Until the early 1900’s, there was only one paid staff position. As the management and protection of the Woods has grown in complexity, particularly in the areas of restoration of the Longleaf pine ecosystem, prescribed burning to protect the Woods and the community, and the education of the public about the health and environmental benefits of the Woods, so has the staff of the Foundation. Today the Foundation employs three full-time employees an Executive Director, Woods Superintendent and an Administrative/Communications Assistant as well as three part-time employees who assist with administration and maintenance of the Woods.
The Hitchcock Woods Foundation office, “The Green House.”
Christine K. Rolka – Executive Director
Christine was selected as the next Executive Director of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation (HWF) in February 2015 and began serving in that capacity in March 2015. Before joining the HWF, Christine was the Director of Education for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) where she worked for 14 years. In that role, she was responsible for the development, management and expansion of the NWTF’s Museum and National Education Programs. Prior to her work with the NWTF, Christine served as a teacher and guidance counselor for Aiken County Public Schools for 6 years. Christine has a B.A from the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Cortland in Sociology and Education and an M.A. in Natural Sciences from the University of South Carolina. Christine and her husband were delighted to discover Hitchcock Woods after moving from New York to Aiken, SC in 1991. They decided to build a home right across the street from the Woods so they could spend more time in them. Christine’s passions are engaging youth and the public in the use, appreciation and stewardship of natural and historic treasures and green spaces, like Hitchcock Woods. Christine and her family (husband Tom, children Lance and Heidi, and dog Redford) enjoy spending time in the Woods and the outdoors.
W. Bennett Tucker – Woods Superintendent
Bennett Tucker grew up in Aiken and spent much of his youth exploring and enjoying the Hitchcock Woods. He volunteered with the Axe Club and enjoyed riding and showing horses at the Fulmer International Stables (now The Stable on the Woods). He worked with the Foundation’s former forester as a summer intern for three years while in high school and college, and volunteered to help with prescribed burns and the Aiken Horse Show. He joined the Foundation’s staff as Woods Superintendent in 2006. While in college, he became a volunteer firefighter with the Due West Fire Department and later joined Aiken Public Safety as a volunteer firefighter. Bennett has many first responder certifications, many structural and wildland firefighting certifications, and is a South Carolina certified prescribed fire manager. He has remained an active volunteer firefighter with Aiken Public Safety (winning Volunteer Firefighter of the Year in 2009) and serves on the board of directors of the Aiken Land Conservancy. Bennett graduated from Aiken Preparatory School and then from Christ School in Arden, North Carolina. He is a graduate of Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, with a degree in business administration.
Joanne C. Gunnell – Executive Assistant
Originally from New Jersey, Joanne has lived in Michigan and Illinois working as a consultant in Educational Services for Deloitte and in Development for Elgin Academy. As a volunteer at a major hospital in Illinois, she has chaired many fundraisers including galas, golf outings, and fashion shows. At the hospital she also served on the volunteer board as the Community Outreach Director, Treasurer and President. Joanne and her husband were transferred to Aiken in January 2010. She worked as the Director of Development for Aiken Preparatory School and retired in 2012. She is currently an Eucharistic Minister at St. Mary Help of Christian Church. She is an avid golfer, photographer, enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking and spending time at the beach with her husband Dennis and their dog Anna Sabrina.
Mike Grabowski– Woods Technician
Mike joined the Hitchcock Woods Foundation staff in July 2017. He brings twenty years of public safety experience including Fire, Police and EMS. Mike currently works full-time for the Aiken Department of Public Safety where he is a Sergeant assigned as a shift supervisor in the fire division. Mike volunteered with the Hitchcock Woods Foundation Prescribed Fire Team for three seasons, prior to his hiring, and has since immersed himself in the stewardship of the Woods. Mike grew up in Buffalo, New York and moved to Aiken when he was twenty-one years old. Aiken has been his home for twenty-four years since. Mike is the proud father of daughter, Emma. In his free-time Mike can be seen hiking Hitchcock Woods with his dog Cooper, watching live music, or Buffalo Sabres hockey. Go Sabres!
Susan M. Kilgo – Administrative Assistant
Suzi Kilgo has worked in the Hitchcock Woods Foundation office on a seasonal basis since 2007 and continuously since 2014. She grew up in Athens, GA, attended the University of Georgia, and received a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Florida. A 20-year resident of Aiken, she has served her church and the community in various volunteer capacities. Her daughter Caroline is a long-time participant in the Aiken Horse Show, and her husband John, a wildlife biologist, advises the Foundation on various wildlife issues. Suzi enjoys camping and walking in Hitchcock Woods with John, Caroline, and dogs Rosie and Clay.
Christine M. Reichel – Financial Administrator
Chris Reichel was raised on Long Island, New York. She graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, with a degree in computer science. She and her husband have resided in the area since 1990 and raised their three children in the Aiken community. Her involvement as a volunteer for several local organizations led to her position with the Hitchcock Woods Foundation and she was hired as Administrator in 2001. Since 2014, she has served as a part time Financial Administrator and is enjoying the flexibility to pursue other interests.