Mohonk Lecture Series
Mohonk has a rich history of inviting experts to give lectures on nature, history, and the arts to provide entertainment and education to our guests. We continue this tradition today, regularly welcoming local artists, writers, scientists, and professors to share their knowledge and studies.
Jan Berlin is founder and director of Everything Animals Resource & Activity Center, Inc., a non-profit humane education/animal welfare organization and sanctuary located in Bullville, NY. The animal ambassadors she brings to Mohonk all live at the sanctuary including hedgehogs, lizards, birds, tarantulas, tortoises, opossums, rats, a sphynx cat, and skinny pigs. Five animals attend each presentation and guests are provided the opportunity to pet them during and/or after the program. For almost twenty years Jan has continued to bring her animals to the mountaintop for a fun, entertaining, and informative program with a surprise.
George Campbell has been scuba diving since 1954 and has certified hundreds of divers including Bert and Nina Smiley. George’s work as a scuba instructor continues on today for the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), while having served both as the New Paltz Police Commissioner for 15 years and science teacher for 32 years. George currently serves as the president of Deep Water-Six Underwater Systems Inc. in New Paltz, NY specializing in providing skin diving scuba equipment and supplies to scuba divers across the world.
New York’s Storyteller Laureate Karen Sangaline Pillsworth, has been spinning tales for over 35 years. As co-founder of Tall Tales-Short Story Productions and board member of the Multifaith Storytelling Institute, her stories have taken her from Newfoundland, Canada to Sydney, Australia. Karen has performed in libraries, schools, historic sites, camps, parks, festivals, and even on a stage floating on a lake in a cave! She has taught classes including “The Art of Storytelling” at Ulster County Community College and “Discovering the Stories Within Us” at Ulster Performing Arts Center’s Expanding Horizon’s Art and Education Center. In 2020, Karen will be celebrating 25 years telling stories here at Mohonk Mountain House, her favorite place on earth to share her stories.
David has been presenting at Mohonk Mountain House for 30 years. Throughout his professional career, he has been an educator, author, international photographer, and archaeologist. David was awarded an honorary doctoral degree for his research on the correlation between geology, hydrology, and archaeology in Peru, and is a National Geographic Research and Exploration award recipient. His research documents on Sacred and Ceremonial Landscapes of North America have been voted into the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian for preservation. For last 20 years he has photographed regional wildlife for Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. David’s favorite presentations include: Native American Stone Age Technology, Native American Sacred and Ceremonial Landscapes of the Shawangunk Mountains, and Wildlife of the Shawangunk Mountains.
Stephen M. Silverman
Stephen M. Silverman is the author of 13 books, including The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America; Funny Ladies: 100 Years of Great Comediennes; Where There’s a Will: Who Inherited What and Why; and his latest, The Amusement Park: 900 Years of Thrills and Spills, and the Dreamers and Schemers Who Built Them. Stephen’s work has appeared in Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Times of London, Smithsonian, Vogue, the Washington Post, and on TBS. The founding editor of People Magazine’s website, he is a 20-year veteran of Time Inc., and for nine years taught cultural affairs reporting and writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Kerry Dean Carso, Ph.D.
Kerry Dean Carso, Ph.D., is a Professor of Art History at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she teaches courses on American Art and Architecture. She is the author of American Gothic Art and Architecture in the Age of Romantic Literature, winner of the 2015 Henry-Russell Hitchcock Award from the Victorian Society in America. She has also published several articles on Gothic Revival architecture and Romantic painting in peer-reviewed journals including Mosaic, Winterthur Portfolio, Symbiosis, The Hudson River Valley Review, Gothic Studies, and Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies. Her book on garden and park architecture, Follies in America, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press in 2021.
After receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University, Bob Ulrich served two years in the Army Security Agency for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era. He then returned to college to obtain an MBA from Columbia University and spent 30 years working for IBM in electronic component development, manufacturing, and procurement. Bob’s love for history is self-taught and came about after his retirement when he discovered programs like the Mohonk Distinguished Speakers Series. His unique story-telling is supported by a large collection of illustrations and photographs both from personal “road trips” to battle sites and museums. Now a regular at Mohonk, Bob also presents his lectures at colleges and universities across the Hudson Valley.
Alexandra is a lifelong visitor to Mohonk Mountain House and has been lecturing about her travels and research since 2017. She majored in biological science, sociology, and international studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her undergraduate thesis brought her to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where she conducted research on coral reefs and mangroves. After receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Iceland, she earned her master’s degree in Coastal and Marine Management from the University of Akureyri. Alexandra has spent the last few years traveling the world as an expedition guide for Silversea Cruises. Today, she is working towards a Ph.D. in Global Studies at the University of Iceland.
Specializing in Avian field research, ecologist Megan Napoli earned her Bachelor of Science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She then worked for several years at West Virginia University as an avian field technician on a variety of songbird and raptor research studies. After receiving a Master of Science at East Stroudsburg University, she joined the Mohonk Preserve as their Research Ecologist, developing and carrying out long-term research on phenology, vernal pool occupancy and ecology, breeding bird communities in diverse habitats, forest health monitoring, and white-tailed deer management. Megan’s passion for wildlife and conservation is what motivates her; she always says “being a biologist is not just something I do, but it is who I am.”
