CO-CHAIRS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, ADVISORY BOARD, & STAFF

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KATHRYN NASON BURCHENAL

Chair, JMHC

Kathryn Burchenal has a Ph.D. in molecular biology with a twenty-year career spent at the National Institutes of Health, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Pasteur Institute.  Kathryn was founding Vice President of the Malaria Foundation International and has served as a Stonington Borough Burgess and on the Borough Planning & Zoning Commission.

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TONY CRANE

Chair of Building also on Conservation, Finance

Tony Crane holds a Masters’ Degree in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and was the founder of French & Crane, Architects, which completed over 900 projects.  Tony served on the faculty at the Penn Graduate School of Architecture, was President of the Haverford Civic Association, and chaired the Lower Merion Township Zoning Board.

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JENNY DIXON

Co-Chair Conservation, also on Building, Nominating & Governance 

Jenny Dixon was Director of four New York City cultural organizations: The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, The Bronx Museum for the Arts, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Public Art Fund. In January of 2018, Jenny retired from the Directorship of the Noguchi Museum after a 15-year tenure, assuming the role of Director Emeritus.

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PENNY DUCKHAM

Vice Chair, JMHC and Chair of Programs also on Capital Campaign

Penny Duckham is the executive director of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s media fellowships program. Penny previously worked in the private office of the President of the EEC in Brussels, and the Harkness family’s Commonwealth Fund in New York City. She was educated in England and graduated with a first-class honors degree in modern history at Lady Margaret Hall, at Oxford University.

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CYNTHIA ELLIOTT

Chair of Development, also on Building, Conservation 

Cynthia Elliott retired as President and CEO of Symphony Space, a performing arts center in New York City. Through her career, Cynthia worked in the private sector -- in marketing and business development -- and the non-profit sector -- in program development and fundraising. She was chair of Packer Collegiate Institute’s $20 million capital campaign, and subsequently chair of their board of trustees.

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BILL FOWLER

Finance, Building, Conservation 

Bill Fowler is semi-retired from a group of companies he co-founded in real estate development, property management and construction in New York City.   He has had a lifelong interest in poetry

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GEOFFREY LITTLE

Development, Programs

Geoffrey Little is a non-fiction writer on high tech-topics--robotics, space exploration and autonomous vehicles—for Air & Space Smithsonian and other publications. Geoffrey was a documentary television executive on prime-time productions for NOVA, National Geographic, National Audubon, Wall Street Journal TV, PBS and Time Inc. and IMAX.

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SIBBY  LYNCH

Co-Chair Conservation, also on Building, Communications

Sibby Lynch is the longest tenured member of the James Merrill House board.  She grew up in Stonington and was a friend of James Merrill’s. She was the president of the Stonington Village Improvement Association when the James Merrill House was gifted to the SVIA.   Sibby had the vision to preserve the top floors of the building for a writer’s residency, and oversaw this effort aided by the dozens of people who believed in the idea and knew how to make it happen.

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LAURA MATHEWS

Chair of Communications, Programs

Laura Mathews began her publishing career as fact-checker and staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly, eventually becoming a senior editor at Condé Nast, Penguin Putnam, Martha Stewart Living, and the Hearst Corporation.  She is a resident of Manhattan and Westerly, Rhode Island.

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JANET MCCLENDON

Representative of the Stonington Village Improvement Association (SVIA), also on Building

Janet McClendon is President of the Stonington Village Improvement Association (SVIA).  She grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and graduated from the Madeira School, Brown University, and the University of Texas School of Law, Austin. She became a partner in a New York City law firm. Janet is a member of the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club and the Wadawanuck Club, and she serves on the Governance, Financial, and Landscaping Committees of the SVIA.

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SCOTT MULLER

Co-Chair of Nominating & Governance, Finance

Scott Muller is a retired litigation partner at the international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. Scott also served at various points in his career as a law clerk on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and as General Counsel of the CIA. He has served on the boards of St. Paul’s School, St. Albans School, Stonington Free Library, and was founder and past chairman of SAM (Serve America Movement).

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ANNIE PHILBRICK

Co-Chair of Nominating & Governance, also on Communications

Annie Philbrick is the owner of the Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly, RI and Bank Square Books in Mystic. CT. Annie served as a Director on the Board of the American Booksellers Association, on the Board of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, and currently serves as Vice President of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation or BINC. Annie has served as a judge for the Kirkus Book Awards in 2015 and the National Book Awards in 2016 as well as numerous committees and task forces with the American Booksellers Association.  

