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
Neil Schill, Secretary
Dick Franke, Treasurer
Roger Beck
Cathleen Banford
Jessica Swindon
Osamu Tsuda

Staff Support

Gay Nicholson, President & CEO
Marisa Lansing, Climate Fund Coordinator
Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Coordinator & 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 sustainable agriculture.

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 currently serves on the boards of Solar Tompkins 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.

Neil Schill, Secretary

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.

Roger Beck

Roger Beck grew up on a dairy farm in the Town of Dryden and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Engineering. After serving two years in the Navy Seabees, he started Beck Construction, a company doing excavation and grading work. During the following decades, this company changed its operations and it is now Beck Equipment, located in Preble, NY. Beck Equipment rents, sells and services construction machinery and employs twenty-five people.

Over the years, Roger has worked to get information to the public about a wide variety of issues. To continue these efforts, he is starting a not-for-profit called 21st Century Facts. Roger serves on the board of Sustainable Tompkins and is a member of the Ithaca Sunrise Rotary.

Osamu Tsuda

Originally from Cooperstown NY, Osamu does work around climate resiliency and adaptation planning in the Southern Tier region spanning from Steuben to Delaware County.

As a graduate from Cornell’s city planning program, Osamu is very interested in the topics of watershed management and land use planning, which is how he got acquainted with Sustainable Tompkins in 2018. 

As part of the ST board of directors, Osamu looks forward to working with communities to prepare for the effects of climate change and help create a more sustainable future.


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, the New England Aquarium, and the Finger Lakes National Forest – 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. 

She currently volunteers with numerous local organizations, including Loaves and Fishes, the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and the Paleontological Research Institution’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!