OUR TEAM

our team

Center for Spiritual Wisdom’s team includes staff members and associates whose involvements differ according to their gifts, life experiences, and interests. The team also includes a board of directors who oversee the work of the center in conjunction with the director.

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Rob Field
Director

 

Rob founded Center for Spiritual Wisdom in 2016 after serving 22 years as a minister in the Episcopal Church and following a brief career in journalism. “The idea came, and I couldn’t shake it,” he says. “I kept thinking: this part of North Carolina would be the perfect place for a practice-based spirituality center.” After deep reflection and lengthy conversations with several wise advisors, Rob decided to leave the congregation he served for 18 years: “I finally jumped off the high dive into the deep end of the pool.” Rob especially enjoys teaching, writing, and working with individuals who want to broaden and deepen their spirituality. He also teaches World Religions at Brevard College.

Contact Rob by email  director@centersw.org

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Cindy Decker
Operations & Communications Manager

Cindy joined Center for Spiritual Wisdom in 2019 bringing experience in technical communication, instructional design, training, and organizational development. She has a B.A. in Applied Clinical Psychology from Alfred University and an M.A. in Career & Human Resource Development from Rochester Institute of Technology. At the Center she focuses on communications, organizational development, and event programming. Cindy has a passion for continually becoming and being her authentic self, and she actively encourages and guides others to do the same. She is excited about the Center and how it helps seekers of all types to find deeper meaning in their lives. She grew up in the farmlands and Appalachian foothills of upstate NY and cherishes time with her husband Terry, her family, gardening, journaling, reading, and cooking. She especially enjoys the beauty of the natural world, and hiking with her dogs in the mountains and forests surrounding Brevard, NC.

Contact Cindy by email  communications@centersw.org

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Corey Gafnea
Marketing Communications Specialist

After visiting Transylvania County for many years, Corey and her family moved from Atlanta to Brevard in 2013. She grew up in New York City and Atlanta and was exposed to and loved learning about diverse cultures, especially their spiritual and cultural traditions. She received a degree in art history from Georgia State University, traveled extensively throughout Europe, and lived in Barcelona, Spain where she studied Spanish. She then returned to the US and had a successful career in Atlanta as an art consultant and an ESL teacher to Korean adults.

Since moving to Brevard she has worked with a variety of nonprofits including SAFE, where she taught about healthy relationships, consent, and sexual violence prevention in the Transylvania County school system, college campuses, and summer camps. After receiving a digital marketing certificate from UNC in 2020, she worked in marketing for the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority.

Corey and her husband Tim have been married for twenty-four years and they have two young adult children, Hiatt and Kate. She is a lifelong learner, avid reader, and loves hiking, kayaking, music festivals, and traveling. In 2019, she and her family hiked the Norte route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Contact Corey by email  marketing@centersw.org

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Tom Lewis
Senior Consultant

Before moving to Brevard, Tom Lewis served as Director of the Spirituality Program at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, where he led a certificate program in Christian Spiritual Formation. While at Columbia, he worked in spiritual growth and renewal with church leaders from a wide spectrum of geography and theology. This experience confirmed for him there is a great hunger for the divine throughout our society. “Folks often don’t know how to ‘Be Still’ long enough to experience the richness of that relationship,” he says. With a background in private industry and ordained ministry, Tom has led seminars, taught spiritual formation, and served as a retreat and conference leader. His passion is for teaching about spiritual formation and the spiritual components of depression. He has led 8 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. At CSW, Tom was a long-time member of the board, a frequent program leader, and continues as the Center’s Senior Consultant.

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Paula Benton
Associate

Paula has been a deeply grateful supporter of Center for Spiritual Wisdom since its founding. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina and a B.S. in Interior Design from Western Carolina University. She is a graduate of the Haden Institute and credentialed in Spiritual Direction. She facilitated a large adult Sunday School class, Coffee + Conversation, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church for 10 years.

As a devotee and teacher of the Enneagram, she understands the Enneagram as a tool for our continuing spiritual journeys, as well as a practical methodology for self-discovery. Paula and CSW Director Rob Field co-lead Enneagram-based learning series, workshops, and retreats.

Paula and her husband have been married for more than five decades. They have an amazing daughter and two amazing sons and 6 gorgeous grandchildren.

