Board Members


Dr. Richard (Dick) Neal


(Clarksville, Iowa) grew up in Shell Rock and went to college at Wartburg and Iowa State. Later he attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he received a PhD in Fisheries Science. The National Marine Fisheries Service employed him in Galveston where he did research on shrimp populations and farming methods for shrimp. In 1997 he was loaned to the Agency for International Development as an aquaculture advisor. Working out of Washington D.C., Neal supervised fisheries research in developing countries. Following this, he and his family moved to the Philippines where he was Deputy Director and Director of the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM). On return to the U.S., he worked out of Washington D.C., again supervising research in developing countries. His final employer was the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla, California where he was Deputy Director. In 2004, he retired to a family farm between Shell Rock and Clarksville where he raises bees and gardens.


Fran Mueller

Vice President

(Waverly, Iowa) Fran joined the Self-Help Board in 1995, and has served terms as both president and vice president. Fran graduated from Bowling Green State University with a BS in English, and Health & Physical Education. She also has completed graduate coursework in teaching English as a second language (TESOL), University of Northern Iowa’s Field School in Archaeology, and worked for five summers at the Lahav Research Archaeology Project in Israel. Now retired, Fran previously was employed by Iowa State University and Wartburg College as an instructor in Women’s Health & Physical Education. She was also the developer and teacher of the physical education program at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa. She is an active partner and owner of Mueller Farms, Inc. Fran has been involved in several boards and committees apart from her involvement with Self-Help, such as the Waverly Rotary Board and Allen Hospital and College Boards. Fran is married to Howard Mueller. Together, they have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and four granddaughters. In her spare time, Fran likes to travel anywhere, especially with a purpose. She also enjoys biking, canoeing, and attending her grandchildren’s events. Together, Fran and Howard received the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier’s 8 over 80 award in 2015 for their active service in the Cedar Valley.


Deb Giarusso


(Cedar Falls, Iowa) joined the Self-Help Board of Directors in 2016 and serves as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee. Deb is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and MBA who has been an instructor at the University of Northern Iowa in the College of Business Administration since 1998. She also works as the Portfolio Manager for Longflight Investments, and has served on the boards of both the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa and Sartori Hospital Foundation.


Barbara Hatinger


(Cedar Falls, Iowa) brings extensive experience in international business, nonprofit management, strategic planning and financial planning to the Development and Nicaragua committees. She is an active member of the Cedar Falls Rotary Club, as well as being heavily involved in various community and charitable organizations.


Paul Curtis

(West Des Moines, Iowa) was born in Chariton, Iowa and graduated from Ankeny High School in 1975. He attended Iowa State University and graduated with a B.S. in Economics in 1979.  Paul then attended University of Michigan Law School and graduated in 1982.  Paul brings a background in human resources and employment law to Self-Help. He represented clients in labor and employment law issues in Iowa before he started Curtis Communications, Inc. which provides essential human resource information and training services to employers throughout the U.S. – from multinational corporations to small companies.  Paul also taught courses in labor and employment law at Iowa State University as an Adjunct Professor in the ISU MBA program. He is a long time member of Union Park United Methodist Church and enjoys spending time with his family.


Dr. William Edwards

(Ames, Iowa) retired from Iowa State University as a Professor of Economics and an Extension Farm Management Specialist. He has traveled and worked extensively around the world, including in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, The Czech Republic, Germany and Argentina. He brings his interests in farm management, finance, risk management and government programs to the expertise of the Board, where he serves on the Finance and Nicaragua committees.


Dr. Dorothy Masinde

(Ames, Iowa), is a lecturer in Global Resource Systems at Iowa State University and Internship Coordinator for Africa Region. She worked as an Associate Director of Field Operations in the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods program, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, between 2004 and 2011. She has worked as a rural development and sustainable agriculture practitioner for more than 26 years working for the government, national and bilateral organizations. She has taught at colleges and universities in Africa. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture and Home Economics from Egerton University, Kenya, her Master’s in Agriculture, in the field of Agriculture Extension and Adult Education from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and her PhD in Rural Sociology from University of Nairobi. She is currently a Co-Principal Investigator on a McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) funded project on “Promoting production and utilization of grain amaranth for improved nutrition and health in Uganda,” (2010-2014). She co-leads a service learning program at Iowa State University that partners with Makerere University, Uganda to work with primary schools in Uganda to help teach agriculture, science and math, and establish school gardens to provide lunches to children.

