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.

RAMON BORGES-MENDEZ was born in Puerto Rico. He holds a BA (cum laude) in Social Thought and Political Economy from UMASS-Amherst, and an MCP and PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT. Currently, Prof. Borges-Méndez is an associate professor and coordinator of the graduate program in Community Development and Planning at Clark University. He has publications on workforce development, environmental justice, labor markets, regional planning, and immigration, which have appeared in Local Environment, The Upjohn Institute Press, CENTRO Journal, and the Economic Development Quarterly. He has served as a consultant for The World Bank, The Ford Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and SEIU-1199 Health Care Workers (NYC), and other nonprofits and governments. Ramón co-leads Worcester’s Working Cities Challenge Project (FED-Living Cities) on workforce development and the food-driven economy, and belongs to the board of directors of Worcester Common Ground CDC and the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University. He was elected to the board in 2017.

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.

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 Professor and Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Coordinator of American Studies and an affiliated Faculty with the Center for Economic Development and Sustainability at Salem State University where she was founding University Fellow for Service-Learning and 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 of 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 numerous boards including the House of the Seven Gables, The Northshore Community Development Coalition and the Boston-Strasbourg Sister City Association. A two-time Fulbright Scholar (Luxembourg and Greece) and Whiting Fellow (Cote D’Ivoire), she holds a B.A in History and Sociology-based Human Relations 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. She was elected to the board in 2014.

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 graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1963. He was a jet pilot 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 also a Director of the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture and The Fells Historic Estate. Al has 30 years of experience as a trustee of nonprofit organizations in western New England. Al and his wife, Sally, live in Northampton, MA and Sunapee, NH. Al was elected to the board in 2012.


BRUCE GRINNELL recently concluded a fifty year career as a practicing attorney working primarily in Berkshire County. A graduate of Deerfield Academy, Williams College and Boston University School of Law, he moved to Williamstown in 1968 after clerking in the Federal District Court in Boston. Beginning as a single practitioner, the practice grew to seven attorneys with offices in Pittsfield and Williamstown. For the past fifteen years, Bruce restricted his practice to mediation. Grinnell was a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, served as a trustee at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, was trustee and Board Chair of the former North Adams Regional Hospital, chaired the successful Capital Campaign there, raising over eleven million dollars. He was also a founder and president of the local ABC program in Williamstown. He was elected to the board in 2017.

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.

PEGGY KEMP has served in the Boston Public Schools for more than 30 years as a teacher, department head and headmaster. As Headmaster of Fenway High School from 2003-2016, Peggy helped to transition the pilot school into one of Boston’s leading secondary schools. In 2010, Fenway High was rated one of America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News and World Report. Peggy formerly served as the founding Director of the Office of School Partnerships at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has led school reform initiatives such as Harvard’s Project Zero and Jobs for the Future and served as the Associate Director of a National Science Foundation-funded math and science regional center. She is a graduate of Berea College and Harvard Law School. She was elected to the board in 2017.

AMY MACDONALD is Director of Community Engagement at WBUR. In that role, she is responsible for creating and organizing events on a diverse range of subjects that are held in venues throughout Greater Boston. In addition, she is the liaison for WBUR hosts and reporters to serve as moderators, emcees and panelists for other organizations’ forums. Years ago, Amy worked at WBUR as a producer for “The Connection” under the helm of host Christopher Lydon. In between her stints at WBUR, she was the Forum Producer at the JFK Library, organizing the Library’s lecture series — with the help of former Director and Mass Humanities Board member Tom Putnam. A graduate of Smith College, she has a Masters in Communication from Stanford University and Masters in English from Boston University. She was elected to the board in 2017.

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.

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. She was elected to the board in 2014.

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. She was elected to the board in 2013.