Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Board of Directors Adds Six New Members, Including Second Lady of PA Gisele Barreto Fetterman

November 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA, November 8, 2019 –

Six new members were added to the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s (PHC) Board of Directors, each beginning their term on November 1. A slate of five members were elected by the current Board: Bonita Allen (Pittsburgh), Ivy L. Barsky (Philadelphia),  Chanel Cook (Erie), Kimberly Koller-Jones (New Castle), and Dr. Leah Spangler (Johnstown). Governor Tom Wolf appointed the sixth, Gisele Barreto Fetterman (Braddock), Second Lady of Pennsylvania and wife to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

The five elected members are eligible to serve up to two consecutive three-year terms. The gubernatorial appointee serves consecutively with the governor, after which they are eligible to be elected for continued membership.

Also new is the election of Sister Mary Persico, President of Marywood University, as chair of the Board. She joined in 2017 as an appointee of Governor Tom Wolf and succeeds Silas Chamberlin. 

“The PA Humanities Council is energized to move vigorously forward at a time when the humanities speak to every part of the human person in addressing the need for beauty, truth, and purpose in the world,” said Persico. “The new Board members bring great enthusiasm and experience to an already accomplished and dedicated group of Directors.”

PHC is governed by a 24-seat board of directors, which is made up of both elected individuals and governor appointees. Currently 23 members serve on the board with backgrounds in business, law, education, philanthropy, government, arts, and culture.

Current board members Allen Dieterich-Ward, Gwen White, Christina Saler, and Sister Mary Persico were reappointed by Governor Tom Wolf. Their terms will expire in 2023.

Biographies of newest members and new chair follow. Additional information about PHC’s Board of Directors is available at


Bonita Allen (Pittsburgh) is the immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania PTA and has chaired several statewide organizations and initiatives. She has her own consulting business working as an instructor of teachers, parents, and administrators. As a Parent Involvement in Education (PIE) consultant, she presents at conferences statewide and nationally, and serves as a mentor for the Pennsylvania Title I State Parent Advisory Council (SPAC). Allen graduated from Harvard University cum laude.
Ivy L. Barsky (Philadelphia) is a non-profit professional and independent consultant. She served as the CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia (2011-2019); Deputy Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York; and has worked for art galleries and museums including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Barsky has an MA in the history of art from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from New York University.
Chanel Cook (Erie) is the director of nonprofit and community investment at Idea Fund, Erie. She previously served in federal and local-level positions including in the County of Erie and the US House of Representatives. She is the Chair of the Erie Philharmonic Board of Governors and a member of both the United Way of Erie County Board of Directors and the WQLN – PBS 54 Community Advisory Board. Cook earned an MS in organizational leadership from Mercyhurst University and a BA in Political Science from Gannon University.
Gisele Barreto Fetterman (Braddock) is an access and equity advocate, a hugger and the Second Lady of Pennsylvania. She is the founder of Freestore 15104, where surplus and donated goods are received and redistributed to neighbors in need. Gisele is the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a community wide effort to end hunger and reduce food waste. She is co-founder of For Good PGH, a non-profit that works to advocate inclusion and inspire kindness. Gisele was born in Brazil and emigrated as a child to the US, living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade. Gisele is a Forty under 40 honoree, a Tedx Speaker a Jefferson Awards recipient and a mother of three.
Kimberly Koller-Jones (New Castle) is the Executive Director of the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle, PA. She is also the President of the New Castle Blueprint Communities Council, Secretary of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of the Lawrence County Land Bank, and a board member of the Education Committee for Erie Arts & Culture. She received a BFA from Seton Hill University and an MA in arts administration from Goucher College.
Sister Mary Persico IHM, Ed.D. (Scranton) is currently serving as the twelfth president of Marywood University, Scranton, PA. Previously she was the Executive Vice-President of Mission Integration for Trinity Health, Livonia, MI, and the former Catholic Health East, Newtown Square, PA. She also served in Catholic secondary education as Principal and teacher for many years. She holds a bachelor’s in French and education from Marywood University, a master’s in French from Assumption College, Worcester, MA, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Lehigh University.
Dr. Leah Spangler (Johnstown) is the founding CEO of The Learning Lamp and Ignite Education Solutions. She taught public relations, nonprofit management, social enterprise and fund development at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Saint Francis University, and Mount Aloysius College. She is also an instructor for the Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System. Dr. Spangler currently serves on the board of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce. A graduate of Temple and Northwestern universities, she completed her doctorate in Leadership and Administration at Point Park University.

About the Pennsylvania Humanities Council

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is an independent nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities and part of a network of 56 state humanities councils that spans the nation and U.S. jurisdictions.

We put the humanities in action to create positive change. We are passionate advocates, innovative program designers and strategic grantmakers. We lead a movement to champion and redefine the role the humanities play in our lives. We use the humanities to generate avenues for civic involvement and community development, and for youth and adults to strengthen skills for school, work and every day.

Learn more at


Dawn Frisby-Byers
Senior Director of Content and Engagement
215.925.1005 ext. 124

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