Board Member Biographical Information
KENNETH D. ACKERMAN
Ken is a writer and attorney in Washington, D.C., and a veteran of senior positions in Congress, the executive branch, and financial regulation. Ken has authored five published books, including his critically acclaimed Boss Tweed: the Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York (March 2005), and his most recent, Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution. His book Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield (2003) was the subject of a recent American Experience documentary on PBS. When he’s not writing, Ken practices law in Washington, D.C. at OLW Law specializing in agriculture. Along the way, he has served as counsel to two U.S. Senate committees: Governmental Affairs (1975-1981) and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (1988-1993). During the administration of President Bill Clinton, he headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency and Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (1993-2001). Ken was profiled in Government Executive magazine in 1997 and included by National Journal that year in its “Washington 100” list of top Federal decision-makers. He teaches seminars for TheCapitol.Net and serves on the boards of The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland and the Washington Independent Review of Books. A native of Albany, New York, and a graduate of Brown University (1973) and the Georgetown University Law Center (1976), Ken lives with his wife Karen in Falls Church, Virginia.
Margot Backas holds degrees in English Literature from Vassar and American Intellectual History from Harvard. Her professional life began in London at the National Book League. Later she worked on publications at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago Press, where she evaluated poetry manuscripts, and the Johns Hopkins University Press, where she was Humanities Editor. From Hopkins she moved to New York as Editorial Director of Liveright, publishing nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. She retired from the National Endowment for the Humanities as an administrator, overseeing a wide range of research projects, among them scholarly editions and translations. A consultant on publishing to various museum and foundations, she has written many book reviews for newspapers in the United States and Britain.
Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse Magazine. She’s published a novel (TreeVolution, 2016), a hybrid fiction/poetry collection (Circe’s Bicycle, 2018), and a short story collection called Midnight at the Organporium (2019), which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She earned her MFA from American University in 2019.
Tara has received the following awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities: the 2016 Larry Neal Writers’ Award in Adult Fiction, the 2016 Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding New Artist, and Arts and Humanities Fellowships for 2018 and 2019. She teaches both in person and online classes at The Writer’s Center, focusing on flash fiction and speculative fiction. She also teaches at American University’s Discover the World of Communication program, Politics and Prose, MoonLit, and the National Gallery of Art’s Writing Salon. Tara has served as a judge for various Writer’s Center award committees, and appears at local reading series such as The Inner Loop and the lowercase. She also volunteers with local conferences such as Barrelhouse’s Conversations and Connections and the Washington Writers Conference, organized by the Washington Independent Review of Books.
Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Tara has also lived in Oregon, Ohio, New York, Germany, and Austria. She currently lives in Washington, DC.
Susan Coll is the author of five novels, most recently The Stager—a New York Times and Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Moment Magazine, NPR.org, atlantic.com, and The Millions. She worked as the Events and Programs Director at Politics and Prose Bookstore for five years, and is now the Programs Chair at the PEN/Faulkner foundation. She has taught workshops at The Writer’s Center for more than 20 years, and currently runs the year-long Novel Year program.
DR. NAOMI F. COLLINS
Dr. Naomi F. Collins is a writer and consultant to cultural and higher education organizations. She has served as Executive Director of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and as Executive Director (and before that, Chairman) of the Maryland Humanities Council. She published the book Through Dark Days and White Nights: Four Decades Observing a Changing Russia, New Academia Press (followed by more than 40 book talks); a story, “The Veteran,” In O-Dark Thirty (Fall, 2016), as well as works on other topics. Born and raised in New York, and a resident of Bethesda, she has lived, worked, and traveled in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Mexico, Canada, Germany, China, Central Asia, England, and Europe, in addition to time spent in Russia; and has served on several non-profit boards in the country.
PATRICK A. CORVINGTON
Patrick A. Corvington is the Executive Director of ConnectED. an organization that insures that all children, particularly low-income children have access to a high quality education. Previously, he served in President Obama’s administration as the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Federal Agency that administers AmeriCorps and VISTA). Mr. Corvington was also a Senior Vice-President with Habitat for Humanity International where he created a management and deployment infrastructure for the over one million Habitat for Humanity volunteers. Of Haitian origin, he took particular interest in HFHI’s development efforts, assisting in managing a large-scale housing construction project and over four hundred volunteers who built 250 houses alongside President Carter, in Haiti. Mr. Corvington served as Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation has co-authored publications such as Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out and Next Shift: Beyond the Nonprofit Leadership Crisis.
Mr. Corvington received his BA in Sociology from the University of Maryland and earned his MA in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University where he received the National Minority Leadership Fellowship from the Kellogg Foundation. He also received an honorary doctorate from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and as a naturalized citizen was most privileged to receive the Outstanding American by Choice Award while serving in President Obama’s administration. Mr. Corvington is fluent in French and French Creole and speaks conversational Spanish.
