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Vergennes Opera House injects energy with eight new directors

VERGENNES — The Friends of the Vergennes Opera House board of directors has accepted a slate of eight new directors from Vergennes, New Haven, Panton, West Addison and Ferrisburgh. This new group will join the existing six board members making for a total of 14 directors to head up the next phase of the VOH organization.
“This new group of folks brings new and more energy to complement, enhance and improve upon all the work that the previous board has done to keep the Vergennes Opera House operational. Our next step is to make it sustainable by creating and implementing a strategic plan that will set the opera house up strongly for generations to come,” said Gerianne Smart, interim president of the VOH board.
Additionally, the FVOH asked and received confirmation for Vergennes City Council member Lynn Donnelly to act as the official city council liaison with the FVOH board.
The Friends of the Vergennes Opera House Board of Directors include:
SHANON ATKINS: (NEW) She is branch manager of People’s United Bank in Vergennes, where she has worked for 10 years. She started her banking career in 1995. She is president of the Vergennes Lions Club, of which she has been a member for nine years, and is on the board and treasurer of the Vergennes Partnership. Atkins lives in Ferrisburgh with her husband, Ron, and their two children, Chase and Ally.
DARREN DONOVAN: (NEW) He was born and raised in New York City and primarily worked for law firms and social service agencies before moving to Vermont in the mid ’90s, where he continued work in the mental health field. In 2003 he took a long-term leave to be home with his daughter and at that time founded a music education program, which he continues to do. He also occasionally works in social services on a consulting basis. He is interested in music, film, history and musical instrument restoration and repair.
JASON FEARON: (CURRENT) He has been on the VOH Board for one year. A native of Vergennes, Fearon moved his family back to Vermont after years away because he believes strongly in the community he grew up in. An artist and educator, he holds a degree in Visual Art, Theater and Film, and well as a Master’s in Art Education from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Fearon has worked professionally in the film industry and in corporate advertising, however the majority of his professional experience has been as a secondary school art teacher, most recently at Middlebury Union Middle School. He also sits on two other community boards as the secretary for Evergreen Preschool and as the Panton representative on the Vergennes Union Elementary School board. He has had a long love for theater and the arts dating back to his childhood. He is committed to the community, the arts, and providing a rich environment for his children to be raised in. Fearon lives in Panton with his wife, Sharon O’Daniel, son Grey (6) and daughter Petra (3).
BETHANY FARRELL: (RETURNING) She has resided in Vergennes with her family for over 10 years. She is owner and art teacher at her downtown studio, Studio V, which is in its fifth year of operation and has consistently served the local community with art enrichment classes and experiences. Prior to opening Studio V, Farrell taught art in the public schools, as well as at her home. She has previously served as co-chair of the VUES Community Group, as secretary on the FVOH board and as the fundraising chair of Evergreen Preschool.
JILL MURRAY-KILLON: (NEW) She has been a legal assistant with Langrock Sperry & Wool in Burlington for six years, working with two attorneys on a variety of legal matters. Prior to that, she worked for the Chittenden District Court as a Trial Court clerk. She has a degree in Marketing from Castleton State College, where she minored in Spanish and has valuable conversational Spanish skills. She’s says she is excited to put that marketing degree to the test. She has lived in Vergennes in a little fixer-upper that she and her husband have been diligently pecking away at for the past nine years. She has come to love the Little City and all it offers and is excited to be involved with the VOH. She can be found working on the aforementioned house with her husband, Bill, caring for their six-month-old son, Colvin, or trekking about in the Adirondacks.
GEOFF NELSON: (CURRENT) He grew up on a dairy farm in central Maryland. Nelson began volunteering at the Vergennes Opera House several years ago after he and his wife, Susan, moved to the area. He also volunteers at the Town Hall Theater and the Flynn Theater. He currently serves as VOH treasurer and on the facilities committee to keep the building and systems running smoothly. He and Susan live in West Addison and own Addison Risk Management, a safety and risk management consulting firm. He is a firefighter on the Addison Volunteer Fire Department and serves as the Addison town health officer and on the Addison Development Review Board.
