Our Board of Directors work alongside our staff to ensure that the Institute works consistently toward our mission and that we are always striving toward the goals laid out in our Strategic Plan.  They represent a wide range of experience and skills, share their contacts and resources, and contribute to constant and forward motion for every person we encounter.  
Learn more about this incredible team below.



Larson is the owner and managing director of Gunness Financial Services, a financial planning and investment management firm launched in 2006.  His prior professional experience includes roles with Smith Barney, Fidelity Investments, and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.  He was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Larson received a BA in Economics from Kenyon College, a Master's in Management from MIT Sloan School of Management, and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.



Jeffrey P. Gagnon is a senior assistant vice president, with oversight of learning and talent development, at Amica Mutual Insurance Company. In this role, he provides strategic direction on major learning initiatives, leadership and employee development, and college recruiting efforts. Gagnon learned of the Nonviolence Institute though business associated who shares the same passion for servant leadership.


Keith Morton is Professor and Chair of Public and Community Service Studies, and Director of the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College. He has worked in the areas of community development, community service and community theory for more than 30 years. He is particularly interested in youth, nonviolence and the ecological and economic dimensions of community development. He works regularly as a workshop leader and trainer for education and community-based organizations. His teaching and scholarship focus on how we learn from experience, on service and nonviolence as practices of community building, and on the historic and present meanings of community and service in people's lives. Much of his work is grounded in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence. His book, Getting Out: Youth Gangs, Violence and Positive Change, is forthcoming from the University of Massachusetts Press.


Roberta joined the Institute's Board of Directors in 2012 after her retirement from the Rhode Island Department of Corrections where she served for 33 years in several different capacities over the course of her career. In 1990 she was appointed Warden of the Women's Prison where she served for 10 years and finally, was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Rehabilitative Services and Community Corrections including Probation and Parole. In retirement, she remains a strong advocate for the humane treatment of inmates and ex-offenders and serves on the Boards of a variety of community organizations dedicated to promoting justice for under-served groups of Rhode Islanders.



Maggie Meany is the Chief Operating Officer at Amos House, a social services agency located in South Providence.  She became a nonviolence trainer with the Institute in 2001 and has been working with the organization ever since, training throughout Rhode Island and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  She has served proudly on our Board since 2016.



Jerry Dorfman has over 40 years of experience as a Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist. Currently, Jerry is a Financial Advisor with Apella Capital, LLC assisting clients in making smart decisions with their money. Prior to joining Apella Capital, LLC in 2017, Jerry was a Tax Principal at LGC&D, LLP and ran the wealth management division. Jerry holds a B.S in Accounting from URI and an MS in Taxation from Bentley University. In his free time, Jerry enjoys swimming and playing classical guitar.



Chief Esserman was the Assistant Chief of Police in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1991 to 1993, where he put into effect a community-policing plan that cut crime city-wide. He then became Chief of Police for the M.T.A. Metro North Police Department, headquartered in New York City, serving from 1993 to 1998. In 1998, he was appointed as Chief of Police in Stamford, Connecticut. In 2002, Chief Esserman returned to New York City to join Thacher Associates. Later that year, he was recruited as the Chief of Police of the City of Providence, Rhode Island, where he served until July 1, 2011. On October 18, 2011, Dean Esserman was appointed as the Chief of Police for the City of New Haven, Connecticut. Presently he serves as a member of the Board of the Vera Institute of Justice, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Police Foundation. He also served as a former board member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Chief Esserman is a life-time member of the IACP, and serves as the Chair of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee.


Monica Anderson is the Director of Community Relations and Corporate Citizenship at Lifespan. She has been with Lifespan for over 14 years as a liaison between Lifespan affiliates and the community. At Lifespan, Monica oversees all programming with regard to Neighborhood Relations for The Miriam Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, and Newport Hospital. Additionally, she facilitates all of Lifespan’s Corporate Giving and community partnerships ($1 million annually) and oversees The Miriam Hospital’s Community Grant Investment Program and partnerships. Monica was a key advocate for the City of Providence’s JUMP bike share and implements the Prescribe a Bike program annually in partnership with Lifespan’s major clinical and health groups.  She also facilitates all employee volunteer opportunities for the 15,000 employees that work for Lifespan. This includes an annual Season of Giving program which connects the needs of the communities to the generosity of employees who give their time, money, or provide gifts for children and families in need.  In addition, she leads Team Lifespan, employee well-being and community engagement platform which enables employees to give back to the communities through walking, running, cycling and other well-being events. Monica is the key representative for Lifespan with organizations in the community that are aligned with the mission of improving the health of the community such as the American Heart Association, Nonviolence Institute, The Cancer Society and more.


