Board of Directors Biographies
Beth Wilkinson, President
Beth Wilkinson joined the Conservators' board in 2011 and has been president since 2014. She is a member of Newton's Urban Tree Commission and a recent member of the boards of the Newton Tree Conservancy and the Crystal Lake Conservancy. She has a certificate in Field Botany from the New England Wild Flower Society, where she is a Plant Conservation Volunteer.
In past years, Beth was a member of the PTO Council, serving as co-president for two years; a member of the board of the Newton League of Women Voters; and a Trustee of the Newton Free Library.
Chris Hepburn, Vice President
Chris Hepburn has been a member of the Conservators for many years and joined the Board in 2014. Chris is a geologist and retired professor of geology from Boston College specializing in igneous and metamorphic rocks, geochemistry, and plate tectonics applied to the formation of the Appalachians. He has held many positions with the Geological Society of America and received their Distinguished Service Award in 2016. Chris also serves as President of the Friends of Nahanton Park. He is an avid birder and travels widely to see both rocks and birds.
AnnaMaria Abernathy, Secretary
AnnaMaria Abernathy has served on the Conservators' board on and off for 40 years, with terms as president and vice-president. She also has worked with the Newton League of Women Voters, both as officer and as a long-time observer and activist on land use issues. Earlier, she taught European history at the college level.
Katherine Howard, Treasurer
Katherine Howard has been the Newton Conservators Treasurer since 1999. She is retired, following a career in not-for-profit health care financial management. Her interests include invasive plant species management in our parks, and native plant gardening. She is also a founding director of Newton Tree Conservancy, volunteers for Newton Food Pantry, and tutors math in the Boston Public Schools.
David S. Backer is the Executive Director of the Environmental Science Program, an outdoor educational program for teenagers. He is also the Chief Technology Officer of the.new.studio in Newton. Previously he was the Director of the International Thomson Publishing Multimedia Consortium, and a founder and manager at technology start-ups. He is involved with public policy protecting the environment.
He earned a PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory. He holds an MS in Computer and Information Science from UMASS, Amherst, where he taught computer graphics in the Fine Arts Department with Prof. Robert Mallary. He also has a BS in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Washington University, St. Louis.
Peter joined the Conservators board in 2018. In his engineering career, he provided energy efficiency advice to owners of large institutional, industrial, and commercial properties. He currently is Co-chair of Newton's Design Review Committee, which provides guidance on city construction projects.
He has also served as president of the boards of Newton Community Farm, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries and WCI, which provides services to developmentally disabled adults.
Dan Brody manages the Conservators website. He's lived in Newton Highlands for thirty years, and is an active hiker and nature photographer. He is a member of the Newton Community Preservation Committee. Professionally, he is a consultant to progressive political campaigns, including those organized by Raise Up Massachusetts. He previously served as chief financial officer for the Harvard Kennedy School, and as Massachusetts Deputy State Budget Director.
Bonnie Carter has been a board member since about 1988. While serving as president of the League of Women Voters of Newton in 1993-94, she was asked to serve as vice president of the Newton Conservators (under the presidency of Roger Feinstein). Fortunately, the office of vice president made few demands on her time, allowing her to concentrate on her flute lessons and tennis game.
During the 1980s, Bonnie worked as an apprentice in a furniture repair shop. From 1992 to 2008, she was employed as administrative assistant at NewTV. Over the years, she has worked on the newsletters for both the League and the Conservators, and has pasted more labels that you can count. Now, with newsletters going digital, she faces unemployment.
Michael Clarke is a retired professor of chemistry at Boston College. He has been on the Newton Conservators Board of Directors since 1992 and was Vice President from 1995-1996, President from 1997-1999 and Past President from 1999-2001.
He has also served as an alternate member of the Parks and Recreation Commission since 1993. He was the Mayoral appointee for Open Space to the Newton Community Preservation Committee from 2009 to 2017. He chaired the Newton Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force in 2005.
Margaret Doris is a writer and bioethicist who has lived in Newton for over 30 years. Margaret has a particular interest in connecting children and their families with the environment, educating and empowering them to take action on issues of concern to them. She has been active in securing Community Preservation Act grants that created or improved access to Newton's open spaces, and has been a Girl Scout leader, Second Church Sunday school teacher, Horace Mann room parent, Newton Schools Foundation advisory member, president of the non-profit Playground Project, and director of a low-income housing non-profit. A long-time Board member, Margaret has a PhD in bioethics from Boston University.
Waban architect Henry Finch is the Conservators' go-to guy for unique public walks, hikes, and bikes. Henry’s guided hikes and bike rides through the woods, meadows, and fields along the Newton sections of the Sudbury and Cochituate Aqueducts continually top the list of the public’s favorite Conservators activities. Henry is a Conservators representative to the Riverside Trails Working Group.
Robert Fizek is an Architect and a resident of Newton Highlands since 1991.
