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it’s a cliché to say that an organization is only as good as its people. and it’s also true. our people are a particularly dedicated, caring group. we’d like you to meet some of them.
John H. Cochrane III
President and CEO
John Cochrane joined be.group in 2009. As president and chief executive officer, he is responsible for the strategic direction of the company, overseeing operations and serving as the primary liaison to the be.group Board of Directors. Prior to joining be.group, Cochrane worked for Life Care Retirement Communities, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, where he served as chief operating officer overseeing 11 retirement communities in seven states. Cochrane previously worked as a developer of multi-unit housing as sole proprietor of Glenwood Senior Living in Chicago, as a practicing attorney specializing in real estate and finance, and as executive director of the $150-million retirement community Oak Crest Village in Catonsville, Maryland. He has his law degree from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Illinois University. He resides in Pasadena.
Daniel S. Ogus
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Dan Ogus joined be.group in 1995, serving in a variety of capacities including regional executive director of The Redwoods, executive director at Redwood Terrace and director of food services at White Sands La Jolla before becoming COO in 2009. He is responsible for overseeing all operational areas including be.group’s licensed communities, affordable housing and the be.group foundation. Ogus has his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Dallas and a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Houston. He resides in Carlsbad.
David L. Pierce
Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Dave Pierce joined be.group in 2007 as controller. He was named vice president and chief financial officer in 2012. Prior to joining be.group, he worked for 27 years in health care as controller for UniHealth and in 1998 served as the Southern California Division’s director of finance when UniHealth merged with Catholic Healthcare West. Pierce has his bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University, Northridge. He lives in Valley Village.
Benjamin F. Beckler III
Vice President of Project Development
Ben Becker joined be.group in 1991. He is responsible for oversight and administration of all new be.group development. Beckler has overseen the acquisition and development of senior affordable housing communities under the HUD 202 program, master planning and redevelopment of various continuing care retirement community campuses, and development of stand-alone assisted living communities. He has his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Idaho and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Southern California. He resides in Burbank.
Vice President, Talent Management &Human Resources
Michelle Esser joined be.group in 2014. As vice president of talent management and human resources, she is responsible for the strategic direction of be.group staffing in all of its communities, programs and services. She oversees management of all human resource functions, including recruitment, talent management, professional development, and compensation and benefits administration. Prior to joining be.group, Esser most recently served as director of employee and organizational development at California Institute of Technology. She previously served as vice president of human resources at Western Federal Corporate Credit Union and vice president of human resources development at Wescom Credit Union. Esser has her master’s degree in organizational management from Azusa Pacific University and a bachelor’s degree in business from Woodbury University. She resides in Altadena.
Vice President, Skilled Nursing & Risk Management
Marc Herrera joined be.group in 1988. As vice president of skilled nursing administration and risk management, Herrera ensures that be.group has the internal processes to achieve the highest level of integrity, quality assurance, risk management and compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations. He also serves as be.group’s corporate compliance and privacy officer. Herrera has his master’s degrees in public administration and gerontology from the University of Southern California, and is a licensed California nursing home administrator and real estate broker. He also is a certified residential care facility for the elderly administrator and a certified professional in aging services risk management. Herrera resides in Northridge.
Vice President, Communications & Marketing
Dan Hutson joined be.group in 2008. As vice president of communications and marketing, he is responsible for overseeing the organization’s communications, marketing and brand identity programs as well as strategic planning. Prior to joining be.group, he served as chief communications officer for the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council and previously owned a communications design firm specializing in serving educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Hutson has bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology from UCLA. He resides in Monrovia.
Jack W. Anderson
Jack Anderson has served on the be.group board since 2007. He worked for 37 years in various local government positions in the Escondido area, retiring from the city of Escondido as assistant city manager in 2007. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy for 24 years, retiring as a captain in 1991. Anderson has his master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Fullerton, a bachelor’s degree from California Lutheran University, and a certificate in park management from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He resides in Escondido.
James R. Anderson
James Anderson has served on the be.group board since 1999. He began his career as a real estate market analyst before joining his father as a commercial and industrial general contractor in 1972. From 1986 to 1992, Anderson was a planning commissioner for the City of La CaÃ±ada-Flintridge. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics and has done graduate work in business economics. He lives in La CaÃ±ada-Flintridge.
Judith D. Baker
Judy Baker began her service with be.group as a member of the Westminster Gardens Board of Directors, joining the be.group board when the two bodies were merged in 2012. She has extensive experience in health care, improving performance through analysis of processes and systems, stakeholder focus group research, introduction of metrics and development strategic plans and initiatives. A registered nurse, Baker has her master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from the University of San Francisco. She resides in Altadena.
William J. Battison III
Bill Battison joined the be.group board in 2011. He has held numerous corporate leadership positions, including stints as president of Westwood One Inc. and NBC Radio Network; president and CEO of BuyitNow Inc.; executive vice president and chief operating officer of Iwerks Entertainment; and executive vice president of Valence Technology Inc. He has his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia’s Colgate Darden Graduate Business School, as well as his bachelor’s degree in economics from U.Va. He resides in La CaÃ±ada-Flintridge.
