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Board Members & Advisors

BrighterBrains.org is the website of the Brighter Brains Institute (BBI) - a Piedmont, California 501c3 non-profit.

We promote and support humanist activities worldwide. Our alternate website is HumanistGlobal.org


Ophelia Benson is an author, editor, columnist and blogger, who writes about atheism, feminism, and politics. She has edited the website Butterflies and Wheels since 2002; she is a former columnist and associate editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine; and she’s presently a columnist for Free Inquiry and The Freethinker. She’s co-authored three books (with Jeremy Stangroom): The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense; Why Truth Matters, and Does God Hate Women?

Anthony B. Pinn (PhD in Religion, Harvard University) is professor of humanities and professor of religion at Rice University. His research includes religion, culture, and humanism. He is the author/editor of numerous books, including African American Humanist Principles (2004), By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism (2001), and The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology (2012). He is Director of Research for the Institute for Humanist Studies and Board of Directors for the American Humanist Association.

Philip “Phil” Zuckerman, PhD is a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Phil Zuckerman is the author of The Nonreligious (Oxford, 2016) and Living the Secular Life (Penguin, 2014), and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Secularism (2016) and The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois(2004). He blogs for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. The American Humanist Association featured Zuckerman as a speaker on rising Irreligion in the United States, he’s on the editorial board of Secularism and Nonreligion and is a convener of the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network conference. In 2011 he founded and currently chairs the first Secular Studies program in the United States, at Pitzer College.

Karen Zelevinsky (President) is VP of Engineering at Pegasystems. She attended Tufts University and lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her family has sponsored three orphan children at BiZoHa Orphanage, (Muhindo Zolash, Nakabirwa Faith, Kalisa Andrew) and her donations have helped construct four classrooms at the BiZoHa branch of Kasese Humanist Primary School (Zelevinky Classroom, Loving Heart, Helping Hands, Open Mind). BiZoHa’s tractor and the Kahendero Humanist Hall were obtained via Karen’s generosity.

Lutzka Zivny (Secretary) lives in the North Beach Area of San Francisco, where she is a community activist, and graphic artist/designer/illustrator. She is the co-ordinator of BBI’s outreach and fundraising for LGBT causes, and our ambassador to the Rusinga Humanist Orphanage project (directed by Czech and Slovak women) - Lutzka is a dual citizen of the USA and Czech Republic. Previous to BBI, she’s done volunteer work for Friends of Yick Wo and International Rescue Committee (a refugee resettlement nonprofit).

Werner Haag, PhD., (Vice President) is an environmental applications chemist with over 40 publications in science and engineering journals. He earned a B.S. at M.I.T., a doctorate at the University of Tennessee, and did post-doctoral work in Switzerland. He’s an enthusiastic member of Atheist Community of San Jose, where he is part of the philanthropy team. He is a volunteer teacher for Science is Elementary, bringing critical thinking skills to local primary schools, and is a past member of their board of directors. He is also a devoted high school wrestling coach, a former international level Ultimate Frisbee player, and an avid ballroom dancer.

Hank Pellissier (Treasurer), is the founder and program director for BBI. He is a brain development and education writer at GreatSchools.org, ex-columnist at Salon.com, NYTimes.com, SFGate.com, and author of Brighter Brains: 225 ways to elevate or injure IQ. He produced the first San Francisco Atheist Film Festival, a 2010 Atheist Calendar, and The Future of Religion conference (Piedmont, 2014). He also founded two preschools: Bernal Kids Co-op and Mission Kids Co-op, and he directed the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies Africa Future Project. Bio here.

Lily Rice is Graduate Attache at the British Institute in East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. As a Cambridge University anthropology student, she’s currently writing a paper on humanism in Uganda. In spring 2017 she visited Kasese Humanist School, BiZoHa Orphanage Humanist School, Kahendero Humanist School, Cayenne Humanist School, Garama Secondary Humanist School, and Mother Givers Humanist School, taking numerous photos and sending in a detailed, valuable report that helped guide the future policies of Brighter Brains Institute.

Kathy Wilson is an artist and businesswoman in Salt Lake City. She served on the board of The Children’s Center and the Sunstone Foundation, she supported her local Tibetan community with projects in Utah and India, she helped organize Utah Bolivian Partners to raise funds for the Children’s Mental Health Center in La Paz, and she is also active with Results, a citizen lobby that addresses the issues of the poor, and with Microcredit, a program of extending small loans to extremely poor people for the purpose of creating sustaining projects.

