The American College of the Building Arts

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Board of Trustees


Phillip Simmons

Inspirational Founder

Fashioning more than 500 pieces of ornamental iron in Charleston, Mr. Simmons was one of the most celebrated Master Blacksmiths in the United States. From end to end, the city of Charleston is truly decorated by his hand. In 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Simmons the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the United States can bestow on a traditional artist. He also received the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the South Carolina’s Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, and the Order of the Palmetto. Pieces of his work have been acquired by the National Museum of History, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Atlanta History Center, among others. The garden of St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston is dedicated to Philip Simmons as a tribute to his exceptional mastery of iron and his inspirational character.

Pierre Manigault

Chairman of the Board

Chairman of Evening Post Industries (EPI), which publishes The (Charleston, SC) Post and Courier. Mr. Manigault has worked in the field of media and communications since 1987 for The National Geographic Society, The Washington Post and EPI’s newspaper and network television affiliates. In 2007 he co-founded Garden and Gun magazine. He is a past-board member of The Historic Charleston Foundation, The Preservation Society of Charleston, The South Carolina Maritime Foundation, the Gibbes Museum of Art and the International Crane Foundation. He serves on the boards of the Middleton Place Foundation, Magnolia Cemetery, and the College of Charleston School of Business. He is a founding trustee of the American College of the Building Arts.



John LaVerne

Chair of Facilities

A native of Charleston and 1991 graduate of The Citadel, Mr. LaVerne became fascinated with history and tourism while interning at the City of Charleston Tourism Department during his senior year of college. Mr. LaVerne began his career as a tour guide in 1991 and founded Bulldog Tours in 2001. Bulldog Tours is dedicated to the preservation of Charleston’s historic structures and a portion of all ticket sales are donated to his favorite non-profits, including several local buildings and sites. To date, more than 1.9 million dollars has been donated for the restoration and upkeep of the Old Exchange Building, the City Jail, and the Circular Congregational Church. Mr. LaVerne earned a Golden Pineapple Award in 2009 from the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Travel Council and joined their board of directors in 2010. His company has been featured nationally by USA Today, Southern Living, and the Travel Channel.

Tyler Bickerstaff

Tyler is a proud graduate of ACBA. His family background is steeped in a respect for the built environment. He served as a partner in Bickerstaff Webb General Contractors, Columbus, GA. In 2011 the Bickerstaff family relocated to John's Island, SC as Tyler began to deepen his understanding of the built environment and the role Architectural Blacksmithing played in it. Tyler still lives in the Charleston area with his wife and three children. He works with world-renowned blacksmith, Robert Thomas.




Thomas Carpenter

Tom moved to New York from his native Virginia in 1995 and his first job there - true to his namesake- was as a Carpenter. In the subsequent 20 years, Tom has worked with major traditional media companies to launch digital products and services. Tom enjoys speaking on developments in digital media and has been featured at NAB, the Tribeca Film Festival, Streaming Media East & West and in Charleston at Dig South among other venues. He is involved in multiple art & craft-oriented organizations in New York including the Guggenheim, New Museum, International Center of Photography, and Rocking The Boat. Tom holds a dual-major BA in Psychology & Spanish from Purdue University and also studied in Spain and France as an undergraduate. An avid sailor, Tom fell in love with the College - and Charleston - while crewing on a boat raising funds for ACBA on the Charleston-Bermuda Race in 2011, and has been involved with the College ever since.

Francine Christiansen

Francine Christiansen is a non-profit management consultant whose practice focuses on strategic business planning, board development and executive coaching. She has completed strategic plans for over 50 organizations in the last 10 years including arts, historic preservation, regional business development and social service organizations. She has lived in Hartford, CT for over 25 years where she chaired several boards including the Village for Families and Children, the Stanley-Whitman House, the Junior League of Hartford and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving Catalyst Endowment. Currently, she serves on the Board of the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Greater Hartford Arts Council Board of Governors. Recently, she and her husband became part-time Charleston-area residents. Francine is a graduate of Douglass College and Claremont Graduate School as well as a BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer.

William Copenhaver

Will Copenhaver is Director, Marketing Communications for Le Creuset of America. He is responsible for all consumer marketing initiatives, including wholesale, retail and eCommerce consumer programs. He manages advertising, public relations, media buying and digital media agencies. He holds an MBA from Wake Forest University Graduate School of Management and a Bachelors in History from Duke University.

