Board of Directors

Barbara Adams is an associate professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, a program she helped co-found in the 1970s. Her degrees are in English literature: a B.A. from the University of Southern California and an M.A. from Yale University. As a teacher, Barbara specializes in feature journalism, arts criticism, and food and travel writing. She developed and heads an extensive internship program to provide professional experience for IC writing students. As a writer, for more than four decades Barbara has been a theater critic, book reviewer, and arts journalist for Ithaca area publications. Her passions include theater and art, languages, gardening, and photography. She’s also a founding member of Ithaca City of Asylum and former board chair. 

Kate Blackwood (secretary) works as a writer and editor for Cornell University Alumni Affairs and Development. She worked previously as a reporter and then features editor of the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus in Howell, Michigan and as a writer for the Ithaca Times. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has published short stories and poetry in a variety of publications and is at work on her first full-length play. Kate is also an actor, appearing most recently in the Ithaca Fringe Festival and as the geneticist Barbara McClintock in the 2018 debut of MAIZE. Kate likes exploring the Ithaca area by hiking, cycling, and skiing. She has served on the ICOA board since 2013 and was chair during the 2017-2018 year.

Meryl Bursic is a privacy and cybersecurity professional working at Cornell University. She is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (CIPP/US and CIPP/E certifications obtained) and the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (CISSP certification obtained). Although Meryl attended Rochester Institute of Technology for Computational Mathematics, the humanities and a love of languages (French, Persian, Russian, Chinese) have never been far removed from her daily life and studies. When not reading the fine print of “terms and conditions,” she can be found tinkering in everything from music composition and production to farming and fermentation projects to cameras that still take 120 film. Meryl has served on the board since August 2018.

Mariette Geldenhuys has practiced law in Ithaca for the past 31 years, in areas including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender family law, estate planning, and adoption. Seventeen years ago, she shifted the focus of her practice to collaborative law and mediation, to help clients resolve legal issues in a respectful, client-centered way and without litigation. She was one of four attorneys who represented the “Ithaca 50” pro bono in the action seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples in New York. Mariette is a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; the New York State Bar Association Committee on LGBT People and the Law; the Finger Lakes Women’s Bar Association; and the National LGBT Bar Association. She is also the founder and founding president of the Ithaca Area Collaborative Law Professionals. 

Kathleen Gemmell (bio to come)

David Guaspari (vice chair) has a PhD in pure mathematics from Cambridge University. He has taught in the math departments of Cambridge, SUNY Buffalo, Texas Tech, and Cornell. At St. John’s College he also taught music, literature, and philosophy. In addition to technical papers on mathematics and computer science, he has published short fiction, essays, and reviews in a wide variety of literary and political journals, and his short plays have been performed in theaters throughout the US and in five foreign countries. He first joined the board of ICOA in 2004.

Gail Holst-Warhaft is a poet, journalist, broadcaster, prose-writer, academic, musician, and translator. Among her many publications are Road to RembetikaTheodorakis: Myth and Politics in Modern Greek MusicThe Collected Poems of Nikos KavadiasDangerous Voices: Women’s Laments and Greek LiteratureThe Cue for Passion: Grief and its Political UsesI Had Three Lives: Selected Poems of Mikis Theodorakis and Penelopes Confession. She has published translations of Aeschylus and a number of Greece’s leading novelists and poets. Her poems and translations of Greek poetry have appeared in journals in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Her Kavadias translations won an award from Columbia University. Her latest book, The Fall of Athens, a collection of poetry, essays and stories about Greece, was published by Fomite Press in 2016.

Edward Hower has published eight novels, a book of stories, a compilation of personal essays, and a volume of folktales he collected while on two Fulbright grants to India. The National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts have also awarded him fellowships. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Smithsonian, American Scholar, Ithaca Times, and elsewhere.  He is a co-founding editor of Cayuga Lake Books, a local imprint with a list of over 25 titles. He has taught at Cornell, Ithaca College, Duke, the University of North Carolina, and colleges in East Africa and India. An Ithaca native since 1974, he has served on the ICOA board for 15 years.

Ian Matthew Kysel is a Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, where he co-directs the Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic and is a founder and directs the International Migrants Bill of Rights (IMBR) Initiative. He has published academic work in a number of U.S. law review journals as well as peer-reviewed journals and has written several human rights reports; his opinion articles have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He previously held appointments at the University of Oxford and at the Georgetown University Law Center. He has argued or participated in litigation before U.S. immigration, federal, and state courts as well as international tribunals. He currently also serves as a Trustee of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), sits on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division, and is a co-organizer of the ACLU’s national Youth Justice Network.

Jonathan Miller (chair) is a freelance print and radio journalist and executive director of Homelands Productions, a nonprofit journalism collective specializing in radio features and documentaries. From 2106 to 2018 he served as  associate director at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. As a journalist he has worked in more than 20 countries in Asia, the Americas, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific. His features, news reports, and commentaries have been broadcast on NPR, Marketplace, PRI’s The World, BBC, CBC, PBS NewsHour, and other radio and television outlets. He has also written for The New YorkerCondé Nast Traveler, Parents, Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He has won several awards for his writing and radio projects. He has a degree in English Literature from Swarthmore College.

Catherine Porter (treasurer), 2009 President of the Modern Language Association, received her doctorate in French literature from Yale University in 1972. She is Visiting Professor at the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, and Professor of French Emerita at the State University of New York, College at Cortland. A freelance translator in the humanities and the social sciences, she has published a number of essays and some four dozen books in translation from the French, including most recently Elisabeth Roudinesco, Freud in His Time and Ours, and Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia and Down to Earth; forthcoming titles include Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, Enrichment, and Claire Zalc, Denaturalized. She served previously on the ICOA board from 2001 to 2007.

Raza Rumi was Ithaca City of Asylum’s writer in residence from 2014 to 2017. In 2018, he became director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. He is a television host, journalist, policy consultant, and a leading voice for human rights and against extremism in his native Pakistan. He survived an assassination attempt in March 2014 by political Islamists in which his driver lost his life. He continues to produce essays and editorials for the Pakistani and international press. He also co-edits the online publication Ideas & Futures.

Susan Tarrow received her MA in French and German from Oxford University, and her PhD in French and Italian from Cornell University, after stints at UC Berkeley and Yale. She has taught courses in advanced composition, on Camus and contemporary French fiction, on French and Francophone cultures, and Francophone literature of the Maghreb. She has published on Camus, on Maghrebian and “beur” literature, and on Primo Levi. From 1985-2005, she was associate director of Cornell’s Institute for European Studies. In her retirement, she works on translation from French, writes articles for a local newsletter, and travels widely. In addition to her work for ICOA, she organizes volunteer translators and interpreters working for Ithaca Welcomes Refugees, a non-profit group coordinating resettlement of refugees under the umbrella of Catholic Charities.

Cherie Wendelken studied and worked in Japan for many years where she first encountered the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from Southeast Asia. She received a PhD in architectural history from MIT and was on the faculty of Harvard University for ten years. Cherie has served on numerous boards, including the Sciencenter of Ithaca, the Domini Foundation in New York, and Mayo Street Arts and Waynflete School in Portland, Maine. She is currently a Director of the Brooks Family Foundation with special interests in underserved youth, cultural diversity, and educational innovation. 

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