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2024 Symposium

Speaker Bios


Thomas K. Meier Keynote Speaker


Wayne E. Motts –

“From Elmira to Gettysburg: Elmira Connections to America’s Greatest Civil War Battle”

Wayne is the President Emeritus & Historian of the Gettysburg Foundation, which is the non-profit philanthropic partner of the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Wayne is the author of Trust in God and Fear Nothing: Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, CSA, and the co-author with James A. Hessler of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg the Most Famous Attack in American History. Wayne has been a licensed battlefield guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park for 36 years.


Dr. Gary Emerson

"Swallowing the Eagle: The Elmira Prison Camp and the Question of Loyalty"

Gary is a native Elmiran. His degrees include a BA in History from St. Bonaventure University, an MS in Education from Elmira College, a MA in History from Binghamton University, and is currently a PhD graduate in American History at Binghamton University.  Gary taught American History for 36 years, mostly at Newfield Central School in Newfield, NY.  He retired from teaching, and is now the Schuyler County Historian.  Gary also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Schuyler County Historical Society and the Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp.


Talima Aaron-

“Elmira & Its Role in the Underground Railroad”

Since joining the John W. Jones Board of Trustees’ finance committee in 2004, Talima has advanced the museum’s restoration, preservation and education efforts. The need to fund these objectives led her to write grants on behalf of the Museum totaling over $500,000 to stabilize, restore, maintain the building and grounds, and operate the Museum. From 2008 to 2016, she served as second vice president, and was elected president of the board in June 2016. Talima’s work as a trustee includes fundraising, grant writing, branding, programming, and events planning to support the Museum’s mission. Under her leadership, the Museum opened its doors to the public, commissioned a statue honoring Mr. Jones, developed plans for an addition and new interpretation center, and hired its first employee. Talima retired from Corning Incorporated’s Science & Technology’s human resource training team in April 2016 after 11 years of service. Her responsibilities included supporting training programs for Corning’s global scientific community. She also retired from Aetna Life & Casualty’s/Travelers in 2000, with 20 years of service where she managed a team of underwriters/raters, and facilitated training for insurance professionals. Talima is a graduate of the State University of New York, and completed the Human Resources and Train-the-Trainer programs at the Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations. She currently serves as a City of Elmira Commissioner of Woodlawn Cemetery. Originally from New York City, Talima is a wife, mother and proud grandmother, and has lived in Elmira for almost 50 years.  


Rachel Dworkin –

“Lincoln’s Banner Regiment: Research Resources at the Chemung Valley History Museum”

has a BA in History from Bryn Mawr College and a Masters in Information and Library Science from SUNY Albany. She has been the archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society since 2008. She is the author of various articles on Chemung County History published in the Civil War Courier and the New York Archives Magazine, as well as the co-author of the book The Hidden Lives of Chemung County. Outside of work, she enjoys fencing, knitting and reading and is the president of the board of the Chemung County Library District.


Dr. Kent Scriber

“A Civil War Family and Its Connections to Elmira”

He is Professor Emeritus, Department Exercise Science and Athletic Training at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York. Dr Scriber also serves as a volunteer site docent and Board member for the Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp. He is the author of “Three Oswego County Brothers in the Civil War and After”, currently on line at the New York State Military Museum, Unit History Site for the 24th New York Volunteer Infantry.

Terri Olszowy –

“The Luxury of Doing Good-Faith, Charity & Volunteerism on the Homefront

Is a native Elmiran. She holds a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University, an MS in Administration (public/non-profit) from Central Michigan University and is a former US Regular Army Ordnance Captain. Terri worked in the metal finishing industry as a Quality Assurance Manager before becoming an independent historical researcher in 2003. Her past community involvement has included Chemung County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Chemung, American Red Cross Damage Assessment Team Leader, Board Member-Chemung Valley Living History Center, Town of Ashland Planning Board member, Councilperson and past Supervisor for the Town of Ashland. Terri is currently a Board member for the Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp. She has organized and participated in a number of Living  events, programs for local schools, Boy Scouts and as a National Park Service volunteer. In 2020, Terri published Elmira Civil War, 1861-1865 (Golos Printing), a comprehensive history of Civil War Elmira, addressing its role as training rendezvous, recruiting center and draft depot, in addition to the prisoner of war camp. She and her husband Douglas Oakes were instrumental in the research, planning and construction of a full-scale reproduction barracks building on the original site of Barracks Number 3, and a prisoner of war era stockade wall.They are currently working on a regimental history for the 86th New York Volunteer Infantry.

Dr. Katie Durrant—
“No Freedom Shrieker: The Civil War Letters of Charles F. Biddlecom"
Dr Durrant a native Elmiran. She is the author of "No Freedom Shrieker: The Civil War Letters of Charles F. Biddlecom" (2012) and two forthcoming books: "Air Castles: An Epistolary Collection of Early American Suffragist Dreamers," and a novel titled, "Before the Sky was Blue" a story about finding meaning. Katherine earned her doctorate in social work from the University of Southern California. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Whole Wellness Counseling, a family-run business with offices across New York. She currently resides on the shore of Cayuga Lake.

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