Melissa “Marston” Black-Simmons, President
Elected: Dec 2013 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2016 (2 year term)
Melissa previously served as PSPG Board Secretary and Vice-President. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, a graduate of Central High School. She received her BA from Goucher College in Baltimore. She has worked in non-profit management for the past ten years. She currently works in the Community Food Programs Department at Philabundance, managing their Grocers Against Hunger program which rescues over 10 million pounds of food each year from over 231 grocery stores across nine counties.
Additionally, she and her husband own two small businesses, Heritage Builders and Remodelers, and Argus Investments, LLC.
She first found out about PSPG when her friend, Chris, talked her into coming down to Gazela to volunteer for the Haunted Ship fundraiser in 2006. Both big history fans, she subsequently married Chris and both are committed to the mission of the Guild.
Chris Straub, Treasurer
Elected: May 2019
Chris comes to the PSPG Board from Pinnacle Foods Inc., a $3B+ consumer products company which manufactures and distributes icon brands such as Birds Eye, Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Wishbone, etc.. While at Pinnacle, Chris served as Vice President and Treasurer. Chris is a Senior finance leader with extensive experience leading the development and evolution of the corporate Treasury function in both private equity and public multinational organizations. He is a trusted business partner with a pragmatic commercial mindset, who partners effectively across organizations to support business decisions. As a key member of the M&A team, Chris developed and managed all aspects of the treasury merger and acquisition program, including due diligence and financial modeling. Chris oversaw the integration of acquired firms and restructured the insurance policies to reflect the merged entities. Prior to Pinnacle Foods, Chris held various Treasury positions at Vlasic Foods International and at Campbell Soup Company.
Chris and his wife, Sheryl, currently reside in Yardley, where they enjoy life along the Delaware River. The Straub family has had a long-time affiliation with Pennsbury Manor, a reconstruction of William Penn’s summertime residence along the Delaware River. Both Chris and Sheryl volunteered over the years and daughter, Danielle, has held the position of Volunteer Coordinator. Maritime history has always been a favorite area of interest and of fascination for the entire family.
Chris’ goal as a PSPG Board Member is to use his expertise and experience to lead efforts to identify strategic needs, perform analytics, and to work effectively with internal partners. Also, Chris will help steer business decisions by advising PSPG leadership on finance and treasury related issues and will provide a financial perspective for all initiatives. Finally, Chris is truly excited to learn more about the day-to-day operations of the Guild and to mentor the next generation of PSPG stewards.
Elected: May 2019
I belong to a family with a long sea-faring tradition including ancestors who worked in the merchant and whaling trades out of New England and the nearby country of Nantucket. There is even an unsubstantiated family tradition that Peter Coffin was a pirate. More recently five of my relatives have been officers in the Coast Guard. As one of those was my father, I have lived near many large bodies of water.
I first joined the crew and sailed on Gazela in 1997 and was a regular member of the crew until 2005 when I moved west for a new job. Now retired, I have returned to Philadelphia and reconnected with the Guild. I believe that the Guild has an important mission to preserve opportunities for members of the community to have hands-on experiences of the realities of maritime life and its importance in the history, culture and economy of the world — beyond the stirring tales of naval warfare and piracy. I hope I can help in building the Guild’s resources, membership and visibility.
Elected: Dec 2018
Marcus Brandt has been serving PSPG in one form or another for the last sixteen years.
Since 1987, Marcus has been self employed restoring and building historic and traditional structures here in Pennsylvania and around the world. He has planned and lead many barn raisings and other “impossible” complex events. He’s been entrusted with the building, care and repair of covered bridges, many barns, a USCG inspected passenger vessel, historic homes, spring houses, two 12th Century Scottish siege weapons (full scale & functional), two traditional bridges in China, a pavilion in the style of the late Sung Dynasty, etc. Current projects include restoring a very significant 1757 Germanic timber and brick home in Sumneytown PA and a Cathedral spire in Christchurch, New Zealand.
These projects involve carefully fitting heavy timbers and lots of exacting rigging to get things into place. This skill set found a new home on Gazela’s decks. Likewise, the timber,tooling, logistical needs are almost exactly the same between timber framing and shipwrighting.
