Left to Right: Kristen Provost Switzer, Chontell Washington, Nancy True, Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer (Executive Director), Brian Lapis (Board Chair), Rev. Erick Olsen, Amber Bigley, Lara Edmondson, John Bourdeaux, Jonathan Russell, Rev. Marilyn Kendrix (Bridge Conference Minister)
Not Pictured: Cindy Cayer, Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Herb Knight, Graham Sweetnam
The Silver Lake Board of Directors is an advisory board to Silver Lake Conference Center, chartered by the Missionary Society of Connecticut. Members are drawn from Silver Lake supporters throughout the Southern New England region and serve for a term of 3 years and can serve two consecutive terms. The Executive Director and the Conference Minister serve as members ex officio.
Brian Lapis began his lifelong love affair with Silver Lake as a conferee in the summer of 1982. Since then, Brian has served Silver Lake on the summer staff, as a counselor, and several years as the co-dean of the long-running summer conference, Fun in the Son! Brian says, "I love that SLCC usually brings out the best in people, which results in joy and inevitably, laughter! There's nothing more fun than laughing at camp."
He is an active member of First Congregational Church of South Hadley, MA, where he has served as Moderator and on the Stewardship committee. In the wider UCC, Brian is the vice chair of the board of directors of The Office of Communications, Inc. (OC Inc.) , the media justice ministry of the UCC. When he’s not at camp, Brian is a broadcaster, employed as the evening weather anchor at WWLP TV, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, MA. Like many professional broadcasters, he has worked at a variety of stations, both radio and television, in a variety of cities, predominantly in southern New England. Brian is a past member of the UCC Executive Council and Office of General Ministries Board of Directors. Brian holds a B.S. in Television, Radio and Film Management from Syracuse University and a Broadcast Meteorology Certificate from Mississippi State University. Brian has twin middle school-aged daughters, who are enthusiastic Silver lake conferees!
John Bourdeaux serves as the Vice President of Advancement for the Connecticut Science Center, an organization dedicated to scientific exploration, teacher development, and education transformation. At the Science Center, John is responsible for the marketing and fund development functions. Prior to this appointment, John served as the Director of Development for Hartford Stage. He transformed their program, bringing in thousands of additional donors and $1 million in operating revenue, as well as launching a major gift initiative that enabled the completion of a multi-million dollar renovation. Prior to Hartford Stage, he worked with the Melville Charitable Trust and the Partnership for Strong Communities, organizations focused on homelessness and affordable housing policy. He has served the development offices of the University of Chicago, The Hotchkiss School, and Yale University. In all of these positions, he has been responsible for securing tens of millions in philanthropic support while promoting the mission of each organization, bringing many new supporters and advocates into the fold.
Early in his career, John founded and managed his own not-for-profit theater company in Chicago, IL, production modern American drama and late-night improvisational comedy. He has also served as a consultant and board member for academic institutions as well as social action and arts organizations. John is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School and the University of Chicago.
Cindy Cayer has a lifelong association with Silver Lake. She has been connected to The Lake as a conferee, parent, dean, and had a former stint on the SLCC Board. She is glad to be back on the Board serving with this creative, motivated, dedicated group of volunteers. One of the things she loves about Silver Lake is the sound of children playing while they experience the joy of God’s creation. Cindy and her husband, David, enjoy visiting with friends, road trips, and spending time with their family. Their children Will and Chris are SLCC Alumni. She recently retired from a 34-year career in educational fundraising and currently serves as an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University. Cindy had had many leadership roles Plantsville Congregational Church and enjoys singing in the choir and playing in the bell choir. She had recently served on the UCC Global Ministries Board.
Lara Edmondson started attending Silver Lake as a conferee in the early 1980s and continued to volunteer as a Counselor, Dean and Fall/Spring Action participant through the mid-90s. She became involved with Silver Lake again as a parent once her children became old enough to attend, and was invited to serve on the Board of Directors in October 2016. Lara and her husband, Jeff, live in Milford, CT, with their 3 children and golden retriever. She is a lifelong member of the First United Church of Christ, Congregational in Milford. She enjoys reading, photography, thrift shopping, and the beach. If she could sit down today and share a s’more with someone, it would be her grandmother, whom she would treasure more time with. Her favorite place at Silver Lake is the ball field at night stargazing, or the peace and comfort of the Hubbel Chapel.
Silver Lake parent.
Erick Olsen lives in Norfolk as the husband of (his frequent co-dean) Tina and father of Elias, Ellie, and Olivia. They have lived happily in "The Icebox of CT" since 2003 when Erick was called there as Pastor of Church of Christ Congregational (UCC). In addition to serving as a local pastor, Erick has always been active in UCC work, including his time as a member of the Conference Minister Search Committee from 2011 through 2013. He is committed to social justice, particularly to affordable housing, efforts to live greener lives, and improving relations between people of different races and creeds. He enjoys running, good coffee, time with friends and family (including his dog, Zoe), reading, rivers, and learning about the passions of others. He is honored to serve on the Board of Directors of your Silver Lake Conference Center, and he is excited to help more people of all ages to discover this place where "you can truly be yourself and know that you are loved for who you are."
