Geoffrey Miller

geoffGeoffrey Miller was appointed Ulster County Historian in May 2016.  He has been the chair of the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History Committee for the Jewish Federation of Ulster County since its inception in 2002.  He grew up in New York City, and is a retired elementary school teacher.  Geoff moved to Kingston in 1971 to teach at No. 8 School, where the Kingston Library is located today.  His first year in Kingston he lived in an apartment on West Chestnut Street with a panoramic view of Rondout and the Hudson Valley to the south.  He traces his attachment to Rondout to this first exposure and to several close friendships he made through teaching with people who grew up along its hilly streets, and still lived there at the time.

Geoff received a BA in History from Queens College of the City University of New York in June 1969, and a Masters Degree in Teaching from Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, in August of the following year.  During the 1980s, Geoff was a graduate student in the Department of Musicology, Graduate School of Arts and Science, at New York University.  He was awarded the Charles Seeger Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology for the best paper by a graduate student presented at the Society’s annual conference in 1982, and earned a Masters Degree in Urban Ethnomusicology from NYU in June 1984.  It is during his training as an ethnomusicologist that Geoff studied the techniques of ethnography and oral history, and developed an interest in cultural anthropology

geoff2The focus of Geoff’s doctoral work was in the field of musicology, his dissertation topic: Music in the Mid-Hudson Valley, 1820-1860.  While he never completed his doctorate, Geoff spent his years at NYU combing through local Hudson Valley archives to compile a music-centered social history of the region.  He was awarded numerous fellowships for his work by NYU, and in 1987-88 received a New York State Library Research Residency Award.  In addition to the exhibits Geoff has curated for the Reher Center, he has presented papers on different aspects of his doctoral research at the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Sonneck Society for American Music.  Locally, he has made presentations at the Senate House State Historic Site (1983 and 1985), the Tercentenary Symposium on the History of Livingston Manor and the Livingston Family (Bard College, 1986), the New York State Library (1988), and more recently, at the Ulster County History Conference  (2011) and at the Lifelong Learning Institute, Bard College (October 2011 and January 2012).  Geoff’s publications include: “‘Are you all unhappy at a twenty dollar bill?’ Tune, Text, and Context at Antique Auctions.”  (Ethnomusicology, Vol. 28, No. 2, May 1984: 187-208), and “Music in the Livingston Household,” in The Livingston Legacy: Three Centuries of American History (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Bard College Center/Hudson Valley Studies, 1987).  More recently, Geoff has presented lectures and courses on local history and early 19th century music making for the Bard Lifelong Learning Institute, Lifespring Learning Community, and several local historical sites and groups.

Lewis C. Kirschner

lewLew Kirschner has had a remarkable career in public service. He served as the Ulster County Treasurer for nine terms starting in 1977. He became the first Commissioner of Finance, a position from which he retired in February of 2009.

Lew has had an active volunteer career, as well, including participation on the boards of the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Kingston Lions Club, Montrepose Cemetery, Salvation Army, Ulster/Greene ARC and the Ulster Literacy Association. He has been honored by B’nai Brith as Member of the Year, received the Israel Bond Peace Medal Award, Humanitarian of the Year awards from the American Red Cross, Mother Cabrini and the Ulster Greene ARC, and the award for Citizen of the Year from the Ulster County SPCA.

Presently Lew is a Vice President of Hudson Valley Senior Residence. He is also a past president of the New York State Government Finance Officers’ Association and the New York State County Treasures and Finance Officers Association.

In his spare time, Lew loves to golf and continue with his position as a radio commentator.

