Transitions in JCC Administration

May 24, 2023
JCC thanks Kim Roberts for 24 years of service and welcomes Dr. Anita Pepper as Executive Director

Kim Roberts led JCC into the internet era

In 1998, Kim Roberts was working for a temporary agency and was assigned to work as an Administrative Assistant in Dr. Joan Seitz’s lab at Yale University. When that assignment was ending, Dr. Steitz, who at the time was the Director of the Scientific Advisors Board of the Fund, suggested that Kim talk with the Board of Managers at the Jane Coffin Childs Fund to fill the position of Administrative Director.

Kim started with the Fund in April 1999. This move made Roberts the 3rd Administrative Director in JCC history, succeeding Betty Ford who previously held the position for 55 years. At that time everything was still done by paper and pencil. They used 15-column spreadsheets to track the finances. On some levels it was a daunting task, but Kim saw an opportunity.

From the beginning, Kim knew the role would support the Fellows and facilitate the Boards for the success of the Fund. Initially, the focus was transitioning from paper to electronic files. The first transition was moving the postdoctoral fellowship application online. This made the application process more efficient for both applicants and JCC. Then, they developed a website for JCC. Finally, the physical newsletter morphed into this blog. These changes allowed Kim to provide more timely information and support to the Boards of the Fund and to the Fellows.


Dr. Anita Pepper joins JCC as Executive Director

Dr. Anita Pepper joined JCC in August 2022 as an Executive Director to help take JCC to the next level. Pepper knew the historic background of JCC and was thrilled with their vision for the future. Her broad experience as a bench scientist, and in the non-profit and donor-development realms, made Pepper the ideal candidate to guide JCC into the future.


From developmental biology to donor development

Dr. Pepper has a PhD in Developmental Genetics from New York University. In her PhD studies Pepper used genetic approaches to investigate the role of cell-signaling receptors in Caenorhabditis elegans development. Pepper then worked as a postdoc in the Department of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania. There she used Drosophila melanogaster to model how RNA editing contributes to Fragile X Syndrome. Pepper reflects that she loved the work as a bench scientist. However, she did not love all aspects of the career, which she felt that she needed to succeed as an academic researcher. At the end of her postdoc, Pepper wanted to transition to a career that would work more seamlessly with her life.

This path led Dr. Pepper to Pew Charitable Trusts. Pepper directed the biomedical programs at Pew that support distinguished research scientists globally. In particular, Pepper enjoyed directing the Pew Scholars Program and the Pew Latin American Fellows program which supports Latin American postdocs in the United States. While at Pew, Pepper learned how a top-notch non-profit organization runs effective programs. Pepper built alliances and joint programs with partners who wanted to support biomedical science through an established foundation.

Next, Dr. Pepper joined the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. There, she told the story of the work of scientists in a compelling and accessible manner to build philanthropic communities. Pepper helped cultivate authentic philanthropist-scientist connections that often took years to develop, ultimately leading to new scholarships, awards, and programs.


Looking forward to the future of JCC

Dr. Pepper was intrigued with the opportunity to join JCC because she has a passion for supporting science, scientists, and the scientific ecosystem. Furthermore, Pepper has first-hand knowledge of the critical importance of postdocs in the scientific enterprise, and the challenges they face. The combination of this past experience, and the opportunity to help shape the future postdoc landscape motivated Pepper to join JCC. Postdocs play a vital role in bringing money into universities both indirectly through research output and directly through funding. Yet, postdocs are often not recognized in tangible and intangible ways.

JCC has raised the stipend for their fellowship awards, effective the beginning of the next financial year. The JCC Board of Managers and the Board of Scientific Advisors support this change.  Pepper notes that postdocs should not have to choose between being a scientist and supporting themselves and/or their families. In addition to directly helping JCC Fellows, Pepper hopes that this initiative contributes to a broader reshaping of postdoc compensation.


Transitioning JCC to the next era

As Kim is set to retire June 30th, she feels that the Fund is poised to move forward into the next chapter. The Board of Managers, Board of Scientific Advisors and the Program office were all very happy to celebrate Kim’s tenure and present her with a gift to recognize her for all that she had done for the Fund at the recent Annual Symposium. She is very excited to have had the chance to work with the new Executive Director, Anita Pepper. She believes that great things are in store for the Fund and the Fellows in the coming years.

Currently Roberts and Dr. Pepper are working together to help transition JCC into this new era. The JCC Board of Managers and Board of Scientific Advisors wish to express their upmost gratitude to Kim Roberts for her devoted work over the last 24 years. Roberts transitioned JCC into the internet age and has been the heartbeat of JCC for a generation of Fellows. The Boards are thrilled to welcome Dr. Anita Pepper to JCC. They are confident that her knowledge, vision, and persistent enthusiasm will drive JCC into the next era.