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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

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.

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.
He was admitted to Cornell Law School after his junior year of Arts and Sciences.  Upon graduation, he began work with a downtown firm that became Wiggins, Tsapis, Holmberg and Gersh.  He practiced law in Ithaca for 40 years, retiring in 2005.
He considers the highlight of his legal career to be in 1970 when then Mayor Ed Conley invited him to serve as his City Attorney, responsible for the significant legal challenges of a $50 million downtown redevelopment. What resulted was the creation of a pedestrian mall (The Ithaca Commons) on what had been a public street and the placement of a commercial building (Center Ithaca) on what had been South Tioga Street. 
He has enjoyed other community involvement, including serving as President of the Tompkins County Bar Association, YMCA, and Temple Beth El. 
His interest in The History Center in Tompkins County came about when he purchased Cayuga lakefront property which, strangely, had steel I-beams poking out at the water's edge.  The History Center's research revealed that the steel had been used to drydock the steamship Frontenac! Thus began an awareness and appreciation of the enduring work of this organization.

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 TimesTompkins WeeklyThe 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.

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. 
Retirement now allows to do her own research, most recently co-authoring Achieving Beulah Land: The Long Struggle for Suffrage in Tompkins County, New York, with an associated Cornell Web exhibition on “Woman Suffrage at Cornell.” And what an exciting time to become a part of The History Center!

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. 

Laura Johnson-Kelly has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a master's degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, both in Anthropology/Archaeology. She was Town Historian for the Town of Ithaca for 11 years and has been part of the Municipal Historians of Tompkins County group since 2004, with whom she collaborated to produce a local history book, Tompkins County, New York: Images of Work and Play (2009).  Laura has over 20 years of curatorial experience working with several different museum collections at Cornell University; she is also an experienced conservator, with skills in digital archives management. Laura has extensive program management skills and has planned lecture series, outreach programming at local schools, history-themed special events, and academic conferences.  She has a firm commitment to lifelong learning and has been active in a wide range of community organizations.  Laura has served on various local and state executive boards, including the Lake View Cemetery board and the NY State Archaeological Association (NYSAA).  She has been President of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the NYSAA since 2010, and (pre-covid) ran a monthly lecture series at Ithaca College which drew participants from all area colleges and universities, as well as a broad range of community members interested in learning about the past.

Ronald E. Ostman is Graduate Professor Emeritus in Communication, Cornell University, where he taught and conducted research from 1979 to 2007, and served as Department of Communication Chair from 1998 to 2003. He co-authored five historical photography books with Harry Littell: Cornell Then & Now; Great Possibilities: 150 Verne Morton Photographs; Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930; Dear Friend Amelia: The Civil War Letters of Private John Tidd, and The Photographic Legacy of William T. Clarke, Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers: A Visual History of Pennsylvania’s Railroad Lumbering Communities. Dr. Ostman also co-authored the historical photography book Superfortess Over Japan: 24 Hours With a B-29 with Jack Délano and Royal D. Colle. His academic teaching specializations and research publications includes books, journal articles, and international development communication workbooks and reading guides focusing on journalism, mass communication, communication planning and strategies, popular culture, public opinion research and theory, and social science research methods. Prior to Cornell, he also worked as teacher/researcher at the University of Minnesota, Bemidji State University, and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His early career was as a newspaper journalist and he participated in academic public information services.

Cindy Rodriguez Co-Founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, is a Human Resources Consultant with over ten years of experience and expertise spanning higher education, nonprofit management, finance, and business administration.  With a Masters in Public Administration from Cornell University, Rodriguez incorporates a unique approach to delivering innovative human resources solutions that promote transparency in policy and procedures, communication strategies, and workflows, all while embracing and embedding diversity and inclusion into organizational values, culture, and practices. With a firm belief that meaningful employment should be accessible to all regardless of socio-economic status, race, gender, and ability, Rodriguez seeks to dismantle such barriers with forward thinking innovations.  Recently, Rodriguez partnered with the Adirondack Experience, the Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY to develop their inaugural Museum Diversity Fellowship Program.  The fellowship program was designed to create a diverse talent pipeline for the industry by introducing college students from underserved communities and various interests to a behind the scenes introduction to the museum industry.  The program also incorporated a community outreach component which introduced the Fellows via organized field trips to several Adirondack communities and leaders.  Lastly, the fellowship program incorporated a mentoring component which allowed fellows to create meaningful relationships with community and community leaders while navigating being a person of color in a largely rural and remote area, predominantly Caucasian (90%+) with a less than ideal welcoming reputation.

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.

Doug Schmidt is the Business Accounts Specialist at CFCU Community Credit Union, moved to Western New York with little knowledge of that side of the state but have come to understand the drive and passion for the area in the short amount of time that I have been here.

I was born in Marshall, MN. My father was in the agricultural Industry and that eventually brought us to Grand Forks, ND where I spent life into my early 20’s. Went to Red River High School then on to the University of North Dakota. It is a state of short summer’s and long winters. Was driven by sports growing up which included golf, cross country, basketball, and hockey.

I moved to Harleysville, PA after college. Spent 14 years in that state which I enjoyed, and found a job that turned into my profession with Univest Financial Corporation. Worked at Univest for 12 years, built myself and knowledge within the industry, managed teams and went on to have a successful career with the company.

Currently involved with multiple organizations in the Ithaca area including the Rotary Club of Ithaca, Downtown Ithaca Alliance, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, am proud to be part of this ever growing 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!

Physical Address

Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture

110 North Tioga Street

(On the Ithaca Commons) 

Ithaca NY, 14850 USA

Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' Territory


Exhibit HallWednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm - CLOSED Sun-Tues

Cornell Local History Research Library & Archives - By appointment only. Please contact


Email: Refer to Contact page for individual emails, General inquiries to

Phone: 607-273-8284


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