Our mission - one of both place & purpose

The mission of the Frances Perkins Center is to fulfill the legacy of Frances Perkins, principal architect of the New Deal, by continuing her work for social justice and economic security and preserving, for future generations, her nationally significant family homestead.


Sam Goldsmith - Director of Development

Board of Directors

Dr. Christopher Breiseth - Chair
Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth is the immediate past president and CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, located at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, serving in that position from 2001 to 2008. He was president of Deep Springs College in California from 1980 to 1983 and of Wilkes University from 1984 to 2001. He earned his B.A. in history at UCLA, a Masters of Literature in Modern British History from Oxford and a Ph.D. in European History from Cornell. While at Cornell, he lived at the Telluride House where Frances Perkins was a guest for the last five years of her life while she was teaching at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Together, Breiseth and Miss Perkins organized two seminars for house members, one with Henry A. Wallace, the other with James Farley. Following Miss Perkins's death in 1965, Breiseth wrote an article, "The Frances Perkins I Knew," which provides some of the material on Frances Perkins's life at Telluride House for Kirstin Downey's book, "The Woman Behind the New Deal." The article is available on line. He also served for a year and a half in 1967 and 1968 as Chief of Policy Guidance for the Community Action Program which was part of the Office of Economic Opportunity, President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. He is married to Jane Morhouse Breiseth and they have three daughters and two grandchildren.


Kirstin Downey
Kirstin Downey, an award-winning journalist at the Washington Post from 1988 to 2008, is a business reporter whose work has focused on illuminating the human implications of important financial trends, particularly boom and bust cycles in the modern economy.

Downey's coverage of the aftermath of the savings and loan debacle of the late 1980s won her several regional press association awards. In 1990, she was named a finalist for the Livingston prize for outstanding young journalist in America for her coverage of the abuse of government housing programs. In the mid-1990s, her articles on sexual harassment in workplaces across America, including in the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota and at auto plants in the Midwest, caused a paradigm shift in how people viewed a problem that had been trivialized.

From 2005 to 2007, Downey led the country in reporting on a worrisome but unrecognized phenomenon -- the dangerous growth of risky new kinds of mortgages that threatened to bankrupt borrowers and the financial institutions making the loans. These loans have contributed to a downward economic spiral worldwide. Her reporting went unheeded by the Bush Administration.

Downey left the Washington Post in 2008 to finish The Woman Behind the New Deal, a book she had spent nine years researching. Her goal was to look to history to see how a heroine of the past, Frances Perkins, had helped the country deal with financial calamity and how, exactly, Perkins had created the social safety net that will minimize the damage to Americans today.


Susan Feiner, Ph.D.
Susan F. Feiner holds a joint position at the University of Southern Maine in the departments of Women and Gender Studies and Economics. She was a founding member of the International Association of Feminist Economics and a member of the original editorial board of the award-winning journal Feminist Economics. Her research interests include feminist political economy, critical perspectives in economic education, and the ideological functions of economics. From 1985 through 1998 Feiner directed numerous content-based curriculum development projects aimed at improving the treatment of diversity in economics education. This work, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation, created an international movement to better integrate questions of race and gender into economics education. Her most recent book, Liberating Economics: feminist perspectives on families, work, and globalization was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2004. It was named an "Outstanding Academic Title" by the American Library Association.


The Reverend Charles Hoffacker
An Episcopal priest since 1982, Charles is interim rector of the Parish of St. Monica and St. James (formerly St. James), Capitol Hill, where Frances Perkins belonged during her years in Washington. Charles has taught "Introduction to Philosophy and Religions of the World" at the college level and is the author of "A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals."  His sermons appear on the official Episcopal Church website and on Lectionary.org. One of his longtime interests is the recognition of saints, including Frances Perkins.


Sarah Peskin - Secretary
Former chief of planning and legislation for the National Park Service north atlantic region, Sarah Peskin has guided the preservation and interpretation of many nationally significant historic places and managed major new facility projects from concept to operation. A graduate of Smith College, she holds a master s degree in urban planning from New York University and was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.