Carson Knizevski

Carson Kniveski is Vice President, Charleston for HITT Contracting, Inc. Mr. Knizevski joined HITT in 1999 and has more than 18 years of commercial construction experience. In 2002, he was tasked with overseeing HITT Contracting's Charleston, South Carolina office. In this role, Mr. Knizevski is responsible for providing professional construction services to the local market as well as managing day-to-day operations.



Johanna Martin-Carrington

Ms. Martin-Carrington is the Executive Director of Jenkins Institute in Charleston also known as the Daniel Joseph Jenkins Institute for Children. Her career spans several decades in both the education and civic arenas. She has served on many boards and has won numerous awards for her community service. A military veteran, Ms. Martin-Carrington holds a bachelor's degree from Virginia State University's United States Armed Forces Institute and a master's degree from UCLA.

Richard Sammons

As an architect, architectural theorist, visiting professor, and chief designer of Fairfax & Sammons Architects with offices in New York and Palm Beach, he has an international practice specializing in classical architecture, interior design and urban planning. Sammons was instrumental in the reemergence of classical design as a major movement in America through his designs as well as his work as an instructor at the Prince of Wales Institute in Britain in 1992-3 and as a founding member of the Institute of Classical Architecture in 1991. From 1996 to 2004, the Fairfax & Sammons office also served as the headquarters for the noted American architecture critic Henry Hope Reed Jr. and Classical America, the organization he founded in 1968. In 2013, Fairfax & Sammons received the Arthur Ross Award for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture, an award created to recognize and celebrate excellence in the classical tradition.

John Shannon

John Shannon is Executive Director and Almoner of the St. George's Society of New York. Over the past two decades, Mr. Shannon has implemented and over seen new initiatives within the organization, enhancing the Society’s fundraising, membership, mission, and vision and office operation. He holds a Bachelors in History from Trinity College. In addition to his board service with ACBA, Mr. Shannon serves on a number of boards in the New York City area including the Royal Oaks, Saint Nicholas Society in the City of New York, the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society and the College of Arms Foundation.

Janis A. Solomon

A native of Charleston, Mrs. Solomon is the parent representative on the Board of Trustees. Her son, Brian, is a rising student in the traditional plaster program. She has worked in the health care industry for more than 30 years and is currently with Solomon Dentistry, a family practice with her husband Dr. A. Frederick Solomon. Mrs. Solomon holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health information management from the Medical University of South Carolina.



Emeritus Members


Benjamin Brazell

Ben Brazell is the Charleston Market President of First Reliance Bank. Mr. Brazell has more than 22 years of banking experience, during which he has held numerous sales management and executive leadership positions throughout the state of South Carolina. Before assuming leadership of First Reliance Bank in Charleston, Brazell was Senior Vice President, Market President of a large national bank in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Brazell graduated from the University of South Carolina, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He has also received various professional certifications and is a graduate of the Leadership Development Institute and The South Carolina Banker's School. As an active member of the community, Brazell currently serves as the Chairman for the board of Commissioners for the Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority and as Finance Chairman for the Small Business Council of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Charleston Alumni Association, and Leadership Development Intensive Alumni Association.

Mary Scott Guest

Retired from working in the financial industry, Ms. Guest is an avid supporter of ACBA and has contributed her time since its inception. She is a former board member for the Spoleto Festival USA and has worked with a number of nonprofits in Charleston. She resides in Greenville, SC.




Margaret Hawk O'Brien

Now retired, Mrs. O’Brien, a Charleston native, holds a BA in History from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and an MA from American University. She built her career in systems and information management for the federal government and has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Energy, and finally as a Chief Information Officer at the Department of Transportation. She has been active as a volunteer, organizational officer, and patron in a number of Washington, DC, neighborhood civic, historic preservation, and cultural organizations. She is the eldest of the nine children of Nancy Hawk, a foundinger of ACBA and later chairman of the board of trustees.

A. Bert Pruitt, Jr. MD.

Dr. Pruitt holds a BA from Washington and Lee University and an MD from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest College. Dr. Pruitt served in the United States Air Force, where he completed his medical internship, earned his pilot's wings, and was a flight surgeon. After service, he completed his Residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology and served as a Fellow in Reproductive Biology at Bowman Gray. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Laser Surgery. A very active member of the Charleston community, he has received numerous awards from medical and civic organizations.

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