Assistant Teachers and Practice Leaders: Cindy Bapties, Rebecca Behizadeh, Mike Behizadeh, George Beshers, Pierce Butler, Vincent Cho, Patrick Codd, Rebecca Doverspike, Mary Downing, Leslie Gajdukow, Jill Gaulding, Harry Gordon, Kate Guthrie, Jim Lopata, Karen McCormack, Jason Pavel, James Peregrino, Brian Rarey, John Vetrano, Sandy Wamsley
Other Community Leaders: Cheryl Morrow
Teaching roles at the Greater Boston Zen Center are designated by the following titles: Members of the Spiritual Direction committee are teachers elected by the membership to guide spiritual aspects of the Center. Sensei means “teacher” and indicates a teacher with full Dharma Transmission. A teacher who has been given only the first of two stages of Dharma Transmission is called a Dharma Holder. Assistant teachers are senior students who have not received Dharma Transmission. A Senior Assistant Teacher is authorized to give both Dharma talks and dokusan under the supervision of a transmitted teacher, while an Assistant Teacher may give talks. Practice Leaders are senior students who are knowledgeable about the forms of Zen practice and offer basic practice instruction. Zen practitioners who ordain as priests, making a vow of service, may be formally addressed with the title Reverend.
To contact a member of the leadership, please email [email protected].
Spiritual Direction Committee
Steve Tetsuen Wallace, Sensei
Steve Tetsuen Wallace, Sensei is a member of the Spiritual Direction Committee and Co-head of Practice at the Greater Boston Zen Center. He is a Dharma heir to Josh Jiun Bartok, Roshi. Steve began his meditation practice over 45 years ago. He has held many leadership roles within the GBZC community and currently serves as co-leader of the Dogen study group. Steve is a retired Software Engineer and lives in Lynnfield, MA with his wife, Laura.
Rev. Laura Yushin Wallace, Dharma Holder
Rev. Laura Shindo Yushin Wallace, Dharma Holder is a member of the Spiritual Direction Committee and Co-head of Practice at the Greater Boston Zen Center. She is a Dharma heir to Josh Jiun Bartok, Roshi. Laura was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2016 and received Denkai (the first of two parts of Dharma Transmission) in 2018. She teaches on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Laura has held many leadership positions within the GBZC community and currently leads the GBZC Non-residential Sesshin Working Group and is co-leader of the Dogen study group. She practices both Zen and Shin Buddhism. Laura is retired from a career in marketing and lives in Lynnfield, MA with her husband, Steve.
Additional Senior Teachers
James Myosan Cordova, Sensei
James Myosan Cordova, Sensei received full Dharma transmission in the Harada-Yasutani koan tradition (through Robert Aitken and John Tarrant). James serves as the resident teacher for the Benevolent Zen Sangha in Providence, Rhode Island and the Kalyana Mitra Zen Sangha in Worcester, Massachusetts. James is a Professor in the Psychology Department at Clark University, and a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice. He is the author of The Marriage Checkup, The Marriage Checkup Practitioner’s Guide, and The Story of Mu.
Rev. Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald, Sensei
Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald, Sensei received full Dharma transmission in 2017 in the Soto Zen tradition of Master Dogen (through Jiyu-Kennett) and in the Harada-Yasutani koan tradition (through Robert Aitken and John Tarrant). She was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2013. Diane formed Zen DownEast in 2012 and serves as its resident teacher. She co-leads with Fran Ludwig the GBZC EcoSattva Sangha. Diane is a member of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and the American Zen Teachers Association. A Maine lawyer, Diane has been practicing Zen for more than 25 years.
Kate Kagen Hartland, Sensei
Kate Kagen Hartland, Sensei is the Resident Teacher for Bright Sea Zen Sangha. Before coming to Boston, she had studied with both Philip Kapleau (Rochester Zen Center) and Toni Packer (Springwater Center) and has been practicing for a total of about 25 years. Kate received Dharma transmission (Denbo) from Josh Mu’nen Bartok, Roshi, in 2017. Kate is retired from the non-profit Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge. Now she has more time for hurtling herself down slopes on skis, or paddling one of her four kayaks, while documenting the evidence at her website.
Rev. Carol Kongodo Morley, Dharma Holder
Rev. Carol Kongodo Morley, Dharma Holder, is the resident teacher at Broken Broom Sangha. She is a retired professor of Japanese Language and Literature, specializing in the Noh and Kabuki theatre. She taught at Wellesley College. She also has an interest in the poetry of Han Shan and other classical Dharma poets, and collects the Sangha’s dharma poetry on Broken Broom Zen Sangha’s website. She began her practice in the 1970s with Koun Yamada Roshi, while living in Kamakura Japan. She’s been practicing with this community for many years, and received Denkai from Kate Kagen Hartland in 2018 and ordination from Josh Keido Jiun Bartok in 2020.
Senior Assistant Teachers
Stephen Mutatsu LoPiccolo
Stephen LoPiccolo began his practice of Zen in 2006 and has been practicing regularly with this community since 2010. He frequently serves as Head of Practice for GBZC non-residential and residential sesshins and cares for elderly special needs pugs, giving them a loving home till the end of their days.
Fran Kainyo Ludwig
Fran Ludwig began her Zen practice in 2007. She’s been practicing with this community since 2019. She coleads with Diane Fitzgerald the Zen Center’s nonlocal EcoSattva Sangha, and along with Brian Rarey, coleads Mustard Seed Sangha, the GBZC affiliate practice group in Middletown, CT. She is active in the mental health community and serves on the board of a large mental health nonprofit in Connecticut. Fran has an interest in the work of Byron Katie, Ken Wilber, and Gerry Shishin Wick and the integration of western psychology into Zen practice.
