Board of Directors

Phillip Kalmanson, President

Phillip Kalmanson is a recently retired spacecraft systems engineer.  He is now working fulltime on sailboat restoration in preparation for an extended sailing trip along the east coast of North America.  Phillip has been involved in Humanism since learning about it from the Humanist celebrant that officiated for his and his wife’s wedding.  In addition to The Humanist Institute, Phillip is a board member of the Washington Area Secular Humanist.

John Hooper, Treasurer

John Hooper is a retired scientist and research and development executive (Ph.D. in chemistry, 1969, Carnegie Mellon U.) having pursued a career in molecular imaging and spectroscopy.  Shortly before retiring, he received a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) degree in an area of avocational interest: epistemology.  Hooper has held national leadership positions in organizations involving religion and science, naturalism, Humanism, and Unitarian Universalist social action, including being a member of the Commission on Social Witness of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).  John has served in many capacities at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Westport, CT, including Chair of the Board of Trustees.  He is currently president of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association (; treasure of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and The Humanist Institute; and board member of The Institute for Humanist Studies, the Humanist Community at Yale, the Connecticut Coalition of Reason, and AHA.  John is a cofounder and enthusiastic member of the Humanists and Freethinkers of Fairfield County (CT).  He and his wife, Dr. Gail M Pesyna, serve as members of the President’s Council of the UUA.

Steve Ahlquist, Secretary

Steve is a lifelong Rhode Island resident, and an award winning journalist.  He is an artist, writer and filmmaker, as well as the founder of the Humanist of Rhode Island.  A proud graduate of Class 18 of The Humanist Institute, Steve see his Humanism as central to his work as a journalist.  In Rhode Island, writing for Rhode Island Future, a progressive political news site, Steve covers labor, race, religion, reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues, and much more from a progressive, Humanist perspective.  In 2015 he became the proud recipient of the Spirit of Pride award from RI Pride for his reporting on issues of concern to the Rhode Island LGBTQ community.  Steve lives in Providence with his wife Katherine.  He has three adult children.

Maggie Ardiente

Maggie2012_3Maggie Ardiente (Class 15, THI Board Member) is the director of development and communications at the American Humanist Association and senior editor of  She has appeared in, the Washington Post, NPR, The Huffington Post, and Voice of America to discuss humanism and nonbelievers in the U.S.  She graduated with a B.S. in sociology from James Madison University and served as Vice President of the JMU Freethinkers, a student group for atheists, agnostics, and humanists.  She is a former board member of the Secular Student Alliance.

Charles Debrovner

Past president of the NY Ethical Society and emeritus member of its board and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School board.    President of Global Bioethics Inititative.

Board Members


Jim Barnett

As I was growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, I attended a conservative church but began to question my beliefs when I started college.  While in graduate school, I became active in the political struggle for gay rights.  I was active in Houston’s Gay Political Caucus and participated in several large LGBT marches in Houston and Washington D.C. in the late 70’s and 80’s.  I also helped organize a gay social group at the First Unitarian Church in Houston where I met Eric whom I eventually married.  I have identified as Humanists since that period of my life.  In 1981, I accept a position from a pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco By area.  I was a research scientist in the early-stage drug discovery division.  My lifetime experience using the scientific method to discover new information has left me with a strong conviction that science is a potent approach to finding truth, and solving problems, in may fields of human endeavor.  I am currently a member of San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Society where I served on the board for 4 years.  I am concerned by the lack of strong organized humanism in the Unitarian Universalist denomination and society at large.  I think that this mutes the message of humanism that is needed in the world today.  I decided to spend my retirement years trying to help rectify this.  I graduated with class 18 from the Humanist Institute program.  Using what i was learning, I organized the Bay Area Humanists, a chapter of the American Humanist Association, and the Humanists and Non-Theists group in the San Francisco UU congregation and continue to lead these two groups.

