Learn more about our independent voting AHA Board Members below.
- Read Resolutions and Statements adopted by the AHA Board of Directors here.
- Read the latest board meeting minutes here.
- Learn more about AHA Board Elections here.
DEBBIE ALLEN (Board Member since 2013) is the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the American Humanist Association. She 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 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.
ROBERT BOSTON (Board Member since 2009) is director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and the 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 has covered the U.S. Supreme Court for Church & State and has attended numerous oral arguments in church-state cases at the high court since 1988.
Boston is the author of four 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); Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State (Prometheus Books, 1993; second edition, 2003 and Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give The Right To Tell Other People What To Do (Prometheus Books, 2014).
IAN DODD (Board Member since January 1, 2017) brings a wealth of experience in organizing and leading sustainable humanist groups. In 2010 he founded AAHS: Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists & Secularists, a group for freethinkers at his local Unitarian church. In 2013, he founded Sunday Assembly Los Angeles, a chapter of the international “atheist church” Sunday Assembly. It has grown to become the largest and most active Sunday Assembly chapter in the United States. In 2015 he and his wife became humanist celebrants.
Ian was raised in a non-religious home and only questioned his own views on the supernatural after college when he started on the typical young person’s path of searching for that ineffable “something more”. Years of reading and exploring various spiritual traditions, personal growth work and rediscovering a love of science (first inspired by a physics teacher in high school) led him back to realizing that the Universe is more than enough and that its story is far richer and “wonder-full” than any version human beings have ever made up. At night, he loves to contemplate that story under a starry sky. During the day, he works as a camera operator and cinematographer in the motion picture and television industry.
He looks forward to bringing his community organizing skills to the national level to assist the American Humanist Association in introducing the increasing number of nonreligious Americans to the positive, ethical philosophy of humanism.
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.
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 local and national leadership positions in organizations involving naturalism, Humanism, and Unitarian Universalist social action. He is immediate past president of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association (HUUmanists.org); treasurer of the American Humanist Association and The Humanist Institute; a board member of the Secular Coalition for America and president of the SCA Education Fund; and a board member of The Institute for Humanist Studies. John is a cofounder of the Humanists and Freethinkers of Fairfield County (CT). He and his wife, Dr. Gail M. Pesyna, a retired foundation executive, now live in Pittsburgh, PA.
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.
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 and holds the elected office of Township Clerk. He’s been a member of the AHA for over 30 years after being introduced to humanism in his 20s.
SUNIL PANIKKATH (Board Member since January 1, 2017) is a financial economist by background and has worked at the interface of financial risk management and technology for more than 20 years, many times in leadership roles managing teams and being responsible for achieving critical goals.
Sunil has been a nonbeliever his entire adult life and a member and supporter of the AHA for more than fifteen years. He has been a regular attendee at AHA annual conferences and IHEU World Humanist Congresses for nearly ten years. He served for a year as the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s volunteer representative to the UN NGO community in New York. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Humanist Foundation.
Sunil holds a Ph.D. in finance from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis and a Bachelor of Technology in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Sunil has lived in New York City for more than fifteen years. He is a New Yorker who enjoys all that the city has to offer: world class museums, great live music, diverse film festivals, top-notch restaurants and the occasional hurricane.
SUSAN SACKETT (Board Member since 2005) 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.
CHRISTINE SHELLSKA (Board Member since 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.
JULY SIMPSON (Board Member since 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.
JASON TORPY (Board Member since 2009) has been involved with the nontheist and humanist movement for nearly two decades – specifically through the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), which he helped grow from an email listserv to a widely-recognized nonprofit with members around the world. He has spoken by invitation at the US Air Force Academy and West Point, and in 2017 MAAF secured recognition for humanism by the Department of Defense.
He has led throughout the Humanist movement, serving or having served on the boards of the Humanist Society, the Secular Coalition for America and its Educational Fund, as well as the Freethought Equality Fund and its PAC, in addition to MAAF and AHA. He collaborated with American Atheists for the Veteran’s Day 2005 “Atheists in Foxholes March on the Mall” in Washington, DC and was on the organizing board of the 2012 Reason Rally and produced a military color guard and service oath introduction to the event. With AHA, he chairs the Resolutions Committee, producing the aspirational statements of humanism.