From 1979-90 she was planning director of the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, the public/private entity that helped develop Lowell National Historical Park. From 1990-2009 she did feasibility studies and worked on legislation to establish new areas such as Weir Farm National Historic Site, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site. She led the recent planning effort for the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park where a navy base was transformed into an educational campus to serve multiple audiences. Award-winning projects she managed include the Mogan Cultural Center, Boarding House Park, and the Lowell Park Trolley System. She wrote Cultural Tourism: Where Culture and Economy Meet (Boston Foundation, 2004) and America s Special Landscapes: The Heritage Area Phenomenon (Ferrara, 2001). She has recently retired from the National Park Service to spend most of her time at her home in Walpole, Maine, just across the Damariscotta River from the Perkins Homestead.


Gretel Porter
Educated at Northfield School and Barnard College, Gretel Porter spent six years living in West Bengal, India, raising her family. She returned to the United States in 1969 and worked as a labor organizer, becoming a fierce advocate for Health & Safety while working eight years in the coke ovens at U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. In 1985 she developed Odyssey Tours, a deluxe outbound travel company based in Los Angeles, California that focused on cultural immersion at unusual destinations throughout Asia. This led to Porter's work with the Center for Responsible Tourism and international campaigns to end child-sex tourism and the trafficking of women and children. More recently as a resident of Maine, Porter served as personal secretary to Susanna Wilson Coggeshall, Frances Perkins' daughter, from 1998 to 2003 assisting with much of the ongoing correspondence that dealt with Frances Perkins' history and legacy.


Hon. Neil Rolde
Neil joined the Board in June of 2013. A former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Neil is also a renowned author and philanthropist. Born in Boston, in 1931, Neil was educated in Brookline schools and was graduated from Phillips Academy Andover, then Yale with a BA, then Coulmbia Journalism with an MS. Highlights of work experience, 6 years as a Special Assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis, then 16 years as a Democratic State Representative in Maine. Neil has authored some 14 books and he has won several awards, including the Neal W. Allen Award for History writing from the Maine Historical Society, the Constance Carlson Award of the Maine Humanities Council and a Maine Writers and Publishers award for the best non-fiction. Neil has been on the boards of various organizations, both in Maine and in other parts of the country, including chairman of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Seacoast Shipyard Association (supporting the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the Lighthouse Corporation of Bar Harbor, the Katahdin Institute, and chair of the Development Committee of the National Tropical Botanical Garden of Hawaii and one-time vice-chairman of the board of the University of New England and board member of the Heller School of Social work at Brandeis University.


Margaret Rotundo
Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives for the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships. She has represented Lewiston in the Maine Legislature for the past thirteen years, currently serving as the House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and has a niece who is currently a Frances Perkins Scholar at the College.


Hon. Leah W. Sprague
Leah W. Sprague is a retired justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court. She is a graduate of Brown University and Boston University School of Law, and completed the program for Senior Executives in Massachusetts State Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has been in legal practice for 36 years, specializing in litigation and health law. She previously served as a Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General and was Assistant Commissioner and General Counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare during the administration of Governor Michael S. Dukakis. In that latter period, she served on the Executive Board of the American Association of Public Welfare Attorneys. She currently resides in Newcastle, Maine, where she is writing a book on women in the judiciary.


Charles M. Wyzanski
A cum laude graduate of Harvard College and of Columbia Law School, Charles practiced law many years including fourteen years as an Assistant Attorney General for Massachusetts. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at Boston University, Brandeis and Tufts. Charles is writing a book on his father, the late  Hon. Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr. Judge Wyzanski had an illustrious career as United States District Court Judge from 1941 to 1986.  He was Frances Perkins’s first Solicitor of the United States Department of Labor from 1933-35, and, later, in the Solicitor General’s Office, he successfully defended the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act in the United States Supreme Court.


Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall
Tomlin is Frances Perkins' grandson, son of her daughter Susanna and Calvert Coggeshall, an abstract expressionist and designer. Tomlin attended Middlesex School in Concord Massachusetts and then studied biology and botany, graduating with a B.S. in Botany and Biology from the University of Maine. Since then, he has worked in publishing and marketing, mostly in the alternative energy field, focused on hydrogen and clean energy. Tomlin is currently promoting IT research and consulting for a firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts and lives with his husband Christopher Rice in Newcastle at The Brick House, the Perkins Homestead.

