Robert Becker, President
Robert Becker is a writer who lives in New York City and Honolulu. Friends with William and Paula Merwin for over twenty years, he was also William’s cousin. He has been on the editorial staff of The Paris Review and Andy Warhol’s Interview and is the author of Nancy Lancaster; Her Life, Her World, Her Art (Knopf). He has written about art, architecture, history and Hawaii for publications including Architectural Digest, Interview, Art and Auction, Flash Art, Town and Country, British Vogue, The Paris Review, The Hawaiian Journal of History, and most recently Hyperallergic, The New Criterion, ArtForum and the British literary magazine Granta where he published an essay about William Merwin and his palm garden in November 2020. He is a passionate art collector and surfer and has a been a board member since 2015.
Richard Andrews, Vice President
Richard Andrews lives in Seattle. He is an art advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and board member of the Skystone Foundation, the organization responsible for the realization of James Turrell’s Roden Crater Project near Flagstaff, AZ. Previously he served as director of the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, and director of the Visual Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts. Andrews has extensive experience in contemporary art, non profit leadership, and public art programming. Exhibitions curated by Andrews include Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes (2006), James Turrell: Knowing Light (2003), James Turrell: Works 1967 -1992 (1992), and Art into Life: Russian Constructivism 1914-1932 (1991). Publications include catalogues for those exhibitions as well as essays on contemporary art and artists. He joined the board in 2021.
Amber Strong Makaiau, Vice President
Born and raised in Hawai’i, Dr. Amber Strong Makaiau is an award winning educator and the Director of Curriculum and Research at the University of Hawai‘i Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education. She is also Director of the Hanahau’oli School Professional Development Center, and Associate Specialist at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) College of Education Institute for Teacher Education Secondary Program. Her current projects include carrying out progressive social justice and democratic approaches to pre-service social studies teacher education. She enjoys spending time on Moloka‘i, engaging in philosophy with her two children, and being in the ocean. She has been a member of the board since 2018.
James Pickrel, Treasurer
A longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jim has had a wide-ranging career spanning the worlds of business, nonprofits, and the arts. Following various management positions with Silicon Valley companies, he served as senior stock analyst for enterprise software with the JPMorgan Chase investment bank. Jim was co-founder and CFO for Sand County Ventures, a pioneer in venture investing for environmental sustainability. He has served on the boards of a progressive independent school in the East Bay, and an innovative fruit tree nursery in California’s Central Valley. For many years he worked as a freelance musician, and has published poetry and translations in several small press journals. Jim was a young teenager when he was drawn to the writing of W. S. Merwin, and has been an avid student of Merwin’s life and works since that time. He joined the board in 2020.
Mary Lock, Assistant Treasurer
Mary Lock served as President of the Hawai‘i Island Palm Society for four years and is still an active board member. After receiving a degree in Population Biology/Ecology, she pursued a career in software engineering for a biotech company in the Silicon Valley before moving permanently to Hawai‘i. She is a member of the International Palm Society and has attended biennial expeditions to study palms in habitat in Colombia, Cuba, Borneo, and Brazil. She and her husband became friends with Paula and William Merwin about 15 years ago when the Locks started building their garden across the road from the Merwins, sharing their fascination with palms and love of “garden philosophy.” She has served on the Conservancy’s board since 2015.
Susan Conway Kean, Secretary
Susan is a ceramic installation artist whose work is featured at many commercial and residential sites on Maui. She has served on the first advisory board for Book Trust, on the board of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust as Governance Chair, and as a volunteer at Hospice Maui. She has a deep passion for the natural world and conserving Hawai‘i’s special places and enjoys spending her free time painting the landscape. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and is happiest when in the forest. Susan has been a Merwin Conservancy board member since 2016.
Michael Moore, Assistant Secretary
Michael Moore is a small business entrepreneur and president of Na Hoaloha Ekolu, a restaurant group that owns and operates Old Lahaina Lū‘au, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, and Hoaloha Farms. He has served as Maui Commissioner: Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and on the Board of Directors of Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Hui O Wa’a Kaulua, Maui Arts and Cultural Center, and Maui Visitors Bureau. His interests include dogs, cats, whales, most other animals, walking, reading, and traveling. He resides in Hāna, Maui and has been a board member since 2018.
Originally from California, Brynn Foster is an active leader in Hawai‘i’s food security movement. She is the founder of Voyaging Foods, a food enterprise company with a regenerative agriculture focus. As President of the Hawai‘i Farmers Union United-O‘ahu North Shore Chapter, she leads the first all-woman Executive Board. She is also the President of Poamoho Agricultural Estates, one of the first “agri-hoods” on O‘ahu. Combining her passion for indigenous knowledge and food sovereignty, she grows “canoe-plants,” such as taro, sweet potato, banana, and breadfruit on her 7-acre homestead. Awarded “Island Innovator of the Year” in 2019 by Hawai‘i Venture Capital Association, she co-developed a value-added unit utilizing alternative energy to extend harvests for farmers. As an Environmental Leader with the U.S. Grassroots Accelerator for Women’s Earth Alliance and Sierra Club, she has built a network of like-minded mentors, supportive allies, and other co-leaders. She joined the board in 2019.