Mark leads BakerHostetler’s International Arbitration and Litigation practice team. His book Squeezing Silver, The Trial of Nelson Bunker Hunt was published in February 2018. He has chapters in two prominent legal books, Going First Makes A Difference: Decision-Making Dynamics in Arbitration (Wolters Kluwer, 2017) and the upcoming Enforcing Arbitral Awards against Foreign States (Cambridge University Press, 2018) He has numerous articles in professional journals such as “Cross Examination in International Arbitration in Disputes Resolution Journal,” “Barricades At The IMF: Creating A Municipal Bankruptcy Code For Foreign States,” The International Lawyer, and “Welcome to the Jury System: Supreme Court Limits Sovereign Immunity for State-Owned Companies” in Business Law International. As a speaker on litigation, arbitration, and sovereign immunity issues, he has appeared at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and American Bar Association and International Bar Association conventions. He is a member of the ICDR and AAA Commercial Panel of Arbitrators, and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He has represented governments, major international companies, and individuals in litigation and arbitration nationally and internationally. He is ranked in Chambers Global and The Best Lawyers in America© (International Arbitration – Commercial and Governmental) and is listed in Who’s Who in America.
SALLY MOTT FREEMAN
Sally’s first book-length work was published by Simon and Schuster in 2016. It is a war and family memoir centered on her father, who set up the White House Map Room for President Roosevelt, and his brother who was wounded in the Philippines and taken prisoner shortly after the outbreak of World War II. Sally brings 25 years of executive experience to The Writer’s Center from her career as a speechwriter and media and public relations executive. In the 1980s she was the speechwriter for an FCC commissioner and later its chairman, after which she became the FCC’s News Media Division Chief. In that position she served as the agency spokesperson through a tumultuous period in FCC’s history, beginning with the court-ordered break-up of AT&T, followed by the rapid deregulation of the telecommunications and broadcast industries. After leaving the FCC, she ran her own telecom policy consulting business but returned to the public sector as Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Information at FmHA, the lending agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this position she managed relations between FmHA and the Congress and news media as well as oversaw the agency’s 1900 field offices. She also represented FmHA on Capitol Hill during the lengthy negotiations over the Farm and Agricultural Appropriations bills. In 1993, she returned to the private sector as a Vice President for Communications at Fleishman Hillard, a global public relations firm. In that position she managed a consortium of telephone companies competing for an FCC license to deliver personal communications services. After the consortium won their bid, she oversaw its public relations campaign as they brought that business to fruition. She later served as Corporate Vice President of Public Relations for two trade associations, The Software Publishers’ Association and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. In addition to her work at TWC, Sally has served on numerous Boards of Directors, including those of The Washington Shakespeare Company, the American Diabetes Association, the Washington Tennis Foundation, and Recording for the Blind. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Sweet Briar College and spent a year studying Renaissance Literature at the University of Exeter, Great Britain.
Lakshmi Grama is Associate Director for Dissemination and Digital Communications in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at the National Cancer Institute, NIH*. Lakshmi is a digital communications expert focused on understanding and responding to the impact of transformational digital technologies on communications. Her interests include digital marketing, social media, and writing for digital audiences. A thought leader in the federal digital community, she was recognized as one of DC’s Top 50 Women in Tech in 2014. Lakshmi has Master’s Degrees in English Literature, Applied Linguistics, and Library and Information Science.
*Lakshmi is serving in her personal capacity.
Les, a CPA, has over 40 years of professional experience with the insurance industry, first in senior financial positions for several insurance groups, then as Director of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Financial Analysis Division, and then as a consultant. Presently Mr. Hatley is semi-retired but remains the Managing Member of Hatley Insurance Consulting, LLC (HIC LLC), which began operating in December 2008. HIC LLC provides insurance financial consultation services to insurance companies and insurance regulators. Les’s passion, however, is writing, recording, and playing music. He has been inducted into the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame and won the Washington Area Music Association’s 2015 “Wammie” award for Folk – Contemporary Instrumentalist. He began playing in bands in the mid-1960s, first as lead guitarist with the Showmen, a group which eventually opened shows for Roberta Flack, Charlie Byrd, and the Chartbusters. The Showmen also had the honor of playing as the back-up band for the Fantastic Johnny C of “Boogaloo Down Broadway” fame at what is now known as the Quotidian Theatre at The Writer’s Center. After a tour of duty in the Navy and getting a family started, Mr. Hatley began playing music again. Playing in various groups, venues played have included suspicious bars, clubs, concerts, parties, festivals and special venues such as the Air Force Academy Chapel, the Lincoln Theatre, the Kennedy Center and the White House. He also had the pleasure of opening shows for Steppenwolf, Lou Christie, Gary U.S. Bonds and the Coasters. Les has played guitar on a number of CDs with his own groups and for hire, and has released three solo CDs called Second Chair, Surge, and Chocolate. His music has been heard on well over 600 radio stations internationally, landing him on the National Americana Top 500 Chart and on the Ramgatie International Top 200 Artists Chart. His music has also been featured on MTV and Animal Planet television shows. Mr. Hatley also serves on the Board of Directors of the Songwriters Association of Washington.
