Charles Simon Center for Adult Life & Learning > Programs > Himan Brown Senior Program > Himan Brown Senior Program Faculty Biographies

Himan Brown Senior Program Faculty Biographies

Ryan Allen (World Events) is a doctoral fellow in International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has taught politics and United States history and is currently researching Politics and Education at Columbia University. His major areas of interest are foreign policy and the East Asian region.

John Angeline (Art Appreciation), who is fluent in five languages, holds a Ph.D. in Art History from CUNY. His thesis topic was “Reassessing Modernism.” John is an experienced educator, lecturer and writer. He has taught various art appreciation courses at 92Y since 2006.

Ginette Becker (French Conversation Circle) was born in Paris and immigrated to the United States in 1951. Ginette graduated from Temple Medical School and practiced medicine for many years in the New York City area. Ginette is retired and has been a member of the Himan Brown Senior Program since 2009. Ginette is pursuing various non-medical interests, including leading our French Conversation Circle.

Rima D. Bien (Fitness) is a certified instructor of Pilates, Yoga, Senior Fitness, Zumba and Personal Training. She is currently completing her B.A. in Theater and Dance Education. As a child actor, she appeared on "Sesame Street," "Ryan's Hope" and in TV commercials. She has also appeared in several independent films. She was awarded the Yip Harburg Award for the Arts and the Louise and Al Hirschfeld Scholarship for the Arts by their respective foundations.

Sally Bliumis-Dunn (Poetry Writing Workshop) teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College and at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her poems appeared in New Ohio Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, PLUME, Poetry London, The Bellevue Literary Review, The NYT, PBS NewsHour, Terrain.Org, The Writer’s Almanac, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day, and Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, American Life in Poetry, among others. Sally was also a finalist for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize in 2002.

Doug Brin (Brinsights) brings his background as a newspaper feature writer and school instructor of both History and Ethics to his weekly current events discussion group. He is also a visual artist and illustrated diarist who has exhibited widely throughout New York City.

Lori Brizzi (Ballroom Dance) was a Theater major in college who followed her passion and trained as a dance teacher. She became a competitive ballroom dancer and eventually joined dance companies, touring and performing in such venues as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and the Joyce Theater. Lori eventually opened her own business teaching and organizing social dance parties and dance cruises. For more about Lori, see her website,

Jo Frances Brown, LCSW (Program Director) joined the staff of 92Y in 1996 and has been director of the Himan Brown Senior Program since then, further developing the program into one with a national reputation. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has a MS from Columbia University and post master’s training certificates from Hunter College School of Social Work in Aging and from New York University School of Social Work in Social Work and Spirituality.

Alain Buzzard (Yoga) has taught German, Comparative Literature, Teacher Training Courses, ESL, speech, technical writing, research writing and Women's Studies in various universities in the USA, Germany, Mexico, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Retiring to New York City, he volunteered as a square dance teacher-caller at 92Y. He currently teaches yoga in the HBSP where he is both a popular instructor and avid bridge player.

David Cieri (The Art of Listening of Music) is an experienced pianist and composer, trained in baroque, classical, romantic, Twentieth Century, Jazz and free music. He has performed in many venues throughout New York City, including Carnegie Hall. He has collaborated with Ken Burns, scoring for several of Burns’ documentary films.

Cesare Civetta (Music) has conducted more than sixty orchestras in sixteen countries. As director of Classical Programming for the radio station WFUV, Cesare produced The Toscanini Legacy, a series for which he interviewed fifty artists who worked with the maestro. Cesare is also the music director of the Beethoven Festival Orchestra in New York City.

Mary Copeland (Fitness) is a former professional dancer and has been teaching dance and fitness in New York City for more than 30 years. She has a Group Fitness Certification with the American Council on Exercise and Pilates Mat Certification with Pilates Institute of America. A dance education major at New York University, she studied anatomy and kinesiology and is certified by the American Council on Exercise. She is an experienced exercise teacher and dancer/ choreographer who has been on our staff since 2003.

