Senior Fellows

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Senior Fellows 2022

Leola Specht

Leola Specht’s role as Sustainability Director at JSA Sustainable Wealth Management is to continuously improve sustainability within the practice and to engage the community, businesses, schools and clients about environmental and social impact. She has spent the last 6 years focusing on environmental and social justice work, including “rewilding” the JSA office property, co-leading and serving with volunteer groups on invasive plant removal and native pollinator planting, Zero Waste and Recycling initiatives, Energy Smart Homes volunteering, environmental advocacy including working with others to achieve a Village-wide ban on gas powered blowers, safe walking and biking along Route 9 in the Rivertowns initiative, volunteering at Sweet Freedom Farm, sanctuary movements and refugee resettlement, and more. Her Senior Fellow project is to create a plan to use regenerative agriculture techniques to enable a 140 acre plot to sequester carbon, increase biodiversity, contribute to the local foodshed by growing farm produce that will naturally grow well with minimal input, and ultimately provide a thriving, low-impact, affordable place for people to live and work.


Achala Jeff LeGro

Achala Jeff LeGro is Agricultural Manager for Spring Wind Farm, where he is responsible for guiding the transition of a former dairy farm into a Buddhist retreat center following permaculture principles, planning and
designing a food forest, water management and resource recovery. His background includes teaching yoga at the University of Chicago and a home remodeling business as well as an art career. His most recent certification is in Permaculture Design from Ecoversity, and he also holds a BA and BFA from DePauw University and School of the Art Institute of Chicago, respectively. His Senior Fellow project will be to gather data from Hudson Valley farmers regarding permaculture/regenerative practices they currently use. Based on the analysis of his survey data, he will create educational and presentation materials  and presentations promoting these practices with variations appropriate to large and small scales farms.


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Senior Fellows 2021

Scott Beall

Scott Beall is Founding Director at No Boundary Learning, an educational consultancy based on the innovative teaching methods developed in his 28 years of public school teaching. With training in architecture, mathematics, music and education, Scott has worked as a professional musician and multidisciplinary educator in public schools on both coasts as well as adjunct university professor and educational consultant. Through his career, he has developed new approaches to music and math education and to citizenship development through hands-on, project-based learning experiences in the community such as the acclaimed DoRight Leadership Corps. He has designed and taught numerous courses in STEAM and sustainability studies, and trained teachers in his approaches to fostering engagement and depth of learning. His Senior Fellowship is devoted to distilling learning and teaching principles and translating them into the services of No Boundary Learning.


Newell Eaton

Newell Eaton is a leadership coach and facilitator of intentional change — he helps leaders, teams, organizations and communities to communicate, innovate, plan and perform more effectively.   Typical results from this partnership include: clarity of purpose, direction and roles; committed teams; breakthrough ideas; actionable strategies, meaningful measurable outcomes; and improved personal and professional performance. He is developing a special focus on supporting succession planning in family businesses, which are experiencing a generational turnover. Newell lives in Albany, NY and teaches internationally. Concerned about climate change, Newell has devoted his senior fellowship to assisting Sustainable Hudson Valley with a Regional Climate Action Strategy with a special focus on regenerative agriculture.


Lucy Johnson

Lucy Johnson received her PhD from Columbia University in 1973, and started teaching at Vassar College, where she is Professor Emerita. She has taught numerous courses in Anthropology as well as Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies and Technology and Society. Prof. Johnson has been active in archaeological field studies, including survey and excavations in Alaska, Egypt, Chile, Peru, Idaho, Arizona and New York, and editor of ‘Paleoshorelines and Prehistory‘, CRC Press, 1991. She has also published many book chapters, articles and reviews, lecturing and presenting at over fifty professional events. In her portfolio there are over ten research reports, and numerous contract reports including many dealing with archeological and cultural resource evaluations for the Town of Poughkeepsie improvement projects. She has been active in the governance of Vassar College as well as serving as secretary of the Board of Directors of the Poughkeepsie Day School, chair of the Steering Committee of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities, chair of the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Environmental Society, and Secretary of the Board of Sustainable Hudson Valley. Her Senior Fellowship has re-activated an important institution, the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities.


