The Erie Community Foundation Welcomes Three New Board Trustees


ERIE – The Erie Community Foundation has announced the addition of three new trustees to the board: Annē L. Lewis, director of Marketing at Red Letter Hospitality; Robin Scheppner, president and managing owner of American Tinning & Galvanizing (ATG); and, Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., dean of College of Engineering and Business and a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Gannon University. 

Lewis, North East native, graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a minor in Entrepreneurship. As director of Marketing, she is responsible for advertising and communications for The Cork 1794, Molly Brannigan’s and The Skunk & Goat Tavern. She coordinates all social media platforms, website and menu development, advertising campaigns, public relations initiatives nurturing relationships with local businesses, and community engagement. 

Lewis is a member of the Athena Circle of Trust, Young Erie Professionals, Young Erie Philanthropists, Hamot Health Foundation Corporator, Perry Square Alliance Board Member, a 2019 graduate of Jefferson Civic Leadership Academy, 40 under 40 recipient, and a constant cheerleader to the Erie community. 

Scheppner took the helm at ATG, the company has nearly doubled its workforce, invested millions of dollars in infrastructure and equipment, earned prestigious aerospace certification and consistently enjoyed double digit growth. 

The Erie native holds many degrees and credentials, including a BFA from Denison University, teaching credentials from Cleveland State University and University of Utah, an associate degree in Building Construction from Salt Lake Community College. Prior to her position at ATG she taught art at an inner-city junior high school in the Cleveland Public School System then eventually taught in Naples, Florida. Scheppner became licensed in insurance and mutual fund sales and opened the first office of Ameriprise Financial Services in Naples. She also has high-rise construction management experience working as designer and project manager for a high-end cabinet company. 

Scheppner has been involved in various service and benevolent organizations throughout her varied work experiences. Since returning to Erie, she reaffirmed her membership at Wayside Presbyterian Church where she serves as a deacon. She joined the Erie Women’s Fund of The Erie Community Foundation and recently served as their chair for three years. She became a panel advisor to five Athena Powerlink recipients over six years. She is an original member and is still serving on the Mayor’s Business Council for Joe Schember. She is a member of Rotary and an active United Way Board member. Currently, she chairs the United Way’s Resource Development Committee and serves on the Executive Board of Women United for Community Schools. 

Vernaza, a native of Panama City, Panama, has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications centering on high-strain deformation of materials and engineering education. Recently, she has focused on systemic strategies for the retention and advancement of STEM faculty and students, and academic interventions to improve student success. She is currently the program director of a $1.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Power Investment and has secured more than $2.5 million in grants during her tenure at Gannon University. During the past three years, she has led the academic development, space design, and R&D and operations contracts in the Institute of Health and Cyber Knowledge (I-Hack). 

Vernaza attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems. After graduating, she was employed as a Ship Manager in Braswell Shipyards in Panama. She was awarded a Project Latin America 2000 Graduate Fellowship by the Kellogg Institute, the Coca-Cola Company, and the University of Notre Dame to perform graduate studies. She earned a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. 

Vernaza is active in the community, is an Erie Ambassador, serves on the Board of Directors for the Erie Technology Incubator, the ExpERIEnce Children Museum and PSNERGY, LLC. She regularly volunteers on the Society of Women Engineers, serves as a mentor for young women in partnership with the Northwest Pennsylvania Girls Scout Council, and serves as reviewer for the American Society of Engineering Education Conference. She also serves in the ASCEND Advisory Board, and NSF funded program. 

“We are excited about the three new additions to our Board of Trustees. Our diverse 13-member board represents all aspects of our community and offers various points of view, which makes for a strong and healthy board,” said Foundation President and CEO Karen L. Bilowith. “Throughout the year, our very engaged board makes collective and thoughtful decisions on how to transform our community and move Erie forward.” 

The three new trustees join Marcus Atkinson, Karen Bilowith, Rev. Donald L. Baxter Jr., M.D., William M. Hilbert Jr., Charles G. Knight, III CPA, Sarah Hagen McWilliams, Deborah W. Murphy, CFP®, David M. Tullio, Thomas A. Tupitza, Esq. and James R. Walczak, Esq. as members of the board. 

The Erie Community Foundation works to improve the quality of life for all in our region by evaluating and addressing community issues, by building permanent charitable endowments and by promoting philanthropic and community leadership. 

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