Instructor Bios

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Anne Brooks earned a Bachelors of Interior Design degree from Auburn University and an M.A. degree in Art from Spring Hill College. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Watercolor and Graphics Society of Mobile. Her work has been exhibited in various venues in Demopolis, Mobile, Dauphin Island and the Eastern Shore. Anne has taught art at the Sybil Smith Family Village in Mobile and the Fairhope Artists Co-operative Gallery.

John Brown holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and Finance from Florida State University and is a Certified Financial Planner. In 1986, he founded Brown Financial Advisory, a fee-only financial planning/investment firm located in Fairhope. During his career, he served on a number of local and national professional boards, wrote financial columns for a local newspaper, presented financial and retirement planning seminars for employees of various companies, and taught financial classes for the University of South Alabama. Since selling his business in 2010 and retiring, he has served as a Certified Financial Mentor. After his retirement, Brown met author Mitch Anthony and read his book, The New Retirementality, about achieving a fulfilling, purposeful retirement. He found the work both inspirational and practical and is basing his course on its methodology for guiding anyone who is already retired or planning to retire soon.

Rick Byrd was born in Pensacola, Florida (his grandfather was a native of Baldwin County). Rick graduated with a B.A. in History from Huntingdon College, an M.A. in History from Vanderbilt University, and an Ed. M. in Education from Harvard University. He taught for 40 years in independent preparatory schools in Tennessee and Georgia. His Master's work was in Borderlands History, specifically the Old Southwest.  His fields of specialization have been U.S. Colonial History, U.S. Middle Period History, and U.S. Economic History. Most recently he has been involved in researching the Battle of Saipan in World War II.

Christina Caprez  has been studying yoga since 1997 in Fairhope and around the country. One of the very first yoga instructors in the area, she started teaching at ESILL in 2000. Shortly thereafter, she began teaching at the Grand Hotel Spa. She also teaches at the Lakewood Club, taught at the University of South Alabama and the Eastern Shore Arts Center among other places. Christina is constantly learning new ways to strengthen the body by using the breath and releasing tense muscles. She firmly believes that a regular yoga practice will give you a deeper understanding of your body’s needs..

Loran Chavez-With a father in the Air Force, Chavez traveled extensively as a child. The zest for life she acquired with those experiences followed her into adulthood and has been a major influence on her artwork. She is a self-educated artist who works with a limited palette of non-fugitive colors, providing her work a crisp quality. Her style tends toward photorealism and is inspired by the world around her. She is now in her second series of "100 Paintings--100 Days" and maintains a blog about the paintings ( Chavez teaches for the Mobile Museum of Art's Art Blast summer program for children, the Daphne Art Center, Eastern Shore Art Center, Space 301, and the University of South Alabama Continuing Education program. She has run workshops in watercolor and oils/acrylics for groups from Dauphin Island to Ocean Springs, MS. Her work has been in several galleries on the coast, including Cathedral Square Gallery and Fairhope Connections.

Mahala Church,  editor, author, and writing instructor with degrees in fine arts and nursing, writes and edits for an international group of clients both for- and not-for-profit, creating web and blog posts, newsletters, book launches, book reviews, manuscript evaluation, manuals, bylaws, handbooks, and marketing materials. A ghostwriter and editor for both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts, she works with a diverse group of authors, and teaches creative writing and blogging through her Barefoot Writing Academy. A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2008, Church is a published author of articles, short stories, and personal essays. Editorial credits include numerous anthologies, novels, and workshop contest entries. A founding board member of the Emerald Coast Writers, she co-founded the Mobile Writers Guild and is a member of the Pensters Writing Group. She believes that it is vital for writers to commiserate and build viable networks to enable them to succeed. For more information on Church, see;;;

Maggie Cunningham came to yoga rather late in life, but has been an enthusiast and practitioner for the past 10 years. About three years ago, she developed an interest in becoming an instructor. Since then, she’s attained yoga certifications with AFAA, FiTour, and YogaFit, as well as with IDEA Health & Fitness Association in Exercises and Functional Training for Older Adults. She is a Functional Aging Specialist and Functional Aging Group Exercise instructor with the Foundation for Aging Institute. Maggie has been teaching vinyasa yoga at Anytime Fitness in Daphne since July 2016 and FLY yoga (Functional Lifestyle Yoga) in Fairhope for the past two years. She has also been a presenter at the Fairhope Unitarian Center on the topic of Yoga: Above and Beyond the Mat. A proponent of fitness, Maggie shares her enthusiasm and tries to be an example of the positive effect exercise has on the aging process. She enjoys not only yoga, but also other types of physical exercise, and engages as a class participant and regular exerciser at Anytime Fitness and the YMCA in Daphne..