Gail Lennstrom

Gail Lennstrom is a Catskills community leader and entrepreneur with a passion for social enterprise and practical projects that accelerate both climate progress and cultural change. With background in physical therapy and lifelong interest in human development, Gail has been active in the community on boards of nonprofit organizations such as the M-Ark Project and Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce. She has spearheaded widely recognized special projects such as the “Sol-Art” installation at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development.    Her project as a Senior Fellow has been to organize the replication of Project NinetyTen, the solar and geothermal greenhouse designed by 2020 Senior Fellow Michael McDonough, in the Catskills with partners including Catskill Regional Harvest and the Deleware County IDA.


Rev. J. Edward Lewis

Rev. J. Edward Lewis is Pastor and Teaching Elder at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Newburgh. Educated at Bowling Green State University and Union Theological Seminary, Rev. Lewis has extensive professional training in pastoral counseling, community mental health, group dynamics and behavioral sciences. He has been a hospital and prison chaplain, a counselor serving people suffering from homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness, and especially high-risk African American males and their families. He has been a church pastor, program development consultant, seminary faculty member and trainer of counseling professionals. An accomplished musician and community leader, he is managing the remodel of Calvary’s building after a fire while devoting his fellowship to delving into environmental justice issues in Newburgh.


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Senior Fellows 2020

Michael McDonough

Michael McDonough is an architect, inventor and entrepreneur working at the intersection of buildings, energy and agriculture. He specializes in environmentally appropriate systems and advanced building technologies and consults on zero energy/zero-carbon energy policy. McDonough has won multiple research and development grants and collaborated with NYSERDA in the development of hyper-efficient technologies for both residential and commercial architecture, with a particular focus on four-season local farms. He is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, New York Chapter; the Building Enclosure Council at AIA/NYC; the American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter; and the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission. As an educator, he co-founded the International Bamboo Design Research Initiative at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island; was a faculty member at Parsons School of Design at the New School and at New York University in New York; and is a faculty member at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany. McDonough has published over 80 articles and two books on architecture and design and has also exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. As a senior fellow, McDonough will develop a platform for the launch of a replicable, scalable hyper energy-efficient four-season agricultural center in the Hudson Valley modeled after his work at Tongore Brook Farm, a USDA Certified Organic, Real Organic Project, and NY Grown & Certified farm and research facility in Stone Ridge, NY.


Cynthia Nikitin

Cynthia Nikitin has led numerous large-scale multi-sectoral place-based community-led projects during her twenty eight years with Project for Public Spaces (pps.org) and since. She has facilitated over one hundred placemaking training workshops and seminars around the world. Cynthia’s technical expertise stretches from the development of downtown master plans to the creation of corridor-wide transportation and land use strategies, and development of creative placemaking initiatives to create safer and healthier cities and upgrade informal settlements in the developing world. From 2012-2018, she directed the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts serving rural communities with multi-day trainings. www.rural-design.org/where-we-work. She managed the Heart of the Community program, a five year partnership with Southwest Airlines to create transformative public spaces. She provides technical assistance to ThinkCity, an urban regeneration organization based in four cities in Malaysia. Cynthia is lead facilitator of the Georgia Placemaking Collaborative, a three year, 9 community placemaking training program. Currently, she is the Resilient Places Strategist and a Senior Fellow with Sustainable Hudson Valley, advocating for a place-based people-centered approach to disaster recovery and mitigation.   Cynthia and her husband Eugene co-founded the Friends of Brunel Park, a non-profit organization that stewards, preserves, and interprets the Emile Brunel Studio and Sculpture Garden in Boiceville, NY: www.brunelpark.org.


