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. Most recently, she served as Associate Vice President for Development at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where she was recruited in 2010 to help lead their recently launched capital campaign. “We are extremely pleased that Lisa has joined us as CEO,” said Kim Steiner, Chair of the Board of TACF. “She instinctively grasps the appeal and urgency of our mission, and her energy and enthusiasm match perfectly with TACF’s ambitious conservation goals.”

Judy Antaramian, Membership Coordinator
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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.

Catherine Farist, Communications Specialist
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Catherine joined the TACF National office during harvest season 2014. She graduated with a BA in journalism and a minor in German language and literature from Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Catherine’s strong editorial background includes working as both an editorial assistant and a news editor, and she is very accomplished in graphic design, photo editing, and social media. Catherine also helps out as an assistant coach with the Asheville Youth Rowing program, a passion she developed during her four years of rowing at Samford.

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 BA 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.    

Dennis Kimball, Staff Accountant
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Dennis joined TACF in April 2008 as Staff Accountant, bringing over 30 years of varied accounting and systems experience to the position. Dennis holds a BS in Business, majoring in accounting, from Columbia College and an MBA from Le Moyne College.

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.

Laura Schnitzlein, Executive Assistant and Development Coordinator
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Laura directs the varied development activities of the organization and is based at the National Office in Asheville, NC. Laura brings a breadth of experience to TACF, including a
position with Sims & Steele Consulting, one of the leading nonprofit consulting firms in Asheville, NC. Laura was previously Development Assistant at All Souls Counseling Center. She holds a Non-Profit Management Certificate from Duke University, is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and is a board member of Meals on Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County. Laura received her BA in Anthropology and Art History from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Lisa Sousa, Director of Grants & Agreements
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Lisa joined the staff of TACF in March 2011 as Director of Grants & Agreements. Lisa is a successful grant writer with more than 13 years of experience working for nonprofit organizations from coast to coast. Before joining TACF, Lisa honed her grant writing skills as Development Director for Young Chicago Authors and as a grant writer for Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina, and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. In addition to her expertise in nonprofit administration, Lisa brings to her position a background in community media including video production and freelance writing. She is a native of Cape Cod, MA, but has spent most of her life in San Francisco, CA with a brief stint in Chicago, IL. Lisa now lives in Asheville, NC next door to a small American chestnut planting of the Carolinas Chapter of TACF.

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, Quantitative Geneticist
(828) 281-0047

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.



Michael French, Forester
Satellite Forestry Office, Hope, IN
(812) 447-3285

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 as the Kentucky Chapter Secretary. Michael holds a BS in Biology from the University of Kentucky and is currently pursuing an MS in Forestry there.