Westport, CT — Susan Gold’s office at the Westport Historical Society’s headquarters in downtown Westport is a sunny and cheerful room that perfectly mirrors its inhabitant’s disposition. For over a decade, volunteers, community partners, artists, musicians and friends of the Society could enjoy a cup of tea and warm reception from Gold as Executive Director, whose energy and enthusiasm drew folks from all walks of life through WHS’ doors.
So although she was ready for a new life chapter, it was a hard decision for Sue to consider placing the organization in someone else’s hands.
She reflected on her 11 years as Executive Director, noting, "Being at the Westport Historical Society never felt like work. It was something I did and is full of heartfelt memories. The Westport community is filled with many talented people in advertising and the visual, performing and literary arts and they came and enriched our organization throughout the year,” she says.
“I felt like a producer and reeled these wonderful people in with their ideas for programs and exhibits. I gave them a place to let their talent shine. Westport is a treasure trove of genuinely caring people and it was an honor and a privilege to get to work with them and to call them my friends."
The opportunity for Sue to pass the executive baton came after an extensive search this fall, culminating in December when Westporter Ramin Ganeshram was selected as the new Executive Director.
“Becoming Executive Director of the Westport Historical Society is essentially a dream come true —one in which I can marry my business management experience with my love of history, research and writing skills,” says Ramin. “Most of all I’m looking forward to working with the Board of Directors, volunteers, the Town and other cultural organizations to make Westport Historical Society a community hub that honors our past while creating a vibrant present and future.”
Born and raised in New York City, Ramin moved to Westport, along with husband Jean-Paul Vellotti and daughter Sophia, and promptly fell in love with the town. She quickly threw herself into community service when she organized Food4Haiti, a fundraiser at Saugatuck Congregational Church for the UN’s World Food Programme after the Haitian earthquake of 2010—an effort that raised nearly $10,000.
Ramin has worked as an executive-level cultural strategist for a major market research firm as well as an executive-level editor in publishing companies such as Ziff Davis Media, CMP Media, AMI, and others. Ramin brings strong business and personnel management knowledge to the position as well as extensive historical knowledge and a creative background—a diverse and solid skill set that was attractive to the Search Committee and Board of Directors.
Bob Mitchell, Chairman of the Board of WHS, is very pleased with the outcome of the search process. “I and my colleagues on the Board feel Ramin is the perfect person to help us launch WHS into the future under the guidance of our recently-completed Strategic Plan,” he says. “We look forward to exciting changes to benefit our WHS community and the Town of Westport as a whole.”
In addition to her business and management background, Ramin was educated as a journalist at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has spent her career researching and writing about culture and history as both a features writer and editor and through the context of food and travel. She is also a professionally trained chef.
As a writer, Ramin has contributed articles on historical America, immigrant foodways and colonial New York cuisine and commerce to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink In America, Savoring Gotham, and the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. Ramin has also been a peer reviewer for the Journal of Food, Culture, & Society. She has been a speaker at City University of New York, The New York Folklore Society, the American Library Association and others.
A proponent of grass-roots activism, Ramin was a co-founder of the Food Access Coalition, providing food subsidy coupons to underserved communities at farmer’s markets in Norwalk, CT. She has also served as a board member for My City Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to providing cooking skills and nutrition learning to at-risk youth in Meriden, CT. She was appointed by the Town of Westport as a member of TEAM Westport, the town’s diversity action committee, by Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe in 2017.
"WHS is now at a new junction in its long and amazing journey and Ramin is perfectly poised to bring WHS to its next horizon," said Ms. Gold. “She is bringing her talent and experience that dovetail so beautifully with the new strategic plan. Her charm, expertise, desire and determination will set the tone for the kind of place the Board wants WHS to be. There is great promise with Ramin's welcoming smile and diverse experience that WHS will soar to new heights.”
Ms. Ganeshram will assume her new post officially on Jan. 8, 2018.