The Smirkus Board of Directors
Often spotted as Ticket Takers, Ushers, and Parkers during the Big Top Tour, the board works tirelessly to keep our tent tops high, our popcorn popping, and our aerialists soaring above the crowd.
★ BOARD MEMBERS ★
Kate Hayes, President
In 1991 Kate ran off to join the circus, attending Smirkus Camp and then joining the Big Top Tour (1992-1997). After a decade in management in the service industry, she received her master’s degree in International Human Rights from the University of Denver and moved into nonprofit sector work. Kate provides expertise and oversight for medical billing and contract negotiation for healthcare organizations. She enjoys traveling the world with her husband, a retired NHL player, and her two daughters while also spending as much time as possible outside, volunteering in her kids’ classrooms and at the Desert Botanic Gardens.
Justin LeBlanc, Vice President
South Portland, ME
Justin is a former gymnast and a former minor league baseball and basketball mascot, turned attorney. At his law firm, LeBlanc Diggins, he focuses on estate planning, and trust and estate administration. He has served on several nonprofit boards in Maine and Georgia. Justin has two sons – Andrew, an organic chemistry student, and Theo, a former Smirkus camper and trouper, who studies circus arts at École de Cirque de Québec. Justin, a longtime Smirkus volunteer, is proud to be a three-ball juggler who can still safely complete some rudimentary tumbling without injuring himself.
Brian Miron, Treasurer
Brian retired from Pyramis Global Advisors/Fidelity Asset Management in 2015 after 15 years working as a research analyst and portfolio manager. He is currently involved with numerous non-profit organizations, serving as President of Friends of Canada’s National Ballet School as well as being on the Board of The University of St. Michael’s College, The University of Toronto, and Flying Gravity Circus. Brian’s two children, Jack and Ben, were Smirkus campers and troupers.
Laura Brewer, Secretary
Having spent 25 years as a researcher, editor, piano tuner/technician, and perennial student—earning a Ph.D. in literature at age 43—Laura then became a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer. She serves on the Board of Community Cooks, which partners with Boston area human service agencies by mobilizing volunteers to provide healthy, home-cooked meals for their clients. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of Smirkus since bringing her then 4-year-old twins to their first show in 2000. Her daughter, Grace Gershenfeld, a long-time counselor at Smirkus Camp, holds the record for the number of years as a Smirkus Camper (12).
An educator and coach at Salisbury School in Connecticut since 2008, Toby’s previous pedagogic and coaching stints include MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern University. Today he is a physics teacher and the head rowing coach. He spends part of each summer in VT’s Northeast Kingdom coaching at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. One of the original Smirkus troupers, Toby performed and then worked with Smirkus between 1987 and 1999. He lives on the Salisbury School campus with his wife and two children, and juggles whenever appropriate in his physics classes.
Tristan Avelina Cunningham
Tristan is the Cirque Kids program director at Cirque School LA, a position she previously held at the San Francisco Circus Center. She is a professional actor and was most recently featured in the second season of Family Reunion on Netflix. A very proud alumna of Smirkus Big Top Tour (1995-2002), Tristan also worked at Smirkus Camp (2003-2006) as a counselor and acro coach. She has worked or performed with Circus Bella, Velocity Circus, Prescott Circus Theater, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Jumbo Shrimp Circus and The Medical Clown Project. She holds a B.F.A in Theater Arts and Film from S.U.N.Y Purchase.
Debra has over 25 years of experience in technology consulting. She is a Partner at Ellis Partners where she provides strategic advice to mid-market technology companies. She enjoys all things circus and shares her love of arts and sports with her husband, daughter and son. Her son was previously a camper and counselor at Smirkus Camp.
Jill D’Andrea Fischmann
Jill lived in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles for many years, working for a member of Congress (Tony Coelho, D-CA), NBC, CBS, the National Association of Broadcasters and WETA, the PBS/NPR dual licensee. Her performance credits include ten years with the Hexagon Political Comedy Troupe. Since moving back to her hometown in 2012, Jill has worked with a socially conscious documentary film company and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 2020 she became a Program Manager at Xilio Therapeutics, a cancer immunotherapy biotech. Her daughters have been attending Smirkus Camp since 2015.
Belmont, MA & Burke, VT
Claire is an administrative professional with Boston University School of Medicine. She has been organizing continuing medical education conferences for the past 20 years and has another decade of event experience in the private sector. Her interests include everything Vermont including mountain biking, hiking, and traveling. She divides her time between Belmont, Massachusetts and Burke, Vermont. Claire is a longtime fan of all things Smirkus. Her daughter has attended Smirkus Camp since 2015.
Miriam is Managing Director of Brain Educators, LLC, a medical publishing company. Previously she spent more than three decades in the field of nonprofit management and program development and served as a Chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other pursuits have included dance performance, choreography, and instruction and the production of arts events. Since 2000, when her son Rafi Benjamin became a Smirkus camper and later a trouper and a camp coach, her family has been part of the Smirkus family through multiple roles in and out of the circus ring.
Dan is currently a private equity investor at Endicott Growth Equity Partners, leveraging his 20 years of experience in technology-enabled information services and financial industries. Dan previously worked at S&P Global in a strategy and corporate development role, after being part of the senior leadership of SNL Financial, a fast-growing private company acquired by S&P Global. Dan also has worked as an investment banker and is an active private angel investor and advisor. Dan grew up in Plainfield, VT and has lived in Charlottesville, VA for over 15 years with his wife Jen, a neurologist, and their two daughters who are both Smirkus campers, regular Smirkus Big Top Tour attendees, and big Smirkus@Home fans.
Marvin is a hospital-based clinical pediatrician specializing in newborn well baby care. He also does medical research and product design. Outside the hospital he is found on New England roads and trails cycling, Nordic skiing, and running. A longtime Smirkus ambassador, Marvin’s photographs are enjoyed throughout the Smirkus world. His daughter Alexa was a longtime Smirkus camper and trouper.
★ HONORARY BOARD MEMBERS ★
Julia Child (1912-2004)
John & Lisa Hewett
Tim Holst (1947-2009)
Ed Koren (1935-2023)
Marcel Marceau (1923-2007)
★ FORMER BOARD MEMBERS ★
Beth Binns Schoellkopf
Jane Fisher (Past President)
Michele Levy (Past President)
Gail Neale (Past President)
Neil Saunders (Past President)
Linda S. Schiffer (Past President)
Bill Schubart (Past President)
Debby Stein Sharpe (Past President)