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Board Members at Milarepa Center

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Debb Colony, Treasurer

Debb has long been connected to the FPMT and to the dharma since takingrefuge with Kyabje Ribur Rinpoche in 2001.  Her interest in Buddhism wassparked in college where she majored in philosophy with a focus on easternthought. Debb has had various connections to the Milarepa Center over theyears both directly and through her son, Venerable Tenzin Gache, as well as hersister, past Milarepa Center & FPMT education director, Merry Colony. Debbalso served as a board member for Kurukulla Center for many years. Debbtravels to India often to visit her son at the Sera Monastery and to attendthe teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa, the late ChodenRinpoche, and others.  


Nina Tomkiewicz, Board Member

Nina developed an interest in spirituality and meditation while in college, and in 2010 she spent 6 months in India through a study abroad program where she participated in a 10-day and a 3-day Vipassana meditation retreat. After graduating she sought a way to continue exploring meditation, spirituality, and Buddhism, which led her to be involved with the FPMT. Nina served as the Kitchen Manager at both Milarepa Center and Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture between the years of 2011 – 2015. Since moving to San Diego in 2015 she has been a participant and contributor to Insight San Diego, works as a mental health provider, and has stayed connected to Milarepa Center over the years by being a supporting member. 


Jim Hagan, Board Chair

Jim Hagan is a long-time student of Venerable Lama Thubten Yeshe and Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche. He attended three Kopan Monastery Meditation courses in the 1970’s and took refuge with the Venerable Lama Thubten Yeshe in 1974 after the fifth meditation course. From 1973 to 1983 in India and Nepal, he studied with many distinguished teachers such as Geshe Rabten, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, and H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. Over the last 40 years he has received teachings from all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Jim recently retired as a professor at Castleton University of Vermont from the Philosophy Department where he taught courses on Asian and Buddhist philosophy. He also created and owned Wisdom Study Abroad for twenty years offering students the opportunity to earn academic credit studying Buddhist art, culture, and philosophy in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Jim has long ties and connections to Milarepa Center since the 1980’s.


Nina Hill, Board Secretary

Nina developed an interest in spiritual inquiry as a very young only child, wanting to know why people got sick and why sometimes they got better, what happens when you die, what happens after you are dead? Frustrated that the adults around her could not answer these questions, she began a lifelong quest to discover the answers through various methodologies, philosophies, mediums, books, sciences and studies before turning to Eastern sciences, yoga, and other spiritual paths. This lead her to Buddhism in the flesh in the form of a direct teachings and empowerment in 2013. Convinced this finally was the path she had been searching for, Nina attended her first FPMT course, a Death and Dying retreat, in 2015 lead by Geshe Sherab at Milarepa Center. This profound experience led to her take refuge a few months later at the FPMT center, Thubten Kunga Ling in Florida. Since then Nina has attended many teachings and retreats at FPMT centers all over the world. Wanting to serve her guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Nina helped co-found and co-direct the FPMT study group Machig Labdron in Vermont. Dedicated to serving others, Nina has spent the last 30 years working to support families and children in Vermont who have cognitive and physical differences, who have experienced financial poverty, and who have survived severe physical and emotional trauma.

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Debra Thornburg, Board Member

Although Debra was introduced to Buddhism through college classes, it was only after attending a Vipassana meditation retreat led by Mahasi Sayadaw in Yucca Valley, California that she became inspired to explore Buddhism more intensively. She traveled to Burma in the early '80s to practice meditation and upon returning to the States, worked and did retreats at Insight Meditation Center and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies for several years. Shortly after moving to Boston in the mid-90's, she came across a flyer about Kurukulla Center and began attending classes with resident teacher Geshe Tsulga-la. Tibetan Buddhist meditation, with its emphasis on its application to daily life situations, fitted well with a busy household life. There were also opportunities to travel to Milarepa Center for retreats including driving Geshe Tsulga-la for weekend events. Debra appreciates Milarepa Center as a unique resource in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom for private retreat and courses with visiting teachers.

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Dave Lochtefeld, Board Member

Dave had an interest in eastern religions and philosophy from early on.  However it was not until 2004 that he visited southeast Asia for the first time and attended his first Buddhist retreat in Thailand in 2005.  Dave continued the travel, and lived in Japan for six years.  After several fits and starts with Buddhism, in 2014 he decided to volunteer at a Buddhist retreat center to deepen his understating of Buddhism.  He applied at Milarepa Center as well as Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture and a center in upstate New York.  As fate would have it, Vajrapani Institute replied first and it would be eight years before he would visit Milarepa Center.  Dave spent two years at Vajrapani Institute and several of the following summers working in the Land Department and a stint as the Land Manager.  There he attending many wonderful teachings and retreats led by visiting FPMT teachers.  He has also volunteered at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London and Milarepa Center.  He attended the November Course at Kopan Monastery in 2017.

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