Board of Directors

Catherine Gelband, President

Catherine’s interest in education and empowering girls has defined her career and volunteer involvement. She serves as Board President of Girl Scouts of Western Washington and recently retired from over 25 years of service to Pacific Crest School, a Seattle Montessori School, including serving as Board chair and Admissions Director. She began her legal career as a corporate lawyer at a large Seattle law firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions. After the arrival of her two children, she began a private practice. Catherine attended Yale College and Northwestern University School of Law. She retired from the practice of law in 2006.

Eliza Hurlbut, Secretary

Eliza has always had a passion for education. She has dedicated much of her time to the Pacific Crest School. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the school and has been instrumental in transforming its fundraising structure. As a board member she has been involved with strategic planning, fundraising, and reviewing the finances of the school. Eliza has a degree in Art from the University of Vermont and has worked in many different mediums including fabric, metal and glass. She is a parent of two children in Seattle.

David Miller

David Miller is a founding member of Miller Hull Partnership LLC and a nationally-recognized architect known for pursuing innovative sustainable and high performance design strategies while responding to each site’s unique conditions. David served in the Peace Corps after graduating from Washington State University which laid the foundation for his interest in housing design. David is a professor in the the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. He is the author of, Toward a New Regionalism, and the chair of the National AIA’s Committee on the Environment. He is the recipient of the Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award and the BetterBricks Designer Award.


Anne Theisen

Through her work with Sahar, Anne seeks to build a path to greater social, political and economic influence for girls in Afghanistan. As owner of Form Marketing & Design, Anne brings a wide range of depth of marketing and organizational experience to the Sahar board. Anne’s career began with many years in product management and marketing the high tech sector in Seattle. Launching Form in 2002, Anne works with a variety of for-profit and not-for-profit clients, helping to articulate their vision and grow their brands. Anne holds a BS from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota and a MS in Market Research from the University of Washington.

Ellaha Sharifi

Ellaha feels fortunate to have grown up in a family where girls’ education was encouraged. As an Afghan woman raised in Pakistan, Ellaha was able to complete middle school in an Afghan refugee school. Though it was not nearly as competitive and well-structured as the Pakistani schools around her, it was enough to make Ellaha aware of thirst for education. Ellaha graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Economics and Global Business. To be able to influence the future of Afghanistan at a young age is a dream come true for Ellaha, and she is honored to be a part of Sahar.

Merle Steiner

Merle Steiner’s post-graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of International Relations heightened her life-long interest in the emerging nations. She spent many years living in the former Yugoslavia, Germany, and the former Soviet Union on assignments as a Foreign Service wife, since married women could not serve in the Foreign Service in those days. Upon returning to the States, she began a long career as Chief of Staff at the Montgomery County, Maryland, Legislature. As a Regional Leader at Dining for Women as well as a Chapter Co-Leader for one of the very early Chapters, Merle has worked very hard to empower, educate, and inspire women throughout the world.

Dr. Shinkai Hakimi

A native of Afghanistan, Dr. Hakimi fled her homeland with her family in the early 1980’s and they eventually immigrated to the United States. She  went on to complete her undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, and medical school at the University of Iowa. During her medical training, Dr. Hakimi received a Global Health grant to create a health education program for migrant workers in rural Iowa. She also spent time in rural hospitals in South America and the Sea Islands. Dr. Hakimi is enthusiastic to create programs to better the lives of young women in Afghanistan. She believes that every child should have the same extensive educational opportunities she received, regardless of gender.