The American Humanist Association (AHA) board of directors, in accordance with by-laws and customs, recently elected new officers to fill the roles of president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Board officers serve two-year terms and serve until successors are elected.
Sunil Panikkath was chosen as the twenty-first president of the American Humanist Association and began his role on the first of January, noting that he is “excited and honored to take on the leadership of the largest organization for nonreligious Americans at a time when the nontheistic population is growing at an unprecedented rate.” In regards to his goals for the position, the new AHA president reports, “My efforts will focus on making the American Humanist Association even more inclusive in both its goals and its actions, as we embrace all segments of the growing humanist community.” Panikkath has been a nonbeliever his entire adult life and a member and supporter of the AHA for almost twenty years. He is a financial economist by profession and has worked at the interface of financial risk management and technology for more than two decades, managing teams and achieving critical goals.
Jennifer Kalmanson continues her role as vice president of the American Humanist Association for another two-year term. The primary responsibility of the vice president is to oversee strategic planning efforts. The AHA releases a new strategic plan every five years, and Kalmanson remarks, “I look forward to assessing how well we’ve done against our 2015 plan, as well as laying the groundwork for 2020. I would like to see us improve how well we serve our community by listening to and amplifying the voices of those whom we underrepresent.” Kalmanson is a retired space systems engineer who spent sixteen years providing engineering support to projects like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt. She is also the president of the Institute for Humanist Studies and the AHA board liaison to the Humanist Foundation.
Christine Shellska begins her second term as secretary of the AHA board of directors. In 2016 she became the first Canadian elected to AHA’s board. When asked about her vision for the American Humanist Association, Shellska says, “As North Americans who enjoy freedom of speech, we have a historic opportunity to influence the global context by defending the rights of nontheists—as well as believers—who are subject to religious persecution.” Christine Shellska is a former president and current director of Atheist Alliance International and a regular co-host on the Calgary-based “Legion of Reason” podcast. She is currently a PhD candidate in the University of Calgary’s Department of Communication, Media, and Film, studying the strategies employed by the intelligent design/creationist movement.
John Hooper likewise resumes his role as treasurer of the American Humanist Association. Hooper, a retired molecular and spectroscopy scientist and research director, wants to see the AHA solidify its position as the emergent lifestyle for freethinkers from all backgrounds. As treasurer, Hooper says, “I plan to ‘follow the money’ and ensure we are getting the best return possible on the investments we make in programs for our constituents. I promise the AHA budget will always be balanced.” John Hooper is a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association, cofounder and board member of the Pittsburgh Freethought Community, and current board member and treasurer for the Institute for Humanist Studies.