The staff works cohesively to manage the diverse needs of the Woods itself, its visitors, and those who graciously support the Foundation in these efforts.
Mary Katherine Philipp – Executive Director
Born in Aiken, SC, Dr. Mary Katherine Philipp spent much of her childhood in Hitchcock Woods – on foot and horseback. While her career goals in medicine took her away from Aiken for a while, she returned to her hometown to raise her three children, all of whom, like their mom, grew up in the Woods. She finds her role as Executive Director of the Foundation an opportunity to give back to the community and this magical forest that both have meant so much to her and her family.
After years of being a “horse show mom” and playing a major role at the Aiken Horse Show, the Foundation’s biggest fundraiser, Mary Katherine joined the staff in 2020 and eventually moved into the position of Executive Director.
Her passion for the Woods is clear as is the mission of the Foundation, and she is excited to be part of such an incredible team. “It’s a privilege for me to be a part of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation team which provides the highest level of stewardship to this ecologically diverse forest,” she says. “It is here for everyone to enjoy,” she assures, adding, “It’s an amazing outdoor classroom for all ages.”
Bennett Tucker – Hitchcock Woods Superintendent
An Aiken native, Bennett Tucker grew up exploring every inch of Hitchcock Woods. He split his time between hiking and riding with friends. While in high school and college, he was a summer intern with the Foundation’s former forester and volunteered at the annual Aiken Horse Show and with controlled burns.
In 2006, he joined the Foundation’s staff, eventually becoming the Woods Superintendent. In addition to his vast knowledge of the Woods, Bennett has numerous first responder certifications, as well as structural and wildland firefighting certifications. As a South Carolina Certified Prescribed Fire Manager, Bennett has been instrumental in supervising a program that has done much to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem and reduce the risk of wildfires in the Woods.
In addition to his position with the Foundation, he serves the community as a volunteer firefighter with Aiken Public Safety.
Eric Grande – Hitchcock Woods Assistant Superintendent
Some of Eric Grande’s fondest childhood memories are of hiking in Hitchcock Woods as a young boy. “I was so lucky to grow up here and have the Woods as my backyard,” he says. Shortly after graduating from USC Aiken in 2012 with a biology major and geology minor, Eric joined the staff of Hitchcock Woods.
After five years, Eric left his position at the Woods to help his brother start a business, but the Woods were never far from his mind.
In 2022, the Foundation was thrilled to have Eric return as the Woods’ Assistant Superintendent. He loves the Woods every bit, if not more, than he did as a child.
Nancy Johnson – Marketing & Development Specialist
Lured by the mild climate and friendly horse community, Nancy Johnson and her husband moved to Aiken in 2017. “The first time I rode in Hitchcock Woods I thought I was dreaming!” she says. “It is truly an amazing place that is enjoyed by so many in such a variety of ways.”
Nancy joined the team at Hitchcock Woods in 2022 as the Marketing and Development Specialist to assist the Foundation and Executive Director with marketing and communications. Her diverse writing and marketing background includes work in both corporate and non-profit realms and has made her an invaluable member of the HWF team.
Nancy emphasizes, “It is so rewarding to work for an organization that I truly believe in and with people who are so passionate about the Woods’ past, present, and future.”
Karen Peters – Administrative Assistant
Karen Peters grew up in North Augusta and attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She and her husband were transferred numerous times, but then returned to Aiken to raise their three children. Karen has been involved in many aspects of the community.
Karen came to the Foundation in 2019 in what was to be a temporary position assisting with administrative tasks for the annual Aiken Horse Show. She was such a good fit, the Foundation hired her full-time. Karen’s vast knowledge of Aiken is beneficial not only to the HWF, but also to newcomers and visitors to the Woods.
Mike Grabowski – Hitchcock Woods Technician
Mike Grabowski is a full-time Sergeant with Aiken Public Safety specializing in the fire division. He volunteered with the Hitchcock Woods Foundation’s Prescribed Fire Team for three seasons prior to joining as part-time staff in 2017. Because of his experience in all areas of public safety, including fire, police, and EMS, coupled with his love of the Woods, he is a huge asset to the Foundation.
Nancy Rogers – Financial Administrator
For 15 years Nancy Rogers successfully ran her own retail business before moving to Aiken with her husband in 2010. A friend knew of Nancy’s background in finance, including a BA in accounting, and recommended her for a position at Hitchcock Woods Foundation.
Since 2019, she has been a huge asset as the Financial Administrator handling the day-to-day financial affairs of the Foundation. In addition to her regular part-time duties, Nancy puts in many extra hours helping with Hitchcock Woods’ annual horse show and is always willing to step up to assist with special projects.