Aaron Silver-Pell has been a Brighter Brains Institute “man on the ground” in Uganda since early 2016, first in Kyarumba, and now in Kasese, where he’s married a local woman and they’re expecting a child. Aaron is a graduate of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a strong background in science and computers. He has visited and inspected potential humanist schools for BBI in western Uganda, writing up detailed reports on the school’s

Leo Igwe has been the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He has bravely worked to end a variety of human rights violations, including anti-gay hate, sorcery, witchcraft, ritual killing, human sacrifice, “untouchability”, caste discrimination, “child witch” superstition, and anti-blasphemy laws. He is presently enrolled in a three year research program me on “Witchcraft accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany.

Mubarak Bala describes himself on his Facebook page Humanist Society of Northern Nigeria as “A Humanist. An Atheist. An ardent Anti-Theist. Angry at callous religions.” He is a chemical engineer from Kanos, Nigeria - a Sharia State and hotbed of Muslim fundamentalism. He was raised in “Wahhabi Islamic thought, with a jihad ideology” but he was an atheist activist by 2009, receiving death threats for blaspheming Islam. In 2013 he was beaten up by three uncles and his father - a leading Islamic cleric - drugged by his older brother, and locked up in a psychiatric hospital; his atheism was categorized by an Egyptian doctor as a “mental disease.” He tweeted his predicament - from the hospital toilet - via a smuggled cell phone. Help was mobilized by the “Godless Mom” of Canada and the London-based International Humanist Ethical Union.

Yasmine Muhammed is an Arab-Canadian university educator, activist, and author who has a blog called Confessions of an Ex-Muslim. She recently completed a memoir entitled: From Al Qaeda to Atheism. In it she describes how, even though she was born and raised in North America, she endured the same traumas that are familiar to Muslims across the planet. As a child, she was beaten for not memorizing the Quran. As a teenager, she was forced into a marriage to a member of Al Qaeda (after he was bailed out of prison by Osama bin Laden). And as an adult, she wore a niqab, and lived in a home/prison with paper covering all the windows. Yet, somehow, with nothing but a high school diploma and a baby in tow, she got out.Yasmine’s message is one of hope to her fellow ExMuslims.

Abdulrahman Aliya is a Nigerian humanist and writer, living in the northern city of Kaduna. He is the organizer of Brighter Brains Institute’s Critical Thinking workshops in Nigeria, and has taught at the All Saints International Secondary School. As a member of the Nigeria Humanist Policy Center, he directs efforts to help the Almajiri boys in Kaduna and refugees from Boko Haram - in Kaduna and Maiduguri - by distributing food, clothing, and blankets. His essays include, “A Better Approach in Tackling Islamist Terror.”

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. He works for science and human rights, specifically women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.-


Carol Lloyd is Executive Editor of GreatSchools and narrator of the podcast Like a Sponge. As a journalist writing on culture, education, and family life she has written and/or edited for the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, The New York Times Magazine, This American Life radio show, and The Los Angeles Times as well as being featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, PRI’s The World and KQED’s Forum and To the Best of Our Knowledge. Her book “Creating a Life Worth Living” was published in 1997 by Harper Collins. She recently launched a social entrepreneur project called World Girl Dolls.

Justin Silbaugh is an educator, leader and international development professional. Justin lived in Uganda from 2006 - 2016, taking on several director-level roles in grassroots education organizations. He served as the creative director of Mango Tree Educational Enterprises, the country director of In Movement: Art for Social Change and the executive director of Foundation for Development of Needy Communities (FDNC).

Bob Pellissier is the CEO of RKI Instruments in Union City, California, an electronics company that develops and distributes gas detection devices internationally. He has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, and South America. As a BBI contributor, he supports eight clinics in Kasese, Kyarumba, and Buhanga, he provides science scholarships to Nyakiyumbu orphans, he created a music classroom in Kyarumba, he dewormed 420 children in Kasese and Nyakiyumbu, he purchased shoes for 230 boys and girls in Kasese and Bwethe, he provides food, books, and educational materials to Kyarumba schools, and he co-sponsored a roast chicken feast for 560 children in Kyarumba.

Roger Hansen was employed for many years as a planner for a federal resource management agency in Utah. He enjoys traveling and has lived in and/or visited and/or worked in over 40 countries on five continents. He currently lives part time (doing volunteer work) in Uganda, and in the Navajo Nation. His blog is Tired Road Warrior, and he’s a member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association and Engineers without Borders.

