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Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell


Karl Johnson '89, PhD '11, Executive Director, received his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from Cornell University. Karl previously served as the Dan Tillemans Director of the Cornell Team and Leadership Center, a division of Cornell Outdoor Education. Karl was recognized as a 1999 Academy of Leisure Sciences Future Scholar and has received several writing awards, including the 2014 Literary Award of the Christian Society of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies. His interests include human relations with the natural landscape, from wilderness to urban environs. Read more/Publications.

Thomas Atwood, Property Manager, is a Finger Lakes native and moved to Ithaca in 2012. Enjoying the diverse community of Ithaca, he opened a small construction business in 2015 called Atwood Painting & Contracting. An avid backpacker and hiker, Thomas enjoys visiting the Adirondacks and state parks. After attending Chesterton events, Thomas uses his skills performing repairs to the historic Tudor mansion.

Julie Johnson'90 is the Office Manager at Chesterton House. She is a graduate of Cornell University's College of Human Ecology where she studied Human Development and Family Studies. Her interests include reading, knitting, and all outdoor activities--especially cycling around the stunning Fingerlakes region.

Josiah McCarthy '17 is one of the RAs at Chesterton House. He is a senior in Cornell's College of Ag & Life Sciences majoring in Plant Sciences and minoring in Linguistics and German. Josiah hails from northern New York, where he grew up on a hobby farm with seven siblings. As an extrovert, he enjoys talking and hanging out with residents and others as much as possible. His hobbies include archery, baking, botanizing the local countryside, and watching YouTube videos about science, Germany, and cats.


David Mery '14, who serves as Student Engagement Assistant and Utility Infielder for Chesterton House, is a graduate of Cornell with a beautiful bachelors in molecular biology. Birthed and homeschooled in Poughkeepsie NY with 5 boisterous brothers and 3 splendiferous sisters, he now enjoys avidly finger-picking anything by the guitarist Antoine Dufour, cycling in picturesque Upstate NY, working as a construction estimator, studying organic chemistry when life gets dull, and sharing the life he found in Jesus around a glowing campfire. He is planning on pursuing a PhD in medicinal chemistry and designing new chemotherapy strategies.

John Nystrom '18, who serves as an RA at Chesterton House, is a junior animal science major in the college of agriculture and life science on the pre-vet track and is interested in the partnership of livestock and people. He comes from northwest Arkansas where his parents instilled his four siblings and him with a living and abiding love for learning, reading, and discussing. His favorite hobbies include bouldering, drinking tea, discussing major metaphysicalities, and reading any and every book by C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton.

Billy Riley, Student Engagement Coordinator, is originally from south central PA. He received bachelor's degrees in philosophy and psychology from Washington & Jefferson College before joining the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). He spends his free time watching good movies, running, playing basketball, and reading.

Nicole Riley, Student Engagement Coordinator, received a bachelor's degree in English Writing and English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed a year long fellowship at her alma matter with the Coalition of Christian Outreach (CCO) before joining staff full time. She is passionate about the intersection of global engagement and faith. She enjoys short stories, cryptograms, and watching people cook.

Liz Susmann has returned to Chesterton House as Special Projects Manager. An Ithaca native, Liz is beginning her third year as an Adult ESL Instructor through TST BOCES. She is a graduate of Messiah College and completed her master's in ESL at SUNY Cortland. Liz loves thinking of creative ways to teach English, working in her garden, and holding cats. Chesterton House holds a special place in her heart--so special, in fact, that her license plate says "GKC".


Chuck Tompkins serves as Chesterton House Spiritual Director. Formerly Pastor of Bethel Grove Bible Church in Ithaca for nearly 20 years, he has been doing ministry work at Cornell and Ithaca College since 2005. He also serves with several nonprofit organizations including Community Faith Partnership, the Franziska Racker Centers and the Ithaca College Protestant Community. He spends most of his time encouraging and coaching people in their spiritual development.  He leads a weekly Fusion Group which brings together leaders of various Christian campus organizations to pray and work together.  

Barb Westin is Director of Undergraduate Student Ministry and oversees the Sophia House, our residential living-learning center for women at Cornell. Originally from Michigan, she has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a Master's of Guidance and Counseling from Eastern Michigan University. From 2006 to 2011 she served on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Cornell. Barb and her husband Steve have three children. She loves kayaking, baseball, and walking in the woods.