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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

Sherene Baugher received her Ph.D. in Archaeology/Anthropology from Stony Brook University, S.U.N.Y.  She has taught archaeology at Cornell for 32 years, retired in June 2023, and is now an Emeritus Professor. She was the first City Archaeologist for New York City, working for the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (1980-1990). She is the President of the New York State Archaeological Association. As an historical archaeologist with also a background in historic preservation and landscape architecture, she focuses on colonial to early 20th-century sites in the Northeast region of the US and Canada. She has had five books and numerous articles published and is co-authoring a book on New York State Archaeology that is under contract with Cornell University Press. She directed local excavations in Tompkins County on both Euro-American and Native American sites and has worked with their descendants. Since 1993, she and her students have been involved in community-engaged partnerships in her field, lab, and museum courses. She has designed exhibits for museums in New York City and worked with her students to create permanent indoor and outdoor exhibits for Robert H. Treman State Park. She received the International Award for Excellence in Service-Learning Education from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and the SUNY-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for her community service-learning courses. She brings her museum background, understanding, and appreciation of three-dimensional objects and archives to her work on the Collections and Exhibits committees, and was also on the collections committee as we prepared for the big move to our present building. 

She brings institutional memory to the board because she was also a board member from 2000 to 2005.

2023-2024 Board of Trustees

President: Michael Smith

Vice-President: Kim Cornish

Secretary: Sarah Fiorello

Treasurer: Eric Fitzpatrick

 Committee Leaders 

Personnel: George Dillmann

Finance: Eric Fitzpatrick

Exhibits: Sarah Fiorello

Collections: Sherene Baugher

Board Stewardship: Laurel Southard

Fundraising: Lauren Ryder

Gladys Brangman is the Founder and CEO of Business Leaders of Colors, She has worked for the Tompkins County Office for the Aging, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Cornell University now Business Leaders of Colors (BLOC). Her business provides coaching and resources for business owners, entrepreneurs, consultants, and social justice leaders. Her network was created to level the playing field and create a cooperative space for commerce that serves the underserved business community. An Ithacan in the truest sense of the word, Gladys has been active very in her community. She is currently serving on the board for the New York Sustainable Business Council and has served on the boards for Black Hands Universal, RSVP, Project Share/Red Cross, and the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition. She has most recently served as Chair of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission. Originally from Albany, NY, Gladys has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from SUNY Cortland and a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation from Abilene Christian University. Gladys has lived in Tompkins County for the better part of 35 years. She makes her home in Lansing, NY, teaches dance when she can and believes that there is no higher calling than that of a servant.  She is committed to helping diversify the collections of the History Center as a trustee, as well as help connect with local Black-owned businesses.

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. 
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!

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.

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.

Photo Upcoming

Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner, MPA is a Senior Lecturer in the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University with additional collaborations as a Cornell Atkinson Sustainable Future Senior Faculty Fellow, Faculty Fellow in the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement, and Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies Faculty Associate. Rebecca is co-lead for the FEMA’s Higher Education Experiential Learning and Leadership Special Interest Group. Rebecca teaches courses on environmental policy, environmental justice, vulnerability and resilience, disaster policy, ethics, and project management. Rebecca’s research and practice focus on translating values into practice and policy and working with communities to reduce vulnerability and build resilience. To do this, Rebecca collaborates with international and domestic partners to build innovative approaches that address and improve social and environmental conditions. Her current research and practice include managed retreat and equity, resiliency planning, environmental justice, bridging policy with science, climate change education, and building disaster resilience with vulnerable communities. Rebecca is interested in connection of human and environmental systems embedded in local history. Joining the Tompkins County History Center Board hoping to listen to and add to conversations bridging lessons from the past to inform mindful and inclusive adaptation for shifting climate systems we anticipate.

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.

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. In his spare time he enjoys riding and running the roads and trails of Tompkins County, gardening, rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals, and doing migrant advocacy. 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꞉nǫˀ Territory


Exhibit HallWednesday-Saturday 10am-6pm - 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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