Alumna Valerie Rubio Lemmon ’92, who has served as a Westridge trustee since 2020, assumed the role of board chair this fall. The first Latinx person to chair the Westridge Board, Lemmon has spent more than 20 years in finance, including the last 10 years as a partner and portfolio analyst at Dividend Growth Partners. She holds an M.B.A. in finance from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and B.A. in international relations from Stanford University. She is also a current Westridge parent to Eva ’24 and Teia ’26.
We sat down with Lemmon to discuss her priorities as the 2022-2023 board chair, her excitement for the future of the school, and the impact of Westridge on her life and career.
Tell us a little about why you accepted the board chair position at Westridge. What made you want to take on this leadership role?
Part of why I decided to take on this role was because Andrea Kassar was stepping in as the new head of school. The way she approaches leadership resonated with me—in particular, the fact that being student-centered as a school is very important to her. The most important thing to me is that the students remain at the core of the decision-making. And now, as board chair, I feel like I can offer Andrea my deep knowledge of Westridge, to help her during her transition.
I have a long history at the school and was on the board of trustees prior to becoming chair (I served as co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Justice Committee and vice-chair of the Asset Management Committee), in addition to being a current parent. I felt completely comfortable stepping into this role because I know my fellow members of this board are so supportive and committed to the school.
As board chair, what are some of your priorities and looking ahead, what are some things you are excited about in the school’s future?
This is an exciting time for Westridge because we’re going through a lot of good change. We’re two years into our 2020-2025 strategic plan, and I’m committed to continuing our work to move that forward. We now have James Evans (director of teaching and learning) to help guide the school’s curriculum review and Ian Tatum (director of equity) to continue our work in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice at Westridge, which are both important pieces of the strategic plan. And I think the move to advanced courses is so awesome and exciting; the new advanced courses mimic the college class experience, which is what we’re striving to prepare our students for anyway, so it’s like a sneak peek for our upper schoolers.
Most importantly, I’m excited to help make the school ready for whatever comes our way in the future. I think the past several years—with the pandemic, civil unrest, and political polarization—have shown us that is it important to be flexible, open-minded, and responsive to the changing world around us. And we have a great leader in Andrea, who is really interested in bringing others into the process and the thinking behind decisions.
What does it mean to you to be the first Latinx person to chair the board?
When I was at Westridge as a student, there was far less diversity on campus than there is today. So I think that the fact that I am the first now shows the progress happening here and the fact that Westridge has embraced that progress, which is not necessarily the case everywhere. For me, to be the first feels no different. I am just trying to do the job well! But I recognize that it means something to other people, and that it is exciting and empowering to see someone who looks like you in this role.
You have had an impressive career in finance. How do you think your time at Westridge helped prepare you for your future?
I think that throughout my life, I’ve chosen to do things that I feel are hard, and where there maybe aren’t a lot of people that look like me, a Latina woman of color. But my time at Westridge was one of the most impactful experiences of my life, and I think a lot of my desire to challenge myself comes from Westridge and the opportunities that were available to me. When I was a student, I tried to participate in everything—I did varsity soccer, volleyball, track and field, and I even acted in a play without ever having done theatre before. I have always been really excited to learn and try new things.
When I first finished business school, I decided to do investment banking, which is a very grueling career and a very male-dominated space. But I wanted to prove that I could do it, and I think so much of that mentality came from my teachers at Westridge, who believed I could do whatever I put my mind to. Westridge gave me the confidence that I could succeed or at least figure it out, wherever I went.
Why did you choose Westridge for yourself and for your daughters?
My mom found Westridge for me through an organization called the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, which helps support minority students in applying to and succeeding at schools looking to build a more diverse student body. I was at a public school before, and my mom used to say that I was the “teaching assistant” in my class because I would walk around and help everyone else. So she knew that I needed something more challenging! I wasn’t specifically looking for an all-girls school for myself, but for my daughters I was, because of my experience at Westridge and the many benefits I’ve seen come of being at an all-girls school. When I was looking for schools for my daughters, I also felt like the world was becoming a much less open environment for women, and I really wanted them to be in a place where I knew they would be valued. Westridge was the obvious choice for us.
Speaking as someone who has stayed very connected to the school even after graduating, how would you encourage another alum to get involved or reconnect with Westridge?
Any opportunity to hear from the current students or see what they’re doing is so impactful. To any alums, I’d say this: I think if you see what’s happening here on campus, it will really resonate with you. These kids are amazing!
I think now is the perfect time to get involved at Westridge because it’s such an exciting time. So many new things are happening! It’s inspiring to hear Andrea speak about our forward momentum as a school. During the pandemic a lot of us tried to find ways to reconnect with one another (I started a weekly call with my college friends) and now, coming out of the pandemic, everyone is able to get back together and people really want to be back together. I’d encourage alums to attend a coffee or another gathering, come to Alumnae Weekend, join a committee, or even just organize a reunion of old friends. This is still your community and now is a great opportunity to get reconnected with it.
Why do you think it’s important to give back to Westridge?
The world needs more Westridge girls. We need the kind of people that they become. I mean, I just look at my fellow classmates and they are all doing amazing things. We need more empowered and impactful women in the world, so when you give, you are giving to that future.