the best education for gifted & TalentedLeadership
Associate Director / Programming & Instruction
Associate Director / Development & Marketing
Suite I, Curriculum Coordinator
Teaching Assistant - Suites A & B
Brigette Zacharczenko, PhD
Ecology - Talcott Mountain Science Center
Receptionist / Office Assistant
Academy Administrative Assistant
Board of Trustees
Carolyn VanNewkirk Hoffman
Dr. J. Harry Blaise
Dr. Stephen Fantone
Dr. Reinhard Kage
RHONDA BIRD, Chair
As founder and managing director of The Aspen Group (London, UK), a financial advisory firm providing capital markets training and portfolio management and derivative advisor, Rhonda skillfully provided services to European bank training programs and executive recruitment professionals.
After establishing herself in the London market, Rhonda expatriated with her husband to the Netherlands (where her twin boys were born). She returned to UK eight years later, only to move again (to the USA) having been “home” in England for only three years. Rhonda is well experienced in navigating international school systems, as her boys have always attended local schools in the countries in which they lived.
Prior to launching the Aspen Group, Rhonda was Vice President – Financial Engineering for ABN AMRO Bank N.V. (New York and Chicago), where she worked with Fortune 500 finance executives in global liability structuring & hedging, as well as asset hedging, using cash and derivative products in foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity markets. She also worked with large-scale US asset managers devising asset structures to meet portfolio needs. Preceding her decade with ABN AMRO, Rhonda worked for three years at both Merrill Lynch and Salomon Brothers Inc. in non-dollar and corporate fixed income sales.
Previous to her work in finance, Rhonda held legislative staff positions in both the US House of Representatives and US Senate in Washington D.C. (both sides of the aisle), in addition to working on two presidential campaigns in press, as well as fundraising capacities.
Rhonda holds a Master of Business Administration in Finance and Accounting from the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts from Michigan State University. She is married and has two children who attended Talcott Mountain Academy. She is actively involved in her children’s education.
CAROLYN VANNEWKIRK HOFFMAN, Vice Chair
Carolyn is a non-profit consultant, former historian and the proud mother of two Talcott Mountain Academy alumni. Prior to becoming involved in the TMSCA family, Carolyn served as the chair of the Clover Street School Governance Council in the Town of Windsor and was an appointed member of the Town of Windsor’s School Readiness Council.
Carolyn began her professional career as a historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Research Center in Washington, DC. While there, Carolyn was responsible for developing the national touring exhibit on the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, and for editing the book In Pursuit of Justice: Examining the Evidence of the Holocaust, which studied the Nuremburg war crimes trials and their aftermath.
After moving to Connecticut, Carolyn began working for Connecticut Public Broadcasting as the coordinator for member and volunteer services. From there, she worked at Saint Joseph College (now the University of Saint Joseph) as the International Programs Coordinator, overseeing study abroad programs, service learning travel, and on-campus international programing.
After working at USJ, Carolyn began consulting with a variety of area non-profits, including FreshPlace, a collaboration of several Hartford non-profits to construct a novel food pantry as a model for poverty alleviation, food security, self-sufficiency, and improved diet quality. Carolyn also consulted with the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI), assisting Junior League chapters in four countries working to address area food deficits, food insecurities, and childhood obesity.
Carolyn currently serves as the Board Secretary for the Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls, as the immediate past President of the Windsor Library Association, and as a member of the Junior League of Hartford’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Carolyn has a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University in history and German and a master’s degree from George Mason University in European history. Carolyn lives in Windsor, Connecticut with her husband Lee, children Michael and Julia, and dog Willow.
ARNOLD CHASE, Treasurer
Mr. Arnold L. Chase is President and a Director of Gemini Networks, Inc. and Co-President of Chase Enterprises Holding LLC, Hartford, Connecticut.
Mr. Chase is currently a Trustee of Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc. and Talcott Mountain Science Center and is a member of the board of directors of Hartford Hospital. He previously served as a Member of the Board of Directors of Avangrid, Inc. from December 2015 to June 2019 and was a Director of UIL Holdings Corporation from 1999 to 2015.
Mr. Chase holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Babson College and has an extensive background in technology-driven business building and security matters pertaining to critical infrastructure.
