I am an immigrant born in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. I lived with my parents and older brother in paradise. My handsome Puerto Rican Dad worked as an accountant for the government. My stylish Mom was born in Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, and took care of us. In the early 1950s, my Dad was accepted into the American Institute of Banking on Wall Street. Subsequently, we moved to the “mainland, Bronx, New York. Initially, Catholic school was my saving grace, the only type of school I ever attended. My entrance into public school in the 6th grade was daunting. Found hope and inspiration from Ms. Brown and Mrs. Duncan, who were both African American teachers of shorthand, typing, and business subjects. They became my role models at William H. Maxwell Vocational School in East New York Bronxville neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Mrs. Singer, my guidance counselor, advised me that I could not go to college because I attended Maxwell. Ms. Brown earned her bachelor’s from New York University and that is where I applied. My Dad always told me, “Gerdie, you can be whatever you want to be.”
I was accepted. My mother told me she would pay for my education from the bachelor’s degree straight through to a Doctorate. She had chosen the school she believed I should attend in upstate New York, a long way from Brooklyn and my first boyfriend. I declined her offer and told her I would take full responsibility for my education. She was flabbergasted and said, “You do not have any money.” I had a full-time job and decided to go to school in the evening. During my research, I found out that New York University had a Tuition Remission benefit for their full-time employees of eight credits free each semester. I told my best friend Olga Matos, an immigrant from Cuba. We both applied for secretarial positions and were successful. I completed my bachelor’s degree over a seven-year span which included getting married and becoming the mother of Lisa and Dorie without interrupting my educational journey. During these times, my career choices expanded and included high school teacher of business subjects, Project Manager, Assistant Dean, and Urban School Specialist.
I completed my first master's at New York University, my second master's from Teachers College, Columbia University, completed all my course work, and was in the “All But Dissertation” phase when my oldest daughter Lisa passed away because of Meningitis. My youngest surviving daughter Dorie told me that I had to complete my doctorate to keep my promise to both. Months later, I quit my job as National Director of Education for the NAACP and dug in to complete the research necessary interspersed with a ballet class to keep me relatively sane. I received my Doctorate in Higher and Adult Education Administration and Research from Teachers College, Columbia University. Years after traveling to many states, including numerous trips to California as the National Director of Education for the NAACP in New York City, I decided to move to California to start my next journey. After numerous months of decompressing, I applied to the City of Pasadena for Executive Director of the Pasadena Commission on the Status of Women. Three job interviews later, I was hired from an initial pool of 200 applicants.
During my sixth year, I created G. Govine Consulting and left my job with the City one year later to dive into work that was waiting for me. I was known as an effective human resources/employment discrimination professional. One of my lawyer friends suggested that I become an expert witness in employment discrimination issues, i.e., race, gender, and age. First, he hired me to work with him, and I loved this work. Subsequently, I worked on over 60 cases as a diversity consultant and/or expert witness in California and numerous states, being disposed of and testifying. A community resource to facilitate difficult community conversations, i.e., an aftermath of a police shooting of black males, connecting communication across divides of race, culture, gender, language, and religion.
I am known as an educator, as a former public high school teacher, adjunct instructor, and consultant in higher education in California, for example, Pasadena City College, California State University Los Angeles, Pacific Oaks College, Alliant University, a researcher at Indiana State University and facilitator/trainer in sexual harassment prevention. Served as a part-time college evening instructor and consultant at Alliant University, Glendale Community College, Pacific Oaks College, and Pasadena City College.
In the area of art and culture, I co-founded the Border Council of Arts and Culture/COFAC, a non-profit organization, with my husband, Artist Luis Ituarte. We initiated and operated La Casa del Tunel: Art Center in Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, and developed an international artists residency program. I had the opportunity to curate two international exhibits with 12 artists from Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico, at Avenue 50 Studio in Los Angeles. For a ten-year period, we lived in Pasadena and Tijuana, where we established, created, and operated projects throughout the “Megametropolis” of Tijuana, San Diego, and Los Angeles County.
In 2010, I began writing poetry to cope with the death of my daughter Dorie, my youngest adult daughter. Luis told me to write, and he would take care of the rest which included book design, translation, artwork, printing, and publishing. In 2012 my first poetry collection, “Oh, Where is My Candle Hat?” in English and Spanish, was published in Tijuana, B.C., with a CD in both languages. Followed up in 2015 with “Alterations | Thread Light Through Eye of Storm,” published in Pasadena, California; in 2016 “Future Awakes in Mouth of NOW,” Editions du Cygne (Swan World) Paris, France; and in 2018 “Poetry Within Reach in Unexpected Places,” Public Address and California Center for the Arts, Escondido, California; and 2023, “Ballet of Ingredients,” published by Editions du Cygne (Swan World) Paris, France. In 2023, my next book, “Had to Tell,” is a work-in-progress.
In 2016, my poetry life took off like a rocket. The City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division called and asked me to create a poetry component for the National Endowment for the Arts Grant that consisted of 12 components, for example, singing, dance, art, music, and plays. I selected 9 Pasadena-based poets and created a four-week lunch series at the Pasadena Senior Center in downtown. We read at, for example at Alkebulan Center, Altadena Library, A. & M. Hovsepian School, Altadena Library, Avenue 50 Studio, City of Pasadena, Escondido, and El Cajon City Council meetings, Huntington Gardens, Laemmle Theatre, Mariposa Art Space Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, John Muir High School, Pasadena Libraries, and Vromans Book Store. The Pasadena Rose Poets were selected as Poets-in-Residence in 2022 for the Pasadena Public Library. I was fortunate and pleased to edit the “Pasadena Rose Poets Collection 2019 Reflection. Resistance. Reckoning. Resurrection” and “Pasadena Rose Poets Poetry Collection 2022 Not So Perfect Storm.”
I am known as “The Poetry Lady” in Pasadena and a poetry advocate to help Pasadena evolve into a well-known and established City of Poets. I write because I cannot help it. I write because it gives me freedom like nothing else. I write because I am in love with words and how they can round sharp edges of challenging conversations, slow down the process, and at times, shed light into dark corners of doubt and despair. My life has unfurled and expanded in ways that I could not even begin to fathom. I consider myself blessed to have gotten to this time in my life, and look forward to new adventures. One of the biggest and life-changing surprises was meeting and marrying my husband Luis, a partner and Renaissance man.