Lay Leaders & Senior Students

Ellen Marie Lauricella

I met the Dharma in 1997 in Rochester, New York with the sangha called White Lotus Buddhist Center.  I feel extremely fortunate to have met my teacher, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, at that time.  Over these years I have tried to follow in Rinpoche’s footsteps – his vast compassion and wisdom has led me on this path and in this lifetime.

In Dayton, Ohio my wife, Naomi and I started Gar Drolma Buddhist Center at the request of Garchen Rinpoche.  After working to build Gar Drolma for 7 years, we moved to Iowa in 2012.  In 2016 we started the Garchen Mila Buddhist Center under the guidance of both Khenchen Konchok Gyaltsen Rinpoche and Garchen Rinpoche.  It is our intention that the Garchen Mila Buddhist Center is a source of wisdom and compassion for beings.

Over the years Garchen Rinpoche has requested for me to teach the Dharma.  Although I am really a very meager practitioner and can only impart a tiny fraction of the wisdom found in the Drikung Kagyu tradition, I have taken up Rinpoche’s request in order to do what I can to help beings.

Naomi Bloom

I came to Dharma in 1997 in Rochester, New York. I am committed to Milarepa Buddhist Center because I want to make good use of this lifetime to do whatever I can to help reduce the suffering of living beings. I live in Iowa City with my wife, Ellen Marie and our daughter and 3 dogs.

Sam Beran

Sam is a software engineer and a dad living in Iowa City. He has been practicing meditation for seven years and is a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher from Dharma Moon / Tibet House US. Sam is passionate about sharing the transformative benefits of mindfulness with others.

Catherine Deming

Catherine Deming was born in a small Montana town, the sixth of seven children in a devout Catholic family. She graduated with a B.A. in Theology from Creighton University, where she learned and began to pray the prayer of the heart, or contemplative prayer, as taught by Thomas Merton. Catherine also obtained two master’s degrees, one in pastoral studies from St. Ambrose University, and the other in counseling from The University of Iowa.

Catherine worked for 22 years as a counselor. She first counseled persons struggling with addiction problems, then at-risk high school students, but primarily she worked in private practice until her retirement in 2022.

In 2016, Catherine attended a teaching by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. She was smitten by the direct teaching of love for all beings and losing of self as the goals of Buddhism. This was clearly the next step in her spiritual journey. She met Garchen Rinpoche soon after and he became her spiritual teacher, which was and is a very great blessing.

Catherine is married to David Klemm, professor emeritus of philosophical theology, art and culture at The University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies. David is also a longtime Buddhist practitioner and a disciple of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Between them they have seven children, eight grandchildren and five granddogs.

Joyce Janca

Joyce Janca began practicing Buddhism in France while working at a Zen retreat center in 1986, and has had the immense good fortune of practicing at Furnace Mountain Zen Center for over twenty years and attending retreats with Zen Master Dae Gak, Thich Nhat Hanh, David Loy, and teachers from the Kwan Um School of Zen. She is a French professor whose work centers on Buddhist readings of literary texts and a mother to a brilliant artist who attends City High.

Tim Mullaney

Tim Mullaney, PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, has been a meditator and practitioner in the Karma Kagyu lineage for nearly 40 years. His teachers include Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche.

Tim is also a psychologist and has extensive background working with mindfulness training in professional, non-religious settings.

Cheryl Ridgeway

I have been interested in Buddhism for most of my adult life and have been seriously practicing in Iowa City since 2013. My hope is that by supporting the Garchen Mila Center, I might also help ease suffering and increase happiness for all beings. I live in Iowa City with my husband Stan and enjoy gardening with our companion, Buddy, the orange cat.

Stan Ridgeway

Stan grew up in small towns in Iowa and went on to earn degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then taught for many years at colleges and universities in North Carolina, Michigan, and Iowa. He is a music lover, with a large collection of vinyl, and enjoys travel and learning about other cultures. He has been interested in Buddhism since he first encountered it at a young age and has spent most of his life involved with various forms of meditation. His practice has deepened over the past ten years and especially since meeting his teacher, Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Stan feels very fortunate to be on this path, and enjoys spending time with others who are on the same journey.