Remarkable Women Making a Difference in Greater Palm Springs: The 2017 “Women Who Rule” Award Honorees

A scene from the 2016 WLF Awards Luncheon.
A scene from the 2016 WLF Awards Luncheon.

The Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley (WLF) is proud to announce the honorees for its 5th Annual “Women Who Rule” Awards Luncheon and Scholarship Fundraiser presented by Desert Regional Medical Center. Susie Harvey, Jan Salta, Dr. Sharon Brown-Welty, and Melissa Neiderman will be honored for their extraordinary community leadership, public service, commitment to education and visionary entrepreneurship on Friday, February 3, 2017 at Agua Caliente Resort Spa (32250 Bob Hope Drive).

This spectacular valley-wide celebration pays tribute to women achieving the highest level of success and those making a difference in our community. The event begins at 11 a.m. with an elegant reception and silent auction, followed by a 12 p.m. awards program and lunch.

All proceeds from the luncheon, and a matching donation from Pathways to Success, a division of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, will go directly towards college scholarships for the best and brightest members enrolled in WLF’s Young Women Leaders Mentoring Program.

“Each one of the honorees chosen has exemplified a dedication to our community and serving others,” said Event Chair Mahasti Islami. “We are honored to recognize them as women who rule.”

Luncheon ticket prices are $70 for WLF members, $80 for non-members and $800 for tables of ten until January 6, 2017. For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, please visit

This year’s illustrious “Women Who Rule” includes the following recipients:

“WLF Desert Visionary Award” – Susie Harvey

As a founder of Leadership Coachella Valley and of the All Valley Legislative Committee, Susie Harvey has been vital in developing leaders in our desert communities. Susie received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Whittier College and is a graduate of Institute for Organization Management – US Chamber of Commerce. She has been involved with non-profit organizations her entire life and was employed as a professional non-profit manager from 1981 until her retirement in 2006. Susie has served in leadership roles in professional organizations for both college/university development and chambers of commerce.

Susie was recently named Palm Desert Citizen of the Year by the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce and received Greater Coachella Valley’s Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Leadership Award. Since retirement, Susie has enjoyed extra time for travel, spending time with her husband, four children and four grandchildren. She still manages to find to serve on several non-profit boards including Desert Best Friend’s Closet, the Family YMCA of the Desert, the JFK Foundation, Sterling Cove Homeowners Association and until 2014, Leadership Coachella Valley.

“Mary T. Roche Community Leadership Award” – Jan Salta

jan-saltaJan Salta’s philanthropy is well known in the Coachella Valley, but her charitable heart touches many charities beyond Greater Palm Springs—in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and even her home town of Des Moines, Iowa. She serves as President and Chairman of the M. F. Salta Company as well as the Jan and Mike Salta Foundation, both of which are based in Irvine, California. In 1974, Jan moved to Palm Desert, where she met her husband Mike, to whom she was married for 34 years until his death in 2014.

Jan currently sits on the boards of the Palm Springs Art Museum, Eisenhower Medical Center, Palm Springs Film Festival, and McCallum Theater. She looks forward to continuing her charitable work and encouraging the next generation to donate their time and open up their check books to help make this world a little better for those who haven’t been as fortunate as she has been.


“Helene Galen Excellence in Education Award” – Dr. Sharon Brown-Welty

15800485_10209758339569926_1254286069113629999_o-2Dr. Sharon Brown-Welty is a leader, a visionary, and an experienced education expert. Sharon came to the Coachella Valley in July 2014 when she was appointed as the Dean of Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert Campus. Dr. Brown-Welty brought with her the personal mission to educate the young scholars of the Coachella Valley about the value of earning a higher education and maintaining that access and a vision for academic programs which directly benefit the region’s economic development. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and an educational doctorate in higher education administration and policy studies, Brown-Welty served in a number of positions at Fresno State and at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Brown-Welty exemplifies excellence in the field of education as an accomplished writer, editor, reviewer and presenter of educational leadership. Dr. Brown-Welty extends her passion to community service as well – she actively volunteers on several local committees and is a strong leader in the World Affairs Council. Sharon is married to Dr. John D. Welty, President Emeritus, Fresno State, and together they have five children and six grandchildren.

“WLF Inspiration Award” – Melissa Neiderman

melissa-neidermanMelissa Neiderman is known for her big heart and humble willingness to help those in need. She has spent much of her life trying to help others. Melissa was a teacher for 21 years, leading children to look beyond the school walls to lend a hand. She helped create an annual walk-a-thon at the Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage to raise funds to benefit local charities.

Since retiring from teaching, Melissa has become a full-time volunteer for the American Cancer Society in Palm Desert, serving as Event chair, Advisory chair, Leadership Council member, and Community Engagement Volunteer. She spearheaded the high-profile fundraising effort for Desi Cechin, a young local girl who was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. Melissa also founded and now serves on the Board for the Desi Strong Foundation. She has also been a part of the ACT for MS Christmas Tree Lane Committee, volunteers for other charities such as Loving All Animals, and has led fundraisers for the homeless.

About Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley:

Founded in 2001 by Indian Wells City Council member Mary T. Roche, the mission of Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley is to empower and develop women leaders of all ages and backgrounds in our community. Women Leaders Forum has raised more than $350,000 in college scholarship funds for the best and brightest enrolled in the Young Women Leaders Mentoring Program seeking higher education.

About David J Castello

David J Castello is the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Operating Officer for the Castello Cities Internet Network (,,, etc). His debut novel, The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) was published in 2016.

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