The American Chestnut Foundation National Office
50 North Merrimon Avenue, Suite 115
Asheville, NC 28804
PH: (828) 281-0047
FX: (828) 253-5373
Lisa Thomson, President & CEO
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The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) appointed Lisa Thomson as President & CEO in January 2015. A lifelong conservationist, Lisa’s previous experience includes 28 years at The Nature Conservancy, serving in leadership capacities in conservation land management and fundraising. In 2010 she was recruited as Associate Vice President for Development at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, she helped lead their recently launched capital campaign and built major gifts and planned giving teams. Lisa earned her B.A. at Stetson University, with a degree in biology and art, and an M.S. from Florida State University in design. Lisa relocated to Asheville, NC after living in Central Florida for 45 years.
Before joining TACF in 2010, Judy worked for the Collier County Tax Collectors in Marco Island, FL. Judy’s expertise includes nonprofit administration, database management, and membership services. Originally from Massachusetts, Judy and her family spent 20 years in Florida before moving to Asheville, NC.
Samantha Bowers, Grants Manager
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Before joining TACF in February 2016, Samantha held an eleven year career with the Asheville Housing Authority as a project manager. She has an extensive background in local governmental administration including the management of multimillion dollar federal grants and energy efficiency improvement projects. She brings a skillset for leading database software and equipment conversions, website management, and nonprofit strategic planning. Samantha first discovered TACF whiles serving as chair with the environmental nonprofit Asheville GreenWorks. She holds a bachelors in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and graduated Leadership Asheville in 2016.
Betsy Gamber, Vice President of Operations
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Before joining TACF National Office in September 2009, Betsy worked for the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Realtor’s Association as Director of Professional Development where she designed and established a professional educational program for the organization’s 1200+ members in addition to implementing all fundraising and public relations activities. Prior to her position there, Betsy served as Executive Director for the Bon Secours-St. Joseph Hospital Foundation in Port Charlotte, FL where she developed and implemented a comprehensive development program, including fundraising campaigns, special events, planned giving seminars, a grantsmanship program, and a volunteer program for over 400 hospital volunteers. Betsy received her B.A. in Business Management from Eckerd College in Florida.
Ruth Gregory Goodridge, Director of Communications
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Ruth joined the TACF National office in April 2014. She is an Asheville native and recently moved back to the area to be married. Her career spans more than twenty years in marketing and communications, specifically with academic and non-profit organizations. She specializes in printed collateral, digital and social media, graphic design, web development, and photography. She is also proficient in fundraising materials for capital campaigns. Most recently, Ruth served as Communications Director for Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Atlanta. She holds a bachelor of arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia.
Vic Hutchinson, Director of Development
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Vic began his role as Director of Development in September of 2015. His background in fundraising and development was built from positions held with both the School of Medicine at West Virginia University and the Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Clemson University. Most recently, Vic worked as a private consultant for business and industrial clients on energy usage and electric utility billing best practices.
Heather Nelson, Accounting Manager
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Heather was hired in July 2015 and brings a wealth of experience in both non-profit and for-project needs including accounting, management and legal consultation, software and accounting system implementation, property and document management. Prior to her work as an independant consultant, Heather served as managing director for Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University Noth Carolina, Asheville as well as a certificate of Non-Profit Management from Duke University.
Tom Saielli, Southern Regional Science Coordinator
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Tom is based in TACF’s National office in Asheville, NC, overseeing the organization’s Southern region which includes the TACF state chapters of KY, TN, NC/SC (Carolina’s), AL and GA. He received his MS in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont in Burlington after earning his BS in Biology and Environmental Science there in 2007. Tom comes to TACF with significant hands-on experience with the TACF breeding program, having worked with New England Regional Science Coordinator, Kendra Gurney, as a research technician investigating chestnut cold-tolerance at the University of Vermont.
Jules Smith, Editor and Social Media Specialist
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Originally from East Tennessee, Jules moved to Asheville in 2010 from Cambridge, MA where she was the Communications Associate at Episcopal Divinity School. Prior to accepting the job at TACF, she was the Webmaster and Communications Specialist at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. Before switching career paths, Jules worked as a videographer and editor in the television news industry. She loves living in Asheville because of its mountains, progressive values, farm-to-table eateries, and support of local businesses & non-profits! Jules has a B.A. in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Television Production.
Tina Wayne, Donor Records Specialist
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Tina comes to TACF with expertise in donor databases and an extensive knowledge of the non-profit sector. She earned a BA in Sociology from Bradley University in Illinois, and then pursued a certificate as a paralegal and licensed real estate broker. She has worked in municipal government, has been an advocate for Friends of the Chicago River, and is a Guardian ad litem volunteer advocating for abused and neglected children. In 2011 she received the Guardian ad litem volunteer of the year in Buncombe County, NC.
Jared Westbrook, Director of Science
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Jared joined TACF in January 2015 as the organization's new quantitative geneticist. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jared earned an MS in botany and a Ph.D. in plant molecular and cellular biology from the University of Florida. His dissertation research studied the genetic enhancement of resin production in loblolly pine stems for use in liquid biofuels, which he successfully presented in November. Jared works extensively with the Meadowview Research Laboratory and commutes from Asheville.
Wendy Wilson, Administrative Manager
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Wendy joined the Asheville office in April 2015. She brings a proven background in administration and program management to TACF's team. She has an extensive background in medical education administration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She holds a bachelors degree in Music from West Virginia University.
Michael French, Forester
Satellite Forestry Office, Hope, IN
Michael joined TACF in 2011 as Forester under a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), prior to which he was a reclamation specialist for Williams Forestry and Associates, supervising plantings on mined lands across Appalachia. While studying as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, Michael was hired by the Kentucky Chapter of TACF as an intern to help accelerate its breeding program and expand its public outreach. He held that position from 2004 to 2006 after which he was elected to serve as Vice President of the Kentucky Chapter from 2006 through 2010. In 2005, Michael helped spearhead the "father tree" breeding program by harvesting pollen from American chestnuts across the state and applying them to backcross chestnuts at TACF’s Meadowview Research Farms, a practice that was quickly adopted by many of the southern chapters. He continues to sit on the Board of Directors for the Kentucky Chapter. Michael holds a BS in Biology from the University of Kentucky and is currently pursuing an MS in Forestry there.