BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Our trustees help further the mission and projects of The History Center. If you're interested in serving on our Board of Directors or collaborating on a particular project. Please contact Ben Sandberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023-2024 Board of Trustees
President: Kimerly Cornish
Vice-President: Chris Irving
Secretary: Sarah Fiorello
Treasurer: Eric Fitzpatrick
Personnel: Lisbeth Chabot
Finance: Eric Fitzpatrick
Exhibits: Sarah Fiorello
Collections: Sherene Baugher
Board Stewardship: Michael Smith
Fundraising: Lauren Ryder
Lisabeth Chabot retired in June 2021 after a 40-year career as an academic librarian, most recently serving as the College Librarian at Ithaca College for 18 years. Her professional experience includes serving on national and regional boards and accrediting teams, presenting at national conferences, and mentoring new academic library administrators. Lis is currently the Secretary/Treasurer of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation Board. She has experience in drafting successful grants for the digitization of print and visual materials and transcribing oral history interviews. In 2020, she co-curated an online Community Arts Partnership exhibit, “Ithaca College in the Downtown Era”. Lis believes that communities are enhanced and sustained through documentation, dialog, and collaboration. Lis has a lifelong interest in local history and maintain a membership in the Cincinnati (OH) Historic Preservation Association to support its important work in her hometown. Lis says "I find it personally rewarding to engage with The History Center in its work to provide diverse resources that promote intellectual curiosity and services that support the discovery, evaluation, and use of unique materials."
Kimerly Cornish is a native of Cambridge, Maryland, and a descendant of Harriet Tubman. She is a graduate of Oberlin College with a B.A. in English with a specialization in Creative Writing and a minor in Women’s Studies. She has served as a curatorial assistant on several exhibitions, including 3x3: Three Artists/Three Projects, the first official U.S. entry in the Dakar Biennale, as well as editorial assistant of exhibition catalogs and the academic journal Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. She has given talks on Harriet Tubman in contemporary visual culture for diverse audiences. She has been a member of the Harriet Tubman Boosters since 2013.
George Dillmann holds a masters in political science (University of Missouri) and a masters in Sociology (Iowa State), both of which have indirectly spurred his interest in history. He’s taught college courses in peace studies, political science, and sociology. He and his spouse, Dr. Beth Cohen, moved from Buffalo to Ithaca in 2005 and feel happily and permanently settled in this wonderful little city! Since 2015 George and Beth have had a private practice of psychology in downtown Ithaca (right next door to the History Center!); Beth is the therapist, and George manages the office. From 2006-2014, George worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, including four years managing Adelson Library.
Given George’s growing interest in local history, he began volunteering with The History Center in early 2018, assisting with packing artifacts for the move to the new location in the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, and stayed on to help with the unpacking process. Currently he assists with projects in the research library. He also volunteers as an usher for Kitchen Theater and the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, and has written articles for the Finger Lakes Land Trust newsletter. In addition, George served on the Personnel Committee of Greenstar's Council as a Member-at-Large from 2015-2020
When not working at his business or at The History Center, George is an avid runner, tennis player, hiker, birdwatcher, and gardener.
Elaine Engst received a B.A. in History from William Smith College and an M.A. in history from Cornell University. She worked in the Cornell University Library from 1979 until her retirement in 2015, serving as Director of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and as Cornell University Archivist. At Cornell, she also supervised the state-wide New York State Historical Documents Inventory survey project. Elaine was active in the archival profession, serving on the Society of American Archivists' (SAA) governing Council and chairing the Program Committee, and was named a distinguished Fellow, the Society’s highest form of recognition in 1996. She also co-chaired the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board from 2006 until 2014.
Dr. G. Scott Erickson
Scott is Charles A. Dana Professor in the School of Business at Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY where he has also served as Interim Associate Dean. In addition, he holds a position as Visiting Professor in the Dyson School of Management at Cornell University. He has published widely on big data, intellectual capital, and business analytics. He has received two Fulbright awards, serving as a Visiting Research Chair at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada and as a Fulbright—National Science Foundation Arctic Scholar at Akureyri University, Iceland. His next book, Marketing in a Digital World will be published in 2021 by Flip Learning.
