New faces and fond farewells at UMCES Board of Visitors

November 14, 2023

A dedicated advocate for improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Board of Visitors member Charlie Monk steps down as chair after nine years. Formerly a managing partner of the Baltimore office of the national law firm Saul Ewing, he brought an in-depth understanding of the University System of Maryland and the state's political landscape to his role and ensuring that Maryland’s environment is preserved for decades to come.

"We thank Charlie for his commitment to UMCES and the Chesapeake Bay. He led the organization through a leadership change in 2016— first in 26 years—and we will always be grateful for his calm, steady counsel that brought us to the strong place we are today," said Interim President Bill Dennison

The Board of Visitors provides advice and guidance to the president on matters pertaining to public outreach, development, and policy issues. Through their involvement, UMCES is able to ensure it continues to meet its mission to develop and apply predictive ecology for Maryland to the improvement and preservation of the physical environment and support Maryland’s international reputation for progressive environmental management and sustainable economic development.

This fall, Gary Epstein steps into the chair role after six years on the Board of Visitors. The founder and global chair of the communications practice group of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm, he brings decades of experience in telecommunications law practice and advising companies on telecommunications, satellite, and broadcast regulations. He is managing Director of 4270E, LLC specializing in telecom law and policy, arbitration and mediation, and a senior advisor to Auctionomics, Inc.

"Gary has been deeply engaged as a member of our Board of Visitors since 2017, and I am excited that he is our new chair," said Dennison. "He will bring great of energy and experience to this role, particularly as we move toward our 100th anniversary and launch new initiatives such as the Chesapeake Global Collaboratory."

UMCES also welcomes new board member Crystal Upperman, a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in business development and environmental services, including sustainability, climate adaptation, and climate equity. As a scientist, she  serves as a review editor for the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) that evaluates the impacts of global change across the United States, and she serves on the executive committee for the U.S. EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors in the Office of Research and Development. As a senior manager at a leading global firm, she spends her time helping to bring best-in-class sustainability, climate adaptation, and climate equity support to clients.

"Crystal brings an incredible depth of understanding around climate change, equity, and business with an interdisciplinary mindset across various sectors to UMCES’s Board of Visitors. Her experience will be invaluable in helping UMCES to move forward as a catalyst and facilitator of environmental solutions at a crucial time," said Dennison.

This summer, the university lost long-time friend and Board of Visitors member Don Graf, a supporter of UMCES for more than 30 years. A Captain in the U.S. Navy who served as Deputy Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet, followed by a long and distinguished career in the power generation industry, he brought curiosity and rigor to his role, questioning researchers and getting to know students to support their endeavors. He rarely missed a Science for Citizens lecture at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, and he and his wife Tami supported a number of students directly with thousand-dollar gifts to offset expenses to attend meetings and receive professional development training. 

"Don Graf was a friend and supporter of UMCES for more than 30 years and has been part of the Board of Visitors since its inception,” said Professor Tom Miller, who worked closely with Graf for many years as director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “Don had a curious, but engineering mind. He wanted to understand the problem, evaluate and compare solutions. He was applying his engineering brain right up to the end.”