Michael Darring was born in Mobile and has recently retired from a career in the oilfields of the Gulf of Mexico. He received a BA in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee and has traveled extensively and read widely. This past year, an interest in the founding of the New England colonies focused his attention on the subject of democracy. This led him to read various books, treatises, and papers on the subject from ancient and modern sources. His course is a way to share his enthusiasm with others who may be equally interested in history and how human society seeks to organize itself for its betterment. .

Margaret Davis  Davis is a retired professor from Spring Hill College where she taught courses in Latino/a-American literature and American literature of all genres.

Wendy Gosnell is a Certified Professional Secretary, with an Alabama Life, Health and Disability license and an Alabama Real Estate license; a California Insurance Property and Casualty Agent with Brokers licenses; and a Financial Paraplanner. She developed “Taming the Paper Dragon,” a system to organize paperwork and simplify lives, after working with people who had lost family members and needed guidance on how to collect benefits. Her previous experience in helping set up small companies – filing and archiving systems, customer service, shipping, and other departments – provided the foundation for preparing her guide. In her leisure time, Gosnell has enjoyed knitting since she was eight years old, finding great joy and comfort in the click of the needles, the sliding of the yarn though her fingers. She pursues different types of projects – from simple potholders to knitted lace hats, and everything in between. She designed scarves for “Knit Your Bit” at the World War II Museum in New Orleans for their Tenth Anniversary, honoring family members who served in the Army Air Corps and Merchant Marines. Her pet project now is knitting hats for the veterans at the William F. Greene facility in Bay Minette.

Rosanne Gulisano is the founder and facilitator of Lifestories: Creating a Memoir, a memoir-writing workshop. She has been writing and speaking about memoir-writing since 1999. Her mission is to encourage people from all walks of life to write their own life story for future generations. She has started several successful ongoing memoir-writing groups and has taught her workshop for lifelong learning programs, women’s clubs, libraries, park district programs and in community college classes. Rosanne is a freelance memoir ghostwriter and has written several biographies as well as a 50th anniversary corporate history and a community memory book.

John Helmstadter has been sailing for over 60 years, owning and sailing several types of small sailboats: Snipe, Sunfish, Thistle, Lightning, Butterfly, Catalina 22, and an S2-6.7. He has been active in a number of yacht clubs, most recently including the Fairhope Yacht Club, where he is in charge of the Adult Sailing Program, and scorekeeper of Sunday and Thursday night races. He says, “Sailing has been a very important and exciting part of my life, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with others.”


Brenda Huchingson holds a Ph.D. degree in English literature.  She taught college English for over 30 years at Tulane University, the University of South Carolina, and Hampton University in Virginia.  Brenda is the ESILL Registrar.

Ronald Hunt is a Masters-level trained economic philosopher, writer, and nonconformist who shares his journey with esoteric symbolism. Ancestral ties to Western wisdom, Transcendentalism, and a deep respect for Eastern philosophy create journeymen and women who believe all paths when successfully discerned lead to Abraham Maslow's idea of self-actualization.

Dr. Harvey Joanning trained in counseling psychology, with a specialization in marriage and family therapy, and received his doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1973. His specializations include marriage and family therapy, neuropsychology, theories and philosophy of science, vocational psychology, life sciences, and research methodology. He teaches continuing education workshops for health and mental health professionals, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses for several universities. He is a professional volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Tinnitus Association. He helps families learn to care for a member with Alzheimer’s disease and trains health care workers to assist families of Alzheimer’s patients. He also helps individuals deal with troublesome “head noises” such as ringing in the ears. He is a marriage and family life consultant with the United States Department of Defense and has worked extensively with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and the Veterans Administration. His presentation "The Brain in Love" has been presented throughout the United States at various universities and as part of the University of South Alabama’s Distinguished Lecture series..

