The Denali Education Center board is a dedicated group of individuals who work to support the Denali Education Center’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of Denali through informative and inspiring programs. The board supports and oversees Denali Education Center operations, finances and engages in strategic planning.
A 30-year resident of the Denali area, Mike Speaks has been a supporter of the Denali Education Center since the beginning more than 20 years ago. He joined the Board of Directors in 2007. Speaks graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Auburn University and then moved to Alaska in 1981. Currently working as an adventure guide for Mountain Travel Sobek, Speaks has loads of guiding experience that spans all seven continents. Speaks also works in documentary film production. When he’s not guiding the next adventure, Speaks can be found doing a variety of outdoor activities from playing hockey to skiing. He loves living in a place with endless amounts of space to explore and sharing it with like-minded individuals.
Greg LaHaie joined the Denali Education Center board in 2006 and loves supporting an educational nonprofit he considers vital in the community. He owns and operates Kantishna Air Taxi and Skyline Lodge, both located at the end of Park Road in Kantishna. LaHaie studied business finance at Michigan State University but changed paths before finishing, completing his commercial pilot’s license and starting his air taxi business in 1992. During Denali’s winter months, Greg travels around the world. “I love Alaska for its vast untouched wilderness,” Greg says. “As I travel the world it makes me appreciate [Denali] more every year and realize what a gift it is and how important it is to take care of it and preserve it for the future.” Some of his favorite past times include flying (of course), surfing, yoga, organic farming, and sustainability practices. His favorite motto comes from famous ice cream makers, Ben and Jerry: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”
Thom first learned about the Denali Education Center while working at the old Denali Park Hotel (shut down in 2001, it occupied the space where the current Denali Visitor Center now sits). Thom’s parents were visiting from Iowa and stayed at the DEC. Over the years working in Denali, Thom admired watching the DEC grow and develop. Thom’s favorite memory is when Buddhist monks offered a community blessing in the Charles Sheldon Center, leaving an indelible mark on his spirit. He is excited to be involved with such a positive group and hopes to contribute to the future of the organization. Thom is the Vice-President of Alaska Denali Travel. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Jelena and their children, Parker and Emily.
Originally from Ohio, Scott first arrived in Alaska in 1999. From 2003-2005, he worked as a program coordinator for the Denali Education Center. He has an MS in Education with a specialization in Environmental Education and an MSc in Marine and Coastal Climate Change, both from NOVA Southeastern University. He received his BS in Architectural and Environmental Design from Kent State University. Scott has worked as an environmental educator at a variety of non-profit organizations including a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. Scott has traveled to all 50 states, 40 countries, and each of the seven continents. Currently a full-time dad, he finds adventure in local parks and natural areas – where he enjoys splashing in mud puddles, catching frogs, skipping rocks, birding, photography and hiking. Scott is actively involved with his local Audubon Society chapter and is currently a member of its Education Committee.
The Denali Education Center was a natural fit for Brent Fisher. His interest in the natural world has taken him to the Mojave Desert orienteering for USGS benchmarks, hiking the High Uintah Wilderness, Mt. Fuji, the Aleutian Islands, south Brazil, and winter camping/hiking in wild Alaska. Brent holds a BA in International Relations and Portuguese from Brigham Young University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. He also has a Graduate Certificate in International Business from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He has lived overseas 8 years and has language skills in Portuguese. Brent loves to share the beauty of Alaska with his wife, four daughters and a son.
Jersey has worked with the Denali Education Center since the early 90′s, both as a staff member and as a volunteer. Over the years, he has been fortunate to spend ample time in the backcountry as well as in the front country, and still enjoys a strong bond with both the park and its denizens. Jersey currently resides in Anchorage and spends a fair amount of time in and around Denali National Park. “A lot has changed since my first summer in 1985 when I worked at the Denali Deli for a whopping four bucks an hour, but the two things that remain constant are the beauty of the area and the spirit of the people who live there. I feel lucky to continue to be connected to both through my participation with the Denali Education Center.”
Originally from Utah, Bonnie came to Denali for a seasonal summer job in 2001; never did she think Alaska would become her home! She has attended many events and activities at the Charles Sheldon Center over the years and has always been impressed with the mission of the Denali Education Center. Bonnie joined the board of directors in 2013 and she enjoys being a part of this inspiring organization. Bonnie is the General Manager of the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, living in Denali in the summer and Anchorage in the winter. She spends her off time traveling or adventuring outdoors with her sweet chocolate lab, Lola.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Blair joined the staff of the Denali Education Center in 2006 as an intern, having just completed her BS in Environmental Science at Allegheny College. She spent the next six years leading DEC’s Youth Programs. Her time in Denali shaped her passion for ensuring the long-term sustainability of wild places and the organizations that support them. Blair left Denali in late 2012 to pursue an MBA Sustainability degree from Duquesne University but maintained her connection to the Denali Education Center by joining the board in 2013. She now works at BNY Mellon as a program manager in Social Finance – the firm’s strategy to drive mainstream capital toward positive social and environmental impact. She and her husband, Keith who was also a long-time employee of the Denali Education Center, have made Pittsburgh their home base and enjoy biking, planning future adventures, and exploring Pittsburgh’s burgeoning food scene.
Tennelle earned a BS in International Hospitality from the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University. She has extensive experience in Alaska’s tourism industry having worked with CIRI Alaskan Tourism Corp., Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Residence Inn by Marriott, the St. Thomas Restaurant Group, and currently Grande Denali, LLC. Being closely tied to the Denali National Park area through the hospitality industry, she believes it is important to promote and educate visitors and residents of Alaska about the area, the park, and everything it has to offer.Tennelle is passionate about leadership and service, as well as the park, the area, and supporting community activities and education.