Hugh T. Clements Jr. was appointed to the Providence Police Department on May 5, 1985, as a night Patrol Officer in the Uniform Division. Since then, he has continually climbed in the ranks of the department and served as a detective, Sergeant for South Providence, and then as the Squad 2 Sergeant where he spent seven years supervising the investigations of all major crimes including murder, robbery, burglary, firearms offenses, and gang activity. Hugh received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of Rhode Island and a Bachelor of Science Degree in the Administration of Justice from Roger Williams University. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is the recipient of numerous commendations for excellent police work and devotion to duty, including being recognized with the Chiefs Award 3 times. He has also received recognition from several outside agencies to include: The FBI, the Attorney General’s Office, and the ATF. Additionally, he also received several awards for his participation in a RICO Latin King Investigation.  Hugh and his wife Donna of twenty-six years, have 2 daughters Kayleigh and Kourtney.


Judge Francis J. “Frank” Darigan, Jr. is a longtime activist and community servant who lived for nearly three decades in the Elmwood section of Providence.  Frank was an esteemed member of the Rhode Island Judiciary, retiring from his position with the Superior Court in 2012 after 28 years of service.  Frank is a tireless community activist, standing for peace and justice in his professional life and with many, many volunteer activities.  He is a member of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in South Providence, supporting the varied activities of this diverse inner-city parish.  He has served as Lay Trustee for the parish since 1990.  Frank moved to Jamestown in 1994 with his wife Hope and their children.  He became a member of the Jamestown Community Chorus and continued his community service work in Providence, serving on the Institute’s Board of Directors since its founding.  Among other awards, Frank and his wife Hope were proud to accept the Sister Ann Keefe Award in 2018, acknowledging their service as leaders and activists for peace and justice in Rhode Island and beyond.


Teny Oded Gross was, until October 2015, the Executive Director of the Nonviolence Institute, and is a pioneer in teaching the principles and practices of nonviolence locally, nationally, and internationally. In October 2015, Teny relocated to Chicago to start and lead the start-up the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, while still serving on our board. Teny is the recipient of the 2015 Touro Synagogue Foundation Alexander George Teitz Award for Religious Freedom and Tolerance, as well as the Maun Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island. Teny is the recipient of an Institute of Global Leadership Alumni Award from Tufts University where he earned his B.F.A.  From Harvard, he received an M.T.S. degree and a fellowship in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management from Harvard Business School. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Force. Teny has presented at Brown, Harvard, Yale, Tufts, BU, Clark, PC, as well as NIJ, IACP, DOJ, The White House, as well as abroad on the topics of violence reduction, managing outreach teams, working with Law Enforcement, and Nonviolence. Teny also serves as an advisor to The National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College and has advised many cities in the US and abroad.



Robert J. McConnell (Bob) has practiced law in Rhode Island at the law firm of Motley Rice LLC for over 25 years. A graduate of Suffolk University School of Law and Brown University, Bob has devoted his legal career to protecting the lives and rights of those harmed by asbestos, lead paint, and tobacco. He presently is involved in litigation throughout the country against the opioid industry. He has represented hundreds of asbestos victims who have been injured and died from asbestos exposure. Bob serves on the boards of several organizations devoted to improving the lives of the disenfranchised. For the past seven years, he has been board chair of the Nonviolence Institute. He also has been a long-time board member of the George Wiley Center that fights to reduce utility costs and the harmful effects of utility shutoffs by organizing and empowering those individuals most affected. In 2015, Bob was appointed as Housing Court judge in Central Falls, overseeing the rehabilitation of a number of abandoned properties throughout the city. Bob has actively supported the Pro Bono Collaborative since its inception, taking on fraudulent foreclosure practices and assisting immigrant families, among other projects, and serving on the PBC’s Advisory Board.