(Pronouns: she/ her/ hers)
Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is proud to call herself a native of Newtown, Connecticut, where she is the Associate Pastor of Youth and Mission at the Newtown Congregational Church, an Open and Affirming Church of the United Church of Christ. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Northeastern University, a Certificate of Professional Ministry from Hartford Seminary, and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, where she completed a Fellowship in Youth Ministry. She is currently a candidate for Doctor of Ministry at Hartford Seminary where she is studying the intersection of social justice engagement and congregational vitality. She has worked with youth as Youth Group Advisor at Monroe Congregational Church, Youth Minister of Spring Glen Church, UCC and as Designated Pastor of Prospect Congregational Church, UCC. She was ordained to the United Church of Christ in 2015, while serving at the Prospect Congregational Church, UCC in Prospect, Connecticut.
Kristen lives with her spouse, Scott, who is a professional musician. They are members together of the New England New Music Ensemble. Kristen loves to spend much of her free time with her family, at the gym, hiking, eating vegetarian food, and playing with their two cats Fred and Clara. Kristen and Scott are licensed foster parents for the CT Department of Children and Families and proud parents to three young foster and biological children.
For more than 30 years, Jonathan Russell has been married to his best friend, Cindi Bates. Their adult children, Emma and Sam, had amazing beneficial experiences at Silver Lake, where they both attended as conferees and served as counselors. Emma also served on camp staff and as co-dean. A longtime member, Jonathan is very active in the First Church of Christ Congregational in Glastonbury, where he currently serves on Trustees and is putting his construction management background to work as chair of the building committee for the Micah Chapel project. Immediately adjacent to First Church, the project involves renovating and expanding a 300-year-old home in Glastonbury’s historic district and converting it into a community use chapel. Cindi and Jonathan are both committed to social justice, diversity, and equality, and to that end Jonathan served on the board for 13 years and as President for 3 years of Glastonbury A Better Chance. Jonathan and Cindi love theater, traveling, reading, and walking together on the beach.
Having graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1982, Captain Russell retired after a 33-year active duty Coast Guard career. The last 28 years were spent as faculty at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, where he taught engineering and ultimately served for 5 years as Dean and Head of Engineering. His UMass Amherst PhD is in structural engineering and he has a Master’s degree from RPI in Business Administration. As a member of the Silver Lake board, Jonathan will put his extensive experience with higher education accreditation to work in helping guide Silver Lake to achieve American Campground Association accreditation.
In 2012, Graham Sweetnam did not want to go to camp, but after his first week with Bon Voyage, he could not stay away. Graham was a conferee until age 15 when he became a CIT for the summer of 2014, then Camp Family in 2015, followed by three years of ETF and a final summer serving as ETF coordinator. He has experienced all levels of camp staff and is now looking forward to continuing his connection with SLCC through a broader view. Currently, he is a college student at Stonehill College (Congregation of the Holy Cross) in Easton, Massachusetts, where he studies Marketing. He is also a lifelong member of the First Congregational Church of Woodstock, CT. His favorite place at camp is the waterfall chapel, which he helped to renovate in 2018.
Nancy True grew up in Lakeville, and started as a conferee when she was nine years old, attending at least one conference each summer through high school. After graduating from Bates College in Maine, she moved to Mansfield in Southeastern Massachusetts and waited for the day her children would be old enough to go to Silver Lake. Nancy has been a dean for several summers. Her daughter Ally is currently in her second year on staff as Camp Photographer, and her son Colin was on Camp Family in 2019. Her husband Rob rounds
out the True effort using his brawn at Spring and Fall Action weekends. She loves that Silver Lake is such a life-changing experience, where everyone is loved for exactly who they are. She appreciates the opportunity to see God’s love in action in so many ways every time she sets foot on the property.
An active member of Trinitarian Congregational Church in Norton, MA, Nancy has served on most committees, been a church delegate at the local and state level, and was Office Manager for several years. She was Superintendent of Sunday School for lucky-13 years, and continues to help with middle school and confirmation. She works in the office of the middle school in Mansfield but has summers off to be at camp when she can, especially to welcome families at registration on Sundays. In her free time, she’s a fan of
traveling, reading a book on Cape Cod beaches, jigsaw puzzles, and walking. Her favorite recent vacation was walking coast-to-coast across Scotland with her family. She’s also the alpha for her Wheaten Terrier, Barkley.