Constitution Island Association Elects New Leadership

The work of The Constitution Island Association, (The “C. I. A.”) began in 1916 when private citizens began to raise funds and help manage the home of Anna and Susan Warner, authors, hymnists, and farmers. Their grounds were purchased by Mrs. Russell Sage and given to the United States Military Academy in the 19th Century to be an historic site accessible to a curious public. The present-day CIA held its Annual Meeting on Sunday 17th November 2013 in the entrance hall of another local historic site, Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison.

At the meeting, a new Board of Directors (called, in their case, the “Executive Committee”) was elected – keeping 12 members still serving their terms, re-electing 4 whose terms were expiring, and electing 4 new members to serve 3-year terms: Michael Bowman, Frederick Osborn III, The Hon Thomas Scuccimara, and Vincent Tamagna.

Former Executive Committee Member Richard Mills made an impressive presentation of the Faith Herbert Award for Community Service to retiring Chairman Betsy Pugh, and the Distinguished Service Award was made to Faith Herbert for her important work with the CIA’s Archives.

The following Saturday, 23rd November 2013, the first meeting of the newly constituted Executive Committee was held at the home of former chair Betsy Pugh in Cold Spring. Fred Osborn III, of Garrison, was elected Chair. David Gordon was elected Secretary, and Vincent Tamagna was elected Treasurer. The position of Vice Chairman, and whether there might be more than one Vice-Chair, was left to the Steering Committee, a smaller operating group consisting of the officers and the chairs of the major committees.

“I am honored to be asked to chair this long-standing organization. My grandparents and my parents were involved in this board in years past, and I will do my best, in our time, to live up to the contributions they made to the cause and the community in their time,” said Fred Osborn, who himself had served on the Board of the CIA some years ago.

Also at the meeting, CIA Executive Director Richard De Koster announced that he will be retiring in 2014, paving the way for new staff leadership, but leaving enough time for a careful search and a smooth transition. Board members responded to the news with accolades and thanks for his 16 years of dedicated service.

The Warner House has been closed since 2009 because of structural deterioration and deferred maintenance needs. The CIA was able to remove and store all the furniture, and move the extensive and catalogued Warner Family Archives to safe storage for the time being.

“We hope to re-kindle a healthy relationship with the US Military Academy at West Point,” said Osborn, himself an Army Veteran of the Vietnam War. “They own Constitution Island, and we need to work together to see that the Warner House is repaired and re-opened to the public as soon as possible. It will take planning, energy, money, skill and hard work, but together I believe we can make real progress. The CIA is a group of committed, capable people who care deeply about their cause, and West Point is proud of this historical treasure and anxious to see it restored and operating once again!”

Already West Point has honored the new leadership by renewing the CIA’s status as a “Private Organization” operating at the Military Academy Installation, issuing a new Certificate of Authorization, and making cordial arrangements for the new CIA Chair and Officers to meet with the Garrison Commander to “discuss the way ahead.”

“I want to thank Betsy Pugh for her steadfast leadership over the last 11 years,” added Osborn. “She has held the CIA together through some turbulent times, and she has done it with grace and dignity. Her shoes will be tough to fill!”

The Constitution Island Association hopes to assist in the repair and restoration of the Warner House, and the upgrading of additional visitor facilities, and to once again welcome the public to learn more about the distinguished part played by the Warner sisters in our country’s early years.