Joan Delahunt (Chorus) is a classically trained singer, choral director, pianist and organist, with a specialty in composition for musical theater. She leads church choirs in Queens and teaches piano and voice in her private studio.

Samantha Donoso (Himan Brown Senior Program Coordinator) has worked in the department since 2007. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and is working toward a master’s degree in Human Services and Leadership. Before joining 92Y staff, Samantha worked in theatre administration.

Valerie Downing (Fitness) has been a fitness instructor for 25 years. Her certifications include ACE Personal Trainer, AFAA, IM=X Pilates and Yogafit. She has completed workshop programs in Silver Sneakers, Senior Fitness and Aqua.

Donelle Estey (Painting and Drawing) joined the faculty in August 2015. She holds an MFA from California State University and has had her art work exhibited at galleries throughout the world. She serves as an adjunct professor at City University of New York and has been a guest artist on numerous campuses. From 2002-2006, Donelle also worked as a painting instructor at 92Y School of the Arts.

Ellen Friedman (Bridge Instructor) has taught bridge at the Manhattan and Honors Bridge Club for the past seven years and has been teaching at HBSP since November 2014. Ellen claims she was fortunate to be able to turn her Bridge hobby into a second career after retiring from a successful career in the financial industry.

Eva Fyer, LMSW (Women’s Drop-In Group) has worked in many clinical settings doing individual and group therapy. Prior to her career in social work, with a B.F.A. from New York University School of the Arts, she was an independent producer and production manager for film and television production companies.

Robert Goldman (Bridge) has played in most American bridge tournaments and has written four books on bridge. He is an official ACBL Club Director and Life Master.

Carmella Gullo (Drawing) is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She has exhibited at several galleries and her works have graced the covers of modern classical music compact discs as well as Art Calendar magazine. For more about Carmella, see her websites: and

Hermi Hanlin (Bridge) is a bridge life master and ACBL certified director. She successfully participated in many local, regional and national bridge tournaments.

Barbara Haspel (The Art of Listening to Music) is a lyrico-spinto soprano who has performed throughout Italy opposite many renowned singers. A graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, she was the recipient of a Fulbright grant and the Michael Vinceguerra Award.

Tina Janssen-Spinosa (Legal Consultation) is a staff attorney and program coordinator for Total Life Choices, the advance planning program at NYLAG. Tina focuses on assisting clients with a wide variety of planning instruments, including Medical Advance Directives, Powers of Attorney and Last Wills and Testaments. Tina has worked as a volunteer with Equality Now, focusing on civil, political and women’s rights issues in the international arena.

Jess Joseph (Medicare, Patient Advocacy) earned his Certificate in Patient Advocacy from UCLA and a BA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. He trained as a Medicare Advocate with the Medicare Rights Center and has taught classes at the Stanley Isaacs Senior Center, the Sirovich Senior Center and the Carter Burden Luncheon Club in addition to 92Y. He is also a member of the 92Y Serves Committee.

Steve King (Chess), who has degrees in elementary education and history, has been teaching chess to children and adults for almost 20 years in schools, summer camps and senior programs.

Scott Klavan (Drama: Acting Workshop) is a Lifetime Member of The Actor’s Studio and a graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio where he was a two time winner of the Paul Newman trophy for Best Actor. He has appeared on TV, Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theater. Scott is also a published playwright.

Richard Larschan (Literature) is an English Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts. He earned his PhD from UC Berkeley with a dissertation on Jonathan Swift. His academic honors include 2 Fulbrights (Trinity College Dublin; University of Wales) and 4 NEH summer grants. His publications include a critical introduction to Gulliver’s Travels and a co-authored book for cancer patients. He has also written and produced several essays and videos about Sylvia Plath and is featured in a televised biography of Plath and cited in a half-dozen scholarly books on Plath.