David Gersh came to Ithaca from Brooklyn and Long Island in 1959 to attend Cornell. His love of this place and its rich history has endured ever since.
Charley Githler received his B.A in History at Cornell in 1978, and a J.D. at SUNY Buffalo in 1982. A long-time resident of Ithaca, he recently retired after 27 years teaching American History, Local History and Business Law at Newfield High School. He's most interested in the issues surrounding reaching out to students at the elementary and secondary levels in Tompkins County. Charley writes a bi-weekly column for the Ithaca Times (‘Surrounded By Reality’), and he's contributed numerous articles on local history to the Ithaca Times, Tompkins Weekly, The Newfield News and Life in the Finger Lakes, all with the generous assistance of archivist Donna Eschenbrenner.
Chris Irving graduated from Le Moyne College with a BS degree in Accounting. She has recently retired from her firm, Irving & Associates, that provided accounting and tax services for 35 years. Chris has served as president, vice president, treasurer and board member for Gadabout, the YMCA and the Finger Lakes Runners Club and continues to enjoy her involvement in community nonprofits. When she is biking, watching ANY kind of sports or out hiking, she enjoys a bucolic life on the farm with Dave, three dogs and the herd of beef cattle.
Sarah Fiorello was drawn to exploring the Ithaca area’s cultural and geological heritage soon after arriving as an undergraduate, which has developed into a lifelong interest. She spent the first nine years of her career leading interpretive guided tours and nature programs within State Parks of the Finger Lakes region and the past twelve years as interpretation coordinator for Cornell Botanic Gardens. In this role, she carries out her passion for offering visitors meaningful ways to connect through developing interpretive materials such as outdoor signs, exhibits, brochures, self-guided tours, and more. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in natural resources and a Master of Professional Studies in horticulture from Cornell University.
Eric Fitzpatrick was born in Rochester, NY in 1986, moved with his parents to Dryden in 1990, and graduated from Dryden High School in 2004. He holds a Bachelor's degree from SUNY Cortland in Business Economics and has been with the Tompkins Trust Company for 12 years working in various positions and currently as an Investment Analyst and Trader. He loves to golf and collect coins. He is also an oil painter and has had a few shows around Ithaca.
Rich John, having lived in Ithaca and Tompkins County for over fifty years, was elected to the Tompkins County Legislature in a special election in November 2016. Rich comes to the office with a background of twenty years as a general practice partner in a local law firm, and nine years serving as the general counsel and vice president of compliance for the global product testing and inspection company Intertek. Rich has volunteered as a youth coach in several sports, a board member of Historic Ithaca, and what was then called the Alcoholism Council of Tompkins County. Currently, Rich John is a member of the Government Operations Committee, and serves as the Chair of the Public Safety and Jail Study Committees. He has also been appointed as a member of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Committee involved with supporting businesses and economic development in the County. Rich is a graduate of Ithaca High School, Cornell University, and the University of Notre Dame. He is married and, together with his wife, raised three children on East Hill.
Deb Mohlenhoff is currently serving as the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the City of Ithaca. She has been in this role since January of 2023. Her primary responsibility in this role is to assist the city in switching to a City Manager form of government in 2024. Previously, she was the Associate Vice President for College Relations at Tompkins Cortland Community College as well as the Program Director for Leadership Tompkins and Leadership Cortland. She oversaw the College’s Marketing and Workforce Development departments and served as the College’s representative for legislative advocacy. She left her seat on the City of Ithaca Common Council In December of 2021 after serving for over 12 years in the roles of Alderperson and Acting Mayor.
She has an undergraduate degree in Communications from Ithaca College and a Masters in Public Administration from Binghamton University. She has been a member of many local boards and has served nationally with the American Cancer Society Leadership Training Team and as a member of the advisory board for the National Society of Leadership and Success. She also was the organizer and founding member of the Ithaca is Love brand and movement. She is currently chairing the Special Olympics Games Operating Committee for the State Games to be held in Ithaca and co-chairing the United Way of Tompkins County Annual Campaign. She is also a recent graduate of the International Leadership Association’s’ Leadership Educators Academy. She regularly provides strategic planning as a consultant for non-profits with a specialty focus on Gallup Strengths, Organizational Leadership, Generations in the Workplace, and Volunteer Management.
