Board Member Profiles

MEHMED ALI is Assistant Director for Digital Initiatives for the University of Massachusetts Lowell Library where he oversees several departments including the Digital Services Center and the Center for Lowell History. Previously he was Director of the Mogan Cultural Center at the Lowell National Historical Park. Mehmed received his BA and MA in political science from the University of Hawai’i and his PhD in history at the University of Connecticut. He has held a variety of positions over the years including as a U.S. Marine, postman, National Park Service ranger, and cultural attaché for the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Past President of the Oral History Association and amateur photographer, his primary interest is in the preservation of the human story through personal testimony and portrait photography. Mehmed lives in Lowell and was elected to the board in 2016.

GLYNDA BENHAM has more than 35 years of engineering, and hands-on technical and administrative program management experience including being a founder, owner, Director, and President of a small high technology company specializing in antenna design and development for military applications. She holds an MA in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford. Glynda is also passionate about the arts. She is a founding member of the Ensemble Flora Musica (a group dedicated to presenting medieval, renaissance, baroque and contemporary music on recorders and other historical instruments) and also of the New England Mosaic Society. She is an accomplished mosaic artist, knits stuffed bears for “Teddies for Tragedies”, and is an avid Zentangle® (meditative pattern art) practitioner. Glynda was born in the UK but has been a resident of Sterling in central Massachusetts for more than thirty years. She was elected to the board in 2014.

ELLEN FELS BERKMAN has been a lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel at Harvard University since 2004.  Ellen’s current practice includes litigation, faculty and student affairs, research and regulatory issues, and collections issues for the museums and libraries.  Prior to joining Harvard, she was a partner at two firms in Washington, DC, Baker Botts, LLP and Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, LLP, and a law clerk to the Honorable Joyce Hens Green.  While in private practice, Ellen handled complex civil cases and criminal defense matters.  Ellen received her AB from Harvard College in Fine Arts and her JD from Columbia University School of Law.  She has served on numerous committees and task forces for Harvard College and lives in Brookline with her husband and two children. She was elected to the board in 2012.

JAMES R. BURKE is a Partner in the Corporate and Business Group of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP. Based in Hinckley’s Boston office, Jim has worked with a number of public and private clients, including several high-technology companies, and has been involved in various transactions in the corporate and securities field. He has written and spoken on issues relating to Massachusetts corporation law and co-authored chapters in Massachusetts Corporation Law & Practice. Prior to joining Hinckley, Jim was a partner at WilmerHale. Jim sits on the Board of Directors of Actors’ Shakespeare Project and is a former Trustee and President of the Boston Classical Orchestra. He also sits on the President’s Council to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and is a member of the Foundation’s Campaign Cabinet for the “Campaign for History and Citizenship.” Jim is also a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Civil War Trust. Jim is a graduate of Harvard Law School and holds an undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University. He was elected in 2010.

LAUREN COHEN is a Senior Vice President at Pure Communications, a strategic communications firm based in Cambridge. Previously she was with Ruder Finn for twelve years. While at Ruder Finn, Lauren’s work has helped earn numerous PR industry awards for the agency and her clients. She received her BS in Marketing from Lehigh University. She and her husband live in Boston. Lauren was elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2013.

ELLIOT BOSTWICK DAVIS is John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). She came to the MFA from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In her position as Chair of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Department, Davis oversees the Museum’s extensive collection of art from North, Central, and South America, including one of the world’s pre-eminent collections of American paintings, decorative arts, and sculpture. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elliot was responsible for American, British and contemporary art in the Department of Drawings and Prints from 1992 through 1999, curating numerous exhibitions ranging from Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt to W.P.A. Color Prints and the installations of baseball cards from the Burdick Collection. In 1999, Elliot joined the American Paintings and Sculpture Department to complete work on Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861, the Metropolitan’s landmark exhibition of American Art from the Age of Jackson through the Civil War. The accompanying catalogue, of which she was a co-author, was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the twenty-five most important books published in the year 2000. Elliot is a Trustee of the North Bennet Street School in Boston and a Councilor for the American Antiquarian Society. She received her M.A., M.Phil, and Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University, completing her generals in European painting before choosing a dissertation topic in American Art. Before attending Columbia, she earned a Masters of Art in liberal studies from New York University and is a cum laude graduate of Princeton University. Elliot was elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2011.

