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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)


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.

Rhonda Gilmore

Places, spaces and things…

history speaks to us when we visit a battleground, an old schoolhouse, and when someone tells us a story about how they made butter as a kid with a hand-powered churn.  As a design educator, I am committed to bringing history to each new generation as our past becomes less and less tangible.

Senior Lecturer   Design + Environmental Analysis

Cornell University

James Randall Johnson J.D.  is new to New York and the Ithaca area having moved here from Michigan in 2015.  For the past three decades he has concomitantly pursued careers as a lawyer and a college professor.  He has been on faculty at 8 colleges and universities.  Since 2004 he has been a legal and political analyst for PBS and network television affiliates.  Starting in 2006 he has also worked as a conflict journalist covering wars in Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Syria, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Colombia and Southeast Asia.  He is currently an instructor the Department of Legal Studies at Ithaca College, He returns to Michigan 8 times a year to conduct symposia at his former university and participate in a long-running PBS television political talk show.  He did his undergraduate studies at LSU and Eastern Michigan University. He holds a Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University, is a graduate of the Tuck Executive Program at Dartmouth College and did post-JD work at the Harvard Law School in the summers of 1988 and 1990.  He is a former officer in the United States Navy, Judge Advocate General Corps and served on land and sea throughout the world.  His primary historical interest focuses on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the political history of the United States from 1776-1835 with particular interest on the life of John Marshall. 

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.

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.

Gwen Seaquist was born and raised in the Town of Tonawanda, New York and graduated from Wells College with a B.A. in psychology in 1974 where she was the recipient of the Helen M. Zachos prize for creative writing. She graduated from the University of Mississippi Law School in 1978, was admitted to practice and litigated with the law firm of Boyce Holleman, P.C. in Gulfport, Mississippi. Upon returning to New York, she settled in Ithaca, New York where she started as legal counsel, affirmative action officer and assistant to President James J. Whalen of Ithaca College and then began teaching full time in the Ithaca College School of Business in 1983. She was admitted to the New York State bar in 1981 and has continued to work in numerous law firms in the Ithaca area, as well as teach. She has been a visiting professor at Cornell University Law School; Cornell University Hotel School; Suffolk University, Binghamton University and the United States Military Academy at West Point. She was a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School which she attended from 1990-1991 and has written four legal textbooks. She is currently a full professor in legal studies and the Coordinator of the Legal Studies program at Ithaca College where she continues to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in law.

Lynn Thommen, having majored in art history at Colby College, decided on an administrative rather than curatorial career path, and that took me to Binghamton for an MBA in arts management. She has been extraordinarily fortunate to have spent the majority of her professional life at three great institutions in Manhattan (The Jewish Museum, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and American Ballet Theatre) in development, communications, and marketing roles. Lynn's last position was that of Director of External Affairs at Bard Graduate Center (BGC), a unit of Bard College that explores new ways of thinking about the decorative arts, design history, and material culture through MA and PhD programs, research initiatives, and exhibitions. 

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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