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Dr. Christine King
Associate

Dr. Christine King lived and worked throughout Asia and Europe, consulting with international teams and global academic programs for the University of Maryland. She directed a Leadership Development graduate program for more than twenty years. Christine now lives in Mills River, NC, on a small farm, the home of her consulting work, Fresh Perceptions.

She is the author of Choosing Compassion: The Enneagram’s Nine Pathways. Christine draws upon the Enneagram to support organizations, teams, and families.

Christine says, “As we navigate the Covid-19 global crisis, the Enneagram can help us access our resilience, intuitive wisdom, and unique strengths. When grounded in our Enneagram ‘home-base’ we have access to the well-being of all the other types. We all need that now, more than ever!”

Contact Christine through her personal web site or Fresh Perceptions.

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Jean Woods
Associate

Jean grew up in a coal camp in southwest Virginia. She retired from a career in Information Technology with DuPont and after retirement, had her own company for 15 years helping small businesses with their computer needs. She also worked on the three Skylab missions in Houston, Texas writing programs to calculate mass properties for the space vehicles.

Jean has a BA in Mathematics from the University of Delaware, a Master’s of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Shalem Institute. Jean has guided people for spiritual direction for 25 years, and leads and facilitates programs about spiritual growth and transformation. She mentored the four-year Education for Ministry program for 23 years, which is taught in extension by the University of the South. She also did a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Jean’s passion is creation care, and she has served in many secular capacities to save, protect, and educate about God’s creation. The coal camp where she grew up was strip mined, and as a result, she developed a deep reverence for God’s creation and became involved in organizations and activities where she could speak for the land, which has no voice.

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Mary Marinucci
Associate

Mary has been with the Center since its beginning. She was co-leader with Rob Field for a two-year program on Contemplative Practices and hosted the Second Sunday Series.

Mary is originally from New Jersey, retiring to Brevard, NC in 2005. She is a former member of the Sisters of Charity of NJ and continues a lay affiliation with them. She received her BA in Latin from the College of St. Elizabeth in NJ and taught high school Latin as a member. Mary pursued an MSW in Clinical Social Work from Rutgers University followed by a three-year certificate program at the New York School for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in Manhattan. This program required personal analysis and many years of continued supervision. She has worked in in- and out-patient psychiatric and mental health settings while also having a private practice for over 37 years.

With her years of monastic and religious training along with her psychological studies and practice she has seen that our interior life and our soul are inseparable. Mental health is soul work. And the soul is always seeking to be free.

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Terry Decker
Associate

Terry refers to himself as “an impious sojourner with a passion to affirm the promise of our diverse humanity and shared experience.” Raised in a liberal Baptist tradition with a pastor father and an English professor mother, Terry gained “an early, and deep appreciation for the sanctity of the human spirit and the power of the written word to inform, enlighten, and transform.” Unanswerable questions from his childhood eventually led to more universal considerations. “Buddhism and Hinduism became like additional chapters in an evolving spirit novel and rounded the more rigid corners of my upbringing,” he says. Today, he is “beyond grateful” for the collective wisdom of the world’s many spiritual traditions. Terry’s career in information technology revealed and reinforced his passion for teaching diverse interest groups. Finding people where they are and leading them to a new place is at the core of his career success. At CSW, Terry is deeply involved in the Reel Spirit Movie Project and the annual Wisdom of World Religions series, and is co-chair of the monthly online series “A Little About a Lot”.

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Tony Gillman
Associate

Tony moved to Brevard (actually Pisgah Forest) in 2018 after retiring from an in-house counsel position he held with Verizon for thirty years. Tony has been a spiritual seeker for many years and was so grateful that he could continue his spiritual path with the Center for Spiritual Wisdom. As a “Sendee” from Richard Rohr’s Living School of Action and Contemplation in 2019, Tony has studied under Father Richard, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault. He currently facilitates/belongs to a number of contemplative prayer and reflection groups and has a keen interest in Monastic Spirituality. At the Center, Tony is a former board member and current chair of the monthly Reel Spirit Movie Project. Tony has been married for nearly 40 years to his wife Micki, and they have four grown children and six grandchildren.