Beyond his own private restoration practice, Marcus has been an Adjunct Professor of Architecture, specializing in Traditional and Pre-Industrial Building Methods and Materials at Lehigh University. He is a professional member of the Timber Framer’s Guild (TFG) and a founding member of the Traditional Timberframe Research and Advisory Group (TTRAG) and is a contributor to the guild journal “Timberframing”. He is also engaged in consulting on Historic structures and preservation/restoration strategies. Currently, he is consulting for the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (NZ) and the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust. He has worked repeatedly with PBS on several NOVA productions by WGBH-Boston. His contribution has been both on and off-camera. He has mustered a mob of 10,000 drought-stricken sheep 100 miles on horseback over 5 days in Australia, been a logger in Maine, a stone mason in Scotland and a Dairy farmer here in Pennsylvania. He learned valuable lessons in every job he’s ever done.
Marcus is committed to seeing the Guild on a solid financial footing, the restoration of Gazela to full seaworthiness and the other ships in the fleet put into similar condition.. To accomplish this, he recognizes that it’s essential to acquire permanent shore-side facilities with space sufficient to efficiently provide the venue and logistical support for maintenance and capital projects; provide access to the public to interact with the ship and working waterfront; and to provide multiple revenue streams for the mission of the Guild. He advocates that much of the “revenue” needed can take the form of in-kind donations and contributions from a myriad of sources…including mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with other stake-holders and organizations. He is committed to keeping Gazela in Philadelphia, for the benefit of future Philadelphians. He aspires to making the demographics of the crew reflect the demographics of the City we serve.
He firmly believes that the key to all of these reforms is the conversion of the governance of PSPG away from an unaccountable, self-selecting Board, whose allegiance is to “the Corporation” and the adoption of an Membership organization model that can hold the Board to account and whose allegiance is to “the Mission of the Guild”.
Once these reforms are in place, the full force of Marcus’s contacts, skills and influence can be safely brought to bear for the benefit of the Mission of the Guild.
Elected: Dec 2014 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2017 (2 year term)
Lisa first stepped aboard Gazela in November 2008 and was an extremely shy and reserved individual; anyone who knows her now is painfully aware that that is no longer true. After spending weekend after weekend working on the boats, she finally figured out that people are not all that bad and that the Guild members really do have some fantastic stories to tell.
After spending even more time working on the boats, she got hired with the local chart agent, Pilothouse, thanks to a recommendation from Gazela‘s port captain. After being urged enough times by various Guild members, she decided to pursue working on traditionally-rigged sailing vessels while still keeping her land job. To that end, she has done shipyard periods, a semester at sea program, and a few crew transits on various vessels. Despite the great times she has while she is away, she keeps coming back to Philadelphia, and more specifically, to the PSPG, because the volunteers and the ships just keep compelling her to come back.
After working on sailing vessels professionally, she hopes to be able to use skills and knowledge that she has acquired to help Gazela and Jupiter and the persons who work tirelessly to maintain and preserve those extraordinary vessels. In addition to being a member of the board, she is also a member of the Marine Committee and the Jupiter Steering Committee. She currently serves as the Volunteer Coordinator and a foreman. Beyond that, Lisa also spends time making sure that both vessels’ social media presence is alive and well.
Lisa is excited to be part of the group that helps keep the vessels going and is ecstatic that she gets to help volunteers not only learn more about Gazela and Jupiter and how to care for them, but also gets to facilitate volunteers’ learning more about themselves and and having amazing experiences that they otherwise would not have had.
Elected: Dec 2017 (2 year)
TJ was recruited onto the board in 2017. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Materials Engineering from Drexel University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Penn State University. He has an extensive background in marine corrosion and cathodic protection; material assessments; shipboard maintenance planning; program management; and public/non-profit leadership.
He works in Philadelphia and recently moved to Delaware County to give his two young children a little more room to play in, but he will consider himself a lifelong resident of Philadelphia. He is a burgeoning carpenter and looks forward to learning about traditional wooden hull repair techniques.
Elected: Jan 2018 (2 year)
David F Perme is a retired businessman living in the Philadelphia area. He has an Aerospace Engineering BS degree from Kent State University (1980) and a MS Degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University (1991). He served in the US Air Force as a fighter pilot from 1981 to 1991. Separating from the Air Force in 1991, he began work as a Full Technical Staff Member at Los Alamos National Laboratories. He moved to the east coast (New Jersey) in 1994 and joined a business as an equity partner developing software for the Department of Defense. The business grew and was acquired by Accenture in 2010. Mr Perme was a founder and executive of the business along with his partners. As the business matured and grew, Mr Perme devoted more time to business development versus technical duties. He is well versed in that arena, especially in the pursuit and development of formal proposals to government agencies.