Sokie Lee (Qi Gong) is a certified T’ai Chi Chih instructor and has been practicing Qi Gong for 20 years. Sokie has been teaching private and group classes since 2007. She is also a licensed massage therapist with an emphasis on body alignment and mechanics.

Howard Levinger (iPad) is a long-time lover of technology. He works as VP of Sales and Marketing for IntegrateNY, a computer consulting firm, and is an Apple certified expert. Howard combines his passion and expertise teaching iPad and related technologies in the HB Senior Program.

Arielle Levioff (Piano, Art of Listening to Music) pianist, has performed at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully Hall and internationally in London, France and Italy. She is part of the piano and chamber music faculty of the 92nd Street Y School of Music, as well as teaching for the HBSP.

Ellen Love, LCSW (Drop-In Groups, Necessary Conversations) earned her Master’s degree in social work from Fordham University and later studied at Hunter School of Social Work: Brookdale Center on Aging and Training Institute for Mental Health earning a certificate in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. She has a private psychotherapy practice in Manhattan and facilitates several discussion groups which encourage the exchange of ideas and feelings, promoting self-awareness and growth.

Eric Michelson (Painting) moved to New York City after college to continue his studies at the Art Students League. He maintains a studio where he works on large mythological compositions, portraits and the occasional still life. Eric has taught at the Art Students League. He is on the faculty of 92Y School of the Arts and The National Academy of Design.

Jim Minet (Painting and Drawing) is an artist whose work has been exhibited at The Firefly Artists Gallery in Northport, NY, The Art Students League of NY and The Vanderbilt Planetarium. He has been published in Paintworks Magazine and Newsday and is also affiliated with many companies in the art materials industry conducting frequent demonstrations and workshops.

Monty Olenick (Men’s Retirement Rap Group) joined the HBSP in 1999 and has become an important part of our program, volunteering as the facilitator of the Men’s Group. Monty has Masters’ degrees in English and library science and is a retired librarian. Monty also leads “Senior Walks,” sponsored by the NY Road Runners.

Carolyn Perkins (T’ai Chi Chih) is an accredited T’ai Chi Chih instructor, a graduate of the Swedish Institute and a certified Ingham Reflexologist. She originated a form of balance movements (Chi Balance) based on T’ai Chi and Qigong.

Danny Pollock (Israeli and International Folk Dance) has been teaching folk dance for more than 30 years at JCCs, synagogues, dance camps, dance weekends, festivals and special events. As a child, he learned Israeli and international folk dance, is ballet trained, and has trained in Jazz, tap, Afro-Caribbean, square, contra and Scottish dance styles. He has performed in several Israeli dance troupes and was Dance Assistant to the Director of New York’s annual Israeli Folk Dance Festival & Festival of the Arts. He has choreographed a repertoire of folk dances for children, and has trained teachers through specialized workshops.

Frances Richey (Poetry Workshop) is the author of two poetry collections: The Burning Point (White Pine Press, 2004) and The Warrior (Viking Penguin, 2008), and the creator and editor of Voices of the Guard, published in 2010 in honor of the Oregon National Guard. Fran’s work has appeared on the Lives Page of The New York Times Magazine, in Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, The Poets of War, “O” The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Verse Daily and in numerous literary journals. She has also received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo (2016), Blue Mountain Center and Hedgebrook.

Robert Ritta (Bridge) is an Advanced Senior Master. He has taught bridge at 92Y and Marymount College Adult program for many years.

Elly Roth (Living with Low Vision) worked as a systems analyst for many years before retiring. When she became visually impaired, she educated herself about techniques and devices for legally blind people. Elly volunteers, sharing her expertise with our members, and is committed to improving their quality of life. She also volunteers at The Lighthouse.

