People of NHD

To fulfill National History Day’s mission of improving the teaching and learning of history, the Executive Director, Dr. Cathy Gorn, works closely with the NHD staff to set the parameters for the international NHD program and annual competition, create materials for students and teachers, provide training and support to affiliate programs, and coordinate the annual NHD National Contest.


Headshot of Cathy Gorn

Cathy Gorn, Ph.D.

Executive Director
Headshot of Kim Fortney

Kim Fortney

Deputy Director

Lynne O’Hara

Deputy Director, Educational Programs
Headshot of Lorena

Lorena Torres

Finance Director

Amanda Morrison

Director of Communications
Headshot of Alaina

Alaina McNaughton

Associate Director of Contest
Headshot of Erikka

Erikka Washington

Office and Events Manager

Krista Grensavitch, Ph.D.

Program Manager

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of NHD, providing strategic oversight for the organization.

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Celie Niehaus, President

Jon Gillum, Vice President

Locke Lord LLP

Steven Goldberg, Treasurer

Osaic FA, Inc.

Noralee Frankel, Secretary

Richard Prasse, Chair, Governance Committee

Hahn, Loeser and Parks

Courtney Chapin, Co-Chair, Development Committee

Donald Wildman, Co-Chair, Development Committee

Archivist Media

Sarah Aschbrenner

Minnesota Historical Society

Marisa Atkinson

Lafayette High School

David Behring

Wheelchair Foundation

Thomas Downs

Downs Government Affairs

Cosby Hunt

Thurgood Marshall Academy

Richard Kurin

Smithsonian Institution

Sherry Rollo

Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP

Renee Romano

Oberlin College

Dana Schaffer

American Historical Association

Hannah Tofte

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Honorable Robert Wilkins

Sightline Media

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council, comprised of representatives from partner organizations and agencies, advises the Board of Trustees and the national staff on issues of programming and helps to connect NHD with other national organizations.

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Dana Schaffer, Chair

American Historical Association

Beth Boland

Nicholas E. Coddington

National Archives & Records Administration

Michelle Anne Delaney

Smithsonian Institution

Noralee Frankel

Julian Hipkins, III

Theodore Roosevelt High School

Hayley Johnson

Louisiana State University

Daniel Goldmark

Case Western Reserve University

Elisabeth M. Marsh

Organization of American Historians

Rebecca Martin

Gunston Hall

Lawrence Paska

National Council for the Social Studies

Lee Ann Potter

Library of Congress

Philip M. Soergel

University of Maryland, Department of History

Phoebe Stein

Federation of State Humanities Councils

Executive Council of Coordinators

The Executive Council of Coordinators, comprised of elected and appointed representatives among NHD’s affiliates (states, territories, and countries), offers insights and expertise from the local level.

Local Affiliates

NHD works collaboratively with its affiliate programs, which are independently run by a variety of institutions. NHD’s affiliates are the backbone of the overall program, serving the teachers and students in their respective areas.

NHD Founder

David Van Tassel, Founder of NHD
David Van Tassel, Founder of NHD 

Dr. David Van Tassel, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, founded National History Day in 1974 to encourage students to analyze historical events and draw conclusions about their impact on human society. He believed that asking students to center their projects around a common theme would enable them to consider why their topic was important in history and to learn the importance of historical perspective.

Continue reading about the first history day

Though it began as a local competition in Cleveland, Ohio, thanks to Dr. Van Tassel’s outreach efforts, the program grew rapidly, and in 1980, 19 states attended the first National Contest. 

In 1990, Dr. Van Tassel received the NEH’s Charles Frankel Prize for Public Programming in the Humanities for his pioneering work. Although Van Tassel passed away in 2000, his legacy lives on through the 600,000+ secondary school students worldwide who bring history to life with their research and analysis.

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