Nancy Donskoj

nancy-donskoj_webNancy Donskoj has made Kingston her home since 1987 and has been an advocate for the arts and Kingston’s history ever since. She served on the board of the Heritage Area Commission for 12 years and helped produce many events celebrating Kingston’s heritage. As a gallery owner in Kingston’s Rondout  she co-produced the Artist’s Soapbox Derby for 16 years and served on the board of the Arts Society of Kingston for 10 years. While a board member of ASK, Nancy chaired the gallery committee; produced the Ulster to Ulster Artists Exchange (a program that brought over 25 artists from Ulster, Ireland to Kingston, NY, and back again); and helped produce the first five of the Kingston Biennial Sculpture shows.  In 2009 she headed the Arts Committee for the county wide Quadricentennial Celebration which included another artists’ exchange program this time bringing artists from Holland to Ulster County. She currently is the co-chair of the Sinterklaas Committee for Kingston NY, a festive holiday tradition that originated in the Netherlands and was first brought to Kingston by Dutch settlers who arrived here over 300 years ago.

Barbara Cohen Blas

barbblasBarbara Cohen Blas brings to the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History Committee expertise in financial matters, a longtime friendship with the Reher family, and a long personal connection to the Kingston community.  Barbara was born and raised in Kingston, as was her father, Milton Cohen.  His parents, Jacob and Yetta Cohen, owned a tailor shop in Kingston in the early 1900’s.  Though she grew up “Uptown,” as a child, she remembers  going “downtown,” to Rondout, for shoes, to Yallums Shoe Store.  When she was a teenager,  she remembers that Hymie Reher, the last of the Reher family bakers, would deliver rye bread to her home every week for $0.65 a loaf.

Barbara left Kingston for a brief time for college, but returned after graduation.  She married Howard Blas in 1975, and raised 3 daughters.  Sometime in the mid 1970’s Hymie Reher befriended her and her new family.  First he would just stop by her house.  Then, when her daughters were teenagers, he would give them rides to school.  As Hymie and his sisters aged, Barbara and her family would cook for them and have small social get-togethers for them.

Hymie’s interest in the welfare of Barbara and her family, stems from an incident from his childhood.  When he was 5 years old, Hymie told Barbara, he was choking on a hard candy (a sour ball), and Barbara’s grandfather picked him up, patted his back and dislodged the candy that was choking him.  Hymie wanted to will his house to Barbara and Howie.  Although they were very touched by the offer, at the time, there were many legal reasons why that could not happen.  Being a financial consultant, Barbara arranged for him to gift the house to the Jewish Federation of Ulster County in exchange for him having the right to remain living there for the rest of his life.  Barbara recalls that Hymie was very pleased knowing his home was going to be a museum honoring his family name for years to come.

Barbara is a self employed financial consultant.  As a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County, she is chair of the investment committee, sits on the finance committee, is co-chair of the office operations committee, and has been a member of the Reher Center committee since its beginning as the Jewish History Project Committee.  Barbara is  also on the board of Congregation Agudas Achim.  This synagogue was originally located  downtown on West Union Street, one block further down Broadway from the Reher Bakery.  In addition, Barbara is a Kingston Sunrise Rotarian and president of  the local National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA-UlsterCounty).

Barbara Cohen

barbcohenBarbara Cohen currently serves on the boards of Jewish Federation of Ulster County, Kingston Hospital Auxiliary, Kingston Sunrise Rotary Club, Mental Health Association of Ulster County and Ulster Community College Foundation, and is an Associate board member of Children’s Home of Kingston. She is a past board member of Ulster Performing Arts Center, as well as the founder and one of the editors of Kolenu, a publication the Jewish Federation of Ulster County.

Barbara is devoted to restoring and preserving the ReherCenter for Immigrant Culture & History. She is also the chairperson of Fall For Art juried Art Show & Sale dedicated to benefiting the arts in the HudsonValley, celebrating its 17th year in September 2013.

In 1995 she received recognition at the YWCA’s Tribute to Women; in 2000 she was honored with the Gold Medal Human Service Award by the Saint Cabrini Home. She has been given the Seymour Werbalowshy Young Leadership Award by Jewish Federation of Ulster County, the 1983 State of Israel Bonds Award, the 2001 Woman of Distinction Award by Senator William Larkin and the 2004 Rotarian of The Year by Kingston Sunrise Rotary Club.  In 2005, she received the Chessed Award presented by Camp Emunah, and in 2007 was one of the recipients of Ulster Community College Foundation Gala.