Advisory Council

Elizabeth Allen, Ph.D.
Dr. Allen is a geologist with over 30 years of experience in the energy industry and academia. After beginning her career at Shell Oil Company as an exploration geologist, she established her own company, Methane Resources Group, in 1981 engaging in both domestic and international petroleum project development. Since 2000, Dr. Wilson has redirected her interests towards education. She currently teaches academic courses and lectures to organizations and community groups in both geology and in the broader field of global energy, generating interest and understanding, across disciplines, in energy issues, environmental concerns and economic growth in a world of diverse cultures, emerging markets, and economic disparity. She has served on a variety of profit and non-profit boards including Mount Holyoke College and The Boppy Company. In Maine she is currently a member of the Advisory Council of The Camden Conference in Camden and a board member of the Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle.


Joyce Clements, Ph.D.
Joyce M. Clements currently serves as a Senior Principal Investigator, Historical Archaeology, for Gray & Pape, Providence, Rhode Island. Her research interests include women's history, archaeological theory, feminist methods and theories, New England archaeology, and the history and archaeology of Native American women. Clements also is interested in connections between health and the environment, and served as the President of the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition during her brief residence in Maine. She has taught anthropology, archaeology, and women's studies and frequently presents her research at local, national, and international conferences. Clements' support for the Frances Perkins center is a natural outgrowth of her interest in justice and equity, and the outstanding woman who brought those issues to American consciousness.


Tracy A. Cooley
Tracy Cooley has been working on the behalf of at risk families for over 30 years. She has worked in the early care and education and domestic violence fields as an administrator, practitioner, trainer, and consultant. Ms.Cooley was the Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence from 1990-2001. From 2001- 2006 she was a Policy Associate at the Muskie School of Public Service, Institute for Child and Family Policy at the University of Southern Maine where she co-authored the Safe Families Safe Homes curriculum.

Since 1990, she has maintained a private consulting practice, T.Cooley and Associates, offering the implementation of the Safe Families Safe Homes Project across the country. She provides technical assistance to practitioners, state domestic violence coalitions, state and federal agencies, and national organizations. Cooley recently joined the staff at Maine Kids-Kin, a statewide program that supports grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

Ms. Cooley has been an activist for social justice since her youth. During her college years she started the first women's center at Nasson College. She served for ten years on the board of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Her recent board tenure is with Maine Initiatives, a foundation for social change.


Carla Dickstein, Ph.D.
Carla Dickstein is Senior Vice-President at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) based in Wiscasset, Maine. For the past 15 years she has overseen CEI's work on research and policy development, including green industries and employment opportunities, rural development and entrepreneurship and predatory mortgage lending and foreclosures. In 2006 Carla coauthored a study of subprime mortgages and predatory lending, which led to Maine passing a strong antipredatory lending law in 2007. Prior to coming to CEI she was on the faculty at West Virginia University's Regional Research Institute and the West Virginia University Extension Service. Carla sits on a number of nonprofit and government boards and committees including Maine's Citizen Trade Commission, the Engage Maine steering committee, and the Research Advisory Board to the Community Affairs Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, a Masters in Planning from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.


June Hopkins, Ph.D.
Historian June Hopkins received her Ph. D. from Georgetown in 1997. Her biographical study of her grandfather's social work career from 1912 through the Great Depression, Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer, was published by St. Martin's Press in 1999 and Jewish first wife, divorced: The Selected Letters and Papers of Ethel Gross and Harry Hopkins, co-edited with Allison Giffen was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2003. Hopkins has been a professor of American history at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, since 1998 and has been head of the history department for the past four years. She is now working on a history of World War II and the relationship between Winston Churchill and Harry Hopkins.