James Croft

James is an inspiring public speaker, an experienced teacher, a passionate activist, and a leader in the Humanist movement.  James is also the Outreach Coordinator for the Ethical Society of Saint Louis.


Jennifer Kalmanson

Author. After 16 years of providing space system engineering support to the Hubble Space Telescope servicing Mission 4, the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt, solar sail spacecraft designs, she has taken up the pen full time, writing about risk in the space industry, the human capability for lying, and how to best manage remotely distributed work teams.

Ronald Millar

Ron has spent more than thirty years in the Washington DC area working for nonprofit education and advocacy groups.  He was the second staff member employed by the Secular Coalition for America, serving as associate director from 2005 to 2009.  Earning a PhD from Virginia Tech, his dissertation explored organizational learning among groups litigating church-state cases before the Supreme Court.

John Rafferty

John Rafferty is the President of the Secular Humanist Society of New York, as well as the long-time Editor of its newsletter, PIQUE. A graduate of Humanist Institute Class 17, he is also Atheist Alliance International’s United Nations Liaison.

Roy Speckhardt

Roy2012_2Roy Speckhardt (THI Board Member) is the author of Creating Change Through Humanism (Humanist Press 2015) and has served as executive director of the American Humanist Association since 2005. He is a frequent media commentator, having appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others. He also writes a regular column for The Huffington Post, and has given speeches at colleges, conferences, and local humanist groups across the country. He served as deputy director of the Interfaith Alliance from 1995 to 2001. Speckhardt holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University and B.A. in sociology from Mary Washington College. 

Susan Teshu

Susan Rose was raised in Ethical Culture, attending the Children’s Sunday Assembly at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture from the age of three.  She currently is the Dean of the Leadership Training Program of the American Ethical Union and in that capacity serves on the Board of the Humanist Institute.  She is trained as an interfaith health care chaplain.  Susan has lived in an intentional community which included environmental intentionality as part of its focus.  She and her family had a strong emphasis on living simply on a low income, a lifestyle which she tries to practice as much as possible in her daily life.  Susan doesn’t own a car and gets to most places by bicycle or public transportation.  She sees this lifestyle as being grounded in her Ethical Culture beliefs.  Susan also offers Platforms, workshops, and counseling regarding advance medical planning, end-of-life issues, and memorial services.  Susan lives in Cambridge, MA and is passionate about container gardening.  She is the happy mother of two young adults.

Bart Worden

Bart Worden is the executive director for the American Ethical Union in New York City.  He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Hope College in 1978 majoring in Philosophy of Religion.  In 1983, he obtained a masters degree in social work from N.Y.U. and then served as a social worker and psychotherapist for adults with psychiatric disabilities.  Bart has worked with The Guidance Center of Westchester, a community behavioral healthcare organization since 1986 and currently serves as the organization’s Deputy Director for Information Management.  As a young man Bart had hoped to become a Christian minister but his growing realization that he did not believe in God put a wrench in that plan.  It was ten years later that he was introduced to the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester–a nontheistic humanist congregation–and an additional ten years before he enrolled in training for professional Leadership.  As part of that training he attended The Humanist Institute in New York City, from which he graduated in 1997 and he was certified as an Ethical Culture Leader by the American Ethical Union in 1998.

In addition to his role as executive director for the national organization, Bart is the clergy leader for Ethical Culture in White Plains.

Bart’s interest locally have been focused on addressing bias and discrimination in communities in Westchester County, and he is a member of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform and the Westchester Coalition for Muslim Civil Rights.

Robert Tapp, Dean Emeritus

Advisory Council

  • Lou Appignani
  • Khoren Arisian
  • Adam Chalom
  • Peter Derkx
  • Sonja Eggerdickx
  • Stefan Jonasson
  • Lawrence Jones
  • Anne Klaeysen
  • Ron Lindsay
  • Ellen McBride
  • William Murry
  • David Niose
  • Anthony Pinn
  • Judith D. Wallach
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