Barbara is a member of Temple Emanuel, Temple Emanuel Sisterhood, the League of Women Voters, Friends of Historic Kingston, Ulster County Chamber of Commerce, Hadassah, and B’nai B’rith. For many years she co-chaired the silent auction of the Night of Stars Ball – a benefit for Hospice, ARCS and Angel Food East. She describes herself as a staunch supporter of the State of Israel, and has chaired both the annual General Campaign, and the Women’s Division Campaign of the United Jewish Communities. She has also served as chairperson of the annual State of Israel Bonds Campaign.

She is the owner of Schwartz’s Inn located in uptown Kingston, property owned by her husband’s family since 1917 and I’m A Star t shirts, dedicated to empowering children.

Barbara describes herself as someone who is blessed to have a full life surrounded by her husband, adult children, 4 grandchildren, and many friends whom she considers her family, and who are always a source of strength and support for her. She has been married to Dr. Joseph Cohen for 41 years. Dr. Cohen is a practicing optometrist in uptown Kingston.

Barbara’s mindset and personal values are revealed as she reflects on what she had learned early on from her father. “My dad was a Rotarian, the only member of the Kingston Club to be drafted in World War II. In 1956, he served as president of this club.  He lived his life by the Rotary Four-Way Test which is recited at every club meeting. I have tried to live my life by these four questions: Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships? Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?”

Kevin Godbey

kevin-godbeyKevin Godbey is currently the owner and publisher of the digital media outlet Kingston Happenings, whose mission is to promote economic and community development in the Kingston area. Prior to that role, Kevin had a thirty-plus year career with IBM where he functioned in many capacities including product planner, development manager, project manager, and retired as a senior business analyst. Kevin grew up in the nearby Ponckhockie neighborhood, attended schools in the Kingston area, and as a young teenager worked in the Rondout business district.

Kevin, in his role as local publisher, not only promotes the events of businesses and not for profit organizations but becomes directly involved in the planning of those events and organizational operations of some of those organizations. He has served on the committees that planned and sponsored events like the Kingston Artists’ Soapbox Derby, Kingston Sinterklaas Festival, Tour de Kingston/Ulster and all of the fundraisers associated with those organizations. He is also a member of the steering committee for the Midtown Arts District (MAD) which is promoting the arts and arts-related businesses as well as encouraging community development in the Midtown area.

Ward Mintz

ward-mintzWard Mintz has spent his 40-plus year career in museums, community arts and philanthropy. Currently, he is executive director of a foundation that supports museums in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. He is also Chair of the Kingston Arts Commission, Past President of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network, and serves on the Technical Services Committee of the Preservation League of NYS.


Randolph Myerson

randolphRandolph Myerson has been a member of the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County since 2006.  He is a dentist specializing in orthodontics with a practice in Kingston.  Dr. Myerson moved to Kingston with his wife and family in 1979 from their previous home in the Philadelphia area.

During his years in the Kingston community,  Dr. Myerson has been involved in various community-based not-for-profit organizations, accepting various leadership roles during that time.  He served as a board member and vice-president of the Jewish Federation as well as of his synagogue.  Dr. Myerson was also a long-term board member of the Children’s Home of Kingston where he also served as president.

Dr. Myerson returned to the board of directors of the Jewish Federation shortly before they were deeded ownership of the Reher Bakery property.  He immediately joined the committee to explore the potential future of the property and has remained active with that effort since that time.  When asked about his involvement, Dr. Myerson remarked, “My interest is focused on saving this historically and architecturally significant structure.  Its use as an institution dedicated to the contribution of the various and diverse immigrant culture groups in the Rondout is particularly attractive to me, especially in the context of promoting the values of diversity, understanding, and acceptance among one another.”

His first major task on the committee was to write a grant proposal, with the assistance of the other committee members, to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).  As a result of his efforts, the Reher Bakery Restoration Project, as the our effort was known at that time, was awarded a $275,000 Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) matching grant from OPRHP in spring 2009.  This grant, paired with a $250,000 Economic Development Assistance Program (EDAP) grant from Senator William Larkin’s office awarded the previous spring, enabled us to undertake our current preservation effort, the Building Stabilization Project. 