ALICE DELANA is a retired teacher who taught English and Art History at Miss Porter’s School, Farmington, CT for 39 years. From 1981 to 1984 she also taught computer Programming (BASIC) when the school added programming to its graduation requirements. In Hartford, CT, she served on the boards of the Wadsworth Athenaeum and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum of which she was chair from 2008-2011. For 15 years a docent at the Harvard Art Museums, she has lectured on Harvard alumni trips from Provence to Scotland to Cuba. A widow, she delights in her five perfect grandchildren’s many achievements. Alice was elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2014.

DONNA DEPRISCO is a gemologist and small business owner in Boston. Previously she served on the boards of Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts. Donna lives in the Back Bay and was apppointed to the board by Governor Charlie Baker in 2016.

ELIZABETH DUCLOS-ORSELLO is a publicly-engaged scholar and educator with two decades of experience in the higher education, museum, social service, k-12 and cultural sectors in both the US and Europe. She is currently Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Coordinator of American Studies, Faculty Fellow for Service-learning and an Affiliated Faculty with the Center for Economic Development and Sustainability at Salem State University where she has led university initiatives related to civic engagement, strategic planning, general education and global studies. Her scholarly work – much of it public-facing – relates to the intersections between gender, ethnicity, immigration, religion, place-making and the cultural construction of a community. Her professional career has focused on social justice and social change since her days as a Jesuit Volunteer in Kansan City, MO. Passionate about the public policy impacts of the humanities, she works with and consults for museums, schools, historic sites, local governments and social service non-profits, helping them build bridges and new approaches in their work to effect change. She has served on the boards of the House of the Seven Gables, The Northshore Community Development Coalition, the Boston-Strasbourgh Sister City Association and the Beverly Historical Society. A former Fulbright Scholar, she holds a B.A in History and Sociology from Connecticut College and a Ph.D. in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She lives in Somerville with her husband and son where she can be found running, hiking or generally enjoying the outdoors whenever possible.

WILLIAM M. FOWLER, Jr. is the former director of the Massachusetts Historical Society and is Distinguished Professor of History at Northeastern University. Professor Fowler received his undergraduate degree from Northeastern University and his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. He is the former editor of The New England Quarterly and the author of a number of books relating to American history including: William Ellery: A Rhode Island Politico and Lord of Admiralty; Rebels Under Sail: The Navy in the Revolution; The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock; Jack Tars and Commodores: The American Navy 1783-1815; Silas Talbot : Captain of Old Ironsides; Under Two Flags: The American Navy in the Civil War; Samuel Adams: Puritan Radical and Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle For North America, 1754-1763. He wrote the “Introduction” and “Epilogue” to Boston Looks Seaward and he is co-author of America and The Sea: A Maritime History of America. His most recent book (2011) is American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783. He is working currently on a history of the North Atlantic steamship competition between the United States and Great Britain, 1815-1860. He is a member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the American Antiquarian Society, and an Honorary Member of the Boston Marine Society and the Society of the Cincinnati. He is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Pilgrim Society. He received an honorary degree from Northeastern University in 2000. William lives in Reading and was appointed to the Mass Humanities board by Governor Baker in 2015.

AL GRIGGS attended Phillips Andover Academy and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1963. He served as a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1963 to 1968. He received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1970. He is a former Coca-Cola Bottler. Al is a member of several boards of directors including the Beveridge Family Foundation, Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a member of the Steering Committee of Leadership Pioneer Valley. He is an Emeritus Trustee and former President of the Williston Northampton School Board and an Emeritus Trustee and former Chairman of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and former Chairman the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. Al and his wife, Sally, live in Northampton. Al was elected to the board in 2012.

ANDREW HELENE is a Vice President in the Private Equity Banking Group at RBS Citizens, N.A. in Boston. Drew received his BA in history and economics from Williams College, MBA in finance from Columbia University, and Masters in International Public Policy from the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Drew is a former board member of the Cape Cod Technology Council and resides in Brewster. Prior to moving to the Cape in 2004, Drew worked in Washington at the Center for Education Reform and edited A Tough Act to Follow? The Telecommunications Act of 1996, by Harold Furchgott-Roth, for the American Enterprise Institute. He also worked for ABN AMRO Bank N.V., syndicating loans for clients on the West Coast and in Canada after beginning his career at the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company in New York where he covered Dallas and New Orleans. Drew was elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2013.