He graduated from the Boston Architectural Center in 1983 and has served the profession in New York State, Massachusetts, Italy, and Austria. He opened his own practice in Newton in 1998.
Robert had collaborated with the Newton Conservators in the city's purchase of parkland property and beach frontage at Crystal Lake; and by subsequent appointment in the Mayor's Crystal Lake Task Force and Master Planning study. In 2009 Mr. Fizek joined a small group of committed citizens to establish the Crystal Lake Conservancy and continues to serve as a member of its Board. He joined the Conservators' board in 2010.
Ellen Gibson-Kennedy moved to Newton Centre in 2014 and joined the Newton Conservators' Board in 2017. She studied natural resources planning and policy at Michigan State University and has a Master's of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She worked for many years as a project manager, administrator, and editor in the environmental field before taking time off to raise her son.
Ellen is an active runner and hiker and enjoys adventures with her husband and son. She is also a musician and songwriter, and sings and plays bass in a local band.
Maurice (Pete) Gilmore
Pete is a retired mathematician from Northeastern University (1966-2008). He was Chair of the Mathematics Department (1975-1988), worked on Math reform in the Boston Public Schools (1990-2008), and did similar work in other middle and high schools in eastern Massachusetts.
He's been a birder since 1951 and has been active in Newton's Christmas Bird Count for 15 years. He's a board member of Newton Conservators (2005 - present), writes a quarterly article on Newton's birds for the newsletter, leads spring and fall bird and nature walks, and is a member of the Friends of Nahanton Park.
Pete serves on the board of the Brookline Bird Club, and is its field trip coordinator.
Daniel Green is President of The Green Company, a Massachusetts-based construction and development firm that creates, designs and builds award-winning, environmentally sensitive residential communities. Green
is a third-generation builder who enjoys creating communities of homes with environmentally friendly features.
He has served on the Conservators board since 2003. He also sits on the City of Newton Conservation Commission and was previously on City of Newton Community Preservation Committee. Green is currently a judge and standards writer for the National Housing Quality Award, which is modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and represents the housing industry's highest recognition for achievements in total quality management.
Bill Hagar is an Associate Dean of the College of Science at the University of Massachusetts. He has taught biology and biochemistry classes for over 30 years. His research interest includes environmental monitoring, and teaching science topics through experimentation. He is a supporter of science education at all levels and has judged high school science fairs and Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair finals since 1993. Bill has been a member of the Board of Directors of Newton Conservators since 1992, and was president from June 2005 to June 2008. He has been on the Grants Committee of the Conservators for over twenty years and is currently the chair of the committee. He and his wife, Dottie, lead canoe trips on the Charles River for the Conservators.
Ted Kuklinski grew up in Philadelphia, where he learned to appreciate nature in its vast Fairmount Park. He has been a board member since the late 1990's and has served as e-Bulletin editor, lecture coordinator, video producer, walk leader, vice president, and is particularly active at the Dolan Pond Conservation Area in West Newton. He is a member of the Newton's Off-Leash Area Working Group and a citizen liaison for Wellington Park. He enjoys birding, playing harmonica with several groups, and is an avid volleyball player. He holds a BSEE from Drexel University and MS and PhD from MIT in computer science and electrical engineering, and has had a career in tech startups, most recently retired as chief scientist at Advanced ID Detection / Confirm.io, developing systems to identify fake IDs.
Kenneth Mallory is the former Editor-in-chief of Publishing Programs at the New England Aquarium, where he helped produce over twenty books and wrote nine non-fiction books for children ten years and older. His photography was an important part of each of these books for Houghton Mifflin, Crown, Simon and Schuster, and Harcourt Brace, among others.
During his time at the Aquarium his photographic specialty was in wetlands such as the Everglades in Florida, the dry forest in Costa Rica, and wildlife from the Pantanal in Brazil. Since his retirement, he and his wife Margaret have traveled to document people of different cultures including India, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Nyssa Patten has been involved with the Conservators since 2016, participating in the yearly walks and pulling invasive weeds. She joined the board in 2017.
When not outside, Nyssa is an ESL teacher at Watertown High School. She received a masters degree from Simmons University in Teaching English as a Second Language in 2006. She also earned a secondary teaching license in history from the state of Massachusetts in 2007. She has been teaching US History and the English language to the international students at WHS since 2007.
Larry is president of Charles River Recreation, which operates Charles River Canoe & Kayak, Weston Ski Track, and Kendall Community Skating. One of the boat rental centers is for the City of Newton at Nahanton Park. He enjoys introducing folks to local opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation and protecting these resources for future enjoyment. Larry has worked closely with the Charles River Watershed Association on their annual Run of the Charles canoe/kayak race and to remove invasive water chestnut plants from the river. He is a member of the The Riverside Greenway Working Group to create a trail over two abandoned railroad bridges connecting Newton Lower Falls and Riverside MBTA Station, and to increase access to the paths along the Charles.