Board of Trustees
The American Folklife Center was created by the U.S. Congress in 1976
through Public Law 94-201, the "American Folklife Preservation Act." According
to the law, the Center receives policy direction from a Board of Trustees
that is made up of representatives from departments and agencies of the
federal government concerned with some aspect of American folklife traditions
and the arts; the heads of four of the major federal institutions concerned
with culture and the arts (see below); persons from private life who are
able to provide regional balance; and the director of the Center. Included
in the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1999, are provisions for
the board to be expanded to include four new members appointed by the Librarian
of Congress, and, ex officio, the president of the American Folklore Society
and the president of the Society for Ethnomusicology. The board meets several
times a year, in Washington, D.C., or in other locations around the country,
to review the operations of the Center, engage in long-range planning and
policy formulation, and share information on matters of cultural programming.
Congressional Appointees | Presidential Appointees | Librarian Appointees | Ex Officio Members
C. Kurt Dewherst, Chair of the AFC Board of Trustees
C. Kurt Dewhurst (Chair) serves as the Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and Senior Fellow, University Outreach & Engagement and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Michigan State University Museum. He is also a Professor of English at Michigan State University.
A founder of the folk and traditional arts programs at the MSU museum, he coordinates a variety of folklife research, collection development, and outreach programs. He is one of the founding directors of the Festival of Michigan Folklife, a coordinator for the
National Folk Festival when it was in East Lansing, and is a founding director for the Great Lakes Folk Festival. Dewhurst is currently the President of the American Folklore Society.
Patricia A. Atkinson, a native westerner, joined the Nevada Arts Council as its Folklife Program Coordinator in December 2007. She has initiated the Nevada Heritage Award to honor and celebrate the state's living cultural treasures. Atkinson has been a professional folklorist for over 35 years and has
served as an independent consultant and trainer for programs in more than a dozen states and four regions.
Jean Dorton is the Community and Legislative Liaison of Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Paintsville, Kentucky. Ms. Dorton has served as a board member for various organizations, including as a member and chair of the Kentucky Folk Art Museum, the Kentucky Arts Council, East Kentucky Concert Series, and the Apple Festival Arts and Crafts Board.
Joanna Hess is the founder of the Indigenous Language Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has also served as the producer of two documentaries, Beyond Words (1988) and Life is Language, Language is our Life (1997). She serves on numerous arts and cultural boards, including the Santa Fe Art Institute, Native Americans International, and the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Margaret Z. Robson received her B.B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota. Ms. Robson has spent many years in public service, primarily in the fields of health, art, and historic preservation. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation in Chicago and was a Trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. From 1987-1990, Ms. Robson served as a Commissioner on the Georgia Boxing Commission, Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Art Institute; College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota; and the American Folk Art Museum in New York. She was a Regent for the Museums of New Mexico and a member of the Board of the Foundation for Self Taught Artists and the Vice President's Residence Foundation. She has served on the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Military (DACOWITS), and the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities.
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On January 19, 2011, President Obama appointed Susan Hildreth to be director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The nomination to her new post was confirmed by the US Senate by unanimous consent on December 22, 2010. Hildreth is the former city librarian of Seattle where she managed the Seattle Public Library, which includes the world-renowned Central Library and twenty-six new and expanded branches.
Hildreth was the former state librarian of California, where she managed a seventy-million-dollar administrative budget supporting library and research services for the state government, as well as funding and consultation for California libraries. Before her 2004 appointment to that position by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hildreth was city librarian of San Francisco. Hildreth was president of the Public Library Association and served on its board of directors. She was an elected member of the council that governs the American Library Association. She was a longtime member of the California Library Association and served as its president and treasurer. Hildreth graduated cum laude from Syracuse University and holds a master's degree in library science from the State University of New York at Albany and a master's degree in business from Rutgers University.
