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
Miranda Phillips, Secretary
Dick Franke, Treasurer
In Shik Lee
Gay Nicholson, Director of Programs
Karen Jewett, Director of Operations
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. Her B.S. in Environmental Science is from University of Virginia, and her M.S. and Ph.D. are in horticulture from Cornell University. She currently 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.
Miranda Phillips, Secretary
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.
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.
Karen Jewett-Bennett, Director of Operations
Karen joined the staff of Sustainable Tompkins in July of 2011 after spending 20 plus years in San Francisco where she happily lived in the Haight Ashbury district. Her responsibilities include expanding the base of support for Sustainable Tompkins while running the day to day operations. Karen has a broad and deep experience in community building, non-profit management and fundraising including running a touring circus in California; coordinating neighborhood performing arts events and community celebrations in Pittsburgh, PA; organizing citizens in New York City in support of their neighborhood parks; and training and supporting peace activists to help soldiers during the first war with Iraq. From 1999 to 2007 she worked for Cornell’s Western Regional Office: connecting Cornell alumni in the seven western states to each other and to the University. For the last few years she has been honing her horticultural skills at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and as a residential gardener in 25 San Francisco gardens. Karen grew up in Ithaca in the Northeast neighborhood and left after graduating from Cornell’s College of Human Ecology in 1979. She and her husband, Hal Bennett (a Dewitt Jr. High boyfriend) live in Dryden.