Alumni

Theresa Kerchner, Eco Action President 1978

Theresa Kerchner and Jim Perkins

Executive Director of the Kennebec Land Trust

“I arrived in State College in September 1976 with the vague notion of pursuing a path in environmental studies. As an Environmental Resource Management major, my perspectives were broadened and influenced by my professors and academic studies, involvement with Eco Action, and friendships that were based on shared values. I have a number of vivid memories: an incredibly inspiring Science Technology and Society seminar with Ernest Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful; Professor Frank Dachille’s environmental geology classes; writing and printing (with blue stained fingers) Eco-Action’s mimeographed newsletter; working on the Boalsburg Bike Path proposal and the Parking Lot 80 recycling program (where I met my husband Jim Perkins); thoughtful discussions following HUB showings of Bullfrogfilms; and cooperative living in rambling houses with like-minded activists including Ann Ziminski, Harmon Hoff, Lou Chiesa, and many others.

I developed valuable leadership and organizing skills as a member and President of Eco Action. Activism taught me about the importance of research, effective communication, questioning “authority”, and being comfortable with views that seem to run against the grain.

I am currently the Executive Director of the Kennebec Land Trust in Kennebec County Maine. In addition to working on our land conservation and education programs, I am also involved with two partnership-based initiatives: Local Wood WORKS which is focused on conserving forestland in the northeast and developing sustainable markets for Maine wood; and a green burial project.

Jim Perkins and I garden, raise chickens, split wood, and enjoy sixty-five acres of woodland in Wayne, Maine. Whenever possible we spend time with our grown children and extended family, hike, paddle, snow-shoe, cross-country ski, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world. We do our best to participate in local, state, and national issues. We remind ourselves often that there is a younger, committed generation coming up in the ranks and that these current challenging times will eventually fade into the history books.”

Jim Perkins, Eco Action Member 1978

“I arrived in State College in the fall of 1977 to study Number Theory with Penn State math Professor Raymond Ayoub, and I joined Eco-Action in January 1978. At that time we were running a recycling program twice a month in the parking lot way out by the football stadium north of campus – (I think it may have been moved since then – we joked (but it was probably correct) that one of the biggest local environmental problems of those times was the sudden increase in water flow to the local sewage system during the football games).  After that, I served as Treasurer of Eco-Action for the next two years (until we found that citizen, but non-student, members couldn’t be officers).

In the spring of ’78 Eco-Action sponsored Sun Day, a solar energy fair.  Three of the exhibits drew a lot of attention: a “solar clothes dryer” (a.k.a., a clothesline); a solar-driven fountain – an early photoelectric panel ran a pump that pushed a column of water up in the air (little kids of all ages would shade the panel with their hands and the fountain stopped!!); and a “solar airplane” – one of the truly awesome gliders that would be launched from near State College and fly on the thermal updrafts for hours.  Out of that effort grew the Central Pennsylvania Solar Energy Society with many campus members, one of the affiliates of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Association.

In the next years, the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) dominated the national news, and urban sprawl was one of the problems in State College, including a proposed new shopping mall just west of campus.

After leaving State College in 1981, I taught math for four years in an independent high school in Connecticut, a year at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, and then twenty-five years at Lewiston High School in Maine.  Theresa Kerchner and I married in 1986 and have two children who are now grown – Daniel and Emily.

I also worked for three years while in State College with the Susquehanna Alliance and the Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power on TMI, Limerick, and Susquehanna (Berwick) issues, and eighteen years with the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, an Intervenor with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and several State and regional agencies in the Seabrook licensing and the Vermont Yankee licensing and shutdown proceedings.”

Michele Mattioli, Eco Action Member 1979

Michele currently works with Virginia Organizing to organize on social justice and environmental issues statewide in Virginia.

From 1982 to 1999 she was a teacher and Director of University Montessori School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In 1980 she started the environmental education program at the Ivy Creek Foundation in Charlottesville.