Paula Archibald O’Brien

(West Des Moines, Iowa) Paula’s passion for charitable work is a result of her spiritual journey as well as her need to find balance and purpose in her life. Her charitable interests have been very influenced by her late husband, who was brought to the US by Catholic Relief Services, and her grandparents who immigrated to the US from Croatia and settled in southern Iowa.  Paula has an extensive volunteer history and is a Stephens Minister.  She has traveled to Haiti with Catholic Relief Services, worked with state representatives on Capitol Hill on International Affairs Budget spending to name a few. Through these and many more experiences, Paula joins Self-Help with extensive knowledge of providing services to developing countries responsibly.  In September 2015, she was inspired by her mentor to walk the Camino Santiago in Spain.


Dr. Mary Jane Oakland

(Ames, Iowa) joined the Board in 2005. She retired from Iowa State University in 2006 after joining the nutrition and dietetics faculty in 1979, and has worked diligently to help Self-Help with questions related to nutritional concerns of the children, women and families in Ghana and Nicaragua. In 2007, Dr. Oakland spent a couple of weeks working to expand the feeding programs in Nicaragua to reach more malnourished children, and traveled to Ghana in 2016, 2018 and 2019 to advise Self-Help’s feeding programs in the Ashanti Region and design and monitor the “Growing Healthy Children, Growing Healthy Communities” intervention in the first 1,000 days of life for babies born in rural villages in Ashanti Region. She is also an active adviser on child nutrition programs in Swaziland through the Episcopal Church. Dr. Oakland is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and most recently served at St. Paul’s in Marshalltown before retiring in 2016.

Jerry Perkins

Jerry Perkins

(Des Moines, Iowa) has covered farm and agribusiness news, both domestically and internationally, for more than 40 years. After graduating from George Washington University, he joined the Peace Corps, working in agricultural and community development programs in Panama and Nicaragua from 1970-72. He returned to Iowa in 1976 and started his journalism career at the Guthrie Center (IA) Newspapers in 1976. Jerry worked for the Des Moines Register from 1978-88 covering the suburbs, local government and agribusiness, and then served as public affairs director of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board from 1988-93. In 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he took a leave of absence from the corn growers and spent seven months in Stavropol, Russia, managing the Russian-American Agribusiness Center, which assisted Russian agriculture in becoming more market-oriented. Jerry returned to the Des Moines Register as Farm Editor  from 1993-2008, during which time he regularly covered Dr. Norman Borlaug’s work to alleviate hunger and wrote several stories about Self-Help’s work abroad. He took an early retirement from the paper in September 2008. From July 2009-March 2018, he was the editor of BioFuels Journal, a quarterly magazine that covered the ethanol and advanced biofuels industries. Jerry and his wife, Peggy, live in Des Moines, IA and have three grown sons and one granddaughter.


Dennis Preslicka

(Iowa City, Iowa) has represented the Iowa United Methodist Men on the Self-Help Board of Directors since 2003. He is a native of South Dakota and a graduate of the University of South Dakota (BA) and the University of Iowa (MS). From 1970-74 he taught mathematics at Iowa Wesleyan College. From 1974-2012 he worked in administrative computing at the University of Iowa managing the student record information system. Some of his interests are travel, reading, golf, church activities, Hawkeye sports and playing bridge. He has made four work trips to Nicaragua for Self-Help. He is currently the chair of the Self-Help nominating committee. He and his wife Carol are retired and live in Coralville. They have one son Jim, daughter-in-law Amy, and three grandchildren.


Nancy Ross

(Coralville, Iowa) is a retired primary school teacher who received her MBA with non-profit emphasis in retirement. She is active in church volunteering, community groups and local NGO relief agencies addressing hunger and poverty. Since joining the board in 2016, she has brought her community action experience to Self-Help’s Development and Nicaragua committees.


Dr. Bertel Schou

(Cedar Falls, Iowa) joined the Self-Help board in 1987 shortly after a trip with his wife Diane to Senegal. He has served as President, Vice President, and Treasurer and now is project chair. He received a PhD in crops and soils from Michigan State and a masters degree from North Dakota State in agronomy. After a post doctorate at Ohio State, Schou spent five years with Monsanto in St Louis as a senior research biologist. He came to Cedar Falls in 1980 and started a private agricultural research business called ACRES. His first trip to Nicaragua was in 1999 and has since then participated in 10 trips; these trips have been at his expense. Bert and Diane enjoy spending time with their son, Paul, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.


Carol Richardson Smith

(Perry, Iowa) has a BS from Northwest Missouri State University in Vocational/ Adult Home Economics education and her master’s degree in International Development Studies from ISU. The interdisciplinary master’s program emphasized development: rural development, training and development in business, and adult education/ international development. Smith is certified in Family and Consumer Science and the International Federation. She has served as bylaws chair and secretary of the Iowa Association of Family and Consumer Science and is a member of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national extension honorary. Carol Smith works for ISU Extension, with 10 years of extension experience as an extension Home Economist, a Country Extension Education Director, and as the coordinator of Health Leadership Iowa, a statewide interagency coalition project that works to build capacity for community leadership and community action with local health agencies. Previous work experience includes 20 years of classroom teaching at the secondary level. Interests and skills include process design and facilitation, expertise in community development and planning, leadership training and development, microenterprise development and organization. In addition to volunteer work with SHI, which included a program evaluation assignment to Ghana in 1999, she is co-founder of Resident’s Encounter Christ movement in Iowa, a weekend retreat experience for incarnated adults held twice a year since 1983 at the Iowa Correctional institution for Women. She continues to be active on the leadership committee for the movement; keeping the manual up to date, training volunteers, and overseeing program evaluation.


