As a lifelong educator, Kathy Bihr has experienced many proud moments, from seeing individual students succeed to being recognized for her leadership in education. But nothing could top the opening of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif., in 2006.
Hired as the executive director of the Tiger Woods Foundation in 2004, shortly after finishing her doctorate in educational leadership, Dr. Bihr was given a broad directive from her new boss, legendary golfer Tiger Woods. He wanted the learning center to be a safe place for kids to come after school—a place where they would have access to learning opportunities, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (often called STEM education).
“The development of the learning center was a big unknown because it hadn’t been done before,” says the member of John Greenleaf Whittier Chapter, Whittier, Calif. “That made the opening extremely emotional, even more so when we saw kids from all over the city talking and figuring out chemistry concepts together. It put a lump in my throat.”
The center took off quickly. Today, as the foundation’s vice president of programs and education, Dr. Bihr manages a team of more than 30 employees, plus hundreds of volunteers, who help serve more than 10,000 at-risk or underserved youth each year at learning center locations in Anaheim and Washington, D.C., as well as through school-based programming in Philadelphia, New York, Florida and at the United States Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.
In addition, Dr. Bihr oversees the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, which provides financial support, as well as mentoring and internship opportunities, to approximately 20 new first-generation college students each year.
“We have seen over and over again that kids who are provided the right amount of resources and support can not only succeed, but also excel,” Dr. Bihr says. “We invest in them and help them understand their potential. Whether it’s the scholarship program or the learning centers, we’re here to facilitate their dreams.”
Dr. Bihr’s varied roles at the foundation include creating new partnerships, speaking to groups about the importance of STEM education, developing new programs, and meeting with mentors and past scholarship recipients across the country. Her favorite part of her job is staff development.
“I love helping teachers understand what it means to be all about kids,” she says. “I help them develop the right heart for the work, because it’s exhausting and hard. You can be the most brilliant math teacher, but it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t love kids.”
Dr. Bihr has known she would pursue a career in education since elementary school. “I was a shy fifth grader, and a teacher told me that I would make a good teacher someday,” she says. “That stuck with me, and I never deviated from it.” A job at the City of Long Beach parks and recreation department during college helped solidify her plans to work with young people.
A desire to pass along her love of learning also drew her to the DAR. “DAR is an organization that is all about things I already believe in, such as love of country, patriotism and, of course, education,” she says.
Dr. Bihr grew up playing golf, and it’s a hobby she continues to enjoy today. In her free time, she also enjoys wine tasting and spending time at the beach. “I just love being active,” she says. “You won’t often find me sitting inside.”