Our Board

The Federation board includes public members as well as council executive directors from states and territories across the nation. Each board member serves a four-year term. The board chair serves a two-year term and remains for another two years as the immediate past chair. Federation members participate in a nominating process early in the year and elect their representatives to the Federation board at the Annual Business Meeting, which occurs in conjunction with the National Humanities Conference.

The Federation’s all-volunteer board works hard throughout the year to attend to organizational governance, member needs, and legislative strategy. The board’s strength lies in the diversity of its members – whose backgrounds include finance, law, fundraising, and legislating, among others – and their dedication to the Federation’s mission to represent and strengthen the state humanities councils.

Additionally, the Federation currently uses ten committees and task forces to help advance the priorities of its members and to help govern processes. Learn more about the Federation board and committee meetings here.

Meet Our Board:

Peter Torkildsen, Chair
Public Member, MA

Committees: Oversees All, Executive

Peter is a government affairs and business development consultant and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts. As a Republican member of the House, he spoke out in favor of the NEH and spearheaded an effort, primarily by sponsoring the state humanities councils’ first “Dear Colleague” letter, to gather support among both Republicans and Democrats.

Kate Stephenson, Immediate Past Chair
Public Member, TN

Kate Stephenson is an independent employment investigator. Before going out on her own, she was in private practice at law firms in Nashville for 25 years, most recently as managing partner at Trauger & Tuke. She also served for four years as Assistant General Counsel for Labor and Employment with Corrections Corporation of America.

Phoebe Stein, Vice Chair
Executive Director, MD

Committees: Executive, Legislative, NEH Partnership

Phoebe Stein joined Maryland Humanities as Executive Director in July 2008 and directs its programming, grant making, marketing, fundraising, and governance efforts. Maryland Humanities brings nearly 1,400 free public humanities events to communities across the state annually through partnerships with over five hundred educational, cultural, civic, business, and government organizations. Nearly 800,000 Marylanders experience Maryland Humanities programs each year.

Dave Reetz, Treasurer
Public Member, WY

Dave was a member of the First Bank of Wyoming’s senior management team for more than 18 years and served on the bank’s Board of Directors during his employment and for six more years following his retirement. When working for the bank, Dave spearheaded economic development in Powell and served as President of the Powell Valley Economic Developed Alliance.

Keira Amstutz, Secretary
Executive Director, IN

Committees: Development, NEH Partnership

A lawyer with extensive experience in public policy and cultural development, Keira is passionate about developing creative humanities programming that encourages people to think, read, talk, and connect. In 2006, the Indianapolis Business Journal named Keira as one of Indianapolis’ “40 under 40” and in 2012 named her a “woman of influence.”

Ken Egan, Legislative Committee Chair
Executive Director, MT

Prior to joining Humanities Montana as Executive Director in February 2009, Ken Egan served as chair of the Department of English at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where he began teaching in 2002. After receiving his BA at the University of Montana-Missoula and his MA and PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he taught at Middlebury College in Vermont and Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where he was faculty chair and divisional chair of Arts and Humanities.

Ralph Lewin, NEH Partnership Committee Chair
Public Member, CA

Currently the Executive Director at the Mechanic’s Institute and former president and CEO of California Humanities, Ralph also serves on the Board of Governors of the University of California Humanities Research Institute and is an Advisory Board Member of Boom: A Journal of California published by UC Press. His speaking engagements include the White House and the American Academy of the Social Sciences and the Humanities.

Christopher Sommerich, Development Committee Chair
Executive Director, NE

Committees: Development

Chris is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), which is a certification emphasizing the highest standard of ethical and professional conduct in fundraising. Among professional fundraisers, Chris has held many leadership roles including serving on the Nebraska Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) board of directors, where he was president in 2010.

Joan Abrams
Public Member, RI

Joan Abrams is the immediate past Chair of the Board for Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. In addition to her work with the Rhode Island council, Abrams currently serves as special projects consultant to the Community College of RI and other not- for-profit organizations. In 2010, Abrams was named as Rhode Island’s Philanthropic Citizen of the Year. In addition to her work with the Humanities Council, Abrams is currently serving as special projects consultant to the Community College of RI and other not- for-profit organizations.

Thomas E. Chavez
Public Member, AZ

Dr. Thomas E. Chavez served as the Director of the Palace of the Governors for 21 years and has also served as the Director of the New Mexico Preservation Alliance, President of the New Mexico Association of Museums, and Executive Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Prior to his time as an administrator, Chavez taught courses on Southwestern history and its relationship with museum work at the College of Santa Fe. He has worked with a number of state and national organization and most recently served on the Board of Directors for the Smithsonian Institution Latino Center.

Armand DeKeyser
Executive Director, AL

Armand DeKeyser, a native of Mobile, Alabama, has over 35 years of leadership experience in federal, state and local government. For a number of years, Mr. DeKeyser worked in the private sector. In the late 80’s be began a career changing process of moving to the public sector. He served as Administrative Assistant to Mayor Arthur Outlaw in the City of Mobile where he served as de facto chief of staff and the manager for three City departments. In 1995, he became Chief Administrative Officer for the Alabama Attorney General and was responsible for all non-litigative activities of the 125 person staff.

Peter Gilbert
Executive Director, VT

Peter Gilbert became executive director of the Vermont Humanities Council in March 2002. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and an MA in English from the University of Virginia. He worked for ten years at Dartmouth College as Senior Assistant to the President, James O. Freedman, and Associate Provost. Before working at Dartmouth, he taught English and American History at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts for eleven years and practiced law as a litigator at Hale and Dorr in Boston.

Briann Greenfield
Executive Director, NJ

Briann Greenfield joined the New Jersey Council for the Humanities as executive director in 2014. Under her leadership, the council has extended its reach to new and underserved audiences. Previously, Dr. Greenfield was a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University where she directed the department’s Public History Program and taught widely across the curriculum.

Steven Seibert
Public Member, FL

Steven Seibert is the immediate past chair of the Florida Humanities Council. The Tampa Bay Times described Seibert as “a consensus builder with an eye to the future” and as one of Florida’s “significant thinkers.” Steven was elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 1992 – twice serving as its chair – where he led efforts to develop regional water and transportation initiatives.

Bill Tsutsui
Public Member, AR

Bill became involved with the Kansas Humanities Council’s Speaker Bureau while on the faculty at KU nearly 15 years ago. After three years of service in the Speakers Bureau, Bill joined the council’s board of directors, serving as the chair of the Program Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee. In addition to his council work, Bill led the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences as dean and professor of history. There he raised more than $7 million for a new Interdisciplinary Institute. In 2014, Bill moved to Arkansas where he was named the eleventh president of Hendrix College.

Julie Ziegler
Executive Director, WA

Julie Ziegler became executive director of Humanities Washington in June 2009, having served for six months as the interim director. An eight-year trustee of Humanities Washington (1998-2004 and 2006-2009), Ziegler held a variety of board leadership positions, including chair of the Grants, Development, and Finance Committees, in addition to several years on the Executive Committee. Ziegler previously held positions with several national companies, primarily in philanthropy, community outreach, and marketing. At one of those companies, Safeco Insurance, she managed the national grants program and several grassroots outreach programs. Prior to that, she worked as Northwest Regional Manager of the Bank of America Foundation.