Keith Swanson

(Des Moines, Iowa) is Managing Director of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley in West Des
Moines. He holds a B.A. degree from Iowa State University. Keith grew up in Colo, Iowa with a farming
background that is helpful during his trips to Ghana and Nicaragua with Self-Help. Keith has served on
Self-Help’s Finance and Ghana sub-committees since 2015. He and his wife, Nancy, enjoy traveling,
hiking and biking together. They also enjoy spending time chasing around their eight young


Nick Taiber

(Cedar Falls, Iowa) joined the Self-Help Board in 2009. Originally from Waverly, Nick returned to the Cedar Valley in 2004 to lead acquisition and business development activities for CPM Holdings. Prior to CPM, he worked for John Deere in factory and production system design in the United States and abroad. An engineer by education, Nick’s interests include travel, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, architecture, and active living. He resides in Cedar Falls with his sons Julian and Roman, and serves on Self-Help International’s Development and Ghana sub-committees.

Dawn Taylor

(Des Moines, Iowa) joined the Self-Help Board in 2019.

Emeritus board members have completed 3 or more terms of service on the Board of Directors and continue to serve as key advisers even after they are no longer active board members.  

David Fredrick, Emeritus

(Waverly, Iowa) is an Iowa native. He holds an MA in economics plus doctoral studies in resource economics. He is a retired from 28 years of service Foreign Service Officer, having been posted in Thailand, Senegal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Yemen Arab Republic, Morocco and Washington, DC, and subsequently served as Wartburg College’s Director of International Admissions for fourteen years. He has been in 78 countries and speaks French, Arabic and Thai. He travels and volunteers for tasks for Self-Help in both Ghana and Nicaragua, as well as in the United States. His skills and experience in agricultural economics, sustainable development, medium and long term planning/budgeting and risk/vulnerability assessment are useful for Self-Help International. Fredrick was named an emeritus member of the Board of Directors in June 2017 after 20 years of service.


Dr. Dale Harpstead, Emeritus

(East Lansing, Michigan) is a native of South Dakota and a graduate of South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska where he earned a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics. From 1961 to 1969 he served on the staff of the Rockefeller Foundation as director of their Andean Region maize improvement program and living in Colombia, South America. In 1969 he accepted a position as Professor and Chairman of Crop and Soil Sciences at Michigan State University. Other food and development related activities include: serving for 13 years on the Board for Relief and Development of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, Switzerland; Board for cooperative research development of Edible Beans and Cowpeas between USAID and the US Land Grant University System and for two years served in Washington DC on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD). He is now retired and continues to advise Self-Help’s Nicaragua program.


Robert Hellman, Sr., Emeritus

(Waterloo, Iowa) Robert has two passions: the game of business and the game of baseball. A truly original pitchman, Bob has answered every curveball that the advertising industry has thrown for the past 50+ years. He has watched the firm he founded in 1967 with just $400 start-up capital transition into a full-service marketing, advertising and public relations agency. Over the years, Hellman has served more than 400 clients including 129 of the current Fortune 500 companies. Today, Hellman has offices in Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota. In 2005, Bob founded Build Our Ballpark, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged kids by building and renovating parks for youth baseball and softball. Through Build Our Ballpark, Self-Help International, and Bob’s other philanthropic works, he has been recognized for his commitment to the community with awards that include the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier’s 8 Over 80 Award, the Greater Cedar Valley Chamber of Commerce “Fulfilling the Vision of One” Award, the “Service Above Self” Award, the Frances Mills Child and Family Advocacy Award, and admission into the Optimist Club and Junior Achievement Business Halls of Fame. In his free time, Bob is an avid runner, wine collector and sports car aficionado.  Bob was named an emeritus member of Self-Help’s Board of Directors in 2017 after 9 years of service.

Jerry Larson, Emeritus

(Cedar Falls, Iowa) Jerry Larson was raised on a Kansas farm. After graduating from Kansas State University with an Engineering degree in 1955, took a job with John Deere tractor engineering. In his early years, he was granted a 4-year military leave to fulfill his Air Force obligation as a pilot, after which he returned to product engineering and manufacturing operations, in a variety of positions. In the late 1970s into the mid-1980s, Jerry served on the Self-Help International Board of Directors as both a member and as President for a few years. This was during the time when Vern Schield was actively involved with promoting the little 7 HP tractor, converting it from a gas engine to the Yanmar diesel engine, and simplifying it for manufacture in foreign countries. Jerry’s guidance was helpful during this venture. He retired from Deere in 1991.