Mr Perme is currently a founder of a small business pursuing other Department of Defense (DoD) programs. He is not actively engaged on a daily basis with that company but mostly serves to aid them in strategy, business development, establishing contacts within the DoD agency, leading and developing formal proposals as the need arises.
Mr Perme lives in Downingtown, PA on a small hobby farm. His other interests include softball, golfing, woodworking and horse keeping.
Elected: Dec 2010 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2013 (3 year term)
Robin Schimpf is a Philadelphian, a life-long river wards resident who possesses a decade of experience at a community newspaper, served on the last active board of the historic Kensington Soup Society in her Fishtown neighborhood and is a second generation proprietor of a 45 year-old family business and the proprietor of a self-made real estate business.
She is a graduate of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School at Logan’s Circle and Penn State University. Her ship guild experience began in 1997 with a sailing trip to Nova Scotia, Since then, she has been and commits to remain a loyal steward of our vessels. Robin has served the guild in capacities,beginner through leadership.
Elected: May 2019
John Telencio holds a Master’s Degree in Sport and Recreation Administration from Temple University, a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the College of New Jersey, four separate educational certificates and graduated with a double major from his undergraduate studies. His eclectic professional resume of Sports Medicine, Educational Leadership, Administration and maritime experiences will certainly advance the mission of the PSPG.
John has provided physical therapy, orthopedic examination and injury/illness prevention strategies while employed by Temple University hospital, Pat Croce’s Sports Physical Therapy Clinic, Hamilton Township Board of Education and the professional sport organizations of Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Wildcats Soccer and Arthur Ashe Development Program.
John’s passion for education started 27 years ago while teaching a Sports Medicine honors class for High School students in the Hamilton Township Public School District. He has since taught students ranging from kindergarteners to high school seniors in the disciplines of Health, Environmental Studies, Social Emotional Learning, Peer Leadership and Education through Movement. John has served on many curriculum writing committees including those for Ashe-Bollettieri Off-Court Life Skills, Health/PE Grades K-12th, Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution. He has supervised and conducted staff training for Middle School Multicultural and Environmental Studies, which culminates in a three night field trip to The School of Conservation at Stokes State Forest in New Jersey. Additionally, John has coordinated and led High School Peer Leadership training for 20 years at Camp Mason, near the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey. He co-wrote and received a National Character Education Grant from the Character Education Partnership (Character.org) and has been a professional presenter at various workshops, convocations and symposiums.
John Telencio’s love for everything maritime originates from childhood trips to the beach from Trenton, NJ. The day trip vacations were all his family could afford, but they provided him with a lifetime of riches; the spark that ignited his wonder of what lies beneath and beyond the horizon, the appreciation that the sea encompasses all of one’s senses and the courage to explore and connect with humanity and marine life alike.
John’s professional maritime leadership involvement includes being a PADI SCUBA Divemaster and implementing a SCUBA Club for high school students and their parents/guardians. He co-coordinated Marine Biology trips to the Marine Resource Center in Key Largo Florida for over a decade. High school students participated in classroom lessons, lab activities and snorkeling excursions to identify and analyze the symbiotic relationship between sea grass nurseries, mangrove ecology and coral reef habitats. John Telencio served on the New Jersey Marine Education Association’s Executive Board (NJMEA) for over 5 years. He collaboratively planned the annual professional development workshop “Teach at the Beach” for Marine Biology Teachers, contributed articles to the NJMEA publication the Sea Horse, founded the NJMEA SCUBA Club and created a summer workshop that brought both SCUBA divers and marine biologists together for special educational events. Two examples are SCUBA diving in Dutch Springs quarry to evaluate the impact of zebra mussels, as well as inlet diving and collecting species for the Point Pleasant Beach Aquarium and applying husbandry procedures. John is a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist with Division 5, Flotilla 79 Barnegat Bay and serves as the Flotilla Officer for Diversity.
John’s other personal enjoyments include bicycling in an annual, week long, 500 mile charity “Anchor House Ride for Runaways” for which he has implemented successful fundraising strategies, playing the guitar, photography and spending time with his wife on the Barnegat Bay aboard their vessel “If You Believe”.