BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Board of Directors for The Museum of Jersey City History, formed in 2021, is comprised of local leaders and business people with a mutual admiration for the people and stories of Jersey City.
FROM L-R: Martin Pierce, Paul Dennison, Jerome Choice, Sanjay Chauhan, Heather Wahl, Christopher Perez, Ben Jones
Not Pictured: John Beekman, Doreen Bloomer. James Dievler, Melissa dos Santos, Michelle Vitale
CLICK ON BOARD MEMBERS NAME FOR BIO
John Beekman is a local history librarian and archivist in the New Jersey Room of the Jersey City Free Public Library. He has worked there since receiving his MLIS degree from Rutgers in 2006, becoming Dept. Manager in 2020. Prior to that he was a sheet music librarian at Tams Witmark Music Library, providing scripts and scores to musicals to amateur, school and professional theaters. He serves as co-editor of the H-Net forum for NJ History, H-New-Jersey, and is active in the NJ Studies Academic Alliance, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, and the New Jersey Library Association’s History and Preservation section, from which he received the 2022 Susan Swartzburg Award. As a founding board member of the Museum of Jersey City History, John looks forward to a fruitful partnership between the MJCH and the Jersey City Free Public Library, with the library serving as both a research resource for the museum and a partner in projects that enrich the understanding of local history through engagement with Jersey City’s diverse communities, collecting and preserving history as experienced and recalled by recent generations.
Sanjay is currently Chief Financial Officer of Pan Am Equities, a privately held diversified asset management firm in New York City. He has been a senior executive in the real estate industry for the last twenty years with experience as CFO, COO, Senior Advisor and Portfolio Manager with well-respected firms such as Urban American, Jonathan Rose Companies and A&E. In his current and prior positions, he has played an active role in capital strategies, staffing improvements, technology upgrades and growth support pivotal to the companies’ expansion in the industry. A substantial part of Sanjay’s work has been in managing institutional capital for mission-oriented firms focused on impact investing in the workforce and affordable segments of multifamily housing. Sanjay holds Masters degrees in Economics from University of Kent at Canterbury, and University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Sanjay is also credentialed as a Certified Public Accountant in New Jersey, as well as a Chartered Financial Analyst. Sanjay also sits on the board of Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, a not-for profit organization dedicated to historic preservation in Jersey City, where he also served as President for three years.
Jerome Choice is a long time resident of Jersey City, local historian, community activist and advocate / President of the Friends of Berry Lane Park / Rutgers University Certified Master Gardener / Board of Director of the Morris Canal Community Development Corporation / Archivist for the Community Awareness Program of the Jersey City Public Library / retired social service worker of the Hudson County Division of Welfare / Board member of the Museum of Jersey City History / graduate of St. Peter’s University with a B.S. in Marketing.
Paul Dennison helps create conditions to appreciate and effectively assess the needs of organizations and programs. Stakeholders, including individuals’ purpose and goals are included into their strategies that help develop tools for distinctive action that have decisive impact.
Paul is a management consultant, who provides consulting services in the areas of corporate and philanthropic partnership development, organizational management, strategic framework, grant management and data analysis. He supports arts and culture community revitalization and creative placemaking initiatives. Through placemaking Paul strives to raise the awareness and increase the dialogue among area stakeholders to expand and develop areas of support to make arts, culture and design an integral element of community development, economic opportunity and urban planning strategies.
Along with volunteer work as a MJCH board member, Paul serves as Board President with Jersey City Theater Center, a nonprofit arts and culture organization that focuses on social, social justice, political and equity issues thru theater, visual arts, music, dance and community collaborative engagement.
James A. Dievler is an American Studies Ph.D. (NYU) with over twenty-five years teaching experience in the college and university classroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Temple University. He has taught a range of History, English, Literature and Writing courses to a diverse student body from middle school through high school, college and beyond. He has more recently worked as an online educator and mentor, offering lessons in English Language Arts, American and World History, Essay Writing, and Standardized Test Prep.
