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
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
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.
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 run 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.
She has a particular interest in connecting children and their families with the environment, educating and empowering them to take action on issues of concerns 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, and director of a low-income housing non-profit.
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.
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 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.
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.