Sustainable Tompkins is governed by a Board of Directors and supported by staff and volunteers.

Board of Directors

Gay Nicholson, President (ex officio)
Tom Shelley, Chair
In Shik Lee, Secretary
Dick Franke, Treasurer
Miranda Phillips (on sabbatic)
Kitty Gifford

Staff Support

Gay Nicholson, CEO and Director of Programs
Sasha Paris, Mini-Grants Program Coordinator and Office Assistant
Nancy Robbins, Bookkeeper

Board and Staff Bios

Gay Nicholson, President

Since 2004, Gay Nicholson has led Sustainable Tompkins in designing and implementing an integrated program to advance the creation of a more sustainable regional community. Gay emphasizes a systems approach to working with partners to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. She has also been instrumental in the founding and development of the Green Resource Hub and its SEEN (Sustainable Enterprise & Entrepreneur Network), which focuses on expanding the regional marketplace for sustainable living. Gay participates in a number of local partnerships related to energy and climate, local investing, equity as an economic driver, and green tourism.

Gay left a career in sustainable agriculture to work in environmental advocacy and education with Cornell’s Program on Ethics and Public Life, and as executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust before leading the creation of Sustainable Tompkins. She has been an active volunteer in numerous community and environmental organizations, providing leadership from the local to the national level. Gay’s undergraduate degree (with High Distinction) is in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia (1979), and her Master’s (1982) and Doctorate (1991) are in Crop Physiology and Integrated Pest Management from Cornell University.  She serves on the boards of Center for a New American Dream, Green Resource Hub, and the Tompkins County Planning Advisory Board.

Thomas Shelley, Chair

Thomas Shelley attended Bowling Green University (Ohio) majoring in geology and chemistry. Most of Tom’s early working career was as a chemist doing analytical work in industrial labs.  He worked at Cornell University Environmental Health and Safety for 13.5 years, and held the position of Chemical Hygiene Officer for the last nine years of his career there.  Tom then worked part time for Cornell University Environmental Health and Safety and held other consulting and training positions for four years before his full retirement at the end of 2007.

In the ensuing years, Tom has become increasingly involved in the sustainability movement in Ithaca and Tompkins County.  He volunteers in various capacities for 12 different sustainability-related organizations including the Board of Directors of Sustainable Tompkins.



In Shik Lee, Secretary

In Shik Lee attended Rice University focusing in the areas of Art and Architecture. In Shik came to Ithaca for graduate studies at Cornell University in the late 1980’s and set roots and has grown a life here in Tompkins County. Her life revolves around a broad spectrum of professional and volunteer involvements in the community. She is a partner with her husband at LeeMer Design & Construction, a design/build firm  which focuses on sustainable residential practices. As an adjunct professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College, she teaches courses in design, art, and renewable energy; and created TC3 Green Energy Technology Program, a workforce development and training program in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

She is currently serving on the boards ofSustainable Tompkins and The Sustainability Center. She promotes environmental conservation efforts on her farm and her rural community. In Shik also gardens, paints, and spends time with her lovely children and grand-puppies.

Richard Franke, Ph.D., Treasurer

Richard W. Franke is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Montclair State University in New Jersey where he taught from 1972 to 2009. He received his B. A., M. A. and Ph. D. from Harvard University. Franke has done research in Surinam, France, The Netherlands, Indonesia, West Africa and Kerala, India on social aspects of economic development, social inequality, social justice, social movements and environmental sustainability. He is author or co-author of six books and numerous journal articles and reviews.

Franke taught courses on globalization and sustainability, nutritional anthropology, the anthropology of conflict and violence, development anthropology, research methods and non-western contributions to the Western world. In 2009 Franke and his wife, Dr. Barbara H. Chasin, moved to the Ecovillage at Ithaca where they have been participating in local area activities in support of the already advanced work on sustainability and social justice in Tompkins County. Along with Sustainable Tompkins, Franke has been actively involved with the Tompkins County Workers Center, the Sustainability Center, and the Martin Luther King Community Build.


miranda phillips

Miranda Phillips

Miranda Phillips graduated from Cornell (1997) with a BA in English. Another core interest at that time was Jewish education. In 2000, Miranda received a Masters in Jewish Education (Hebrew College, Boston) with a focus on environmental issues. After eight wonderful years at a congregation in Newton, MA, Miranda took a break from synagogue teaching to explore more deeply her interest in sustainability. She spent a delicious sabbatical year shadowing garden teachers in Berkeley, CA.

On returning to Ithaca with her husband in 2006, she enjoyed volunteering and organizing volunteers with Sustainable Tompkins, and joined Interfaith Action for Healing Earth – a local group exploring the overlap between sustainability and congregational life. Miranda was also excited to study permaculture design at the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, and continues to enjoy redesigning her house and garden with these principles in mind. When her baby daughter Julia is old enough, she also looks forward to returning to synagogue education and school gardens.


Sasha ParisSasha Paris, Mini-Grant Program Coordinator and Office Assistant

Sasha Paris grew up in Ithaca and graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, with an interdisciplinary blend of studies in human-environmental interactions. Her career has focused on nature education – former workplaces include Acadia National Park and the New England Aquarium – and supporting others’ endeavors to strengthen communities and protect the living world.

She has volunteered with Sustainable Tompkins since 2012, assisting with public outreach and administration of the Neighborhood Mini-grant program, and joined the staff in 2014 as the program’s coordinator.

Currently, she also works as a publications assistant at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) and volunteers with numerous local organizations, including Loaves and Fishes, the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and PRI’s Museum of the Earth.


50 years

Nancy Robbins, Bookkeeper

Nancy graduated from the U. of Michigan with a Bachelor of Music degree with high distinction. She plays violin, viola and soprano, tenor and bass viol. When the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, which she played in, needed a treasurer she began taking accounting classes at TC3. She took all the accounting they offered and some math too, for fun.  She was financial manager at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for fourteen years, and since has worked for various other non-profits, and has been treasurer for many others including the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  She became the bookkeeper for Sustainable Tompkins in 2009.

Nancy is the mother of two daughters, and grandmother of two boys. The boys grew up in Indonesia and Brunei, and the oldest is now an undergraduate at Northwestern University studying economics. The youngest is a budding cellist and  they both love to play tennis and soccer. We are very proud of them!