Marie Soveroski, Eco Action President 1979

Director of Operations at Free the Slaves

Jonathan Bartholomew, Member in 1989

Jon Bartholomew is the Government Relations Director for AARP Oregon. Prior to taking this position in 2014, he had been the Public Policy Director at the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon Chapter, where he coordinated the creation of the State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease in Oregon. He has worked in public policy for 20 years, working on issues from after school program funding to media reform. Some of the organizations he has worked for include: Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, OSPIRG, WashPIRG, Citizen Action of New York, and the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund. Originally from Pennsylvania, he earned his BA in Film and Video Production from Penn State University, and his Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington. A fun fact is that in the early 1990’s, Jon managed a rock band in Seattle named Girl With 100 Heads (see teaser trailer for a documentary about them here –https://vimeo.com/104269871). Jon married Traci Chenette in 2001, and she currently runs the behavioral health program for a non-profit in Portland.

“Eco Action gave me my first taste of political organizing and event organizing – two skills I have used throughout my career.”

Tania Slawecki, Eco Action President 1989

“Eco-Action was profoundly instrumental in re-shaping my understanding of the environmental matters on our planet, and re-directing my interests and pursuits.  One of the first events I ever attended was a talk by Native American Shoshone whose people were being made ill by radioactive waste being dumped on their lands by White Man.  I was appalled!  At the time, Penn State had no recycling program at all, and Eco-Action ran the on-campus recycling center.  I was Co-President of Eco-Action for the 1989-1990 year along with a pre-med student, Elaine Chang.  We had an incredible year with packed full-house meetings, and that was the year of the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day, for which a large celebration was held.   It was an intense time.  Exhausting for me, though!

Since then I finished my PhD in materials science & engineering (1995), worked 3 years at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD (post-doctoral work) and left to help the newly formed Center for Sustainability at Penn State in 1998.  My passion for “saving the earth” resulted in my teaching courses through the then-Science Technology and Society (STS) Program in the College of Engineering here at PSU.  “Projects in Sustainable Living” provided hands-on opportunities for students to learn green and earthen architecture, living technologies (e.g. Living Machines & graywater treatment systems), passive and active solar stuff, and ecologically sustainable food growing methods, in addition to larger picture economic, social and environmental contexts.  I was director of the Center for Sustainability 2001-2004 and obtained a PA Growing Greener Grant to construct a Living Machine for waste water treatment.  The course morphed into the “Green Design and Technologies” course in 2005-2006 after I had resigned as director of the CfS and no longer had access to the projects site.  I also taught one course on Living Machines – from design to construction, and a few other Eco-related courses.  The Center for Sustainability has been subsumed by the PSU Sustainability Institute and is a shadow of its former incarnation.

I subsequently worked more out of my own backyard and, with my husband, developed Neo-Terra, where we conduct “experiments in healthy living” and invite the participation of interested others on an as-available basis. We have retrofitted our 1938-built home to be much more ecological and fossil-fuel free.”

Elaine Chang, Eco Action President 1990

Gynecologist With Franciscan Medical Group

 

 

 

 

Mike Ewall, Nuclear Waste and Energy CommittEE , 1996

Founder and Director of the Earth Justice Network

 

 

Autumn Hanna, Eco Action Co-Director 1998

Senior Program Director for Taxpayers for Common Sense

John Kepner, Publicity 1998

Owner-Operator at Zeke’s Coffee of DC

Brad Nahill, Earth Day 1998

Brad is President & Co- Founder of SEE Turtles, a sea turtle conservation organization. He has worked in sea turtle conservation, ecotourism, and environmental education for 15 years with organizations including Ocean Conservancy, Rare, Association ANAI (Costa Rica), and the Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia). Brad is a co-author of the Worldwide Travel Guide to Sea Turtles, former chair of the Awards Committee of the International Sea Turtle Society, and has authored several book chapters, blogs, and abstracts on turtle conservation and ecotourism, and has presented at major travel conferences and sea turtle symposia. Brad has a BS in Environmental Economics from Penn State University.

“Participating with Eco Action was possibly the best decision I made at PSU. Working with the organization gave me my first experience in the environmental field, helped me make great contacts that helped with my career, and was great for my resume and instrumental in getting my first jobs in the field. Managing Earth Day was a great experience, allowing me to meet leading environmentalists like David Brower and Ralph Nader, and learning how to organize a big event.”