Joe Phelan

Joe Phelan is a recently-retired 46-year public school career educator with a variety of instructional, supervisory, and managerial experiences. He has held related professional positions in New York State public schools during that time. These include successful careers as middle school/high school English teacher, junior-senior high school principal, and superintendent of schools, including as Superintendent in the Rhinebeck school district for the past 22 years. Joe is a successful and respected school leader, consensus-builder, and innovator. His ability to leverage active listening, clear and persuasive written and verbal communication, empathy, team-building, and interpersonal and relationship-building skills, along with the ability to analyze, plan, and problem-solve, has enabled him to collaborate with individuals and organizations to establish and meet intended goals. As an SHV Senior Fellow, Joe seeks opportunities to serve the community, regionally and beyond, through education, management, policy development, and advocacy, specifically related to address sustainability, climate change, and other current environmental concerns, and in collaboration with students, educators, community and business leaders, educational institutions, not-for-profits, municipalities, and small businesses.


Maria Reidelbach

Maria Reidelbach is an author, artist and local food activist who has been working with farmers in the Hudson Valley of New York for the past 15 years. Innovative projects she has created to promote locally grown food and farms include the Stick to Local Farms Adventure Map, an annual interactive artwork-contest that has inspired tens of thousands of farm visits, and Homegrown Mini-Golf, links landscaped entirely in edible plants and featuring a Guinness World Record-setting garden gnome. Books she has written include the Stick to Local Farms Cookbook, Miniature Golf, a social history, and the best-selling Completely MAD: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine. She is a recent Fellow of the Good Work Institute, serves as Vice President of the Rondout Valley Growers Association, a grass-roots group of farmers and community members and is a past President of the New York Mycological Society. She lives and eats in the Hudson Valley.


John Wackman – In Memoriam

John Wackman’s credits as a writer, producer and executive producer of television programming include the longest-running cooking show on television (Ciao Italia) and two award-winning civil rights documentaries for public television, and New Morning, a daily series that aired for six years on the Hallmark Channel. For 15 years he was vice-president of Lightworks Producing Group, the independent media production company in New York City. Since relocating to the Hudson Valley, John has nurtured the regional growth of community-run Repair Cafes, from the first in New Paltz in 2013, to more than thirty currently active in 10 counties. From 2015 – 2018 he was Program Manager for Solarize Hudson Valley, a program of Sustainable Hudson Valley funded by NYSERDA. He currently serves on the board of Sustainable Hudson Valley. He is appointed to the City of Kingston Climate Smart Commission and the Ulster County Recycling Oversight Commission. He is active with the Rosendale Theatre, an independent single-screen cinema, and co-founded their music film series. He is co-author with Elizabeth Knight of Repair Revolution: How Fixers Are Transforming Our Throwaway Culture, to be published in October 2020 by New World Library (San Francisco).


Andrew Willner

Andrew Willner , has been a leader, organizer, and advocate for the New York/New Jersey Bioregion for more than 30 years. He was an early proponent of the Waterkeeper model of water and habitat protection as the founder of NY/NJ Baykeeper. Andrew is the Executive Director of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics, principal of the consulting firm, Andrew Willner Sustainability Solutions, and from 2008 to 2014 was the Principal Professional Consultant for energy, transportation, and the environment to the Hugo Neu Corporation. Andrew has been a city planner, furniture designer, sculptor, boat builder, environmentalist, Permaculturist, Transition advocate, story teller, blogger, and he exhibits his photographs taken while patrolling the New York/ New Jersey Harbor for 20 years on the Baykeeper skiff. He is writing a book, Fish and Ships, a photo narrative of the people, places, and environment of one of the most beautiful and vulnerable estuaries in the world. Andrew is a sought after speaker on a wide variety of subjects including environmental advocacy, habitat restoration, resiliency, regeneration, sustainability, Permaculture and Transition, and is often asked to read from his fiction and non-fiction writing.