Ben Ortiz is the Collection Specialist for the Cornell Hip Hop Collection (CHHC), which is part of Cornell University Library's Rare and Manuscript Collections division. The CHHC is one of the world's most extensive research archives on Hip Hop music and culture. Founded in 2007, it contains an estimated half-million individual artifacts. Ben's primary responsibilities include community outreach, teaching, curating exhibitions, and assisting researchers and community members with access to the collection. He has been involved with the CHHC since its founding, and took on his current role in 2011.
Ben has worked in other roles at Cornell University since 2002, including Coordinator of K-12 Outreach in the Cornell Public Service Center, New York State Higher/Educational Opportunity Program (H/EOP), Counselor in the Office of Minority Educational Affairs (today called the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives), and Residence Hall Director for the Risley Residential College for the Creative and Performing Arts, as well as Clara Dickson Hall and the Multicultural Living-Learning Unit (McLLU).
Ben also currently serves on the board of directors of the Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County, the board of directors for the Ithaca Festival (secretary), the executive board of the Cornell Men of Color Colleague Network Group (community outreach chair), the archival committee of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in NYC, is a member of the Ithaca Nightlife Safety Coalition ad hoc group, and a member of the planning group for the First Fridays organization. He also previously served on the board of directors of the Southside Community Center, the board of the Access to College Education (ACE) program, and the Martin Luther King Community Build, among many other things.
Music is central to Ben’s life, and he is an active performer and music event organizer known as DJ ha-MEEN. He also recently launched “Between the Decks,” a podcast about DJ culture and community, on which he is a co-host and producer. Ben is also an avid cyclist, hiker, and pick-up basketball player.
Lauren Ryder has focused the past 15 years in a career in fundraising for Cornell. She is currently the Associate Director of Development for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Lauren began her career consulting in the community development field with a focus on housing for a national non-profit, as well as direct work with community stakeholders through projects with local governments in Tioga County. She has also worked on staff and as Campaign Manager for NY State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Ithaca College and a Masters in Regional Planning from Cornell. She appreciates the mission of The History Center in part because she is passionate about the idea of place-making and capitalizing on the assets and history of a place to foster community.
Michael Smith received his Ph.D. in history from Indiana University, and has taught history and environmental studies at Ithaca College since 2001, with an emphasis on environmental history. Since 2005 students in his History of American Environmental Thought class have done research into the environmental history of Tompkins County and presented it at the The History Center. Michael profiled this project in a chapter he contributed to the book Citizenship Across the Curriculum (Indiana University Press, 2010), a volume he also co-edited. He was awarded the 2015 Educator Award by The History Center in Tompkins County. In 2017 he received a Fulbright Core Scholar Grant to spend a semester in Nicaragua working on a local environmental history project inspired in part by the collaboration with The History Center. He is thrilled to be able to give back to a cultural institution that has given him and his students so much.
Laurel Southard recently retired from Cornell University where she was the Director of Undergraduate Research at Cornell. In this position she encouraged students from all disciplines to engage in research as undergraduates. She also directed the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers which provided teacher professional development programs for 28 years. Laurel grew up in Northern New Mexico. She studied biology and art as an undergraduate at Hastings College and the University of New Mexico. Her life was changed when she began undergraduate research in infectious disease at the UNM Medical School.
She moved to Ithaca in 1976 and did her graduate work in molecular virology at Cornell. She has served on a number of boards in the Ithaca area for over 30 years, including the Hangar Theatre and SPCA of Tompkins County. She lives with her partner, Gwen Seaquist, and lots of animals (dogs, horses, goats and chickens) in a Greek Revival farmhouse that requires constant love and maintenance. Laurel loves theatre, travel, art, gardening, spoiling her animals and organizing her own historical collection of stuff!