Board of Directors

Ellen Murphy
Ellen MurphyFounder & Executive Director
Ellen Murphy, a former special education teacher and business entrepreneur, has a knack for discovering a need and then moving to fill it. In the mid 1990’s her for-profit computer business began offering computer camps to local kids. She soon noticed a substantial disparity in the computer skills of the kids from lower income areas versus those from higher income areas. This led her to speculate that teaching computer skills to the parents of those lower income kids might help the parents find better jobs and improve the families’ standard of living. Together with her sister, Katie Orrel, and brother-in-law, Wally Orrel, Ellen founded the STAR Foundation as computer training program for residents of the Brunswick Housing Authority. In the 16 years since then, the program has evolved from computer skills training classes to a life-changing, transformational program for low income residents of Glynn, Camden and McIntosh Counties. Infused into every aspect of the STAR Foundation program is Ellen’s unbridled love of people, fervent belief in the need for everyone to have basic human dignity and her raw determination to help end the cycle of poverty…one student at a time.
Pamela Devenney
Pamela Devenney
Pamela Devenney, a former TV commercial producer with SAATCHI & SAATCHI and entrepreneur, moved to the Golden Isles in 2006 with her husband, Don Peppers. When she began looking for volunteer opportunities where she could make a real impact in the community, she found STAR Foundation. Pamela was “bowled over” by STAR founders Katie and Ellen’s dedication to educating and empowering low-income adults. Pamela was so impressed with the impact that STAR was making in people’s lives that she immediately asked how she could contribute to STAR’s efforts. She joined the STAR Foundation Board of Directors in 2008 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board. Her goal is make STAR as well-known and as well funded as other major non-profit organization in Glynn County, like CASA or Habitat for Humanity, so that STAR can continue transforming lives and breaking the cycle of poverty.
Elaine Auten
Elaine Auten
Elaine Auten is a native of Brunswick and a graduate of Glynn Academy. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University before returning to south Georgia. Elaine owns Custom Drapery Shoppe and Interiors. Her personal mission statement is “asking that doors will open so that I may serve and that the right people will be in my life.” In addition to being a member of the STAR Foundation Board, her recent civic projects have included work for CMAP, Amity House, Coastal Georgia Historic Society, First United Methodist Church Board of Trustees, and Easter Seals Foundation Board of Directors. Elaine and her husband, Dean, are the proud parents of three sons.
Joan Campbell
Joan Campbell
Joan Campbell is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and has spent her career in the management of non-profit organizations, including trade and professional associations and foundations. For 12 years she served as executive director of a number of national and international certification boards, prior to her retirement at the end of 2015 (although it has turned out to be semi-retirement since she continues to be asked to conduct project work for her former clients). Joan has also served on the board of directors of association executive organizations in Chicago and New York, and on the American Society of Association Executives Foundation Board. Joan is active in her local community, where she currently serves on the library Board of Trustees, the Board of Directors of the Coastal Animal Rescue Society, and as an Elder in her church. She also volunteers in the library bookstore and for the International Seafarers’ Center.
Penny Flickinger
Penny Flickinger
Penny Flickinger has a passion for the arts and humanitarian efforts. Over the years she has been very active in her native Buffalo, NY by volunteering her time and efforts to organizations including the Junior Board of the Buffalo General Hospital, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Studio Arena Theatre Board and the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery.

In 2015 Penny was delighted to join the STAR Foundation board because she was in awe of the incredible love between the Board, the staff, the stu-dents and their successes. Penny and Tom have been married for 60 years and now live full-time on Sea Island. They have 4 children and 13 grand-children.

James R. Foster
James R. FosterChairman of the Board
James R. Foster was introduced to STAR Foundation during a site visit with the United Way in 2014. He soon began working with founder Ellen Murphy on strategies to help propel the foundation forward.

Jim has an extensive background in finance with multiple large organizations including JM Family Enterprises, Inc.; currently 23 on the Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.”

Jim has worked with Fortune 500 and smaller entrepreneurial concerns where he used his strategic skills to improve overall value. He knows how to cut costs, reduce financial risks and improve the well being of a company.

Jim and his wife, Mary Graham, reside on St Simons Island.

Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan, a graduate of Duke University and Vanderbilt University Law School, is a local civil litigation attorney with The Jordan Firm. He grew up in Glynn County and joined the STAR Foundation’s Board of Directors because he wanted to be of service to a unique organization whose inspired work makes a meaningful impact in the lives of those who most need it. Chris currently resides on St. Simons Island with his wife, Christy. On occasion on weekends he can be spied lending his piano skills to the Island Garage Band.
Jane Lafferty
Jane Lafferty
Jane Lafferty is the current Chairman of the Marshes of Glynn Library Board and when she heard that the STAR Foundation has its own library and does not ban its members from checking books out because of overdue fines she immediately joined the STAR Foundation Board. When asked why she really joined the STAR Foundation she will tell you with a sports car twinkle in her eye, “I am most passionate about the potential of the students, and how we can communicate and reinforce that for them.”

Jane has a long history in human resource management and is now on Retirement 2. She earned a BBA and later an Executive MBA. Jane and her husband moved to the Golden Isles in 2000 something. Jane has lived in many different places around the country and is wasting no time in becoming involved in the local community.

Jane Thau
Jane Thau
Jane Thau, a native Texan, studied education at Agnes Scott College and Southern Methodist University. She lived in Dallas for 39 years where she was active in many civic and cultural organizations including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League. In 2000 she and her husband, Bill, moved to St Simons Island. She became interested in STAR Foundation after attending a graduation and seeing “the incredible interaction between Ellen, Katie, Peter and the students.” STAR’s adult education mission was a great match for Jane’s own background in education. She joined the STAR Foundation Board of Directors in 2013. Her other community activities have included serving on the St Simons Island Land Trust, Steering Committee for the Old Stables Project and the Coastal Georgia Symphony Society.
Frankie Strother
Frankie Strother
Frankie was born in Decatur, Alabama and graduated from the University of Georgia with a major in Advertising and minor in Marketing. For 22 years, she has been employed by Sea Island Company and currently serves as the Director of Membership and Activities. Frankie has been actively involved with many local community organizations and has served on the Board for United Way, American Cancer Society, The Humane Society and the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. In 2013 Frankie joined the STAR Foundation Board. Her goal for STAR is “to gain more recognition in the community, increase funding from businesses and individuals and educate the business community about this wonderful resource.” Frankie is married to Gordon Strother. They have 3 children – Evan, Marlo and Gordon Jr.
Katie Murphy-Orrel
Katie Murphy-OrrelFounder
Katie Murphy-Orrel, the daughter of a Head Start teacher, grew up knowing the importance and value of education. Over the years she has worked as an Area Director at Kinder Care, a teacher at United Way and even owned her own restaurant. In 1996 Katie and her husband, Wally Orrel, moved back to Brunswick to be closer to family. They joined her sister, Ellen, at Dataline Computer Services. Over the next 3 years Katie, Wally and Ellen developed the original idea for teaching computer classes to help lower income people find better jobs. The idea grew until it became a mission and the Southern Technological Advocacy Resource Foundation (or STAR as it is known today) was born. Since 1999 Katie has served as an instructor at STAR. She is passionate about each and every student that comes through the door at STAR. Through love, determination and a generous sprinkling of dry humor she pushes her students to do their best and strive to reach their goals.
Wally Orrel
Wally OrrelFounder
Wally Orrel, a regional economic development professional, is one of the three charter members of STAR Foundation. He along with his wife, Katie Orrel, and sister-in-law, Ellen Murphy, developed the idea for STAR as a way to improve the available workforce in the community. In 2009 Wally left the day-to-day operations of STAR to become President of the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce and the McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority. However he has remained on the STAR Foundation Board as an advocate for its mission. Wally is very active in the community serving as the Vice-Chairman of the Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority, Board Member of the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, Past-President of the Rotary Club of Glynn and McIntosh Counties and serves on the College of Coastal Georgia Business and Public Affairs Advisory Board and the Altamaha Technological College Advisory Board.
Lee Hiers Owen
Lee Hiers Owen
Lee Owen has actively served in the nonprofit sector in Georgia for forty years. Her lengthy record of service includes over two decades in the fundraising division of MAP (Medical Assistance Programs) International, a health organization active in disaster relief, medicine distribution, community health training, and AIDS prevention overseas.

After MAP Lee served eight years as the Executive Director of the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation. In this role, Lee had the opportunity to work with many of the local non-profit organizations including STAR Foundation. Upon retiring from the Communities of Coastal Georgia at the end of 2014, Lee enthusiastically became a member of the STAR Foundation Board of Directors.

Lee is married to Cannon Owen, and they live on St. Simons Island.