Banks Ladd obtained his B.A. degree from Washington & Lee University and his law degree from the University of Alabama. He has practiced law in Mobile since 1993. Banks has the highest peer review rating (AV) for professional excellence from the legal directory of Martindale-Hubbell and is licensed to practice law in Alabama and Mississippi. He is also a member of the Alabama State Bar Elder Law Section, ElderCounsel, and Lawyers With Purpose.

Rebecca LaNasa has been a fitness instructor at the Whitney Laboratories at the University of Florida Center in Palm Coast, Florida, for seven years. She is a licensed Fitness Instructor and member of the Zumba Instructor Network; is certified as a Group Fitness Instructor; and is a member of the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America. She holds a CPR Certification through the American Red Cross and has recently completed the AFAA specialty workshops “Golden Hearts Senior Fitness Training” and “Exercise Design for Seniors.” 

Dr. Harry Miller was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, and holds a B.A. degree from Wesleyan University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. He has lived and explored in Taiwan, China, and Japan and, since 2002, has taught Asian history at the University of South Alabama. Dr. Miller is the author or translator of three books on Chinese history: State Versus Gentry in Late Ming Dynasty China, 1572-1644 (2008); State Versus Gentry in Early Qing Dynasty China, 1644-1699 (2013); and The Gongyang Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals: A Full Translation (2015). He branched into historical fiction in 2018 with the publication of Southern Rain, a novel of seventeenth-century China. He and his family live in Mobile.

Fred Nation, who lives in Daphne, is a field botanist and environmental consultant and is certified in herbicide application. He has documented and photographed the wildflowers and native plants of South Alabama for 20 years. Nation teaches for the Baldwin and Mobile County Master Gardener intern classes; has offered courses for ESILL; conducts regular classes on habitats and ecosystems for the Friends Groups at Weeks Bay Reserve; and has conducted numerous workshops and seminars on native and invasive exotic plants for national and state groups. Currently, he is a member of the Baldwin County Forestry Planning Committee. Nation has nominated or co-nominated more than 20 Alabama State Champion Trees and is the author of.

Harriet Outlaw, a former educator and professional development specialist, is a local folklorist who is passionate about preserving oral tradition and stories of local heritage. Her presentations for many local groups have earned her a reputation as an entertaining and informative speaker. She has co-authored three Images of America books that feature vintage photographs of local communities in Baldwin County, as well as Haunted Baldwin County, a collection of ghost stories from the area. Mrs. Outlaw is a featured OpEd Columnist with the Gulf Coast Media weekly newspapers; a member of the Baldwin County Historical Society and the Baldwin County AL200 Steering Committee; and a founding member of Southern Story Jam, a storytelling organization. Her work with historic schools and communities has resulted in a series of documentaries currently posted on the Baldwin County Commission website and YouTube. She lives with her husband in Fairhope, Alabama.
Billie Reinhart, at the age of 17, was drawn to the spiritual, non-competitive, and pain relieving aspects of yoga.  A Hatha certified instructor, Billie has been studying Anusara since 2006, the same year she began teaching yoga. She is certified with Yoga Alliance, ACE and AFAA. Her special interest in therapeutics and anatomy led her to study Thai Yoga Bodywork in 2010. Her style is also influenced by her personal Anusara, Acro-yoga, and partner yoga practice.  When she's not in class, she's sewing, camping, getting ready for her next concert or music festival, or in a lounging lawn chair with her feet in the creek. 

Tony Rhodes- graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and has done graduate work at the University of Tennessee. He served as a Naval Aviator for 21 years, with tours at Top Gun, CIA, and Air Force Exchange in Europe, and flew four cruises, including a combat tour in 1972 over North Vietnam. After retiring, he served in the Federal Aviation Agency as an Automation and Safety Engineer and as an Air Traffic Controller. Since 2010, he has taught lifelong learning courses at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Emily Ellis Richards Emily Ellis Richards discovered the banjo later in life and has spent the last couple of years intensively studying the clawhammer old-time style of playing. She has studied at the Alabama Folk School under Riley Baugus and has attended numerous jam sessions with some of the top old-time musicians in the country. Emily hopes to pass on to her students the enthusiasm she has for the banjo..