Encouraged by the success of that venture, Dr. Myerson wrote several other successful grant proposals to the City of Kingston and the Preservation League of New York State which have provided additional funding for the building’s restoration.

In addition to his orthodontic practice and his volunteer efforts on behalf of the ReherCenter project, Dr. Myerson has trained in the martial arts and pursues an active interest in woodworking.

Marilyn Kaplan, Preservation Architecture

Marilyn KaplanMarilyn Kaplan is Principal of Preservation Architecture in Albany, New York . A licensed architect and national code expert, she has worked on dozens of preservation projects throughout the northeast, with a particular focus on historic museums, libraries, religious properties and similar structures owned by nonprofit organizations. Past architectural assignments have included work at the White House, and at numerous State Capitols and New York State Historic sites. Marilyn has led the architectural efforts at the Reher Bakery since 2005, when she first performed an Existing Conditions Assessment and Concept Design Report for the building. Since then, she has prepared and updated numerous planning studies that have become the basis of successful grant writing efforts, and coordinated projects including the storefront restoration work, preliminary building stabilization efforts, the 2012 archeology project, and limited window restoration. In early 2013 the Historic Structure Report for the site will be completed, and the construction documents for the first comprehensive stabilization project.

Jack C. Healy, Ryan-Biggs Associates, P.C.

Jack Healy is a Principal at Ryan-Biggs Associates, P.C., in Clifton Park, New York, where he is responsible for the structural engineering design and management of many historic preservation and masonry repair projects. Jack was named Outstanding Professional Engineering Manager of the Year in 2005 by the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers. He currently is on the board of directors for the Northeast Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology, is President of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Cements, and is a Certified Program Evaluator for the Practicing Institute of Engineering. Jack served as President of the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers in 2006. He has authored several articles on masonry and frequently presents seminars on masonry topics. He holds professional engineering licenses in New York and Massachusetts .

Fundraising Consultant: Ingrid Kulick, Forward Solutions, Rhinebeck, NY

ingridIngrid Kulick has provided knowledge and guidance to the nonprofit community for 35 years through roles as management, volunteer and consultant.  She served as founding Executive Director of the Kingston Hospital Foundation, Kingston, NY and Saint Francis Health Care Foundation, Poughkeepsie, NY.  She was Vice President for Facilities at the Kingston Hospital and Grants Director for Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

In 2002, Ingrid established Forward Solutions, dedicating herself to building organizational capacity.  She works with human service, health care, art/cultural, historic/tourism, animal welfare, agricultural and educational organizations, as well as for-profit businesses throughout a five-county region.  Her work has been funded by the ASPCA, the Dyson Foundation, NYSCA, Upstate History Alliance, Dutchess County Arts Council and the O’Connor Foundation.  Her scope of services includes Board recruitment and development, strategic and business planning, resource development assessment, planning and campaigns, and executive recruitment.  Ingrid facilitates workshops for clients, membership organizations, and Chamber of Commerce leadership institutes.  A description of her services and a listing of clients are on her website ForwardSolutions.org.

Ingrid also brings great understanding to the trustee and volunteer functions.  She currently serves as President of Home of Hope, Inc., Rhinebeck, NY, as Director of the Reach Out Food Pantry, Hyde Park, NY, on the Dutchess County SPCA Advisory Council, Hyde Park, NY, and on the Operation Support Grant Review Board of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Latham, NY.  She previously served on the Association of Fund Raising Professionals Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter (AFP-MHV) Board; as President of the Board of Keli House, Inc., Fishkill, NY; President of the Board of the Rural Ulster Preservation Company, Kingston, NY and as the Chair of the Endowment Committee for the Frost Valley YMCA, Montclair, NJ.

Ingrid and her husband, Alan, have lived in Rhinebeck, NY for the past 25 years.

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