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Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Maribel Alvarez holds a dual appointment as Assistant Research Professor in the English Department and Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona. She is deeply devoted to Chicano folk arts and culture, and her teaching and research interests focus primarily on cultural objects, oral histories, and visual representations of the US-Mexico border. Alvarez serves on
several boards, including the Board of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC).
Bob Edwards is a national leader in the field of radio journalism. He is currently the host of "The Bob Edwards Show" on Sirius XM Radio, and "Bob Edwards Weekend," which is distributed to public radio stations by Public Radio International. Both programs feature in-depth interviews with newsmakers, journalists, entertainers, and other compelling figures. For several years, the shows have featured segments highlighting audio recordings from the collections of the American Folklife Center.
Edwards was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and began his radio career there. Following service as a broadcaster in the U.S. Army, Edwards moved to Washington, D.C. He joined National Public Radio (NPR) in 1974, and was co-host of their evening news magazine, "All Things Considered," until 1979, when he helped launch the morning news program "Morning Edition." He hosted "Morning Edition" for over twenty-four years, attracting more than thirteen million listeners weekly.
Bob Edwards has won the duPont-Columbia Award for radio journalism, a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding contributions to public radio. He serves as national first vice president of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In November of 2004, Edwards was inducted into the national Radio Hall of Fame. He is the author of three books: Fridays with Red (2000), which chronicled his radio friendship with legendary sportscaster Red Barber, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism (2004), and his autobiograpy, A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio (2011).
Tom Rankin is Director of Duke University’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts. Rankin was formerly the Dirctor of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. A native of Kentucky, he is a graduate of Tufts University (BA, summa cum laude, American History), the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill (MA, Folklore), and Georgia State University (MFA, Photography). His books include Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993), which received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for
Photography; Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre: Photographs of a River Life (1995); Faulkner's World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain (1997); and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (2000).
Brigadier General Donald L. Scott
Donald Lavern Scott entered the United States Army in 1960 as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Lincoln University (MO), with the rank of Second Lieutenant and retired in 1991 with the rank of Brigadier General.
General Scott served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer under the late Maynard H. Jackson for the city of Atlanta, GA; founded the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps; and served for ten years as the
Deputy Librarian and Chief Operating Officer for the Library of Congress. Since retirement from the Library of Congress, General Scott has served as a board member of the Missouri State Parks Foundation and a member of the
Five Star council of the AFC's Veterans History Project.
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Ex Officio Members
James Hadley Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987. He is the 13th incumbent of that position since the Library was established in 1800. Under his leadership, the Library has expanded its public outreach,
most notably in major international exhibits and through the establishment of a new National Digital Library and other electronic services for users in remote locations. Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Billington was educated in the public
schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at both Lower Merion High School and Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. Three years later, he earned his doctorate from Oxford University, where
he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. Following service with the U. S. Army, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962, then moved to the faculty of Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1974.
From 1973 to 1987, Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Billington was a longtime member of the editorial advisory boards of Foreign Affairs and of Theology Today, and a member of the Board of
Foreign Scholarships in 1971-76 (chairman, 1971-73), which has executive responsibility for academic exchanges worldwide under the Fulbright-Hays Act. He is on the Board of the Center for Theological Inquiry and a member of the American Philosophical
Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Alternate for James H. Billington: Roberta Shaffer, Associate Librarian for Library Services, Library of Congress.
G. Wayne Clough is the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Since he began as Secretary in July 2008, he has overseen several major openings at the Smithsonian, including the reopening of the National
Museum of American History, the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, and the Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History. Before his appointment, Clough was president of the Georgia Institute of
Technology for 14 years. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech, in 1964 and 1965 respectively, and a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969.
Alternate for G. Wayne Clough: Michael Mason, Director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Curator of the Smithsonian Folkways Collections.
Beverley Diamond is the current president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she established and directs the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place (MMaP). The MMaP Centre works as an intermediary between university researchers and communities, often undertaking collaborative research production projects. She is the author of Aboriginal Music in Contemporary Canada: Echoes and Exchanges (2012), Native American Music in Eastern North America (2008), and Music and Gender (2000) among other publications.