Donna Benton, Ph.D.
Donna Benton joined the be.group board in 2009. She is an assistant research professor of gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and corporate director of older adult services at Pacific Clinics. Benton is a clinical psychologist specializing in gerontology.Â She also serves as an appointee for state Assembly Speaker John Perez on the California Commission on Aging. Benton has done postdoctoral work at USC and received her doctorate in psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She resides in Los Angeles.
David R. Decker, Esq.
David Decker initially served on the be.group board from 1998 to 2007, rejoining in 2008. He also serves as part-time special counsel to be.group on various projects. After completing his law degree, Decker served in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps for more than three years, and another 25 years in the reserve. He is a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Decker was a partner in two Los Angeles law firms and of counsel at two other firms, totaling 40 years of service. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Lehigh University. He resides in Los Angeles.
Carolyn J. Downey, Ph.D.
Carolyn Downey has served on the be.group board since 2012, and currently serves as chair of the be.group foundation board. She is president of Palo Verde Associates, an educational consulting firm. Downey is professor emeritus in the educational leadership department at San Diego State University. She formerly served as superintendent for the Kyrene School District in Tempe, Ariz., and more than 30 years as an administrator in its Kâ??12 system. Downey received her doctorate from Arizona State University and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. She has written more than 30 books and numerous articles or chapters in other books. Downey resides at be.group’s White Sands La Jolla, where she serves as president of the community’s resident association and is on its foundation advisory council.
Rand M. Ferris
Rand Ferris joined the be.group board in 2010. He serves as vice president of restaurant operations for Togo’s Eateries, a California sandwich company with 250 locations. Ferris has held multiple senior executive leadership positions at various retail and restaurant companies, including Grand American Fare, Blum’s of San Francisco, The Nut Tree and IHOP. He has his master’s degree in business administration from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Chico. He resides in Santa Clarita.
Eldon F. Holl
Eldon Holl has served on the be.group board since 2009. A retired CPA, Holl received his master’s degree in business administration from UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles.
Albert W. Kelley, Chair
Al Kelly has served on the be.group board since 2008. Prior to joining be.group, he worked for 37 years as a commercial bank lending officer to large national and international companies. He received his master’s degree in business administration from the University of California and his bachelor’s from California Western. He resides in La CaÃ±ada-Flintridge.
Phoebe Liebig, Ph.D.
Phoebe Liebig served on the be.group board from 1996 to 2005 and rejoined in 2006. She is an emerita professor at USC in gerontology and public policy, and has been awarded two Fulbright Senior Scholarships to India as well as many other honors. Liebig is a past president of the Retired Faculty Association at the University of Southern California and a member of the USC Academic Senate.Â She received her doctorate in public administration from USC, and her master’s degree in political science and bachelor’s degree in government and economics from UCLA. She resides in Culver City.
Phyllis Manley joined the be.group board in 2012 as part of her duties as chair of the be.group Residents Council. Manley was an educator for 33 years and taught for 28 of those years in the Pasadena Unified School District. She has served as president of a wide range of organizations, including the Pasadena branch of AAUW, the Docent Council of the Gamble House, the local division of the California Retired Teachers Association and the Women’s Committee of the Brown University Club of Southern California. She has her master’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.
Edward Newman, Ph.D.
Edward Newman has served on the be.group board from 2003 to 2012, returning in 2013. Prior to this, he served as a trustee on the Westminster Gardens board for six years. Newman is an ordained Deacon and Elder of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church and served most recently as a trustee. He has been on the faculty at City of Hope doing cancer research since 1981 and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Investigational Drug Steering Committee. He has his doctorate in pharmacology from Yale University, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. He resides in Altadena.
Kay Rustand joined the be.group board in 2010. She recently retired as vice president of counsel for Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. and was lead attorney for its initial public offering. She has also served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as a law clerk in Hawaii and was a partner in a national law firm. Rustand has her law degree from UCLA, a bachelor’s in linguistics from UCLA and a teaching credential from San Diego State University. She lives in Glendale.
Jack D. Samuelson
Jack Samuelson joined the be.group board in 1992. He was chairman of Samuelson Brothers, Samuelson Builders and Samuelson Real Estate for more than 62 years, and served on the La CaÃ±ada Unified School District Board of Education for 14 years. In addition to his service to be.group, Samuelson was a director of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for 20 years, 10 as board chair. He is the author of three books and the founder of Beacon Housing, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide affordable housing for families. He is a graduate of Occidental College and received an honorary doctorate from the school in 1997. He graduated from the Officers School at Cornell University and served as an ensign on the USS Louisville during World War II. He resides at Royal Oaks, be.group’s senior living community in Bradbury.
White Sands La Jolla
Mary Ann Prelock