FRANK HURSEY, Secretary
Francis X. Hursey, President and Founder of On Site Gas Systems Inc. is a pioneer of PSA Oxygen technology. His vision was a company whose focus would be perfecting the PSA process through research and development while providing cost-saving, reliable nitrogen and oxygen generation systems for numerous applications. He was on the breathing air team of the Apollo Program, and helped develop one of the first oxygen concentrators for home use.
As Founder and Vice Chairman of Z-Medica Corp, Frank invented and brought to market a zeolite granular (Quik Clot) as a rapid haemostat that could control severe to traumatic bleeding. Two product generations later, Z-Medica Corp serves the military, law enforcement, hospitals, emergency response markets, as well as providing health care products to the former.
Frank has been awarded multiple patents in Noncryogenic gas technology, Medical Products and Nitrogen applications. He was recognized as a top scientist in 2003 by Scientific American.
BSME University of Hartford
Regent University of Hartford
First Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Hartford
BS Management Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Frank is married with three children and eight grandchildren, and resides in West Hartford.
Executive Director with more than 20 years of experience building comprehensive advancement infrastructure for both healthcare and university organizations. A CPA by training, currently she oversees the critical functions of gift recording and data records, prospect research, stewardship, data systems, analytics and forecasts, as well as business and human resources functions for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and Geisel School of Medicine Advancement Office.
Senior-level fundraising and communications executive with more than 30 years of building development and branding/communications programs in prestigious academic, medical, and higher education institutions. Responsible for leading teams that raised more than $830 million to support capital, program, research, and endowment needs. Possesses a strong strategic and tactical background with the ability to build productive relationships across all levels of an organization and the constituencies it serves.
J. HARRY BLAISE
Dr. Blaise is an associate professor of engineering and neuroscience at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. He teaches courses as varied as automatic control systems, semiconductor electronics, neural engineering, and computational neuroscience. Dr. Blaise’s research, which has been funded in part by the NSF, NASA, and Trinity, is focused on long-term synaptic plasticity of neuronal networks in the hippocampus (the brain’s learning center), the amygdala (the brain’s emotional center) and the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s decision-making center).
In addition to his passion for teaching and research, Dr. Blaise is a firm proponent of improving the state of science and engineering education in the United States, especially increasing participation of women and underrepresented minority groups in science and engineering.
Recently, Dr. Blaise spearheaded a biomedical engineering teacher-training summer program known as BME4STEM which targeted middle school teachers in the Greater Hartford Area. Middle school teachers were trained in accessible biomedical engineering experiential projects and curricula which they brought back to their students in the middle schools.
Dr. Blaise is a former president of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program (CPEP), and a past advisor to the CT Science Fair. Dr. Blaise came to Trinity from the University of Connecticut (Storrs) where he received a doctorate in biomedical engineering.
Eric R. Fossum is best known for the invention of the CMOS image sensor “camera-on-a-chip” used in billions of cameras. He is a solid-state image sensor device physicist and engineer, and his career has included academic and government research, and entrepreneurial leadership. He is the John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, directs Dartmouth’s Ph.D. Innovation Programs and serves as Dartmouth’s Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.
Born and raised in Connecticut, he attended public school in Simsbury and spent Saturdays at the Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon. He received his B.S. in Physics and Engineering from Trinity College in Hartford and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from Yale University. He was a member of Columbia University’s Electrical Engineering faculty and then joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. While at JPL, he invented the intra-pixel charge transfer CMOS active-pixel-sensor camera-on-a-chip technology and led its development and subsequent transfer of the technology to the US industry. Nearly all smartphones and other cameras today use the intra-pixel charge transfer invention. Dr. Fossum co-founded Photobit Corporation to commercialize the technology and served in several top management roles including Chairman and CEO. Photobit was acquired by Micron Technology Inc. He was Chairman and CEO of Siimpel Corporation developing MEMS-based camera modules with autofocus and shutter functions for cell phones. He was a consultant with Samsung Electronics working on 3D image sensors as well as strategic issues for several years before joining Dartmouth. He serves as Chairman of Gigajot Technology, a company he co-founded out of Dartmouth.
In 2017 Dr. Fossum received the Queen Elizabeth Prize from HRH Prince Charles, considered by many as the Nobel Prize of Engineering “for the creation of digital imaging sensors,” along with three others. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and elected to the National Academy of Engineering among other honors. Dr. Fossum has published over 300 technical papers and holds 170 US patents. He co-founded the International Image Sensor Society (IISS) and was its first President. He is a Fellow member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America (OSA).