RONALD B. HERTEL is Managing Director-Investments of the Hertel & Konish Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. Ron is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional since 1984 and received his Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation sponsored by the Investment Management Consultants Association in conjunction with the Wharton School of Business in 2001. Ron’s career spans four decades and his business focuses on individual family wealth management services, corporate 401k plans and not-for-profit organizations. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Ron was inducted into UVM’s Athletic Hall of Fame, served as co-chair on the Alumni Fund 2002-2003, and was awarded the UVM distinguished Service Award in 2004. He is a past president of the Friends of the Winchester Public Library and the Winchester Jaycees. He was elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2011.

FREDERICK HURST is an attorney and the publisher and founder of the community newspaper, An African-American Point of View. He is a graduate of Howard University (Economics) and DePaul University School of Law. He completed the coursework for an EdD at UMass Amherst, taught social studies in Springfield, and was an academic administrator at Daniel Hale Williams University before going on to law school in Chicago. In the mid-1980s and early 1990s Rick served as a Commissioner and Administrative Law Judge for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. He is a former Trustee of Springfield Technical Community College and Baystate Medical Center and a Corporator of the Springfield Library and Museums Association. Rick is a partner in a law firm with his wife of 49 years, Marjorie Hurst. He was appointed to the board by Governor Baker in 2016.

ISAIAH JACKSON has been a professional conductor for over 35 years, with titled positions on four continents including music directorships in Boston and in London, where he was Music Director of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden. As guest conductor, he led many distinguished North American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the orchestras of Houston, Los Angeles, and Toronto, and the Boston Pops. Chair and CEO of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results, LLC, and President of Belvedere Productions, music production companies based in Cambridge, Isaiah is Professor of Composition at Berklee College of Music, and a Faculty Member at Longy School of Music of Bard College. At the request of the Harvard Division of Continuing Education, he developed his signature course, The Future of Music, offering it subsequently in multiple iterations at several institutions. Isaiah holds degrees from Harvard, Stanford, and Juilliard. The parents of three adult children, he and his wife Helen live in Cambridge. He was elected to the board in 2016.

MICHAEL PAPPONE is a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP and a member of its Pro Bono Committee. An avid outdoorsman, he was a member of the team that provided pro bono legal services that enabled The Trust for Public Land to acquire 337 acres of forestland and endangered species habitat in Western Massachusetts. His legal practice focuses on financial restructurings. Michael earned his bachelor’s degree at U.C. Berkeley and his law degree at Harvard Law School. He co-authored the strategic plan for The Cambridge School of Weston during his tenure as board chair, serves on the Strategic Plan Goal Team for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, is a member of the Selection Advisory Committee for the GreenLight Fund and recently joined the board of the Volunteer Lawyers Project. He was appointed to the Mass Humanities board by Governor Patrick in 2014.

MARISA PARHAM is an associate professor of English at Amherst College, and also directs the Five College Digital Humanities Initiative, which focuses both on helping artists and scholars to integrate technology into humanities scholarship and creative work, and also to bring those disciplines to influence technological growth and spread. Her own current teaching and research projects focus on texts that problematize assumptions about time, space, and bodily materiality, particularly as such terms share a history of increasing complexity in texts produced by African Americans. She holds a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and is the author of Haunting and Displacement in African-American Literature and Culture, as well as The African-American Student’s Guide to College. She formerly served on the Board of Directors for the Amherst Cinema Arts Center, and in 2005 was a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, and in 2014 a Huntington Library fellow. Maris lives in Amherst with her husband John Drabinski and two sons.

THOMAS PUTNAM was Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum from 2007 until 2016 when he became Special Assistant for Presidential Libraries for the National Archives and Records Administration. A graduate of Bowdoin College and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Tom’s career has bridged the fields of education and government. Before joining the JFK Library as Director of Education in 1999, he directed a federally funded Upward Bound program in western Mass that helped low income high school students to be the first in their families to attend college. Tom lives in Arlington and was elected to the board in 2012.

HILDA RAMIREZ has been Assistant Director of the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University since 2012. Her prior positions include Executive Director of the Worcester Youth Center (2008-2012), owner/operator of Ritmos Academy, a social enterprise dedicated to the development of Latino culture through the arts, and Manager of the John Hancock Observatory (1985-2002). Hilda has her BS in Business Management from Lesley University and her Masters from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been an adjunct lecturer at Clark University, Wheelock College, and Cambridge College. Hilda has served on the Worcester School Committee and the Worcester Arts Commission and was appointed to the foundation board by Governor Baker in 2016.