Manuela Ruggiero was born and raised in Naples, in the south of Italy. She studied Italian literature, art, and design and worked for many years as designer before moving to the United States in 2014. Currently, she is a full-time mother of a young son, teaching him Italian words daily and keeping her Italian traditions alive for him. She enjoys meeting people from different cultures, and is looking forward to teaching Italian to adult beginners.

Gene Sellier is a founder of a computer company that developed hardware and software solutions for small business systems. After selling his computer business, Gene managed the largest independent camera store in St. Louis for almost two years before retiring. He is a photography enthusiast and former ESILL board member.

Jane Sellier is a teaching artist who believes in the freedom and fun art can provide.  Her philosophy is to “have fun, be experimental and share it with others.”  Painting in soft pastels, watercolors, oils and acrylics, she enjoys switching mediums because each one stays new, fresh and exciting.  She continues to take classes and workshops and says, “If I’m not teaching, I’m taking a course.  Art is a never-ending learning process and so much can be learned from other artists.” Jane has won awards that include ribbons, cash prizes and best of show.  Her paintings are in private and corporate collections both in the United States and in Canada.  Her work has been published in The Artist’s Magazine and Artist’s Sketchbook Magazine.  Jane’s paintings can be seen at Eastern Shore Art Center.

Rabbi Steven Silberman: Before he received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbi Steven Silberman received a B.S. degree in psychology from UCLA, pursued rabbinical studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and studied in Jerusalem at the Neve Schechter campus. He has lived with his wife and their four children in Mobile for the past 25 years. Rabbi Silberman values family time and the opportunity of learning and spiritual growth, and he appreciates the significance of sharing special life moments and ordinary time with his synagogue members (Cong. Ahavas Chesed) and members of the local community. He is active in Jewish-Christian Dialogue and five years ago was asked to help start the Muslim/Jewish/Christian Trialogue. He also writes occasional newspaper columns and teaches in various communal settings. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, music, and traveling with his family.

Chip Smith -Although Chip Smith is from an artistic family, it was not until he saw a wood carving demonstration in 1997 that he became hooked on art. After initially carving on his own, he took the North Alabama Woodcarvers Association (NAWA) Beginners Course. Since then, he has studied wood carving and sculpting under several well-known American artists, as well as studying in many western European countries. Smith is fascinated with faces and specializes in caricatures of golfers, ballplayers, etc. He has also carved freshwater fish and birds, using wood carving, wood burning, and airbrush painting techniques. His work is on display in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and also in the German cities of Koblenz, Munich, and Merring. After 25 years vacationing in Fairhope, Smith and his wife Kay retired here recently. He tries to develop new carving pieces as often as possible and is now collaborating with an artist in wood, who builds custom doors that incorporate his carvings.

Susan Stein grew up in Atmore, Alabama, and holds a degree from the University of South Alabama. She began working for the Grand Hotel in 1986 as assistant to the Director of Food and Beverage; in 1995, she became the General Manager's assistant, a position she still holds; and in 2018, she also became the Historian for the hotel. Through the years, Susan has acquired many stories about the Grand, which she enjoys recounting on tours and talks for various groups and in orientation sessions for new employees. She has also shared her historical information on the Beach TV network and with local historians and authors. Recently, she contributed her knowledge to an article in Mobile Bay magazine about Project Ivory Soap, concerning the time that The Grand Hotel served as a training facility during World War II. Susan and her husband live in Fairhope..

Thelma Topper was born and educated in England and moved to the U.S. in 1979. She has lived on the Eastern Shore for 25 years, where she enjoys a retirement filled with friends and cultural events. From her early years, atlases and maps have always held more interest for her than any other subject. This translated into a love of travel that began with her first holiday abroad to Norway, when she was 11. Since then, Thelma has visited 93 of the 195 United Nations member countries and many more independent states and territories. On those trips, she travels as much as possible by local public transport and stays in small, family run hotels, gaining opportunities to see the countryside, meet the local people, and experience, for a limited time, their way of life, cultures, food, and wines. This approach has always held much more appeal for her than simply looking at ruins and monuments. And there are always more "off-the beaten-track" places still to visit!.