He volunteers on the International Image Sensor Society Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees of Trinity College, the Selection Committee and Selection Board for the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), and the Board of Trustees for the Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Inventors, the Leadership Council of the Yale University School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Peer Selection Committee for the NAE, the Fellow Selection Committee of the NAI.
Ken LaRocque retired in June of 2019 after spending over four decades in independent schools. LaRocque was raised in Chicopee, Massachusetts and graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1971. He attended Harvard College and graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. During college, Ken tutored mathematics at the Charles River Academy in Cambridge, Massachusetts and worked with marginalized youth in the Community Aftercare Program for the State of Massachusetts. Following college, Ken joined the faculty of the Rectory School in Pomfret, Connecticut and spent four years as a teacher, coach, dormitory master, and administrator. Ken left Rectory to pursue his graduate degree in education at Harvard University. In 1982, he received his EdM with a concentration in Educational Leadership.
Ken was appointed to the faculty of Avon Old Farms in September of 1981. The following year he was named the dean of students and the director of college counseling, a position in which he served for well over a decade. In 1994, Ken was promoted to associate headmaster and was charged with leading the day-to-day operations of the school.
In 1998, Ken was elected as the sixth headmaster of Avon Old Farms and he served in that capacity for 21 years. During his 38 years at Avon, Ken was active on numerous educational boards and in many related organizations including; The Headmasters Association, the International Boys School Coalition, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, the Founders League, the WALKS Foundation, the SPHERE Foundation, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
During his tenure, Ken successfully led AOF on two capital campaigns in which well over $100 million was raised, and through an important campus improvement program in which the square footage of the facilities more than doubled. Additionally, he championed the emergence of the visual and performing arts, community service, and robotics and engineering programs at school. Ken wholeheartedly embraced the school’s mission of “cultivating young men of integrity who honor wisdom, justice, inclusion, service and the pursuit of truth”.
Now residing in the Saratoga Springs area of New York with his wife, Heidi, Ken hopes that his experience in schools will help him to support the Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy.
DR. STEPHEN FANTONE
Stephen D. Fantone is the founder and president of Optikos Corporation, headquartered in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He was first affiliated with the Talcott Mountain Science Center as a high school student in the late 1960s.
Dr. Fantone attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received bachelor’s degrees in both electrical engineering and management. In 1979 he was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Optics from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. He began his career with Polaroid Corporation and later went on to found Optikos.
As a recognized expert in optical engineering and optical product development, Dr. Fantone has served on numerous program review panels, has provided expert testimony on patent infringement and trade secret litigation cases, and has been awarded over 70 patents covering a broad range of optical technologies.
He is a Senior Lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT, and serves on the boards of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, the Hertz Foundation and the Optica Foundation. Previous board service includes service as a board member of Rofin-Sinar Technologies, Inc. and Zygo Corporation, and as chairman of Benthos, Inc.,
Dr. Fantone has been an Optica member for over 40 years and has served in several volunteer capacities, including Treasurer from 1996 to 2013, and President in 2020. In 2007, he was awarded their Distinguished Service Award, and in October, 2013, Optica honored Dr. Fantone by renaming that award the Stephen D. Fantone Distinguished Service Award.
On May 16, 2015, he received the University of Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award at the University’s 2015 Doctoral Ceremony. On February 9, 2022, Dr. Fantone was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
DR. REINHARD KAGE
Dr. Reinhard Kage is a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in Clinical Biochemistry. Since 2001, he has served as the Medical Director/CEO of the Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut, located in Manchester, CT, providing diagnosis and treatments for rheumatological, immunological and allergic diseases. His early work specialized in neuroscience and neuropeptide research, starting at the Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine in Gottingen, Germany, followed by positions at the University of Massachusetts and Boston University. As a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Dr. Kage completed a fellowship in Clinical Immunology and Allergy working under Dr. Anthony Fauci. Throughout his career, Dr. Kage has taught medical students and medical residents via faculty positions at New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, George Washington University Medical School, and Boston University School of Medicine.
Tom is an accomplished trial lawyer and business litigator with over two decades of experience handling commercial disputes on behalf of public and private companies in Connecticut and across the nation. He is well known among the Connecticut state and federal judiciary as a result of his experience in the courtroom and his leadership positions within the Connecticut and Hartford County Bar Associations.
