NORWALK, CT – The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is reaffirming its commitment to the local community in all its diversity, with the election of four prominent civic leaders to its Board of Trustees.
Elected to three-year-terms at the board’s Dec. 16 meeting were: Norm Bloom of Copps Island Oysters in Norwalk; the Rev. Dr. Lindsay E. Curtis of Grace Baptist Church in Norwalk; Novelette Peterkin, chief executive officer of The Carver Foundation in Norwalk; and Diane Schlinkert, an active civic leader in Darien who serves on the boards of At Home in Darien and the Garden Club of Darien.
In addition, Norwalk developer Clay Fowler – founding partner, chair and CEO of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners – was elected to be the Aquarium’s next chair of the Board of Trustees.
Jason Patlis, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium, celebrated the opportunities and insights that the new trustees bring to the organization, and recognized the vital importance of strong leadership by Fowler and outgoing chair Audrey Weil.
“This has been among the most challenging years in the history of The Maritime Aquarium, and it is by virtue of the close partnership with Audrey Weil that we have navigated the pandemic and the Walk Bridge impacts, and it is with the steady leadership of Clay Fowler that we will emerge from these challenges stronger than ever before,” Patlis said. “Looking ahead to this new era, we welcome the new class of trustees who represent the rich diversity of Norwalk itself.
“With Novelette, we hope to strengthen Aquarium programs that elevate underserved and lower-income students, and, with Rev. Curtis’ help, we can link the goals of stewardship that unite both the religious community and the conservation community, and that look to inspire and empower families,” Patlis said.
“With Norm onboard, the Aquarium reaffirms the role of maritime industry in shaping the very beginnings of Norwalk and the region, and recognizes that a sustainable ecosystem needs a sustainable economy,” he said. “And Diane connects us with families for whom the Aquarium is a source of pride for the community, while her engagement with local garden clubs opens the door to new partners in advocacy and conservation.”
Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling agreed that the new trustees bring a wealth of knowledge, community involvement and civic engagement to the Aquarium’s Board.
“They are local leaders with unique experience that I know will serve The Maritime Aquarium well,” Rilling said. “Congratulations to Norm Bloom, Rev. Dr. Lindsay Curtis, Novelette Peterkin and Diane Schlinkert on being elected to the Board, and to Clay Fowler on being selected Board chair. I am thankful for your ongoing support of and commitment to our community.”
Clay Fowler welcomed the new trustees’ guidance as the Aquarium enters a period of new possibilities.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for the Aquarium,” Fowler said. “In addition to the pandemic, which has devastated cultural institutions throughout the state, the Aquarium needed to take care of the 7,000 animals in its collections, keeping staff on salary and maintaining life-support systems. Even before the pandemic, the Walk Bridge Project threatened the future of the Aquarium. But thanks to the support of the city, state, staff, volunteers and many, many donors, we have made it this far. We have grown our education programs to be national in scope, and we are on the verge of opening the new 4D theater and a new home for our seals. With the new trustees joining the Board this year, we are poised to reach even greater heights than we imagined.”
Born and raised in Norwalk, Norm Bloom has been around marinas and oysters his entire life. He began working in boat yards at age 10 and, by 15, was oystering full-time at Talmadge Brothers for his father and uncle. Throughout his years at Talmadge Brothers, he continued to build on his experience and expertise as both an oysterman and boating enthusiast. Nearly 25 years after leaving Talmadge Brothers, Bloom has grown Copps Island Oysters into one of the largest oyster farms on the East Coast, with a crew of 75 employees.
The Rev. Dr. Lindsay E. Curtis is in his 19th year as the pastor of Norwalk’s historic Grace Baptist Church, and additionally serves as chaplain to the Norwalk Fire Department, chairman of the Advisory Board of Directors for Norwalk ACTS, board member of the Urban League of Southern CT, and is a past president of the Norwalk Branch of the NAACP. He earned a Doctor of Divinity degree from Eastern Theological Seminary, and has received numerous educational certificates and certifications in his 47-year ministerial career. A native of Chicago, he also has held senior HR positions in the global accounting and consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Dun & Bradstreet Corp. and the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Since joining the not-for-profit Carver Foundation in 2004, Novelette Peterkin has led the transformation of Carver’s reach and impact – from a vibrant community center to a citywide network of before- and after-school and summer programs delivering equitable and holistic support to more than 2,300 students. Carver staff works closely with school and community leaders to foster environments that support students in almost all K-12 Norwalk Public Schools, Side by Side Charter School, and the Classical Studies Magnet Academy (in Bridgeport). She began her professional career as a private wealth manager in New York, and also has served as assistant director of residential services for the Andrus Children’s Center in New York.
Diane Schlinkert currently serves as a board member for the Garden Club of Darien and for At Home in Darien, but has a wealth of experience volunteering on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations primarily focused on education and the local community. These include: The Junior League of Brooklyn; Brooklyn Heights Montessori School; Graham-Windham Family & Child Care Agency; YWCA Darien; Tokeneke School; Darien Little League Challenger Division; Noroton Yacht Club; Darien Library; The Depot teen center; and Darien Community Association. Her professional experience was in international lending with The Northern Trust Bank in Chicago.
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate visitors about – and to create stewards for – Long Island Sound. It accomplishes this by allowing visitors to get close to more than 300 species native to the Sound and its watershed, including sharks, seals, sea turtles, river otters, jellyfish and other animals. One of the top places for family fun in Connecticut, the Aquarium also features hands-on educational programs – including a slate of distance-learning programs for schools – as well as public cruises out onto the Sound aboard the nation’s first hybrid-electric research vessel. The Maritime Aquarium’s new 4D Theater will open in January 2021.