Joseph Legg, Emeritus

(Anamosa, Iowa) Joe served as the Jones County Extension Director in Anamosa for 37 years. He received the USDA Distinguished Service award among others, and remained active in retirement, taking 14 Ag Development trips for USAID, each lasting 3-6 weeks in African and Eastern European Countries. He also participated in five two-week trips to Caribbean and Central America through his church, repairing and improving church related properties. Joe’s wife, Esther, was an active partner on most of these trips. Joe’s recent activities include management of some local farms for absentee landlords. He was also appointed the Anamosa Mayor and was then elected for three two-year terms. Joe has also served 50+ years in Rotary, and remains active in the Anamosa Rotary Club.


Maria Maixner, Emeritus

(Ankeny, Iowa) Maria served on Self-Help’s board from 2006-2015 and remains active as an emeritus board member. Maixner graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. Maixner possesses over twenty years of direct clinical nursing experience in multiple settings, including Intensive Care, Cardiac Step-Down, Stroke Unit, Urgent Care Clinic, Emergency Department, and Home Health. She also has seven years of supervisory experience in Home Health Care and experience as a leader and facilitator in Quality Improvement team activities. Most notably, Maixner has developed a disease process pathway model that can be employed for care delivery in the Home Health setting. In addition to her service to Self-Help, Maxiner is a member of the Iowa Hospital Association’s Home Care Council. In her spare time, Maixner enjoys volunteering within her church and community, and non-profit organizations. She also loves to bike, walk, and is an avid Iowa Hawkeye sports fan.


J. Howard Mueller, Emeritus

(Waverly, Iowa) A board member for 15 years and past president, Howard has been involved with Self-Help since 1975. An Air Force Veteran, Mueller graduated from Iowa State University in 1953. Mueller was self-employed as the co-operator of a family farming business he owns with his wife Fran. Today, he is retired, but helps his son Mark Mueller, who has taken over the business. They grow corn, soybeans, and contract specialty crops. Over the years, Mueller has also been involved with a variety of boards and committees. He has served as chairman for the U.S. Grains Council, Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Iowa Corn Growers Association, National Federal Land Bank Advisory Committee, Cedar Falls Federal Land Bank Advisory Committee, and the Waverly-Shell Rock School Board. Similarly, he has served as director of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Trustee of the National Agriculture Council of America and has completed trade missions for the U.S. Grains Council to China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, East Germany, Algeria and Morocco. Additionally, John accompanied John Block, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, on a public relations mission to Japan. Mueller has been named Iowa Master Farmer, class of 1986, and was awarded a Community Service Award with his wife Fran by the Waverly Chamber of Commerce, 1985. Howard and Fran have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. In his spare time, Howard likes to attend his granddaughters’ events. He also plays the baritone in the New Horizons Band, UNI, and the Waverly Municipal Band, and enjoys traveling with Fran.

Gene Novak, Emeritus

(Marion, Iowa)


Dr. Warren Prawl, Emeritus

(Manhattan, Kansas)


Jon Tehven, Emeritus

(Waverly, Iowa) grew up on a farm in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. At an early age, he learned about helping other when his church joined with Lutheran World Relief to provide food and financial assistance to war-torn Europe and Japan. He graduated from Wartburg College and continued with graduate studies at the University of Northern Iowa. His career began as a high school English teacher in Iowa and Illinois. He left teaching and joined Lutheran Mutual Life Insurance Company (now CUNA Mutual Life) as a salesperson in the Chicago area, where he also administered training to new agents. He was then appointed Manager of Field Training and moved to the home office in Waverly, Iowa. In addition to serving on the board at Self-Help International, he has taken leadership roles in his church, the local and international communities, especially in the area of fund raising. He and his wife Gloria (retired reading specialist) live in Waverly and have traveled extensively in Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, and Central America. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.


Dr. James (Jim) West, Emeritus

(Ames, Iowa) joined the SHI Board in 2002. His particular interest is in improving agricultural practices, with particular interest in cost-effective sustainable alternatives. Jim is currently employed by The College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University as a professor of clinical medicine and director of the embryo transfer unit. Prior to returning to ISU, Jim was in private veterinary practice and owner of Westwood Embryo Services. While running Westwood, Jim exported embryos and trained veterinarians from fifteen countries on five continents. Jim and his wife Mary, a partner at Westwood and a Spanish teacher at Des Moines Area Community College, have two daughters and five grandchildren. In their spare time, Mary and Jim enjoy gardening, international travel and bicycling.