Jim Miller has served for more than fifty years in his ministry career as a community organizer and church pastor. Before moving to Rhode Island in 1991, Jim had The Providence Journal mailed to his Rochester, NY residency. News articles sharpened his awareness of the need for religious leaders to become involved in both Rhode Island governmental reform and in service to the community. Jim retired as the 35th minister successor to Roger Williams as Minister of The First Baptist Church in America, the first church to be established in Rhode Island and the first Baptist congregation to be founded in America in 1638. Jim currently serves as Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Providence, the first Italian Baptist Church in RI organized in 1893. Jim’s ministry career has centered on racial justice and equality, international peace-making, revitalization of cities, development of affordable housing projects, youth ministries, and college chaplaincy. Jim also serves as the Governor’s appointee to the RI Commission on Prejudice & Bias, and as a Common Cause Advisory Council member.



Cleora Francis-O’Connor is a computer network management specialist at the Providence School Department. She is a graduate of Leadership Rhode Island/Phi class and a former co-chair of the Million Mom March/RI as well as a former board member of City Arts. Her other affiliations include Chaplin and board member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women RI Chapter and board member at the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island. In addition, she is also a certified yoga instructor and teaches yoga in her spare time.


LeBaron "Barry" Preston currently serves as Managing Director of The Armory Revival Company, which he founded with two partners in 1986. He also holds the post of CFO of the Providence Revival Building Company and Armory Properties, a Providence brokerage firm. Barry began his career with the Rouse Company where he served on teams developing new retail and apartment properties and the new community of Columbia, Maryland. As Vice President of Gilbane Properties, he directed the development of condominium communities in Narragansett Pier and Watertown, MA as well as the highly acclaimed restoration of the Arcade (1976) in downtown Providence. Barry has been a member of the Providence Preservation Society (President 1994-1996), founding its Revolving Fund (President 1985-88). He is a graduate of Yale University and of the University of Chicago Law School.  Barry served as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps (1966-69). He has been married to Rebecca for 41 years, lives in Providence, and has three children.



Nondas is a peace and social justice advocate.  Originally from New York, she is a graduate of Marymount College and Fordham University. While heading public relations and communications at Roger Williams University, she traveled to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace, an experience that inspired her to serve as executive director of The Fund for Community Progress, a network of 25 grassroots agencies dedicated to social justice and democratizing philanthropy. An endowment was established in her honor to support scholarships to lower-income single mothers for studies in higher education. She is a former Chair of the Board at the Institute and helped lead the effort to restore a former convent as our permanent home. She has chaired and served on more than 20 local and national boards and has received several fellowships and awards. A resident of Providence, she is the mother of four and grandmother of five.





Father Ray is a co-founder of the Nonviolence Institute and several other Rhode Island non-profits serving our community, including AIDS Care Ocean State. Throughout his life and his service in the priesthood, Father Ray has continually stood and advocated for at-risk and underserved youth, children, families, and adults. Father Ray's leadership and vision are still vital to the organizations he has helped to create. Before his retirement, Father Ray was the team administrator at St Michael Church of the Archangel for thirty years and Pastor at St Joseph Church in Newport. He has been honored by dozens of community organizations, including as a Partner in Philanthropy for AIDS Care Ocean State, as the Reverend Hebert Bolles Life Achievement Award recipient from the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and as the Sister Ann Keefe Award recipient here at the Nonviolence Institute.


Jack is a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.  President Barack Obama nominated him and the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination in 2011.  He is now one of two U.S. District Court Judges in RI and hears both civil and criminal cases. Prior to becoming a judge, Jack was a trial attorney for 25 years during which time he represented persons injured by exposure to asbestos, states that sued the tobacco industry, and children poisoned by lead paint.  Jack is the chairperson of the Board of Crossroads RI and is an Emeritus Trustee of Trinity Repertory Company.  Jack was born in Providence, graduated from Brown University with a concentration in Urban Studies and received his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.  He is married to Sara Shea McConnell, and they have three children.