Tom’s practice includes the full range of complex civil litigation matters — intellectual property, trade secret, business tort, restrictive covenant, trade regulation and unfair competition claims. His clients have included Fortune 50 retailers, product manufacturers, technology companies, public and quasi-public agencies, professional service firms, financial institutions, construction firms and non-profit organizations. Tom also represents property owners and developers in commercial real estate and leasing disputes. He has extensive experience in state and federal courts and arbitral forums, including numerous jury verdicts, bench decisions and arbitration awards. Tom’s recent wins include (i) the successful prosecution of an action for injunction enforcing trade secrets and covenants against competition on behalf of a Connecticut employer; (ii) the successful defense of a California based business in an injunction action seeking to enforce a non-solicitation agreement (Tom was successful in having the non-solicitation agreement declared unenforceable at the temporary injunction stage of the proceedings on the grounds that the plaintiff could not prove a legally protectable interest or irreparable harm); (iii) the successful defense of a claim for breach of a distributorship agreement, resulting in withdrawal for no consideration on the eve of trial of all trademark, trade dress, false advertising, breach of contract, reformation and tortious interference claims; (iv) the successful prosecution on behalf of a quasi-public state agency of legal malpractice, aiding and abetting and negligent misrepresentation claims against the agency’s lawyers and lenders.
Tom’s experience and successes were recently recognized by the Litigation Counsel of America, which elected Tom as a Fellow. He is a founder of the LCA’s Complex Commercial Litigation Institute. Tom is also a James W. Cooper Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation and a Connecticut Super Lawyer 2009-2011/12. He is the immediate past chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Litigation Section, and serves on the CBA’s Mentoring and Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Task Forces. He also presently serves on the Board of Directors for the Hartford County Bar Association.
Tom frequently writes and lectures on intellectual property and business litigation matters. In addition, he has been a regular faculty member at the Connecticut Trial Advocacy Institute, sponsored by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
J.D., Boston University School of Law, 1988
B.A., State University of New York at Buffalo, cum laude, 1985
U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut
U.S. Court of Appeal, Second, Federal and Fifth Circuits
U.S. Supreme Court
Don graduated from Hampton University, with further Civil Engineering study at the University of Hartford and the University of Connecticut.
The bulk of his career was in the insurance industry. During the 30 years at Travelers, he enjoyed working initially as a Field Engineer in the Hartford, CT office. Then, working in the home office, he became a Construction & Civil Engineering Specialist and Inland & Ocean Marine Engineering Specialist.
At Travelers, this work experience was enriched by his role as Chairman of the Construction Safety Committee for the State of Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Commission, and as a contributing member of the following:
• American Insurance Association, Construction Safety Committee
• ANSI A10.4 – Personnel Hoists; ANSI A10.5 – Material Hoists; ANSI A10.13 – Steel Erection
• Tower Crane Manufacturer’s Association
• National Safety Council Construction Safety
• BOCA Building Code, Uniform Building Code, and the Southern Building Code
• American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
• Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers (CSCE)
After retirement, Don became a Member of the company Bridgefacts, LLC. Presently, this company is Construct Safe a.k.a. Bridgefacts, LLC.
Construct Safe focuses on presenting the Federal OSHA Outreach Program to employees of contractors, and construction coordinators of host businesses that have outside contractors on their premises. OSHA authorizes outreach trainers, including Don, to relate how our individual construction safety experiences relate to the Federal OSHA Construction Regulations.
In 2004, being a ham radio operator, he became a volunteer teacher of Wireless and Amateur Radio (ham radio) Communications at Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy (TMSC). In 2009, TMSC added Don as a member of their Board of Trustees.
DR. MARTHA GILMORE
Dr. Martha S. Gilmore is the Seney Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University and is a planetary geologist working on morphology and remote sensing of the surfaces of Venus and Mars. She is a Science Team Member on NASA’s DAVINCI and VERITAS missions to Venus. Dr. Gilmore is the Principle Investigator of a Venus Flagship Mission Concept Study for the Planetary Decadal Survey. She has served as the Vice-Chair of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group and has been a member of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey and is the Co-Chair of the NAS Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences. Dr. Gilmore has been recognized as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and is the 2020 recipient honoree of the GSA Bromery Award. Dr. Gilmore received her Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University in 1997, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
DON LA SALLE, Founder, Talcott Mountain Science Center
Dr. Donald P. La Salle was the founder and the former President and CEO of Talcott Mountain Science Center for Student Involvement, Inc. in Avon, CT. In 1983, he founded The Talcott Mountain Academy as a model school for intellectually excited students as a division of the Talcott Mountain Science Center.