Judith McCulloh, who earned her PhD from Indiana University, is Editor Emerita, University of Illinois Press. Retiring in 2007 as Assistant Director and Executive Editor, she served as general editor of the Press's ongoing series Music in American Life, publishing some 130 titles, and two new series, American Composers and Women Composers. She also created the sixteen-volume series Folklore and Society.
She served on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress from 1986 to 2004; and as trustee emerita since 2004. In 2010, McCulloh received the NEA Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship.
Her publications include "Writing for the World," Journal of American Folklore (1988); Ethnic Recordings in America (editor, 1982); Folklore/Folklife (coeditor, 1984); Stars of Country Music (coeditor, 1975);
and music transcriptions of cowboy, hillbilly, and Anglo-and African American songs and fiddle tunes.
Elizabeth Peterson is the Director of the American Folklife Center (appointed in 2012). Since 2009 Peterson has been a consultant, specializing in folklife-related cultural planning, program planning and assessments, development, meeting facilitation, writing, and research. Her primary clients have included the American Folklore Society, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Association of Western States Folklorists, the Houston Arts Alliance and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In her consulting work for AFC, Peterson helped develop a national documentation project focusing on the transformation of work in 21st century American life. She brought together scholars and other stakeholders from folklore, oral history, anthropology, public policy, private philanthropy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) leading to a partnership agreement between the AFC and the IMLS. She co-directed a project team that coordinated and presented a 2010 symposium, Work and Transformation: Documenting American Workers at the Library of Congress.
Prior to her work as a consultant, Peterson was executive director (2004-2009) and program director (1998-2004) of the Fund for Folk Culture. In these positions, she advocated with private foundations to increase national visibility and resources for the folklore field, initiated working relationships with Grantmakers in the Arts, Inc., established a donor-advised fund, cultivated over 30 individual donors, and attracted corporate support for the fund. She encouraged cross-sector exchange to stimulate collaboration, networking and resource sharing on timely topics, such as support systems for immigrant and refugee artists and communities; holistic approaches to cultural conservation, environmental stewardship and sustainable development; and the impact of changing demographics on artistic production among artists, cultural activists, folklorists, funders, and policy researchers. She co-founded Preserving America's Cultural Traditions (PACT), a coalition of folklore nonprofits and federal agencies whose members meet annually for knowledge-sharing and collaborative planning. She initiated and secured support for three collaborative projects with the American Folklore Society (AFS) that provided professional development services for the field.
Joan Shigekawa, Acting Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a position she has held since 2009. She is the former Associate Director for Foundation Initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation where she led the NYC Cultural Innovation Fund and was the founding officer for the Southeast Asia cultural exchange program and for the Creativity in a Digital Age area of work.
Alternate for Joan Shigekawa: Barry Bergey, Director of Folk and Traditional Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Carole M. Watson: Acting Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Watson has served the Endowment in a number of leadership roles, including Acting Chairman in 2009, Deputy Chairman, and as Assistant Chairman for Partnership and National Affairs, overseeing the Endowment’s liaison with the National Council on the Humanities, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), the National Trust for the Humanities, and the Federal/State Partnership. Before joining the NEH Chairman’s staff in 1995, Watson directed the Endowment’s Division of State Programs (now the Office of Federal/State Partnership) and the Office of Outreach.
Alternate for Carole Watson: Wilsonia Cherry, Deputy Director of the Division of Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities.
Michael Ann Williams, president American Folklore Society. Dr. Williams has taught folklore at Western Kentucky University since 1986. In 2004, She became the head of the newly created Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology. Her research interests have included social and symbolic use of space in vernacular architecture, government policy and its impact on Appalachian communities, and cultural representation and the staging of tradition. Recently she and her graduate students worked on an oral history project documenting the former logging town of Ravensford, North Carolina, part of a larger cultural resource documentation effort accompanying a transfer of land from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She served as chair of the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board from 1993-2005 and she is an advisor to the Kentucky Oral History Commission.