GAIL REIMER is the founder and former executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Reimer began her professional career as a faculty member at Wellesley College shortly after receiving her PhD in English and American Literature from Rutgers University. In the early 1990’s, while serving as Associate Director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, Reimer conceived and co-edited two ground breaking anthologies of Jewish women’s writings – Reading Ruth: Women Reclaim a Sacred Story and Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Days. Honored by the American Jewish Historical Society with its Lee Max Friedman award for distinguished service in the field of American Jewish History in 2014, Reimer continues to write and lecture on Jewish women’s history here and abroad. Gail lives in Brookline with her husband Joe. She was elected to the board in 2016.

RONALD SLATE is a poet and literary critic who spent over thirty years working in high technology marketing and communications. He began as a public relations specialist at Wang Laboratories in 1979, then ran corporate communications for Stratus Computer. From 1994-2001, he was vice president of global communications for EMC Corporation. He then served for five years as chief operating officer of A/F Protein, a life sciences and biotechnology start-up. Ron’s first book of poems, The Incentive of the Maggot (2005, Houghton Mifflin), was nominated for the National Book Circle Critics Prize. A second collection, The Great Wave, followed in 2009. Ron did his graduate studies at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin. He and his wife, Nancy Gilson, have three children and three grandchildren, and live in Milton.

KATHLEEN C. STONE is a lawyer focusing on business and commercial litigation. Formerly a partner in a large law firm and in-house counsel in a bank subsidiary, she now maintains a solo practice. She has taught courses on American law in several countries – Slovenia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic – with the goal of fostering respect for the rule of law in all societies and increasing foreign understanding of the American system. She is a hearing officer for the Board of Bar Overseers, the regulatory body for Massachusetts lawyers. Elected to the Mass Humanities board in 2011, Kathleen also serves as a trustee of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, a private two-year college in Boston. She is the immediate past president of The Boston Club, a member organization devoted to advancing women’s leadership, and previously was elected to the Council of the Boston Bar Association where she also co-chaired the Solo and Small Firm Section. Kathleen earned her BA at Oberlin College, with a major in art history, and her JD at Boston University. She was elected in 2011.

JILL SULLIVAN has spent most of her adult life in public service. She served for four years on the Town of Swampscott’s Planning Board and eight years on the town’s Board of Selectmen, two years as chair. She was a founder of the town’s Community Development Committee, Chair of the Town Building Oversight Committee and member of the Zoning By-Law Review Committee. She is currently a member of the Swampscott Finance Committee. Jill is a graduate of Brown University (Business Economics) and holds an MA in Regional Studies – East Asia from Harvard University and a MA in English from Salem State University. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Salem State University, and serves as Chair of the Center’s Community Board. Jill has also helped various organizations such as My Brother’s Table, RAW Art Works, the All Blue Foundation, and the Swampscott Public Library on fundraising initiatives. She was appointed to the foundation board by Governor Charlie Baker in 2016.

EMMA J. TENG is the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dually appointed in Global Studies and Languages and in History, Emma teaches courses in Chinese culture, Chinese migration history, Asian American history, East Asian culture, and women’s and gender studies. In 2013, she was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow for her contributions to undergraduate teaching at MIT. Emma earned her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Her first book, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683-1895 (2004) a study of Chinese colonial discourses on Taiwan, places the China-Taiwan relationship in the historical context of Chinese imperial expansionism. Her latest book, Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China and Hong Kong, 1842-1943 (2013), examines ideas concerning racial intermixing and the lived experiences of mixed families in China and the US. Emma’s current projects include an exhibit on the early history (1877-1931) of Chinese students at MIT for the MIT Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery. Emma serves on the faculty advisory committee of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. She lives in Wayland and was elected to the board in 2016.

BIANCA SIGH WARD is a young professional with unique insight into the Boston art community. After working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (MFA) raising corporate funds for the institution she went on to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) to work with emerging artists where her passion for relationship building grew. She currently works as a Paralegal at the firm of Nystrom Beckman & Paris LLP in Boston’s Fan Pier and serves on the PAC Board at Mass Equality. Bianca graduated from Bowdoin College in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History. She currently resides in Beacon Hill with her husband, John.