Dr. La Salle received his B.S. from Central Connecticut State University and his Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of Connecticut. He co-authored several texts for teaching creative science and numerous articles in educational and science journals and popular periodicals. He was a consultant for HBO and appeared on WOR-TV’s Straight Talk program, WMCA radio, and the David Susskind show.
He served as a curriculum consultant and science advisor to overseas schools in Rumania, Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco and Bulgaria. He presented at the International EduTech Conference in Tokyo, Japan in 1986. He was selected to a team of scientists and science educators to study science in Europe and Russia sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association, and is listed in Leaders in Education, Men of Achievement, Who’s Who of Authors, and Who’s Who in America in the East. He co-authored ‘Discovering Science on Your Apple Computer’ (TAB books, 1987). He was the 1977 recipient of the Kaiser Alumni Service Award from CCSU, and received the Award for Outstanding Research from the National Association for Gifted Children in 1978. He also received Connecticut High School Coach of the Year, the Avon Lions Distinguished Service Award in 1983 and the Sigmund Abeles, Science Advocate Award for outstanding service to science education in Connecticut in 1992. He was also a recipient of the UCONN NEAG School of Education Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional, 2005.
CARMEN CID, Trustee Emerita
Dr. Carmen R. Cid is the dean of Arts and Sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University and has 31 years of experience in higher education. As a forest and wetland ecologist, she is best known for the award-winning Project Wonderwise “The Urban Ecologist” multimedia curriculum, now used in 27 states and Canada in public school and after-school programming, and an integral part of the national USDA 4-H curriculum. In the 1990’s she became acquainted with the wonderful science education opportunities at Talcott Mountain Science Center through her participation in the Project Promise educational outreach program. In 1991, she established the Women and Minorities Committee of the Ecological Society of America and helped develop the first ecology education and human resources strategic plan for ESA.
She has received various awards for her work in many national programs to improve recruitment, retention and career development for women and minorities in the sciences, including the Connecticut Latina Citizen of the Year 2012 award, the Ecological Society of America 2012 Diversity Award and as one of 2013 Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Honorees. Recently, she finished a four-year project as Co-Principal Investigator to the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences’ NSF-ADVANCE grant to infuse gender equity training in mentoring programs for deans and department chairs. She promotes support for children and families to enhance their educational opportunities as Vice-President for the Fund for Greater Hartford, and helps promote best healthcare practices on the East Regional Board of Directors of Hartford Healthcare.
BERNARD ZAHREN, Trustee Emeritus
Bernie believes in the adage: “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”. Simply put, you can say you believe in the fight to save our planet, but you must also do your very best to mitigate your own carbon footprint and the sustainable practices of your local and state communities. (Practice what you preach!)
Bernie Zahren does just that. He had his personal residence recently renovated to achieve (award-winning) “Net Zero Energy” consumption through multiple deployments including: a 15-kilowatt wind turbine, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and a solar thermal hot water system.
Mr. Zahren is a member of the Board of Directors of the Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon and also serves as the Chairman of the Avon Clean Energy Commission. Both of these organizations are actively involved in implementing and promoting a variety of programs that can help ensure success in the fight to reduce local carbon footprint, as well as to supply future generations with the tools and vision needed for the energy challenges they’ll face.
He has spent over 40 years in a variety of entrepreneurial and management roles founding his own company Zahren Alternative Power Corp. (ZAPCO) which he built through acquisition and development into a portfolio of more than 25 landfill gas and co-generation projects.
Today he is CEO of Zahren Financial Co., LLC and is a respected and active consultant in implementing business focused sustainability initiatives. He has testified before Congressional committees on alternative energy issues and has “chaired” a special committee that worked for an extension of Internal Revenue Code Section 29, providing an income tax credit for production of alternative fuels.
Feet above sea level
Talcott Mountain Science Center for Student Involvement, Inc. and Talcott Mountain Academy welcome and admit students of any gender, race, color, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation and those with disabilities to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the Center and Academy. View Talcott’s full nondiscrimination policy.