Vili is the first Rotuman to receive a Ph.D. as well as Rotuma’s first and only playwright, filmmaker, and full professor. He is a former Director of the Oceania Center for Arts and Culture (Fiji) as well as the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i. Currently he is a professor at the Academy for Creative Media at UH Mānoa where he teaches screenwriting, indigenous aesthetics, and film production. Having lived in Hawai‘i for 30 years, he has made the coconut palm (known widely in Oceania as “the tree of life”) a major focus of his scholarly and creative work. Passionate about trees and indigenous worldviews, he is best known perhaps for having made the narrative feature film Pear ta Ma ‘On Maf: The Land Has Eyes. Vili joined the board in 2020.
Gabby Ahuli‘i Ferreira Holt
Gabrielle Ahuli‘i Ferreira Holt was born and raised in Honolulu. She has a BFA in Theatre Design and Production from the University of British Columbia and an MLIS from the University of Hawai‘i. She has published a series of adaptations of Hawaiian legends with BeachHouse Press, titled Hawaiian Legends for Little Ones. Gabby is currently employed at Hanahauʻoli School, a progressive elementary school in Honolulu, as the school librarian and information literacy specialist. Her work as a librarian is focused on emphasizing a diverse library collection, the role of progressive education in upholding the health of democracy (particularly in the areas of educating children to be critical consumers of information and media), and how the development of multiple literacies can be the key to self-determination (both as an individual and a community). She became a board member in 2021.
Donna Howard has more than 35 years of experience in leading successful fundraising campaigns for major organizations throughout the country. She has served as President and CEO of Kapiolani Health Foundation, President of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, and Director of Development for the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Her recent community involvement includes serving as Director for both the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center, an arts education organization. The daughter of an Army officer, Howard grew up around the world and has lived “on the Pacific” in Hawai‘i and California since 1968. She earned a B.A. degree at Pennsylvania State University and Master of Education – Education Psychology degree at the University of Hawai‘i. She is also a graduate of Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management. She currently lives in Kīhei, Hawai‘i. She has served on the Merwin Conservancy board since 2019.
Catherine St. Germans
Catherine St. Germans was co-founder and director of the Port Eliot Festival, a multi-disciplinary festival held for 13 years on the grounds of the stately home in Cornwall, England where she lived for many years. She now organizes the Regenerative Agriculture Gathering in the UK, and founded Farms to Feed Us, a non-profit helping to support farmers and growers during the Covid-19 crisis. She studied fashion at St. Martins School of Art in London and has written for many publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Face, Vogue, and i-D. She lives in Cornwall and Hawai‘i and has been a Merwin Conservancy board member since 2018.
Matthew Carlos Schwartz, President Emeritus
As Paula Merwin’s son and W.S. Merwin’s stepson, Matt has been involved with the vision for the The Merwin Conservancy since its inception, and led the Conservancy board since the Merwins stopped participating directly in 2010. He has more than 30 years of experience leading mission driven public benefit organizations. A resident of San Francisco, Matt has served as CEO of the California Housing Partnership since 2002. In this capacity, he helps low-income renters gain access to affordable and sustainable homes by providing technical assistance and policy advice to California leaders. Matt has also served for many years on the board and loan committee of Equity Trust, pioneering the use of community land trusts and easements to help local communities gain access to land and other resources needed to increase long-term affordability and sustainability. He has served on the board since the Conservancy’s founding in 2010.
Anne Swayne is President of the Keith and Judy Swayne Family Foundation and leads efforts in Honolulu to engage, inform, and bring together “next gen” donors in the area of social justice funding. She serves on the boards of Hawai‘i Public Radio, the Grantmakers Hui, The Hawai‘i Contemporary, and the Ho‘iwai Fund. She enjoys spending time in nature with her family, reading, writing, and traveling. She has been a Merwin Conservancy board member since 2017.
Jonathan Wells is a writer living in New York City who has worked in book publishing since 1983. His two poetry collections, Train Dance and The Man With Many Pens, were published by Four Way Books. His third collection, Debris, will appear in 2021. His first non-fiction book, The Skinny, will also be published in 2021. Wells’ work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Academy of American Poets website, various anthologies, and many other publications. He was drawn to the Conservancy by his appreciation for what W.S. Merwin conceived and built on his land. He joined the board in 2019.
Michael Wiegers is Editor in Chief of the not-for-profit Copper Canyon Press, one of the original two supporting organizations that helped establish The Merwin Conservancy as a nonprofit organization. He was W.S. Merwin’s publisher and editor for 26 years. Impassioned by William’s poetry, as well as a long friendship with the Merwins, he brings a literary background to the organization, alongside a historical perspective. As an outdoorsperson, he values solitude in wild places, as well as respectful community with critters. He has hiked nearly every watershed of the Olympic Mountains, walked the Paine Circuit in Chile’s Patagonia, climbed the Cascades, paddled the waters of the Salish Sea, and skied the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. When he is not traveling, he lives in a small house near the Salish Sea, in Port Townsend. He has been a Merwin Conservancy board member since 2018.
William and Paula Merwin, Emeritus*
Dr. John Dransfield
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, United Kingdom
Dr. M. Puakea Nogelmeier
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI
Naomi Shihab Nye
San Antonio, TX
Port Townsend, WA
Severine von Tscharner Fleming