Simón Saad (The Art of Listening to Music) was born in Colombia and was educated in Italy and the USA. He is an Opera Stage Director, Repertory Builder and lecturer whose work in the genre spans three decades and three continents. In addition to his directorial work, Simon has also coached some of the most celebrated singers of his generation and worked as a talent scout and artistic associate for several of the important opera houses in the Americas.

Erika Safran, CFP ™ (Financial Wellness Seminars), is founder of Safran Wealth Advisors, a financial planning and investment advisory firm in Manhattan. She is a faculty member in the CFP™ program at Baruch College and lectures widely. As a financial expert, Erika has been quoted in many financial and business publications and has been interviewed for CNN, CNBC, NY-1 and "That Money Show" on PBS.

Susan Scheuer (World Events) has degrees in Modern European History, Music Education and Conservation Biology. She has worked extensively in radio (National Public Radio and Public Radio International) as a writer, producer and narrator and is an experienced narrator of audiobooks.

Renee Septimus, M. A., (Counselor; Jewish Thought and Culture) earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Barnard College and an M.A. in Counseling from New York University. She also attended Columbia University School of Social Work and has been associated with the Himan Brown Senior Program since 2003. She lectures on various Jewish topics, parenting and aging and is a writer and editor.

Erica Shein, Esq. (Intergenerational Program Coordinator) is an entertainment lawyer. She has volunteered at Dorot for over 12 years. She joined 92Y in the Summer of 2013 to cover the World Events class. She now leads intergenerational programming at 92Y, including technology help, senior and teen individual projects, and book groups.

Robert Silverman (Jazz) Pianist, trumpeter and composer, Bob has been a fixture on the New York Jazz scene since 1985. He has his own ensemble and has been featured on TV and radio. He won an award from the Bronx Council on the Arts for playing and teaching Jazz to senior adults.

Bob Smith (Simply Shakespeare) describes himself as “a kind of Shakespeare autodidact,” growing up in the shadow of the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut, where he eventually got a job as a dresser. By the 1970’s, Bob was teaching classes about Shakespeare, as well as directing his plays in theaters and college campuses. He is the author of a memoir, The Dresser and has taught at 92Y for twenty years.

Ruth Albert Spencer (Chamber Music) is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music and is on the faculty of CCNY as well as the 92nd Street Y Music Department. Under ongoing grants from the New York Council for the Humanities, Ruth gives concerts and lectures on various composers throughout New York State.

Ana Sussman, RN, MFA (Yoga) has been teaching and practicing Yoga and Meditation for 30 years. She is a certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor, a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and has studied Ashtanga, Anusara and other forms of yoga. Ana blends the best of all her trainings to teach her students how to develop strength and balance and cultivate self awareness and ease of being.

Mark Ethan Toporek (Film Series), a member of the Actors Studio, has appeared in films including The Secret Lives of Dentists, The Confession and Lesser Prophets. He has coordinated film series for 92Y and Queens Museum of Art and worked for the National Board of Review.

Lili White (Painting) received a B.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She has exhibited her paintings and “FilmWorks” in the United States and abroad. Her work highlights nature and spirit, myth, dreams, archetypal imagery, psychology and language. Her interests in moving images and multi-media, led her to perform, write, produce and direct video installations and live multi-media pieces. For more about Lili’s work, see her website

Mark York (Musical Theatre Workshop), originally from Oklahoma, has worked in the Broadway-New York theater scene as a director and composer for the past 25 years. He is performing in Just Jim Dale, a one-man show starring Jim Dale, produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, featuring Mark York at the piano, at the Laura Pels Theatre from May to August 2014.

Julia Zeuner, LMSW, (social worker) is a licensed social worker with a strong background in geriatrics, having worked at several community based agencies, nursing homes and senior centers. She earned her MS in Social Work from Columbia University with a concentration in Geriatrics. Julia is also an active lay leader and board member at UJA Federation of New York.

If you have any questions about Himan Brown Senior Program, please call our office between 9 am and 6 pm, Mon to Fri at 212-415-5633 or 415-5636.