SUSAN NELSON: (CURRENT) She is an underwriter who has been with Acadia Insurance Co. in South Burlington for the last five years and in commercial insurance underwriting for over 25 years. She has been involved with the VOH for about four years as a volunteer and currently as a board member as both the VOH secretary and vice president. She has volunteered for theaters in various roles including front of house, tickets, ushering and bartending, and she currently helps out at the Town Hall Theater and the Flynn, as well as the VOH. Her favorite hobby is making jewelry, which she creates at her West Addison home that she shares with her husband, Geoff, and their dog, Cassie.
MATTEO PALMER: (NEW) A rising senior at Vergennes Union High School, he participates in both band and chorus, along with the Commodore Jazz Ensemble and Commodore Singers. He runs with the varsity cross country and track teams and also loves to play golf. Last year, he organized a benefit concert at the Vergennes Opera House, bringing Grammy-award winner and Windham Hill founder William Ackerman to the stage along with many other local artists, including himself. The show raised more than $1,500 for the VOH. Palmer is an up and coming fingerstyle acoustic guitarist and his debut album is scheduled to be released by the end of the year.
ALLISON RIMMER: (CURRENT) An active volunteer in the Vergennes and Middlebury communities since moving here in 1990, she served on the board of Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op for several years; she was president of the MNFC Board during several major transitions. She served on executive committee of the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad for several years, where she initiated new executive committee and volunteer structures. She has served on the VOH board since 2010.
AARON ROBERTSON: (CURRENT) A graduate of University of Alaska, he is currently a financial adviser for Edward Jones in Vergennes. Before moving to Vermont three years ago, he was an archaeologist in Alaska for the U.S. Army. Robertson has served on the VOH board for two and a half years. He lives in Vergennes with his wife, two children, and Asa, the family dog.
SUSAN SCHAEFER: (NEW) A resident of New Haven — part-time since 1990, permanently since 2004 — she has been involved in various opera house projects and is looking forward to taking on a more formal and robust role going forward. She retired last year following a 36-year career with Deloitte that included overseas assignments in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela. The last several years Susan managed her global responsibilities commuting between New Haven and New York. As a Deloitte director, she was responsible for developing and guiding teams working together on diverse global management projects in areas such as strategy, development and implementation, executive communication, leadership development and corporate governance. She currently serves as a volunteer with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports in both their winter and summer programs.
GERIANNE SMART: (RETURNING AFTER 13-YEAR HIATUS) She is the director of marketing and communications for ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington. Before joining ECHO three years ago she ran her own ad agency, “Smart Communication,” for 15 years in Vergennes and in her home. In 2010 she produced a film, “The Summer of Walter Hacks,” a full-length feature that has played in the VOH several times. She was involved in the VOH restoration in the early years, serving as president from 1994 to early 2001. She returns to the VOH board as president during this reorganization period. Smart also serves as a trustee on the Vermont Arts Council. She lives in Ferrisburgh with her 13-year-old daughter, Grace.
SUSAN BURK WALSH: (NEW) She has experience in theater, and will devote her time to support and give her upmost energy to the team. Canadian born, she began her career as a ballet dancer in the National Ballet of Canada and, after finding her voice, she then moved on to sing and dance in numerous Broadway productions including “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Showboat,” and “Ragtime” among many others. Locally, she has had the chance to work with area students with her involvement as choreographer for the VUHS productions of “Music Man” and “Beauty and the Beast” and with other local performers as choreographer for “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” “A Little Night Music,” and Middlebury College’s “Company.” She has been employed at DR Power for five years, most recently as sales lead. She and her husband, Bill Carmichael Walsh (“Broadway Direct”), currently own and operate the Emerson Guest House in Vergennes.
SUZANNE WYKOFF: (NEW) She had been a resident of the Vergennes area since 1999 when she and her husband, VUHS teacher Chris Wykoff, purchased the Emerson B&B, which they operated until selling it in 2004 to Sue and Bill Walsh. Wykoff has been involved with the VUES community most recently as a volunteer organizer for the successful silent auction at this year’s talent show. She managed food service for two years at the Ferrisburgh Central School. She also serves weekly at the Black Sheep Bistro. She has a background in marketing and graphic design but is most noted for her event planning, organization and culinary talents. She lives with her husband and her two children, Catherine and Olivia, in Panton.

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