Mykel Alvis is a long-time contributor to Brighter Brains Institute humanist projects in Uganda. He is the BBI representative to the Southern USA, an active member of the Birmingham, Alabama atheist community, and an on-and-off officer (ex-President) of the Brighter Brains Institute. Mykel was been instrumental in getting people to sponsor orphans at Rays of Light Orphanage School, Kasanga-Kaghema Orphanage School, and Mughete Junior School. Early vocations included ballet dancer and bar bouncer; he is presently working in software development - every aspect, from architecture to testing to delivery.

Bo Headlam is a serial entrepreneur, film producer, and philanthropist. One of his passions is the advancement of humanity, physically, psychologically, and intellectually. He strongly believes in the highest levels of education for everyone.

Kevin Saldanha was born in Kenya in the Great Rift Valley & he views Africa as his continent of origin, but he was primarily raised in Goa, India, and he presently lives in Ontario, Canada. He has been a longtime, valuable supporter of Ugandan humanism, and his group — Halton Peel Humanist Community - funded a classroom + furniture at the Kasese Humanist Secondary School. Kevin is a veterinarian, and vegetarian, with a great love for animals. He serves as the BBI translator of Swahili-to-English. A longer bio is HERE

Dr. Bruce Chou MD received his medical degree from University of Illinois. He is an anesthesiologist at Oak Valley Hospital, in Oakdale, California. He has sponsored four BBI classrooms; two at BiZoHa Orphanage Humanist School, one at Kahendero Nursery Humanist School, and one at Vision Care Humanist School. He is a highly-valued supporter of our mission to promote humanism, reason, self-reliance, and life extension.

Laura Paoletti specializes in Women’s Healthcare as a Nurse Practitioner, providing care for women across the life-span with a clinical focus on teenagers, contraception and sexual health. She has practiced as a Certified Nurse Midwife since 2001, delivering over three thousand babies. She works in the Birth Center at Sonoma Valley Hospital as an RN, and is also Clinical Director of the Sweet Success program, providing clinical oversight and support for pregnant women with gestational diabetes.

Kumaran Reddy was raised in Zimbabwe, (Rhodesia in those days). As unrest settled in, the family moved to Lusaka, Zambia, then London, England, in 1969, and eventually Winnipeg, Canada. Kumaran’s mother and father are educators; Kumaran is a musician, artist, videographer and a staunch supporter of humanism, globally, for ten years. His participation in Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) and the Brighter Brains Institute gives him great satisfaction.

Dr. Sarah Fraser grew up in Merigomish, Nova Scotia, and she completed her medical degree at Dalhouse University. She is currently a resident doctor (General Practitioner) at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Sudbury. She was a volunteer at a Honduran clinic, she is a human rights activist, a humanist, she enjoys hula-hooping, and bird-watching, and she’s the author of an autobiographical novel: Room for Growth and a collection of poems: Humanity Emergency. Sarah examines the medic reports from Brighter Brains Institute’s 13 clinics and recommends treatments.

Walker Bristol is the Humanist in Residence at Tufts University and a student chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Formerly having worked with the Foundation Beyond Belief and the Humanist Community at Harvard, Walker is passionate about creating chaplaincy spaces where people can share their stories and through those stories be mobilized to social action. Walker was born and raised in North Carolina and now lives in Massachusetts.

Ted Peters is a professor at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. He is also a futurist and scholar who focuses on the interaction between theology and science. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, for the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley. His website is: Ted’s Timely Take, tedstimelytake.com. Ted sponsored the “De-Worming the Mangyan” Project, he sponsored a free lunch program for Rays of Light Orphanage, and he’s the main donor to H+ Clinic.

Rosalind “Sally” Melendres is the director of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Community Center on Mindoro Island, in The Philippines. Her school serves the Mangyan indigenous people of the region. BBI sponsored numerous children at her school in 2014-2015, plus we de-wormed the students. In previous years, members of BBI purchased land for the Mangyans, bought tools, seeds, and food. BBI’s partnership with this organization ended because they were Catholic and refused to use birth control. We wish them luck in the future - their population is exploding, and their primary work (“grass-cutting”) provides a salary of less than $1 per day.


Brighter Brains Institute is a 501(c)3 non­profit, tax­exempt organization in the United States. Our EIN is #46­3953105.

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