Dr. Mark A. Peterson
Mark A. Peterson, with a Ph.D. in political science from The University of Michigan, is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, and former department chair, in the Department of Public Policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. His previous faculty appointments were in Government at Harvard University and Public Affairs, Political Science, and Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Peterson is a scholar of American national institutions, focusing on the interactions among the presidency, Congress, and interest groups, as well as on national health care policy making and Medicare reform. His publications include Legislating Together: The White House and Capital Hill from Eisenhower to Reagan (Harvard). As a participant in the Annenberg Institutions of American Democracy Project, he co-chaired the Commission on the Executive Branch and co-edited the volume it produced on the politics and performance of the presidency and bureaucracy, Institutions of American Democracy: The Executive Branch (Oxford), which won the Richard E. Neustadt Award for the best reference on the presidency. He was also a co-author of the Annenberg's project book exploring public and elite opinion on the performance of American institutions, Institutions of American Democracy: A Republic Divided (Oxford). Peterson is on the Council of the American Political Science Association, serves on four national advisory committees (chairing one) for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is past editor of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, and has been a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution. As an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow he served as a legislative assistant for Health Policy to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD). He is a founding member of the core team of the Blue Sky Health Initiative, which seeks to transform the health and health care system in the United States. An elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, he served on its Study Panel on Medicare and Markets, and he is a recipient of an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Hon. Chellie Pingree
Chellie Pingree is from North Haven, Maine, an island town of 350 people twelve miles off the coast, where she worked as a farmer and a small business owner. She was elected to the Maine State Senate in 1992 and, in 1996, was chosen by her peers to be the Maine Senate Majority Leader.

As a state senator, she fought for economic and social justice, taking on powerful adversaries--most notably the pharmaceutical lobby. Pingree sponsored one of the nation's first prescription drug pricing bills, MaineRx. After a legal fight that led all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill became law, and has since been a model for states around the country working to lower prescription drug prices. Pingree also sponsored the successful "Parents as Scholars" program, a national model for welfare reform, which continues to help working Maine parents gain access to education to help them achieve a better life for their families. She led successful efforts to protect Maine's environment, for corporate accountability, to protect workers, to promote a women's right to choose, and in support of Maine's small businesses. As a state senator, Pingree was also a founding member of the Maine Economic Growth Council. Pingree's leadership in Maine politics led to numerous international appointments. She traveled to Hungary as an Eisenhower Exchange Fellow, served as a member of the White House delegation to observe elections in Bosnia, and was a member of a U.S. delegation to Northern Ireland, working with women political leaders there.

From 2003 to 2007, Pingree served as the National President and CEO of Common Cause, a non-partisan citizen activist group with nearly 300,000 members and 35 state chapters. Common Cause's mission is to help citizens make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

In 2008, Pingree was elected to Congress from Maine's 1st Congressional District--the first woman elected to Congress from that District. It also marks the first time in American history that women make up the majority of a state's Congressional Delegation.

Pingree has three grown children. Her eldest, Hannah Pingree, is the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.


Hon. Robert Reich
Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of twelve books, among them the best-sellers The Work of Nations and Locked in the Cabinet, and, his most recent, Supercapitalism. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. In that capacity he shepherded the Family and Medical Act through Congress, as well as the Pension Protection Act and the School-to-Work Act, and he laid the groundwork for the Workforce Development Act. He also led a national campaign against sweatshops, secured safer workplaces, and expanded opportunities for job retraining to millions of American workers.


Christopher I. Rice
Christopher Irvine Rice is principal designer for Designs for Native Landscapes. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the Conway School of Landscape Design and a BA in Journalism from the University of Maine at Orono. Inspired by the complexity and random beauty found in environmentally sound landscapes which are native to a region, Christopher has worked developing landscapes for non-profits and residential clients while living in midcoast Maine with his partner, Tomlin Coggeshall, since 1995. Formerly a commercial interior designer and conservation commissioner in Massachusetts, he's currently a trustee of his local historical society in Newcastle and pleased to be a founding member of the Frances Perkins Center.


Nancy Teel, Ph.D.
Nancy Teel is Professor of English and Interim Dean of Liberal Arts at Roxbury Community College in Boston. She has taught composition and literature for more than twenty years and has been a college administrator for two years. She has an
undergraduate degree in English literature from Saint Mary's College and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Cornell University. Beyond the classroom, her interests include human rights, world peace and globalization. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, gardening, boating and working on old houses.


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