrecognized. If it isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist.”

Jennifer grew up in Fairfax County, moved to Alexandria in young adulthood, and has lived in Northridge for 30 years. She is actively involved with multiple nonprofits in the city.

“I love that Alexandria is a small town in a big region. People here care about their community and are deeply passionate about their work. They’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves, dig in, and find solutions to problems, not just in Alexandria but the world. They make Alexandria a better place to live, work, and play.”

Ferrara credits her grandmother for instilling her passion for volunteering early on. “It’s in my DNA,” Ferrara declared. She praised the bank where she works for allowing her to be involved with the community and help nonprofits.

Ferrara loves the Alexandria waterfront. “I am a water girl! I love to be on the river as much as I can, whether boating or walking along the riverfront trail in Old Town.” Ferrara and her husband Chris have a ten-year-old daughter and a son who is a freshman in college.

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