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Terry L. Simmons Scholarship Winners

In 2008, the American Council on Gift Annuities established an endowment to assist promising gift planners with their professional development.  The endowment was named after Terry L. Simmons in recognition of his leadership and outstanding contributions to the ACGA and entire charitable community.  The endowment provides scholarships to worthy individuals who would otherwise be unable to attend the ACGA Conference.  Along with the Simmons family, the ACGA is pleased to announce the following winners of the 2018 Terry L. Simmons Scholarship:



Sophie Davidson
International Rescue Committee, Planned Giving Associate

Sophie's deep relationship with social justice, women's liberation and class equality have empowered her to challenge those which exploit the worlds most vulnerable. Sophie was a former organizer for actions aimed at the 2008 financial crisis and created coalitions to support people affected by financial trauma. Her work fundraising for educational centers spans from an Earth Justice Preserve in North Carolina to gender awareness cooperatives in Uganda and special needs centers in Morocco. Today, Sophie works for the International Rescue Committee in New York City providing emergency aid and resettlement services to refugees. A Seattle native, Sophie graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Human Rights and Peace and Conflict. She's thankful for the opportunity to be here representing the international humanitarian sector.


Shelley DeLeon
Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gift Planning Manager 

Shelley De Leon currently works at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association as the Manager, Gift Planning. She is in charge of all of the marketing, stewardship, prospect management and trust administration for the Gift Planning department. Shelley acts as a back office for three frontline fundraisers at the LA Phil who have the audacious task of raising $100 million in planned gifts by the end of LA Phil’s Centennial Campaign. The team has a secondary goal of raising the number of legacy members from 360 to 625 by the end of the campaign as well. So far the team has successfully raised over $51 million in planned gifts. Shelley is very excited to start using her degree at her job and by the end of this June, should finish building her predictive model for gift planning, which takes information from the LA Phil’s database of over 1.5 million records, and uses a statistical model to provide predictive scores for prospects.

Shelley came to the LA Phil from the Caltech Gift Planning Department.  Before that, she worked in several major law firms, including Proskauer and Latham & Watkins. Shelley received her Bachelors from Brown University and is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern.


Sara Golden
Amnesty International, Direct Response Manager

Sara Golden is the Planned Giving Manager at Amnesty International USA, where she oversees marketing, estate and annuity administration and cultivation of legacy donors. She began working in planned giving over two years ago, and is responsible for growing the existing membership of the “Circle of Light” legacy program and increasing planned gift inquiries, intentions and confirmations.
Sara began her Amnesty career in 2012 as the Assistant to the Deputy Executive Director of External Affairs, where she was involved in coordinating the work of the Development and Communications teams. From there she worked in Direct Response, where she helped develop and implement an ambitious and collaborative fundraising strategy and manage a small team responsible for direct response administration and member services.
Prior to joining Amnesty, Sara worked at UNICEF in New York and the Kosova Women’s Network in Pristina, Kosovo, where she co-authored a report titled “1325: Facts and Fables.”
Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia and a Master’s degree in International Affairs focusing on Governance and Rights from The New School.


Yolanda Rahman, CFRE
Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Director Legacy Giving

Yolanda Rahman joyfully brings nearly 20 years of fundraising experience. This includes fundraising roles at Chicago State University, The John Marshall Law School and the Alzheimer’s Association. She has also served as a Senior Philanthropy Advisor for The Osborne Group. Yolanda is currently a National Director of Legacy Giving for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is her first role completely focused on planned giving. 

An accomplished speaker, Mrs. Rahman has been a member of Toastmaster’s International and has been an expert guest speaker for fundraising classes at Spertus Institute and Olivet Nazarene University. She is also an AFP certified Master Trainer and has taught the CFRE review course. Yolanda is honored to receive the Terry L. Simmons Scholarship and truly appreciates the opportunity it will provide her in gaining more knowledge and expertise in charitable gift annuities and other charitable giving vehicles.

Geoffrey VanderWoude 

Geoffrey VanderWoude
SUNY Canton, Planned Giving Director

Geoffrey C.S. VanderWoude is the Director of Planned Giving for the State University of New York, College of Technology at Canton (SUNY Canton). He has served in this role for a year and has been fundraising for the College for approximately 3.5 years. VanderWoude grew up in Central New York and has attended SUNY Potsdam (Philosophy, Classics, and Literature), University of Colorado – Boulder (Classics), and Clarkson University (MBA). Prior to his career in fundraising, he spent time as the manager of consignment and sales for an internationally renowned ancient art gallery.

VanderWoude takes pride in being able to connect a donor’s passion with projects at the College. For him, there is nothing more rewarding than helping to facilitate access to higher education and opening up the door to change a person’s life. While still very new to planned giving, he looks forward to a long career in the field and helping to strengthen higher education through his work. Outside of SUNY Canton, VanderWoude enjoys traveling with his wife, spinning old vinyl on his record player, and serving as the president of the local arts council.

Congratulations to the scholarship winners!  We look forward to meeting you at the conference.

For more information about Terry L. Simmons and the scholarship, please click here.