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Eric Acree is currently Director of the John Henrik Clarke Africana Library and Coordinator of the Fine Arts and Music Libraries at Cornell University. In addition to this, Eric serves as the African/African American subject specialist for Cornell University Library. At the age of seven he visited a public library in Brooklyn, New York, and borrowed a book written by Langston Hughes, Famous American Negroes. This would turn into a lifelong affair with not only books, but an interest in understanding the past and how people of African descent fit into world history. Being a Trustee of the History Center affords Eric a chance in helping others discover areas of history within Tompkins County.

Click here to listen to an interview with Eric Acree (Out of Bounds Radio Show)


Elizabeth (Liz) Bodner has degrees from Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences and School of Veterinary Medicine.  In her diverse career, she has been a freelance writer, a small animal vet, a magazine editor, and the head of drug safety for a global animal health pharmaceutical company.  For more than 30 years, Liz carried around an increasingly fragile copy of Kavafis’ poem Ithaca (“Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind. To arrive there is your ultimate goal...”) knowing that someday, she would relocate permanently to this great town where she felt a sense of belonging.  And so she did, in 2016.   Liz is glad to be associated with the History Center, having served as a student volunteer at the Dewitt Historical Society many years ago when it was situated in the lovely Clinton House.  She believes that history is meant to be preserved as well as made anew every day.   

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 catalogues 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 Furber is a computer programmer who has an M.A. in History from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in History from SUNY Buffalo.  He specializes in web application development using Ruby on Rails and building complex web sites with Drupal and works for GORGES. His primary interest as a researcher was the intersection of national identity and economic rationality in colonial situations, with a dissertation on German civil administrators in Nazi-occupied Poland. He enjoys applying his technical knowledge to the discipline of history. 

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 that the highlight of his legal career occurred 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 Commons) on what had been a public street and the placement of a commercial building (Center Ithaca) on what had been S. 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.

Chris Irving graduated from Le Moyne College with a BS degree in Accounting. She moved to Ithaca and is enjoying her 33rd year as the owner of Irving & Associates.  Her firm provides tax preparation, accounting and bookkeeping services.  Chris has served as president, vice president , treasurer and board member  for Gadabout,  the YMCA and the Finger Lakes Runners Club.  When she is not on a bike tour, at a Yankee game or out walking, she enjoys a bucolic life on the farm with Dave, three dogs and the herd of beef cattle. Chris has just recently started researching her own family history and has found this very exciting and educational.

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 to fill a vacancy. 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 a 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. 

Paul Karakantas graduated from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1974 with a B.A. in Accounting. He was employed for most of his career by Energy East Management Corporation and NYSEG until his retirement in 2008. Paul has always had a deep interest in history, particularly American and Greek history. He is looking forward to participating in the continued growth of The History Center in Tompkins County.

Bob Kibbee was the Map and Geospatial Information Librarian at Cornell until 2010. Most of his career at Cornell was as a reference librarian specializing in census data. Bob has a strong interest in cartography and historical geography. He sees maps joining with data to forge a compelling method to engage our community in studying, creating and celebrating its history. The History Center is providing an ideal environment to develop these and other ideas for presenting and representing history, and Bob is very excited to be a part of that effort.

Cindy Kramer began her involvement with The History Center by collaborating with the staff on integrating local history into a secondary Social Studies curriculum. As a history teacher at Boynton Middle School in Ithaca, she enjoys cultivating a sense of place as well as instilling an appreciation of people and events in the past. In her role as a Trustee, she values the opportunity to share her passion for history by lending support to the activities of The History Center, an important community institution that encourages people to preserve and connect to the history that surrounds us.

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.

Karen Pastorello is a history professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College who earned a Ph.D. in Modern American History from Binghamton University. She became involved with the History Center while conducting research on women in Tompkins County. She studies working women in the early twentieth century and finds the challenges of recovering their hidden histories intriguing. She is currently co-authoring a book with Susan Goodier on the history of women gaining the right to vote in New York State—just in time to celebrate the woman’s suffrage centennial next year!

Nina Piccoli is the director of operations at Ancient Wisdom Productions, a brand communication & design company based in Ithaca. She helps clients develop messaging strategies that support organizational priorities and brand communication goals while guiding AWP's internal development and strategic planning. Nina has lived in Tompkins County for over twenty years, and has been involved in community organizations with missions ranging from producing theater to protecting the environment. She enjoys the study of history for the insight it brings into the stories of those who have come before us while enabling us to better understand the world around us today.

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 is the Director of Undergraduate Research at Cornell.  In this position she encourages students from all disciplines to engage in research as undergraduates. She also directs the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers which has 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 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. She lives with her partner, Gwen Seaquist, and lots of animals  (seven dogs, two horses, four goats and many, many 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!

Kati Flynn Torello is an Accountant for Sciarabba Walker & Co., LLP and has her own small tax and bookkeeping business. A native Buffalonian, she came to Ithaca in 1983 to attend Ithaca College and fell in love. After living in various places throughout the state, she and her family moved back to Ithaca in 2003 to work and raise her daughter. She feels blessed to have found a second home in Tompkins County. Her lifelong love of American history, theater and art are what makes her work with the History Center so exciting for her.

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