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Brandon Cook
Associate

Brandon is a husband and father, passionate about family and relationships. He’s also a writer, trainer, and business/personal coach.

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Brandon attended Wheaton College (IL) and studied in Jerusalem, Israel before graduating from Brandeis University near Boston. He also received a Master’s degree in ancient Judaism from Oxford University in the UK. After graduate school, Brandon moved to Long Beach, California and had a transformative experience for over 14 years working a pastor, coach, and trainer. He has worked as a professional storyteller, and you can read some of his writing (poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) at storyflight.com. He is also a talented and avid photographer, and you can view some of his photography on Instagram. And finally, Brandon is the Executive Director of the podcast “Naming the Real” and co-chair of the Center’s monthly online series “A Little About a Lot”.

Brandon and his wife Rebecca live in Brevard, North Carolina with their three young children and their dog, Colonel.

Laura J. Collins
Associate

Laura is an ordained minister who served three Presbyterian congregations before moving to WNC, as well as serving Unity of The Blue Ridge and the Jubilee! Community (a Creation Spirituality congregation) since moving to Asheville. She has worked in ministries with women in prostitution, men returning from prison, refugees, and at-risk youth, and has served as a chaplain in both hospice and trauma settings. In addition to her seminary education, she has trained in contemplative spirituality at The Shalem Institute, Movement Chaplaincy with the School of Global Citizenry, and Positive Psychology. Laura has studied a variety of approaches to healing prayer through Gestalt Pastoral Care, Love & Light Ministries, and Reiki training, and loves reading the mystics, Christian, Sufi, and Celtic, in particular. Learn more about Laura at laurajcollins.com

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Vance Reese
Associate

Vance finds himself curious. Other people find him curious, too. Though the muses of art, words, dreams, and other creative expressions speak to Vance, music carries the most decibels for him. His wife Jean and their son Jonathan are his principal instructors, and occasionally he a-muses them. Vance, originally from Knoxville, TN, has a Doctor of Music from Indiana University and a certificate in Dream Work Training from the Haden Institute in Flat Rock, NC. He continues to facilitate group dream work and is learning to ask the question of Who is dreaming him.

When Harry met Sally is a movie. When Vance met Rob is an actual event not shown in theaters (yet!). In their previous manifestations, they worked as Organist/Choir Director and Rector at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Brevard. Vance is happy to reunite with Rob at Center for Spiritual Wisdom, and happy to meet others in this wonderful community. Since 2018, the Reeses have called Brevard home. They continue to work — Jean at Evergreen Community Charter School (Asheville); Vance as college professor (Brevard College), organist, bass player, and collaborative accompanist. They are members of the Brevard Jewish Community.

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Mary Ann Iyer
Associate

Mary Ann Iyer, MD recently retired from her Internal Medicine practice. She has taken a uniquely spiritual approach to healing since 1982, when she began to focus on MindBody Medicine. “I realized early on in my career that the beliefs we hold dictate not only our behavior, for better or for worse, but even the chemistry and functioning of our bodies.”

Dr. Iyer moved to North Carolina from Oregon, where she was the Medical Director of the 2-clinic Integrative Medicine Program she created for Samaritan Health Services. Her training and experience include Board Certification in Internal Medicine, a Masters degree in Psychology, certification in Jin Shin Do Acupressure, Vipassana (“Mindfulness”) Meditation, Vision Quests, and many other MindBody-related topics. She is on faculty for the Mindfulness Coaching School of Santa Fe, NM.

Her passion remains the spiritual component of healing and wellbeing, and the personal investigation and inquiry possible through the “wake-up calls” our bodies give us through dis-ease. Her books and CD’s (under author name Mary Ann Wallace, MD) include Mindful Eating: Mindful Life and The Heart of Healing as well as numerous guided imagery and meditation CDs.

Contact Dr. Iyer through her contact page at MaryAnnIyer.com.

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Flora Brooke
Associate

A proud fifth-generation native of Portland, Oregon, Flora has loved living in both the Piedmont and western regions of North Carolina recently. She first encountered Center for Spiritual Wisdom in August of 2021 while a member of the Blue Ridge Service Corps, serving on staff with the Center as Assistant for Communications and Administration.