Jere Trigg, a resident of Spanish Fort for 33 years, was born in Mobile and graduated in 1975 from the University of Alabama with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Until his retirement in 2009, he worked for the UOP Molecular Sieve Manufacturing Plant in a number of positions, most recently as the Health, Safety, and Environmental Manager. Trigg became interested in growing African violets when he was given a plant 40 years ago, and he quickly developed an appreciation for their beauty and ease of culture. Since his retirement, he has been experimenting with African Violet hybridization and has produced hundreds of seedlings from his cross pollinations. As a member of the African Violet Society of American and the Baldwin County Master Gardeners, he volunteers for the Master Gardeners Speakers Bureau and has given presentations on African Violets to numerous area garden clubs. His goal when speaking about violets is to create interest in this rewarding hobby and to encourage others to give it a try.

Dina von Campe was born and educated in Lima, Peru. After leaving Peru, she resided in the Caribbean, Germany, the U.S., and Mexico before returning full-time to the U.S. in 1990. Her teaching experiences started as early as 1962 in Lima, and, in the 1980s, she created a language program for executives in Germany. After her family settled in America, she helped children enrolled in the Early Childhood Development at Stratton Meadows Elementary in Colorado Springs, CO. Ms. von Campe moved to Alabama in 2004, where she worked together with FEEF to launch a pilot program for foreign language instruction in the Fairhope schools. She taught second-fifth graders at Fairhope Elementary and Larry Newton schools from 2007-2010. In 2011, Ms. von Campe began teaching Spanish again, focusing on preschool-aged children. She also tutors teenagers and adults one-on-one and has created a special program for adults and seniors, based on her belief that learning a new language not only helps the brain keep active but also slows the loss of memory..

Greg Waselkov, professor emeritus at the University of South Alabama, is an archaeologist who has studied the Old Federal Road across Alabama, among many other historical topics. His most recent field project has focused on an ancient canoe canal that once crossed the Fort Morgan Peninsula in the early 7th century AD. Some ongoing writing projects include a co-authored guide to the Old Federal Road and two books: one on Native American log cabins in the Southeast and another on Native American relationships with black bears. He and his wife Linda live in Stockton, on the Bartram Trail.

Irene Wegner has been telling stories for over 39 years and has used education grants to share stories and teach storytelling in schools throughout the mid-western rural areas of the U.S. Now a happy resident of Fairhope, she would like to share tips and techniques so that others can continue this age-old tradition.

Jan Weiler, while living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, became one of the first woman stockholders in the state. She and her husband discovered Fairhope in 1965 on a golf trip to the Grand Hotel. They lived and traveled aboard their boat, covering 8,000 miles of waterways, but, never forgetting Fairhope, they sold the boat and moved here. (As she says, “Fairhope was founded by Iowans, and here we were 100 years later!”) Fascinated by the area, she formed Landmark Tours, and since 1994 she has taken bus groups in and around Mobile, the Eastern Shore, the Gulf Coast and beyond. Jan first became an ESILL instructor teaching courses on the Mechanics of Investing 25 years ago. We are so happy to have her back to lead us on historic tours!

Vincentine Williams is an accomplished pianist and the teacher of approximately 35 piano students, many of them gifted.   She belongs to six professional organizations and chairs three local music events for students.  Much in demand as a musical adjudicator of student performances, she has studied in France and holds music degrees from Tulane University and the University of Southern Mississippi.  In 2008 she was the recipient of the Alabama Music Teacher of the Year Award.  Since 1982 she has been the organist and choirmaster at Ascension Lutheran Church in Daphne, and as our longest serving ESILL instructor, since 1980, we couldn’t do without her!

John O’Melveny Woods has been writing screenplays, television plays, and books since attending the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts in the early 1990s. His first novel, Return to Treasure Island, received numerous awards, including the Silver Medal for book of the year by the Independent Book Publishers Association. A second book, Jesse James' Secret, a blend of biography, history, and fiction, was the basis for  Jesse James' Hidden Treasure, a two-hour special shown on the History Channel that was written and produced by the author.


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