Not long after the murder of her husband, Heidi Keller Moon became active with a private agency that served the survivors of homicide victims. Ten years ago, when that group became a part of the Nonviolence Institute, she was invited to join the Institute’s board. She values her involvement, not only because of the wonderful support that the Institute provides for victims and their loved ones but also because of the nonviolence training which is at the heart of our mission. Beyond that, Heidi says that volunteering with the Institute has been an important part of her own healing process. She adds "I feel blessed to be a member of this amazing community."


Steven O'Donnell is the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Providence YMCA which oversees 7 facilities and two camps in Rhode Island and one in Massachusetts.   He is the former Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, as well as the former United States Marshal for the District of Rhode Island.


Paul Mooney remembers waking up one August morning in the year 2000 and reading in the paper that Amy Shute and Jason Bergeron had been carjacked, taken to Johnston and executed. He says "I felt like I was going to throw up. I didn’t know either one of them but was sickened by this senseless violence." Paul called Lisa Churchville, at that time president of Channel 10 and a classmate of his in Leadership RI. and asked her what we could do to stop this from happening again. She suggested he contact Father Ray Malm and Sister Ann Keefe as they were starting an initiative to change people’s perception that violence was a solution. He immediately called, spoke to Sister Ann and was told they were meeting that very afternoon. He said he would be there and that’s how the day he became a part of the Nonviolence Institute.  Paul was elected president of the board and has served since that first day. Paul says "The Institute has been a huge part of our community in reducing violence. I am proud that I am still involved with this great cause."


Barbara is President of Barbara Sokoloff Associates, a multifaceted housing, finance, development, and community revitalization consulting firm. BSA has been the development consultant on many notable projects, including the WaterFire Arts Center, more than 2000 affordable housing units, mixed-use buildings along major thoroughfares and the Nonviolence Institute's headquarters building in Providence. Previously, Ms. Sokoloff was the Director of the Planning Department in the City of Warwick, Rhode Island. She has over forty years of experience as a community planner in the public and private sectors. Ms. Sokoloff is well-known for her housing and community revitalization experience, and especially her ability to formulate creative and functional solutions to community revitalization problems. She is also recognized as a leader in facilitating public meetings and incorporating public input into planning projects. Ms. Sokoloff has been President of BSA since 1989 and has prime responsibility for all work produced by the firm. Ms. Sokoloff received her B.A. and Masters in Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island.  Barbara also serves on the boards of several community nonprofits. She resides in Providence with her husband, Herbert Rakatansky.


The Right Reverend Doctor Jeffery A. Williams is a native of Englewood, NJ, and graduate of the famed A Better Chance Program at Simsbury High School 1981, (Simsbury, CT)  In 1981, Bishop Williams attended Brown University and graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Social Environmental Analysis, a concentration he personally created.  In May 2007, he received his Doctorate of Ministry in Urban Complex Settings from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Hamilton, MA).  Bishop Williams graduated in June 2010 with a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard ‘s Kennedy School of Government. He was consecrated as Overseer of the New England Diocese by His Grace Donald Hilliard II, in 2008. His commitment to helping others understand the connection between principle and practice, led to the founding of the Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly in 1999, renamed “The King’s Cathedral ” in May 2013. Summer 2015 saw Bishop Williams elevated to the office of Bishop-designate; he was consecrated to the Holy Office of Bishop in Spring 2016 by Bishop Hilliard. He is married to Lelani (Bonner) Williams and is the enthusiastic father of two teenage daughters, Joy Victoria and Grace Noelle.

In Memoriam

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We are ever-inspired by the legacy the Institute's co-founder, Sister Ann C. Keefe


You can hardly take a step past our entryway without hearing her name, seeing a photo or hearing a story about this incredible woman.  


Sister Ann was a fierce advocate for social justice and assisting the least among us. She was an admirer and devotee of the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Sister Ann was a legendary community activist and founder of more than twenty-six social service organizations in the Providence area, including the Institute.  

We remember her every day and our work aims to keep her legacy alive and continue making a difference for every person.