Having worked with Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopal churches and a Jewish nonprofit, Flora is passionate about interfaith involvement. Religion and spirituality intrigue her on both personal and intellectual planes, with Scriptural studies especially piquing her interest. While in North Carolina, Flora focused on Religious Studies at Davidson College, then finished her degree in the Judaic Studies department at Portland State University.

SoulCollage® holds a central and dear place in Flora’s heart and life. She also loves spending time with her family, friends and dogs; being outdoors; road trips (she’s driven cross-country four times!); music; and reading. Learning about social justice issues is important to Flora, especially those related to elder rights, race, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Emily Walthal
Board Member

Originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., Emily grew up exploring the mountains of Western N.C. and knew early in life that there was nowhere she’d rather live. She and her husband, Elliott, practice law at their firm Frohsin Barger & Walthall, representing whistleblowers in federal fraud cases. Prior to 2005, Emily served in the public interest law and public health nonprofit sectors. Emily attended the Center’s Introduction to the Enneagram Series in 2019. Her passions include native plants and sustainable gardening; Monarch butterfly conservation; and reading. She also serves on the board of Friends of DuPont Forest. Emily and Elliott live with their Springer Spaniel, James, and English Setter, Shorty.

 

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Gena Hawk
Board Member

Gena visited Brevard for the first time in 1992 and knew immediately that she was home. In 2016, she went from dreaming of home to Brevard becoming her real home. What happened in between included living in the Asheville area, as well as in Montana and California. Her work has included nonprofit work with the Transylvania Literacy Council, Asheville Junior Achievement, The Hope Chest for Women in Asheville, and as an art instructor for the Sisters of Mercy Hospital’s Art for Healing program in California. Today, she and her husband run a residential building/remodeling company in Brevard, while also staying involved with her church and the Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club.

Gena participated in the first Enneagram workshop offered through the Center for Spiritual Wisdom where she had the opportunity to see and experience firsthand the great blessing the Center offers to our community. She is delighted by the current and potential growth trajectory at the Center and feels honored to work alongside the team that makes the Center for Spiritual Wisdom such a meaningful part of the fabric of our beautiful piece of heaven that is Brevard.

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Susy Whitcomb
Board Member

Susy Whitcomb moved from Connecticut to Brevard in 2020 and immediately began participating in the Reel Spirit Movie Project, the Enneagram, and other programs run by Center for Spiritual Wisdom. The Center provides the spiritual and intellectual stimulation she craves, as well as friendships that have quickly made Brevard her home.

Susy has a passion for teaching and learning. A graduate of Wellesley College, she worked in the corporate sector before earning her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from Yale University. She was an Associate Professor at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT, where she also directed the Honors Program. In 2010, Susy volunteered as an aid worker in Haiti after a catastrophic earthquake, an experience that inspired her to found Haitian Educational Initiatives (HEI). HEI is a 501c3 organization that partners with Haitian-led community groups in the town of Jacmel to improve access to education by providing food, scholarship, and job training programs to severely impoverished children. We are truly all connected, and HEI gives Susy and others the opportunity to engage in the spiritual practice of humanitarianism. Susy also serves on the board of Friends of the Transylvania County Library. She has three children and two grandchildren.

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Norm Bossert
Board Member

Norm Bossert was born in New York and went to college at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, graduating with a degree in Elementary Education. He taught in Norfolk, Central New York, Belgium, and Western North Carolina. After 27 years as a classroom teacher, Norm went back to college and earned his Master’s in School Administration from Western Carolina University in 2001. Norm has been a school administrator in Buncombe County since then, and currently works part-time as an Assistant Principal.

The day after graduation from Old Dominion University, Norm married Shelley. They have been married for nearly 49 years and have two sons and multiple grandchildren. Norm and Shelley wear smiles any time they talk about their grandkids. Yes, they have no bias, but Norm feels well qualified to say, “My grandkids are destined for greatness!” Together, Norm and Shelley started the Brevard Jewish Community (BJC) in 2001. The BJC has been meeting regularly ever since and now serves about 100 people. Norm has been active in politics, running for State office three times and serving as chair of his political party for three years. Committed to community service, Norm is currently serving as Treasurer and Board member for Center for Spiritual Wisdom. Norm loves the mission of the Center and is learning and growing so that he can help the Center achieve its spiritual goals.