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GEOFFREY PHILLIPS

Treasurer, Nominating & Governance

Geoffrey Phillips is a graduate of Amherst College—James Merrill’s alma mater.  At two Fortune 500 companies, he was a senior executive, COO, and corporate director.  He founded Geoffrey Phillips Business Advisory Services.   Geoff has written and published six children’s detective stories, and three and novels anticipating self-aware computers.  He is a director of the Stonington Community Center.

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RUTH SAUNDERS

Development, Finance, Capital Campaign

Ruth Saunders is a development professional with a background in economics and communications, and recently served as head of partnerships for Venture Cafe New England. She has taught at the college level and has also been on the staff of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Bank of England. Ruth holds a first-class honors degree in English from the University of Cambridge, and an MBA from INSEAD, where she chairs her class reunion gift, and is a former co-chair of the James Merrill House.

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DAVID SCHULZ

Communications

David Schulz has worked as an art director and graphic designer for clients such as the Department of Energy (PNNL), the Michael Chekhov Association, the Walla Walla Foundry, and a host of consumer magazines such as UsWeekly and ArtForum. He has also produced photography- and text-based artworks that are collected by institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Beinecke Library at Yale University. He has also taught photography and graphic design at Pratt Institute and Whitman College. He is presently teaching and developing the media arts program at the New London Arts Magnet Program.

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JOANNA SCOTT

Program, Development 

Joanna Scott is the author of twelve works of fiction, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Lannan Literary Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship.  Her novel, The Manikin, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  Her new collection, Excuse Me While I Disappear, is forthcoming from Little, Brown.  She was in residence at the James Merrill House in the spring of 2019.

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WILLARD SPIEGELMAN

Program, Communications, Juror for the WIR selection, Capital Campaign

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English (Emeritus) at SMU in Dallas. Between 1984 and 2016 he was the editor-in-chief of the Southwest Review. A longtime contributor to the arts pages of The Wall Street Journal, he is also the author of a dozen books of essays and literary criticism.

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PAST CHAIRS

Randy Bean

Cynthia Elliott

Ruth Saunders

Sally Wood

Bill Middleton

Lynn Callahan

ADVISORY BOARD

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RACHEL CARLEY

Rachel Carley is an architectural historian, independent historic preservation consultant and publishing professional. She is the author of seven books, including Cuba: Four Hundred Years of Architectural Heritage, The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture; and Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town,winner of the 2012 Historic New England Book Prize.

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DEBORAH GARRISON

Deborah Garrison is the author of A Working Girl Can’t Win: and Other Poems. For fifteen years, she worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker and is now the poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf and a senior editor at Pantheon Books. She earned a BA at Brown University and an MA in literature at New York University. She lives with her husband and three children in Montclair, New Jersey.

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MARGARET GIBSON

Margaret Gibson is the reigning poet laureate for the State of Connecticut. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Not Hearing the Wood Thrush; Broken Cup, a finalist for the 2016 Poets' Prize; The Vigil: A Poem in Four Voices, a finalist for the National Book Award; and Long Walks in the Afternoon, a Lamont Poetry Selection. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut.

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DANIEL HALL

Daniel Hall is Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College, and author of three books of poetry, Hermit with Landscape, Strange Relation, and Under Sleep. The former was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets; the latter was a National Poetry Series. He has received awards and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

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LANGDON HAMMER, PH.D

Langdon Hammer is author of James Merrill: Life and Art, a critically acclaimed biography, published by Knopf in April 2015, and co-editor with Stephen Yenser of the forthcoming The Selected Letters of James Merrill. He received his BA and Ph.D. from Yale and joined the English Department faculty in 1987. His works include Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism, and he has edited the following publications for the Library of America: The Collected Poems of May Swenson (2013) and Hart Crane: Complete Poetry and Selected Letters (2006).  As a former Guggenheim fellow, he has written about poetry for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Book Review, and the American Scholar, where he is the poetry editor.

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DAVID LEEMING, PH.D.

David Leeming is author of the acclaimed biography James Baldwin: A Biography.  Leeming served as both an on-camera witness and a scholar/advisor for Karen Thorsen’s award-winning film for PBS/American Masters, James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket. He received his BA in English from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University. He is emeritus professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut.  His books include Creation Myths of the World, Medusa: In the Mirror of Time, and a revised edition of The World of Myth (Oxford, 2014).