He is a published scholarly writer and freelance writer for business and individual clients. He is also a passionate creative writer, engaged in writing short and long fiction.
As an engaged and active resident of Jersey City, NJ, he is a board member of the Bergen Square Historical Society and is chairperson of the History Committee of the Journal Square Community Association, providing lectures, programs, and walking tours. He is an authority on Bergen Square, the first permanent European settlement in New Jersey. He is recipient of the Hudson County History Program Grant for 2020 and 2021 to research and write a history booklet entitled, “Bergen Square 360” (a history of Bergen Square in Jersey City). He was honored by the West Point Military Academy for his contributions to teaching local history to cadets in 2018.
James is one of the founding members of the Museum of Jersey City Board of Directors.
MELISSA DOS SANTOS
Melissa dos Santos is the middle and high school social studies supervisor for the Jersey City Public Schools. In this role, she is responsible for the social studies curriculum, assessments, and supporting teacher instruction. As an instructional leader, Melissa ensures a quality curriculum is taught with fidelity and cultivates a strong academic culture among teachers and fellow administrators. Prior to becoming a supervisor, Melissa taught high school social studies in Jersey City Public Schools. Recently, Melissa has supported the infusion of local history into the curriculum and student programming. Melissa currently serves as an ambassador to the New York Historical Society for the Women and the American Story Program. She received the NJ Council for the Humanities Grant to highlight the suffrage centennial and continues to work to create authentic historical experiences for teachers and students. Outside of her professional life, Melissa enjoys her family, spending time outdoors, and teaching yoga.
Born in Paterson, NJ on May 26,1941 -- one of fifteen children to Ormsby Francis Jones and Elise North Jones; Education: Paterson public schools, BA from Paterson State College in Art Education and Fine Arts, MA from New York University in Art Education and Fine Arts and Pratt Institute in Fine Arts and Printmaking; Art Career: Exhibited locally, nationally, Internationally. Artwork in permanent collection of NJ State Museum, Newark Art Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Jersey City Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Teaching: Professor of Fine Arts at New Jersey City University from 1967 to 2010; Social Activist for Equality and Justice.
I am proud to be the first President of the Board of the Museum of Jersey City History (MJCH). Several years ago, in an opinion piece I wrote for the Jersey Journal, I proposed that a museum of Jersey City history be established and that it be located in the historic, landmark Apple Tree House of Revolutionary War fame.
Now, I am working to turn that dream into a reality, by employing the skills I acquired and honed as a curator, an educator, and a lawyer. For eighteen years I served on the Board of the International Institute of New Jersey; finally, as its president. The Institute assisted aliens, asylees, immigrants, migrants, and refugees rebuild shattered lives in a new welcoming community. During my tenure there, I happily contributed to making Jersey City the diverse, equitable, and inclusive place that it strives to be. I see a close connection between my work at the International Institute and my work at MJCH. In the increasingly globalized and socially conflicted Jersey City of today, the lessons of our distinct and unique past are more important than ever in preparing us to confidently face and overcome the many difficult challenges that confront us, by inspiring us to maintain the truly American spirit of our highest ideal: "liberty and justice for all."
Heather Wahl is the founding artistic director of Speranza Theatre company and is the Co-Director of Speranza's Educational programming. She has taught acting, improv, storybooks to stage, speech, and production classes. Heather has produced 15 full length plays, numerous original plays by her acting students, multiple staged readings, directed and/or choreographed 50+ productions, and acted in 100+ shows from off-Broadway to regional work in 36 of the contiguous United States. Speranza Producer Highlights: VOTES FOR WOMEN; WOMEN RISING STORIES OF HOPE; UNVEILING LIBERTY; JANEY MILLER’S WORLD TOUR; MILLICENT THE MAGNIFICENT; A PIECE OF MY HEART; and THE DAUGHTERS OF EVE.