About the AHA | Board of Directors

Board Of Directors

Board of Directors election results were announced on October 1, 2014. New members Christine Shellska and Roberta Simpson will join returning members Jennifer Kalmanson, Howard Katz, Susan Sackett, and Jason Torpy for new four-year terms beginning January 1, 2015. Debbie Allen, Rob Boston, Rebecca Hale, Anthony Pinn, Herb Silverman, and Kristin Wintermute will all continue to serve on the board as well.

The AHA Board Members listed below are independent, voting members. Learn more about our Board of Directors members below. Read the latest board meeting minutes here.



Debbie Allen

DEBBIE ALLEN (Board Member since 2013) is the founder and local director of the San Diego Coalition of Reason. Since 2009, San Diego CoR has grown from 10 to 18 cooperative atheist, humanist and freethought groups, and is recognized as a leading secular organization in southern California.

Debbie is the immediate past president of the Humanist Fellowship of San Diego, president of the San Diego Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, co-founder of the San Diego Recovering from Religion Meetup group, and founder of the San Diego Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers Meetup group. In 2011 Debbie became certified as a Humanist Chaplain in order to better serve and advocate for non-theists in the military. She established the first ever humanist meeting at a military base in San Diego, and volunteers at the VA hospital in La Jolla.

As a member of the AHA board Debbie chairs the Chapter Services Committee which strives to support local humanist groups. She has a special interest in creating easily accessible humanist education programs for children and families. She also serves as Vice President on the board of the Humanist Society, an adjunct program of the AHA that certifies and educates Humanist Celebrants.

Prior to her activism in secular causes, Debbie was an active community member of her Reform synagogue, serving on the board of directors and chairing several committees including Education, Social Action, Outreach to Interfaith, and Membership. She is retired from a career as a psychotherapist in private practice and investigator in neuropsychological research at the UCSD School of Medicine.

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Robert Boston

ROBERT BOSTON (Board Member since 2009) is assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and the assistant editor of AU's monthly magazine Church & State. He is recognized as a leading writer and researcher on church-state topics and an articulate advocate for the separation of church and state. He frequently writes about the political goals of the Religious Right and other church-state issues, such as religion in public schools, tax aid to sectarian education and religious freedom. He covers the U.S. Supreme Court for Church & State and has attended oral arguments in every church-state case at the high court since 1988.

Boston is the author of three books: Close Encounters with the Religious Right: Journeys into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics (Prometheus Books, 2000); The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition (Prometheus Books, 1996) and Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State (Prometheus Books, 1993; second edition, 2003).

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Rebecca Hale, AHA President

REBECCA HALE (Board Member since 2005) is the President of the American Humanist Association. A lifelong Humanist, although she didn't know there was an AHA until 1996. She was born in New York City to Humanist parents, although they called themselves Unitarians. Throughout her upbringing and life the focus has always grounded on a life philosophy of personal responsibility. If there is something that needs doing it is incumbent on each of us to do what we can towards getting it done. This carries through on all aspects of life; from cleaning up after dinner to cleaning up the environment.

The unexplained has always been that which science does not yet understand. After her own due diligence Rebecca has come to appreciate the value of laughter, beautiful music, friendship, a walk on the beach and good nutrition. As the late great Albuquerque humanist, Harry Wilson, wrote in Freedom from God there is this sense of wonder and awe, the “oceanic” feeling one gets when confronted with the magnificence of nature.

In 1976 Rebecca received her MPA (Master in Public Administration) and embarked on a career in government, real estate development, and college administration. In 1993, observing the unsavory effects of the rise of evangelical Christians in Colorado Springs, her husband and she started the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs and subsequently their web based business, EvolveFISH.com. In 1997 EvolveFISH was asked to take over the Humanist Book store, by its founder Lew Dunlap. They attended the 1998 AHA convention and every convention since (except 1999, that is the weekend their daughter, Tani, was born!) Attending the conventions she discovered the AHA and found her philosophical home. Being a humanist makes Rebecca a better person.

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John Hooper, AHA Treasurer

JOHN HOOPER, Ph.D. is the Treasurer of the Executive Committee of the American Humanist Association. Dr. Hooper is a retired scientist and research director, having pursued a career in molecular imaging and spectroscopy. Shortly before retiring, he received a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts degree in an area of avocational interest: epistemology.  Hooper has held national leadership positions in organizations involving naturalism, Humanism, and Unitarian Universalist social action. He is currently president of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association (HUUmanists.org); treasurer of the American Humanist Association and The Humanist Institute; president of the Secular Coalition for America Education Fund, and a board member of The Institute for Humanist Studies. John is a cofounder and enthusiastic supporter of the Humanists and Freethinkers of Fairfield County (CT).  He and his wife, Dr. Gail M. Pesyna, a recently retired vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, serve as members of the President’s Council of the Unitarian Universalist Association. They reside in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Jennifer Kalmanson, AHA Vice President

JENNIFER KALMANSON (Board Member since 2011) is the Vice President of the Executive Committee of the American Humanist Association & a space systems engineer. She has provided system engineering support to the Hubble Space Telescope servicing Mission 4, the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt, and supported a Phase A study to design a mission to fly humankind’s first operational solar sail. She is a board member and chapter coordinator of the Washington Area Secular Humanists-DC Chapter and a Humanist Celebrant. She lives in Laurel, Maryland.

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Howard Katz

HOWARD KATZ (Board Member since 2011) has been a Humanist Celebrant for over seven years. Howard has been active with the Americans Civil Liberties Union and was awarded the ACLU of Illinois’ Volunteer of the Year award. He’s a former officer of Illinois National Organization for Women (NOW), board member of the local Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and board member of the Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland. He’s held multiple public offices and is currently parliamentarian of his County Democratic organization. He’s been a member of the AHA for over 30 years after being introduced to humanism in his 20s.

