Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

Staff Spotlight: Jen Gowers REBECCA MERRILL MAY 31, 2018

picture of Jen Gowers

Name: Jen Gowers
Title: Executive Director, ACT Program
Neighborhood/Town you live in: Harlem
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: About three months

What is your origin story?
I had the pleasure of receiving my doctoral hood from Teachers College on this beautiful campus, and that particular encounter with this holy and magnificent space has long stayed with me. Believing deeply in young people and in their endless potential, having worked in a variety of roles in both NYC public and NYC public charter education, and living for about 15 years in the neighborhood, I was delighted to encounter the Cathedral’s ACT program (Adults and Children in Trust), which has been enriching and developing young people in Harlem for over 40 years. I was captivated by the opportunity to use my educational leadership skillset specifically here, in service of toddlers to teens at a place I believe in so deeply: the Cathedral’s inclusivity, beauty and core values set a strong foundation for this diverse, nurturing educational organization, and it’s an honor to be here.

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Staff Spotlight: Nicole Toutounji REBECCA MERRILL MAY 15, 2018

Woman in beekeeping outfit next to hives and trees

Name: Nicole Toutounji
Title: Beekeeper in Residence
Neighborhood you live in: Upper West Side
Length of time you’ve been associated with the Cathedral: 5 years

What is your origin story?
After a long career as a photographer and photo editor at UNICEF’s New York headquarters, I took beekeeping classes, joined The Honeybee Conservancy, and apprenticed with seasoned beekeepers. I always hoped that my beehives would find their home on the grounds of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine because I have always thought of the Cathedral as being a wonderful oasis of serenity and holiness. Ray Guyette, the former Director, Facilities, and Lisa Schubert, VP, Programming and External Affairs, helped make that dream come true. We have now two beehives on the Close. One of the stones that weighs the hive down has Ray’s name carved on it. Although I’m not a member of the congregation here, I could not think of a better place for a beehive than the Cathedral. The grounds are magnificent and the Cathedral cares about sustainability. There is something very blessed here—they keep God’s creation in good repair.

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Staff Spotlight: David Briggs REBECCA MERRILL JANUARY 9, 2018

David Briggs sitting at organ
Name: David Briggs
Title: Artist in Residence
Neighborhood/Town you live in: NYC
Length of time you’ve been affiliated with the Cathedral: Since October 1, 2017

What is your Cathedral origin story?
I first performed at the cathedral in April 2013 for the premiere of my transcription of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the ‘Resurrection Symphony’. I completely fell in love with the wonderful Aeolian-Skinner Opus 150A organ, with it’s almost limitless resources of color and power. At that time I was Artist in Residence at St. James Cathedral, Toronto. My 5-year tenure in Toronto came to an end last summer and I’m thrilled now to be based at St. John the Divine.

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Staff Spotlight: Thomas Perry REBECCA MERRILL NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Name: Thomas Perry
Title: Program Manager, Cathedral Community Cares
Neighborhood/town you live in: Inwood
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: 16 years

What is your origin story?
I was going to school for cooking and heard there was a soup kitchen at the Cathedral that needed volunteers. I showed up and for the first few weeks I was on dish duty but when George, who had run the soup kitchen for years, heard I was a chef, he had me start helping him with the cooking. I basically became his Sous Chef. The biggest thing I learned from George is that we want to give everyone here a restaurant experience from the food that we serve to the way that people are treated. A few years later George passed away and I came on as the part-time as Food Manager. About a year ago, I took on managing all of CCC.

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Staff Spotlight: Peter Ennis REBECCA MERRILL OCTOBER 30, 2017

headshot of Peter Ennis

Name: Peter Ennis
Title: Liturgy Assistant
Neighborhood/Town you live in: Brooklyn, NY
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: Two years

What is your Cathedral origin story?
My parish is St. Michael’s on 99th Sreet & Amsterdam Ave and a number of years ago we were invited to provide acolytes for diocesan services like the Feast of Absalom Jones and the consecration services for Bishop Dietsche and Bishop Shin. When the Canon for Liturgy & Arts at the time, Julia Whitworth, was looking for and assistant in her office, she reached out to me.

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Staff Spotlight: Dana Settles REBECCA MERRILL AUGUST 28, 2017

Name: Dana Settles
Title: Manager, Group Tours and School Programs
Neighborhood/Town you live in: Washington Heights/Inwood
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: This is my fifth year.

What is your Cathedral origin story?
My background is in Art History and Museum Education. A friend of mine told me about a part-time Educator opportunity at the Cathedral teaching student and adult groups. Luckily I was hired, and eventually became the Manager of Group Tours and School Programs.

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