Upon graduation from SUNY Binghamton, Peter began his career as an Industrial Engineer. After nine years he realized this was not his calling, moved to Colorado and spent five years as a ski bum. He made his way back to New York to help a friend run a state of the art fitness facility for eleven years. In 2012 he landed at Mohonk Mountain House in the Guest Relations department. After one House Tour and a visit to the Barn Museum he was struck by a moment of clarity. The true magic of Mohonk lies in its rich history. Peter’s “Trip Through the Archives” is his playful, yet accurate description to share this truly remarkable story with our guests.
Mark Sherman received a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University and went on to teach psychology for over 25 years at SUNY New Paltz. He started writing a bi-weekly humor column for the New Paltz Times in the mid-1980s and now has written more than 750 pieces on fun-filled topics ranging from Lyme disease to global warming. In 2004, he published a collection of 36 pieces called Real Men Don’t Write Columns: A Psychologist’s Humorous Look at Men, Women, Family, and Psychotherapy. By 2005, Mark’s collection made its debut at Mohonk Mountain House. His most recent endeavor, a podcast. “The Kvetching Professor,” launched in 2018 where, among other things, he reads some of his most popular columns.
Joseph E. Diamond, Ph.D.
Joseph’s first archaeological fieldwork took off in 1976 including the research of historic and prehistoric archaeology and ceramic analysis. He received his MA from New York University in 1986 followed by his Ph.D. from SUNY Albany in 1999. Today, Joseph has taught for more than 29 years at SUNY New Paltz and is currently a member of five professional organizations. His peer reviewed publications have appeared in the New York State Archaeological Association Bulletin, The North American Archaeologist, Archaeology of Eastern North America, Northeast Anthropology, Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology, Current Research in the Pleistocene, Northeast Historical Archaeology, Paleo America and the New York State Museum Record.
Pamela Golben holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Biology from SUNY New Paltz, she is a licensed Veterinary Technician, and is a New York State Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator. In addition, Pam served as the Director of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Wildlife Center for 15 years and has continued teaching environmental education through bee keeping and hiking. Her most dedicated work is her ownership of Golben Farms, a native plant nursery located in the Hudson Valley where she continues to gather knowledge and personal experience to share in her programs at Mohonk.
Ron Knapp has been carrying out research on the cultural and historical geography of China’s countryside since 1965 and more recently in the United States. He is the author, editor, and contributor of more than 20 books, including the 2019 book China’s Covered Bridges: Architecture over Water, a companion to the co-authored 2014 book America’s Covered Bridges: Practical Crossings, Nostalgic Icons. One of Ron’s recent books The Gunks (Shawangunk Mountains) Ridge and Valley Towns through Time is the subject of his Mohonk Mountain House presentations. Ron is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at SUNY New Paltz as well as a 30+ year Board member of the Mohonk Preserve where he served as Chairman of the Board for 9 years.
Nora started her photography career as a student at UC Berkeley working as a photojournalist for the campus press in the early 1970s. She moved to New York City in 1976 assisting several photographers and by the mid-1980s was shooting major advertising campaigns for American Express, The Gap, Kodak, IBM and more. In 1998, she moved her family to the New Paltz area where she can be found hiking the Shawangunk Mountains. She is the author of Trunks of the Gunks, a fifteen year project documenting tree formations of the Shawangunk Mountains. Her work is featured in Carlton Mabee’s recent book, Saving the Shawangunks, and a third book highlighting the local mountains, will be released in the fall of 2020.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Annie Mardiney kept a list of wild birds by recording bird sightings in a book and now on Ebird. She received her BA from the University of Madison and her MA from Cornell University. After decades of informally helping injured or orphaned wild birds, she became a NYS-DEC Class 1 Wildlife Rehabilitator and a federally licensed Fish & Wildlife Migratory Bird Rehabilitator; taking in 300 to 400 wild birds annually, and successfully releasing about 65% back to the wild. Annie’s programs give people the rare opportunity to get up close and personal with amazing birds by looking into a hawk’s eyes or seeing the intricate patterns in a barn owl’s feathers.
Linda Anne Burtis
Linda has been climbing mountains for almost 50 years. Her husband introduced her to the art of hiking: appreciating fresh mountain air, listening for birds, and learning to love the trees, flowers, vegetation, and solitude. Linda’s leap to serious trekking happened with one of the world’s classic long-distance hiking trails, the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. This two week walk that circles Mont Blanc, at 15,771 feet, the highest mountain in Europe. From there, Linda’s treks would take her from France to Peru and Greece, as well as a charity climb up Kilimanjaro with tennis legend, Martina Navratilova in 2010. Linda now shares this documentary exclusively at Mohonk, titled: “Life and Almost Death on Kilimanjaro with Martina Navratilova”.