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Anthony Pinn

ANTHONY PINN (Board Member since 2013) completed his undergraduate degree (BA) at Columbia University, and he received the Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University Divinity School, as well as the MA and PhD from Harvard University in the study of religion. Anthony taught at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) before becoming the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is also the founding director of the Houston Enriches Rice Education Project – a program meant to foster creative partnerships between Rice and the larger Houston community that impact both the work of the University and the quality of life in Houston.

Related to his research, he is the author/editor of twenty- six books, including By The Hands: A Documentary of African American Humanism (2001); African American Humanist Principles: Living and Thinking Like the Children of Nimrod (2004); and, The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology (2012). He is also the director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies. In 2006, he was named the Harvard University Humanist Chaplaincy "Humanist of the Year." In 1999, he received the African American Humanist Award from the Council for Secular Humanism.

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Susan Sackett, AHA Secretary

SUSAN SACKETT (Board Member since 2005) is the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the American Humanist Association. She grew up in Connecticut and Florida and received both her BAE and MEd degrees from the University of Florida in Gainesville (1964;1965). After teaching elementary school in Miami for two years, Sackett moved to Los Angeles in 1968, where she taught for a short time. But her lifelong dream of working in Hollywood persisted, and she quit her teaching job to work in the entertainment industry. In 1974 she landed a job as assistant to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and worked with him until his death in 1991. Her career with Roddenberry encompassed both production work and writing. She is the author of ten books and co-writer of several teleplays. It was Roddenberry who introduced Susan to humanism. Realizing that she, too, was a humanist, she joined the American Humanist Association in 1989.

In 1994 Susan left California and relocated to Arizona, where she became active in her local AHA chapter, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix (HSGP). She was president of HSGP from 2000 to 2010. Susan has been a certified Humanist Celebrant since 2001.

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Christine Shellska

CHRISTINE SHELLSKA (Board Member since January 1, 2015) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her research involves studying the rhetorical strategies employed by the Intelligent Design Creationism movement, and her areas of focus include history, philosophy and sociology of science, Actor Network Theory and rhetoric. Among other involvement in the secular community, she is a Secular Humanist Liaison at the Faith and Spirituality Centre at the University of Calgary, a member of the Board of Directors for Atheist Alliance International, and a regular co-host on the Calgary-based Legion of Reason podcast.

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Herb Silverman

HERB SILVERMAN (Board Member since 2009, previously from 1999 to 2006) became involved in religious freedom issues when he won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court striking down a statute in the state constitution prohibiting nontheists from serving in public office. He then founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, SC, and also founded and serves as a faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a national board member of the Atheist Alliance International, an advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, a state board member of the South Carolina ACLU, a member of the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a board member of the Humanist Institute, and the president of the Secular Coalition for America.

Silverman has appeared in a number of debates representing the humanist point of view, including one at the Oxford Union in England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values? He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for the Humanist and other freethought publications. He also has a mathematics book on Complex Variables and a chapter called "Innerancy Turned Political" in The Fundamentals of Extremism.

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Roberta Simpson

JULY SIMPSON (Board Member since January 1, 2015) was born a humanist; she just did not know it at that moment. Her father, James Simpson, and her mentor, Lyle Simpson were President and Secretary of the Humanist Foundation and the American Humanist Association at that time. Simpson's goal is to serve the AHA with the same vigor and enthusiasm as her father and mentor.

As a litigator, Simpson has learned the values of hard work, attention to detail, thinking globally and working in cooperation with others. She has also had the benefit of living in a variety of places from the busy metropolises of Japan to rural Maine, and believes this has allowed her to have an excellent perspective of the world and the vast array of people in it.

Simpson strives to live her life as a “happy humanist.” Central to her personal philosophy is the idea of creating your own luck. If you can find the silver lining of any situation and be grateful you can count your lucky stars regardless what happens in life.

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Jason Torpy, AHA Treasurer

JASON TORPY (Board Member since 2009) has been involved with the nontheist and humanist movement for over a decade - specifically through the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), which he helped grow from an email listserv to a widely-recognized 501c3 organization. MAAF is now a member organization of the American Humanist Association.

Torpy has spent the last several years building coalitions among nontheist organizations.  He collaborated with American Atheists for the Veteran’s Day 2005 "Atheists in Foxholes March on the Mall" in Washington, DC.  Through SCA, he successfully lobbied the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate unconstitutional proselytism at Army training bases. He also serves on the board of the Secular Coalition for America.

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Kristen Wintermute

KRISTIN WINTERMUTE (Board Member since 2009) is a lifelong Humanist who attended the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis (FUS), led by Khoren Arisian, throughout her childhood and teen years. At first she was enrolled in their “Humanist Education Program,” and in high school she became a classroom teacher. As an undergraduate student at the University of Montana, she used this curriculum at the Unitarian Fellowship of Missoula, Montana. Following graduate work at the University of Maine, Wintermute returned to Minneapolis and FUS. Seeing a need for a younger generation there, she began the twenties and thirties group. The goals were to learn more about Humanism through reading and discussion as well as to be in a community with like-minded individuals of our generation. The group's greatest accomplishment was a very well received Sunday Assembly on Generation X.

After pursuing a career for a number of years as a family therapist, Wintermute made a decision to leave the field of social work to become a stay-at-home mother. She pursued part-time work from home and was hired by the North American Committee for Humanism (NACH) to be their executive director in 1998. In 1999, NACH and its subsidiary, the Humanist Institute, became one organization. She became the business manager and is now the administrator of the Humanist Institute. She is also the full-time office manager for Schlenker and Associates and mother of two, Anya (age 8) and Ari (age 5).

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