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.

William Pillsbury, Vice-President

Elected: Jan 2017 (2 year)

William Pillsbury

Will is a longtime resident of the Philadelphia region.  He recently moved from the Graduate Hospital area to Elkins Park with his wife and young daughter.  He still is lucky enough to spend a lot of time along the waterfront visiting his parents and friends who remain in the city.

He is a graduate of Rutgers University and attended law school at Temple University.  Will owns his own firm and predominantly provides legal counsel to small businesses and nonprofits.  Prior to law school, he worked for the Greater Philadelphia Food Bank and, before that, he worked on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.

Will is a fan of history, including nautical history.  He feels ships remind us of exploration and that desire to see what is over the horizon.  Will learned to sail on smaller boats on Lake Champlain with his grandfather.  He looks forward to working with the Guild to learn more and share his joy of ships and sailing with others.

Patrick Turner, Secretary

Elected: Dec 2014 (3 year); Renewed: Dec 2017 (2 year)

patrick turner

Patrick is the Vice President of the Groupware Leadership Center (GLC), which is part of the National IT organization of the Federal Reserve System. He is responsible for all messaging and collaboration services of the Federal Reserve, as well as video conferencing and wireless handheld services.

He has been the managing officer of the GLC for the past year, and was previously responsible for bringing new and emerging collaboration technologies to the Fed, which included the enterprisewide “Connect & Share” effort to move from the Lotus collaboration suite to the Microsoft-based portfolio of products. Patrick served as chair of the Guild Development Committee in 2017 and lives in Olde City.

Marcus Brandt

Elected: Dec 2018

marcus brandt

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.

Lisa Kolibabek

Elected: Dec 2014 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2017 (2 year term)

lisa kolibabek

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.

T.J. McKelvey

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.

Deb Peretz

Elected: Dec 2016 (2 year)

Deb Peretz

In 1994 I had to decorate the Gazela Primero with lights for the “Lighted Boat Parade”. And since we had placed a small generator onboard to power all the lights, I got to stay onboard for the parade. I was convinced the top of the masts were close to the bottom of the Ben Franklin Bridge. I asked if I could go aloft to check it out and was told I needed a harness. I had mine, since I needed it to climb all over the ship to set up the lights, and up I went. The masts are not even close to the bottom of the bridge.

I sailed the summer of ’94 for two weeks and only learned when I was on watch, the lines under the galley wings and how to furl the squares. For years after that I would sail the entire summer, as deckhand, then bo’s’n and then mate, on Gazela. Slowly my career changed from lighting and rigging in Philadelphia theaters to rigging ships, Moshulu, Half Moon and the Bill of Rights and sailing (almost) fulltime on the Half Moon, the Bill of Rights, Gazela and harbor tugs in Philadelphia.

In 1999, hawsepipe trained, I sat for my Captain’s license and my career had completely changed to the Maritime industry. Since then I have worked on tugboats here in the Philly area. I currently work at Vane Line Bunkering at City Dock, where I supervise a fleet of 20 vessels, keeping them shipshape and USCG and ABS compliant.

David Perme

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.

Robin Schimpf

Elected: Dec 2010 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2013 (3 year term)

robin schimpf

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.

Ed Stemmler

Elected: Dec 2014 (3 year); Renewed Dec 2017 (2 year term)

Ed Stemmler

Ed Stemmler has been an active member with the Ship Guild since 1989, serving in various leadership roles both on the ship and in the organization. The lessons learned at the Guild have taken him many places, sailing to Ireland from Halifax in 2009 as well as sailing on a 77 foot gaff ketch across the Bay of Biscay in 1998. He has served as mate underway aboard Gazela, has instructed new members in skills like knot tying through the standing and running rig for all of Gazela’s 16 sails.

Professionally, he works at the University of Pennsylvania as a Systems Analyst. He is currently serving a leading role in identification of Business Process Management systems to replace University paper forms and workflow, an effort which requires balancing needs and direction across a varied client base. Ed’s creative skills and ability to work with people resulted in a powerful data model which powers Penn’s complex Tuition Distribution process. His portfolio includes business analytics, data modeling and architecture, system design and transformation.

He first learned about the Guild in 1989 at a bar in Camden, Maine, then started volunteering the following weekend. Over the years, his only regret was that he didn’t find out about the vessel earlier in life. He says, “I was a shy guy who gained confidence and exposure through the Guild. To climb up the mast to furl sails, to watch incredible sunsets, meet interesting people or sail in fog with whales spouting? Compared to my computer work, I had my secret Walter Mitty life. He strives to keep the program moving forward and ship restored so that more people can share the experience.