JOHN M. HILL
John taught English language and literature at the U.S. Naval Academy for almost forty years, in addition to stints at Catholic University, Baruch College CUNY, and Smith College. He specialized in Old and Middle English literature, with interests in the early modern period and in psychological and anthropological approaches. He is the author or editor of books on Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon Lordship, medieval rhetoric and poetics, Chaucer, and the aesthetics of Beowulf and other Old English Poems. Most recently he has published on Chaucer’s Neoplatonism: varieties of love, friendship, and community. Retired from the world of scholarship, he has embarked on the practice of writing fiction. He was a founding member of The Writer’s Center and has taken many workshops in film script writing and the art of fiction. He has served on the Board since the early 1990s.
James served two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has twenty-five years of military experience in the U.S. Air Force and the D.C. Air National Guard. His work has been featured in many literary journals and his collection of military-themed stories entitled Last Known Position won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Short Fiction in 2008.Jim has taught fiction and memoir workshops at TWC, including Writing the Wartime Experience, for several years. He was educated at University of Maryland and The Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a Master of Arts (Writing). In addition to teaching at The Writer’s Center, Mathews is a workshop leader for the Operation Homecoming writing program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, for which the TWC provides programmatic support.
Jim is a 40-year veteran of marketing communications. When asked to define marketing success, his answer is to find simplicity in complex ideas: “Marketing is selling people what they want or making them want what you have to sell.” As an innovator in traffic safety advertising, Jim has directed marketing campaigns that have focused on teen drivers and pedestrian safety, among other issues. His clients have included AARP, The Department of Energy, and Printing Industries of America. Prior to his work in advertising and marketing, Jim toured with and managed a music group called Happy Feet, which backed recording artists including Chubby Checker, Lou Rawls, and Chuck Berry.
DR. JORAM PIATIGORSKY
Joram received a Ph.D. in developmental biology and chemistry in 1967 from California Institute of Technology. His postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the eye introduced him to vision research. He remained at NIH, where he pioneered studies on gene expression in the lens and cornea. In 1981, he founded and became Chief of the National Eye Institute’s Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Piatigorsky has published some 300 scientific articles and established the concept of gene sharing, which he extended in a book (Gene Sharing and Evolution; Harvard Universlty Press, 2007). He was elected a Fellow of the Advancement for the Association of Sciences (1982), has served on many national and international review panels and scientific advisory boards, was a trustee and Vice President for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (1986-1991) and a trustee for the Whitney Marine Biology Laboratory, University of Florida (1993-1998). He served on the editorial boards of 7 scientific journals, won numerous awards and was given many named lectureships. After closing his research laboratory in 2009, he became an emeritus scientist at NIH and devotes his time to writing novels, short stories and personal essays. He published his first novel in 2014 (Jellyfish Have Eyes; IPBooks), and published The Speed of Dark: A Memoir (Adelaide Books) in 2018.
Bill graduated from B-CC high school in 1967, when The Writer’s Center was the Bethesda Youth Center and he acted in plays on the Center’s stage. He left Bethesda for Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he graduated in 1971 with a degree in English Literature and where he has served on the Board of Trustees and as Secretary of the College. He has served on the board of the Writer’s Center since 1999. Bill is the Sr. Managing Principal of MCS Capital LLC, a private equity fund sponsored by Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS) that invests in value-added hotel opportunities. Bill and Marcus formed the venture in 2011. Prior to MCS, Bill was Chief Investment Officer for Thayer Lodging Group in Annapolis; managing director of Hospitality Capital Partners for USAA Real Estate; Chief Investment Officer for MeriStar Hospitality REIT in Washington; and a principal in Dallas-based Metro Hotels. He also headed marketing for a CT and TX developer of apartments and condominiums, Portfolio Management, Inc. He is a member of the Hotel Development Council of the Urban Land Institute, serves on the steering committee of Americas Lodging Investment Summit, the New York City Hospitality Council and is a former trustee of the American Resort Development Association. He is also a director of Carey Watermark Investors, a non-traded REIT. He is a frequent speaker at lodging industry investment conferences and universities.
Mier, then Mayor of the adjacent Town of Chevy Chase, went over to welcome The Writer’s Center and Al Lefcowitz when the organization moved to Chevy Chase in 1992. Al immediately recruited Mr. Wolf for the Center board. Since then, Mr. Wolf has worked on a number of community outreach projects for the Center, most recently creating the high school writing competition. Mr. Wolf coordinated board officer nominations for some years as well. He is a retired attorney, having worked most of his career in the Office Of General Counsel at HUD in both litigation and grant advisory capacities. His non-professional life has been devoted to volunteer activities ranging from Town service to serving on boards of numerous organizations, including Round House Theatre. Mr. Wolf has received awards from the U.S. Congress, the State of Maryland, Montgomery County and the Town for his many years of volunteer efforts. He worked for Montgomery County as a part time Senior Fellow assigned to create an international Sister Cities program. Originally from Austin, MN (“Spamtown USA”), Mr. Wolf has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and J.D. from St. John’s University.