VPW Archives‎ > ‎[Untitled]‎ > ‎Agenda‎ > ‎

Speakers bios

Make the Switch - Opening session

   William Hoffer and Marilyn Hoffer are a husband-and-wife team who have been spinning out international bestsellers for more than 20 years.
William collaborated with Billy Hayes to chronicle Hayes' escape from the horrors of a Turkish prison in "Midnight Express," which was later produced into an Academy Award-winning motion picture starring Brad Davis, John Hurt and Randy Quaid.
    William and Marilyn worked with Betty Mahmoody to write "Not Without My Daughter," the story of Betty and her daughter's desperate and dangerous escape from Iran. The book became a stunningly successful international phenomenon and was produced into a motion picture starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.
    The couple's "Freefall" is the nail-biting thriller recounting the near-tragedy of Air Canada Flight 174 that ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet. It was produced into a motion picture starring William Devane, Shelley Hack and Mariette Hartley.
    William and Marilyn live in rural Virginia, along with their two West Highland white terriers Gus and Reagan.

History at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania - Awards luncheon speaker

  John Hennessy is the chief historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania
National Military Park – a unit of the National Park Service in Virginia.
He is the principal author of “Holding the High Ground,” the document that
helped shape the NPS’s direction in interpretation as the park service enters the Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration. 
    He has written three books of history on the Civil War, and helped shepherd in an expanded approach to interpretation that examines the Civil War and its major battles in a broader context – bringing to visitors not just the stories of men in uniform, but also the civilians and slaves who were affected. 
    From upstate New York, he has been at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP since 1995.   He also worked at Manassas Battlefield, the New York State Historic Preservation Office, and the NPS design center at Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

Breakout Sessions

Just the Facts, ma'am panel

            Dick Hammerstrom, a local news editor at The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, serves as chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee of the Virginia Press Association.  He also is vice president of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and Virginia sunshine chair for the Society of Professional Journalists.

            Kirsten B. Mitchell is a former journalist who frequently used state and federal records to shine a light on how government operates. 

            Kirsten spent two years on fellowship at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a year as a researcher for the Sunshine in Government Initiative.  The Initiative is a coalition of media groups that worked to gain passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which created the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives. 

            She now works at the OGIS.  Her activities in this federal FOIA ombudsman, center on resolving disputes between FOIA requesters and agencies, and review of FOIA policies, procedures and compliance.

Grammar Bowl

            Clara B. Cox retired last year as director of publications after more than three decades at Virginia Tech.  She has edited six books, three magazines, and five newsletters and has served as executive editor of numerous publications.

            She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and was a charter member of the Distinguished Alumni Board for Virginia Tech’s Department of English. She sits on the editorial board of the Smithfield Review, was secretary and president of the board of directors and a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, and was a judge for the Florida Magazine Association’s Charlie Awards.



Pre conference - Latest Research on Kenmore and Ferry Farm

          From Northern Virginia, Laura Galke received her master’s degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University.  She has published on the artifacts of 19th-century African American spirituality, of 17th-century European and American Indian contact, and most recently on excavations of the antebellum dormitories of Washington and Lee University. 

            Laura is the artifact analyst at the George Washington Foundation where recent excavations are contributing to a better understanding of the mid-eighteenth century life of George Washington and his family.



Post conference - Social Media

Tammy Poole is public affairs communications specialist at State Farm Insurance.  She also is VPW's secretary and FOIA representative.

    She is former public relations manager and editor at the Virginia State Police Association, general manager at The Rural Virginian, and special sections coordinator and education reporter at The Daily Progress.