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CHIP KIDD

Chip Kidd is a world-renowned graphic designer, known for his book covers.  His most notable book cover design was for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park novel. USA Today has called him "the closest thing to a rock star" in graphic design, while author James Ellroy called him “the world's greatest book-jacket designer.  He was the husband of the late J.D. (Sandy) McClatchy, James Merrill’s literary co-executor and founding James Merrill House advisor.

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ROBIN MAGOWAN, PH.D.

Robin Magowan is a philanthropist and nephew of James Merrill.  He received a B.A. from Harvard, M.A. from Columbia, and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Yale. During the 1960s he taught at the University of Washington and the University of California at Berkeley. He is author of ten books of poetry and two collections of travel writing, And Other Voyages and Fabled Cities of Central Asia: Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva. He currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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PAUL MERRILL

Paul Merrill is a philanthropist and nephew of James Merrill.  He is an Alternative Dispute Resolution Professional, and co-trainer at NVC (Non-Violent Communication) Boston. His NVC studies began in 2002 and he is a 2005 graduate of Bay NVC’s Leadership Program. Prior to moving back to Boston, he was a founding board member and co-trainer at Brooklyn NVC. In 2012, he co-facilitated Mediate Your Life’s East Coast immersion program at Essex MA.

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LORRIE MOORE

Lorrie Moore is the Gertrude Conaway Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.  She is author of three novels and four collections of stories as well as the editor of several anthologies. Moore has received honors for her work, among them the Irish Times International Prize for Literature, a Lannan Foundation fellowship, as well as the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award for her achievement in the short story. Her most recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs, was shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize and for the PEN/Faulkner. Her most recent collection, BARK, was shortlisted for The Story Prize, The Frank O'Connor Prize, and The Gregor Von Rezzori Prize. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2005.

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CARL PHILLIPS

Carl Phillips is an American poet and judge for the Yale Younger Poet Award.  Phillips is Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, where Merrill’s papers reside.  He was named the recipient of the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, given in memory of James Merrill. A finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, his other honors include the Lambda Literary Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Award, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets, for which he served as Chancellor from 2006-2012.

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​IVY POCHODA

Ivy Pochoda is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Wonder Valley, Visitation Street, and These Women. Wonder Valley won the 2018 Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and was a finalist Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Le Grand Prix de Litterature Americaine, as well as being chosen as an NPR and Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Visitation Street won the Prix Page America in France and was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Amazon Best Book of 2013.  Her books have been translated into five languages. She teaches creative writing at the Studio 526 Skid Row.

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KATE RUSHIN

Kate Rushin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University and has taught at MIT and Wesleyan. She is the author of The Black Back-Ups and has received fellowships from The Cave Canem Foundation and The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be found in Callaloo and Norton’s New Worlds of Literature. She has received commissions from The International Festival of Arts and Ideas and The Hartford Public Library and serves on the Poetry Advisory Committee of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at the Hill-Stead Museum.

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BRUCE SNIDER

Poet Bruce Snider grew up in rural Indiana and attended Indiana University as an undergraduate. He earned an MFA in poetry and playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a James A. Michener Fellow. Snider’s collections, which draw on his midwestern upbringing, include The Year We Studied Women,winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, and Paradise, Indiana, recipient of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. He held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University and was a Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence at George Washington University.

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STEPHEN YENSER

Stephen Yenser is James Merrill’s literary co-executor, and a distinguished editor, critic, professor, and poet.  He is the author of the poetry collections Stone Fruit, Blue Guide, and The Fire in All Things. A winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, he has also received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in Poetry and the Bernard F. Connors Prize for Poetry from the Paris Review.  Yenser and the poet J.D. McClatchy co-edited James Merrill’s Collected Poems, Collected Novels and Plays of James Merrill, and The Changing Light at Sandover. Yenser is the author of several books of criticism, including Circle to Circle: The Poetry of Robert Lowell and The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill,as well as the essay collection A Boundless Field: American Poetry at Large. He is co-editor with Langdon Hammer of the forthcoming The Selected Letters of James Merrill. He is an emeritus professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

STAFF
Meet Our Director, Program & Operations

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BERGIN O'MALLEY
In 2019, we hired our first staff member. Bergin O'Malley serves as Director of Program and Operations and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Merrill House including all program, communication, development and building-related matters. ​Bergin graduated from Columbia University and has over twenty years of experience working in non-profit, political, grassroots and business environments.  Bergin spent summers in Stonington while she lived in Brussels, London, New York, Mexico and Miami, but has happily called Stonington her full-time home since 2012. 

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