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Meet the ‘Monitor’s’ new board of contributors

They are a pediatrician, a college professor and a lawyer. A farmer, a writer, a filmmaker. And that’s not the half of it.

We recently put out a call for new members of the Monitor’s board of contributors, a group of about a dozen writers who regularly contribute to the newspaper’s opinion pages. The response was terrific: more than 60 applicants from all walks of life, interested in a wide variety of issues. In past years, we’ve typically held onto six or seven veteran members, but the crush of good applicants this year meant that we reluctantly said farewell to most of this past year’s members in order to make room for so many promising newcomers. And we had to say no to many talented writers who will, I hope, try again in the future.

Here are the new members of the board:

∎ Robert Azzi, a writer and photographer who lives in Exeter. For more than 40 years, his work has concentrated on the Middle East, Islam and issues of identity. He lived in Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah and New York before returning to New Hampshire, where he grew up. He was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University and consults on education and political issues as they relate to Islam and the Middle East. His work appeared frequently in such publications as Time, Newsweek and National Geographic.

He is also a book collector – and an occasional dealer in out-of-print and rare books, especially focusing on Islam and the Middle East.

∎ Patricia Edwards, 56, of Bow. Edwards is a pediatrician at Concord Pediatrics, where she has practiced for 27 years. She has two grown children and is a tenor drummer with New Hampshire Pipes and Drums and a flutist with the Strathspey Reel Society of New Hampshire.

∎ Rob Fried, 71, of Concord. Fried’s name may be familiar to careful readers: We published a strong column from him a few weeks back called “Common sense about Common Core.”

Fried recently retired as executive director of the Upper Valley Educators Institute and is now a freelance writer and woodcutter. He just finished the first draft of a novel about a huge conflict over an attempt at revolutionizing baccalaureate education at a small New England university. He is also known for refusing to serve a toasted bagel, advising that they must be oven-heated so they’re hot on the outside and moist and chewy inside. “Any other way of eating them is sacrilege. Putting peanut butter on a bagel is unpardonable,” he says. Duly noted.

∎ Josh Kim of Etna is the director of digital learning initiatives at Dartmouth College. He’s married to a pediatric oncologist and they have two daughters in high school. He’s also a devoted audiobook listener. Monitor readers may already recognize the byline. Kim has written two pieces for the Forum in recent months, most recently about massive open online courses.

∎ Susan Koerber, who will be 70 this month, of Dunbarton. She is the retired founding director of the nonprofit Woodside School in Concord, where she worked for 25 years. Koerber has three children and eight grandchildren. She says she doesn’t own a TV and seldom goes to the movies – but she does read a lot of books. Her tryout essay – on young farmers – is published at the top of today’s Forum page.

∎ Lee Laughlin, 45, from Loudon. She is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She’s also a blue belt working toward her green belt in the BagFit Kickboxing program at Bodyworks Karate School in Concord.

∎ Mark Watman, the vice president for academic affairs at New England College. Watman hopes to write about education issues for the Monitor, but he sold us on his writing with an obituary he wrote for his father last fall. It included wonderful details like these: “He was proud of his Polish heritage, loved to drink Moxie, and on occasion ate mustard and onion sandwiches as a reminder of the poverty his parents lived through during the Great Depression. As well, even though he lived in New England his entire life, he never learned how to properly drive in the snow and ruined more car transmissions trying to get out of snowbanks than one would think humanly possible.”

∎ Ayn Whytemare, 47, of Concord. She teaches plant biology and environmental science at NHTI in Concord and owns and runs the Found Well Farm in Pembroke. She is married to a house-painter husband and they have two sons, ages 8 and 11. Whytemare is six peaks away from completing her New Hampshire 4,000-footer list (started when she was 7). She says she admires the works of Ayn Rand but doesn’t agree with all of her assumptions.

∎ Sheila Zakre, owner of the Zakre Law Office in Concord, which specializes in disability and elder law. Zakre served on the board back in 2008-09, during which she wrote a particularly compelling piece about being a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease.

We’ve also asked four veterans to stick around for another year:

∎ John Gfroerer, 63, who owns a video production company based at the Capitol Center for the Arts. Gfroerer lives in Concord with his partner, Lisa Brown, and their daughter Brinkley, who, he says, brings more stories to his life than he will ever have time to write about. Gfroerer’s next major challenge will be to help grandson Frank understand when it is just a joke. Lighten up, buddy, or you may be the subject of a piece by Grandpa in the Monitor!

∎ Mel Graykin of Deerfield, a writer and freelance philosopher. Graykin is the author of Archimedes Nesselrode, which she describes as a book written for adults who are weary of adult books.

∎ Robin Nafshi, 53, of Concord. Nafshi is the rabbi at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord. She’s married to Cantor Shira Nafshi. And – get out your dictionary – she is a collector of mondegreens.

(Want an example? In the song “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” by England Dan and John Ford Coley, Nafshi misheard the line “I’m not talking ’bout moving in, and I don’t want to change your life. But there’s a warm wind blowing, the stars are out, and I’d really love to see you tonight” and thought it said this: “I’m not talking ’bout millennium, and I don’t want to change your life. But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around, and I’d really love to see you tonight.” )

∎ Jed Rardin, the pastor at South Congregational Church in Concord, who wrote movingly last summer about alternatives to violence, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case.

The new board starts work right away. Keep an eye out for their contributions to the conversation.

(Felice Belman can be reached at 369-3370 or

Legacy Comments4

Liberals all: move along, folks, no diversity here!

Yes crank, when you start reading Nieman fellow, Capitol Center for the Arts, Common Core, environmental professor, ;awyer, etc. it seems that way. I was happy that they included a kick boxer, a gardener and even a rabbi. I guess that adds some diversity beyond the progressive agenda of the newspaper. Will be interesting reading.

Dear Crank, Itsa, et al: I submit myself as exhibit A to prove my point. My point is, why don't you AT LEAST give these writers time to prove themselves - by their work - whether or not they fit your preconceived notion of who they are. I was on the BOC for two years, it was mentioned when I was introduced as a member that I was a teacher. That right there no doubt sent up a red flag with you. Yet I KNOW FOR A FACT that you liked some of my columns in those two years - even agreed with me about my theses. So again, could you at least give these guys the benefit of the doubt for now?

Hey Hunter, I have some friends that are as far left as you can get, and I think they are right on numerous issues. I'm not a tea party-er, I am a Libertarian. Spend little, regulate little, preserve freedom. We don't need laws against everything imaginable, and we need to start lightening up. The New England area has become one of the most expensive places in the country to run a business; why? Regulations and high energy costs, which are, in no small part driven by regulation. PSNH didn't build that bazillion dollar smoke stack because they wanted to. By the way, my Dad was a school principal, so I have been around plenty of teachers. Not all of them subscribe to the teachings of the teacher's union. At least when you can talk to them when there are no "ears" around. Yes, I do like some of your comments. I think NH is pretty well run, on the whole; it's the maroons in Washington that have things all messed up.

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