 

Jennifer Abel, Member in 2000

Senior Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Won the Green Patriot Award from George Mason University

Since leaving Penn State Jennifer Abel continued to be involved with environmental issues. She co-founded a program called Energy masters to train volunteers to conduct energy and water saving retrofits in low-income apartments. She also serves on the Arlington County’s Solid Waste Committee, the Executive Committee for the Mount Vernon Group of the Sierra Club, a committee called R4 (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot). She also volunteers with a local nonprofit called Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

“I definitely enjoyed getting to be a part of it during my time at Penn State. I remember that one of the things that we did was to prepare vegan lunches and fresh fruit and vegetable juices that we made available to students. We also helped to organize events for Earth Day.”

Johanna Mirenda, President 2008

Johanna Mirenda is the Technical Director at OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute), a nonprofit organization that provides expert, independent, and transparent review of input materials to determine their compliance for certified organic agricultural production and processing. Johanna oversees OMRI’s technical material review standards, directs OMRI’s research and education programs, and manages special projects including Technical Reports for the USDA National Organic Program. Johanna has been working in organic certification since 2009. Prior to OMRI, she served as the Policy Director for Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a USDA-accredited certification agency, where she managed organic certification policies, oversaw the material review program, and developed new programs such as “100% Grassfed” and “Forest Grown” certifications. Johanna holds a bachelor’s degree in Horticultural Science from the Pennsylvania State University, and is completing a master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College. She’s studied agriculture and ecology in Peru and New Zealand, and has several years of academic research experience in plant nutrition. She lives in Vermont with her husband Jason and their dog Moose.

“I have a lot of great memories from my time in Eco-Action. I was involved in Eco-Action during years of 2004-2008 and served as Secretary and then President. I remember my cohort as a resourceful and passionate group of environmentalists, working hard and having fun to make a positive change in our environment. The KyotoNOW! campaign was the most memorable effort during my time in Eco-Action. We worked tirelessly on this campaign, frequently meeting with university leadership and operations staff to further our agenda, and conducting lots of campus actions (often times involving a penguin costume!). The highlight was the sit-in at Old Main to raise awareness of the campaign and put pressure on the administration. I remember it being a flurry of activity, and having to skip classes and an exam to stay on-site at the protest and handle media interviews.

Through my involvement with Eco-Action, I gained confidence in communicating positions and arguments on a variety of environmental issues. I also gained an understanding of the connection between environmental goals and the political/economic gears and leavers that must be manipulated to reach those goals (e.g. crafting your argument based on economic data or public relations impact). These tools are essential when working for change in large bureaucratic institutions. I’ve carried these skills into my professional career working with nonprofit organizations that implement the USDA National Organic Program regulations.

These days, I exercise environmental activism through my participation in National Organic Standards Board meetings and advocating on behalf of organic farmers on Capitol Hill (photos to the left.”

 

Stephen Hobaugh, Teasurer 2010-2012

Stephen Hobaugh is a Certification Specialist at Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a USDA accredited certification agency which administers the National Organic Program.  Stephen works with dairy, crops, and poultry operators to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the appropriate federal regulation and policies, so that consumers can rely on the USDA organic seal as a standard food marketing claim in Pennsylvania and beyond.  Prior to working for PCO, Stephen worked for two certified organic vegetable farms in Pennsylvania including Jade Family Farm in Port Royal, PA and Quiet Creek CSA formerly located in his beloved hometown of Kutztown, PA.  While at Penn State, Stephen studied and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations.

“The most important role Eco-Action played in shaping my life was the exposure it provided me as a young man to environmentalism and direct action.  Some highlight campaigns of my time in the club were reducing Penn State’s fossil fuel dependency, banning hydro-fracking natural gas extraction in the borough of State College, working towards reusable take-out dining containers in the on-campus dining facilities, and of course participating in fantastic Earth Day celebrations on the HUB lawn (and once at the East Dorms when the HUB lawn was taken over for construction).  I was an member from 2009-2012 and was the club treasurer from 2010-2012.  I credit Eco-Action with my decision to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture.”

Stephen currently lives all over Pennsylvania, but mostly in State College.  He is active with as many hobbies as he can possibly fit into a 24-hour day including sports, more sports, making music with his rock and roll band, wood working, and volunteering.  He also travels regularly to be in the company of family and friends.  He’ll never forget the snafu in scheduling an Eco-Action event with his fellow club-member Chris, and as a life-long skateboarder, he would like to include his quote from the Eco-Action website circa 2010, “Eco-Action is an unstoppable wave, and I’m hanging ten to victory!”