The Ashokan Center’s professional teaching staff brings specialized expertise and skill to the areas of environmental education, science, research and the arts. Our facilities and administrative staff support the programs and initiatives of The Ashokan Center ensuring that our students, guests and visitors enjoy a safe, rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Jay Ungar, President & CEO
In 1980 Jay and his wife Molly Mason and musical partner founded Ashokan Music & Dance Camps at the then Ashokan Field Campus of SUNY New Paltz. Inspired by the camps, Jay wrote Ashokan Farewell in 1982. Taken by this haunting melody filmmaker Ken Burns invited Jay and Molly to provide music for many of his PBS specials, most notably The Civil War, in which Ashokan Farewell became the main theme, won a Grammy and earned Jay an Emmy nomination. When the State University put the Field Campus on the market in 2006. Jay and Molly formed the Ashokan Foundation to save the land and the programs. With help from the Open Space Institute, NYC Dept of Environmental Protection, the Catskill Watershed Corporation, and many individual supporters, the Ashokan Foundation took possession of the property in 2008, renamed it The Ashokan Center and by 2013 had constructed a new, sustainably designed residential learning facility on the site.
Peter Cook, Managing Director
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Peter was born and raised in the Catskill Mountains/Hudson Valley area. He received a BA in History from Hartwick College. After serving as Director of Technology for a Boston-based law firm, he attended UMass Boston and obtained a Masters in Secondary Education and taught History in the Boston Public School system. In 2011, he returned to the area and worked with at-risk adolescents at Family of Woodstock. Peter has been the Volunteer Coordinator for the winter and summer Hoots since 2013. In the fall of 2015, Peter joined the staff at The Ashokan Center where he is able to bring together his love of music, the environment and history.
Heidi Weber, Director of Development
Heidi brings 35+ years of development experience to Ashokan. A graduate of Dartmouth College (AB, philosophy), she began her career at Brandeis University and later relocated to New York City, where she worked at Columbia University, The New York Public Library, the Guggenheim Museum, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others. Heidi has fond childhood memories of crossing the United States in a sky blue VW camper and attending day and residential camps as a Girl Scout. She enjoys long hikes in the woods, long chats with donors and friends, and outdoor romps with her wild cat, Fleur. Heidi makes her home in Ridgefield, CT.
Amy Sirni, Financial Officer
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Lisa Hurley, Special Events Coordinator
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Raised in a military family, Lisa was born in Frankfurt, West Germany, and has lived in Virginia, New Jersey and Kansas before finally settling in New Hampshire while in high school. She briefly studied Business Administration at the University of New Hampshire and Accounting at New Hampshire College before marrying and starting her family. Lisa and her husband relocated to the Hudson Valley in 1992, where they have raised their four children. After an 18-year career in retail, she joined the staff at The Ashokan Center in June 2016.
William Warnes, Executive Chef
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Kevin VanKleeck, Caretaker
Bill Brantmeyer, Paramedic
Bill is a school teacher, a paramedic, a wilderness skills instructor, and certified instructor of numerous medical certificate courses including Basic First Aid; CPR/AED; Wilderness First Aid; Bloodborne Pathogens; Emergency Oxygen Admin; Child/ Babysitting Safety and Pediatrics; Advanced Cardiac Life Support; Pediatric Advanced Life Support; Emergency Medical Response; Advanced First Aid; CPR Pro; Wilderness First Responder; Wilderness EMT Upgrade.
Rachel Roozen, Program Director
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Rachel grew up in Maryland, right outside of our nations capital. Her father owned a garden center so her love for nature started at a very early age. She attended Lynchburg College, in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains of Virginia, where she studied Environmental Science. After graduation Rachel began her work in the environmental Education field, working here in New York as well as down in the Georgia mountains. Rachel then spent two years working at a nature-based preschool in Northern Virginia. She has been part of the Ashokan team for the past four seasons and is excited to start another! Rachel loves spending time in the forest and is excited to help connect students with the great outdoors!
Ally Britton, Program Development Manager
Ally was born and raised in New Jersey. She studied Ecology and Natural Resources at Rutgers University, and was inspired to work in Environmental Education upon graduation. She has worked at several different environmental education centers around the country, and has been with The Ashokan Center for the past 2 years! Ally loves leading kids into the woods, catching frogs and other critters, and showing students what our natural world as to offer.
Born and raised in the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Matty didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors during his childhood. Camping trips with family and friends sparked a love for wilderness adventure and exploration. In his late teens, he began his career in outdoor education, working at a wilderness school in Connecticut guiding student groups in backcountry expeditions and leading them through high ropes and team development courses. For the past decade, he has continued to work in the outdoor education field at a number of camps and centers in various capacities. Arriving at The Ashokan Center in 2011 as an Instructor, he is now the Program Operations Manager. Matty lives on the Ashokan campus and enjoys being in the heart of the Catskill mountains.
Mary Blake, Instructor
Mary is excited to be teaching in an outdoor, experiential setting where she can explore history and science with Ashokan students! After volunteering in Nepal as a teenager she went on to earn a B.A. in International Studies from American University in 2010. She returned to Nepal and spent a year working with a nonprofit organization dedicated to youth empowerment in developing countries. After working with such amazing young people Mary was inspired to pursue teaching. She earned a Master’s in Teaching from the Upper Valley Educators’ Institute where she spent a full school year as an intern social studies teacher. Mary has experience working with children of almost all ages, from toddlers to high school seniors. Most recently Mary worked in a Pre-K classroom at the Mandell School in Manhattan, NY. She believes that students of all ages learn best when they are able to explore a topic with curiosity while using as many senses as possible.
Jenny Moretti, Instructor
Jenny earned a BA in Spanish and a BA in Sociology/Human Services from SUNY New Paltz. She has worked with children of all ages at places like Hidden Pond Day Camp in Hauppauge, NY, The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, The Center for Spectrum Services in Kingston, NY, and The Brookside School in Cottekill, NY, Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, New Alternatives for Children located in New York City. Jenny is currently studying towards my Master in ESL Education and Elementary Bilingual Education at SUNY New Paltz while teaching at The Ashokan Center.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Benjy earned his BA in Environmental Studies at SUNY New Paltz. He gained experience working with kids of different ages in an outdoor setting at Shire Village Camp in Cummington, MA, coaching soccer at Sonic Soccer in Brooklyn, NY, and as a youth mentor at the Cornell cooperative extension of Ulster County. He is excited to be working at the Ashokan Center, and to be sharing his enthusiasm for all that the outdoors has to teach and offer with the students.
Sage (Sigi) Mannino, Instructor
Sage grew up in the Catskills not too far from the Ashokan Center in Woodstock, NY. At a young age, he began to explore the forest and, informed by Native American influences, developed a passion for all things natural. Sage received an Associate’s degree in outdoor recreation from SUNY Columbia-Greene and has worked in the environmental education and youth development fields for the past 4 Years. Recently, he cofounded a nonprofit that works to create environmental awareness. His life-long passion is to connect generations of people to the earth. He loves the earth and says: “ you can’t spell earth with-out the letters of the heart.”