Julie Seido Nelson
Julie Nelson has practiced Zen for approximately fifteen years. Her practice with the GBZC community began at Spring Hill, one of the communities that later merged to create GBZC, in about 2006. She is a professor of economics (emeritus) at UMass Boston; a writer on gender, ethics, economics, ecology, and Zen; the mother of two grown children; and a senior assistant teacher at GBZC. She sits on Saturday mornings at GBZC and assists in teaching on Tuesday evenings and various other times. Some of her writings on Zen are available on her blog.
Assistant Teachers and Practice Leaders
Cindy Bapties has been sitting with Buddhist groups at First Unitarian Church Providence and elsewhere for the past 30 years. She has been sitting with Benevolent Zen regularly since 2008 and took Jukai on July 25th 2009. Cindy is married to George Beshers, works in technical product sales, and enjoys their family including 6 grandchildren as often as possible.
Rebecca Behizadeh began her practice of Buddhism in Nepal and India in 2011, and lived for a year at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and worked for a number of years for Life Together, a leadership development program of the Episcopal Diocese of MA. She has served as GBZC’s coordinator for Racial and Social Justice, and currently serves as the president of GBZC’s board of directors.
Mike Koshin Behizadeh
Mike Behizadeh has been practicing with this community since 2008. He works in the technology sector, and has an abiding love for the outdoors, especially hiking the White Mountains, as well as a deep commitment to caring for the earth. He regularly organizes Sangha hikes through the Middlesex Fells, and serves as the Facilities Manager for GBZC—and he’s also a haiku poet.
George Beshers was born in Urbana, IL, and raised in and around NYC. George is a multi-generational Unitarian Universalist. Rev. James Ford, Roshi, the first Guiding Teacher of Benevolent Zen and Pastor at the First UU Church (2008–2014), piqued George’s interest in Zen Buddhism. George took Jukai in July 2011. George works as a software engineer and Energetics practitioner, and he competes with Cindy for grandchildren time.
Pierce Shinki Butler
Pierce Butler is an emeritus professor of English at Bentley College where he taught English literature and writing for 32 years, including a signature course entitled Literature of the Spiritual Journey. He's been a student of Zen for more than 20 years, he has practiced with this community since 2013, and is an Assistant Teacher at GBZC. He studied the work of G. I. Gurdjieff for many years in a 4th Way community in Massachusetts, and he is the author of A Child of the Sun, a historical novel about Katherine Mansfield's sojourn at the Gurdjieff Institute. He also leads prison sanghas at Northeast Correctional Center and MCI Concord.
Vincent Togen Cho
Vincent Cho co-organizes the Persons of Color Sitting Group at GBZC with James Peregrino. He is an associate professor at Boston College in the field of educational leadership. He has two children and one dog. Although he has been scared off of Zen on more than one occasion in life, he has always come back.
Rev. Patrick Shindo Kensho Codd
Patrick Codd has practiced Zen Buddhism for over 20 years and is the practice leader of the GBZC affiliate Grass Hut Zen Sangha at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. He has served as a Dharma Teacher in that tradition for over 6 years and was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest in October of 2017. He is also a staff neurosurgeon in the Duke Department of Neurosurgery specializing in the minimally invasive treatment of brain disorders, and serves as a Buddhist Hospital Chaplain at Duke University.
Rebecca Doverspike (clerk) is in the midst of a Chaplain Residency at MGH after graduating Divinity School last May. She loves poetry (you can read her chapbook, Every Present Thing a Ghost from Slapering Hol Press), and holds a Writing as Spiritual Practice group at GBZC-Cambridge, as Zen practice continues to influence her writing more and more. She also loves wilderness, whether being out in nature, navigating the inward wilds through deep conversations, or that of the seemingly solitary yet entwined inter-being of free-fall in Shikantaza.
Mary Awaremu Downing
Mary Downing has practiced Zen Buddhism for 10 years and is a Practice Leader at Zen Downeast. A student of Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald, Sensei, she is very involved in the EcoSattva Sangha. She is retired from teaching private lessons and classroom music in public schools in Maine and Arizona. She enjoys gardening, biking, cooking, dogs and children of all ages and backgrounds.
Leslie Kanshin Gajdukow
Leslie Gajdukow is an Assistant Teacher and Practice Leader at Zen Downeast. She is a student of Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald, Sensei. Leslie has been practicing with Diane since before Zen Downeast was even Zen Downeast. Leslie is a public school special education administrator. She has a deep affinity to the outdoors, kayaking and hiking whenever possible.
Jill Gaulding is a member of the GBZC board of directors, lead for the Programming Working Group, and one of several co-leads for the LGBTQIA+ Group. A former attorney and co-founder of the advocacy group Gender Justice, she's currently a student at Harvard Divinity School, where she studies interfaith chaplaincy.
You’ll generally find Harry Gordon at GBZC on Saturday mornings, where he gratefully serves as a practice leader during our regular sit. He tries to go to every retreat GBZC runs. In his daily life he’s a freelance copywriter, business consultant, and occasional comedy performer.
Kate Kinyu Guthrie
Kate Guthrie is a Practice Leader at Benevolent Zen, and has been practicing since about 2010. She received the precepts in 2015. Kate lives in Rhode Island, works as a researcher and psychologist, and is a hospice volunteer.
Jim Lopata is a Practice Leader at GBZC. He loves the challenge of employing skillful means to slip Buddhist principles into his work as an executive coach. He holds a master degree from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Buddhism. He’s fascinated by the concept and reality of Boston Common, where you may see him wandering around aimlessly, or with great intent.
Karen Kyoko McCormack
Karen McCormack is a founding practice leader of GBZC’s LGBTQIA+ sitting group and has been practicing with this community since 2007. She’s also a transition and employment specialist at Perkins School for the Blind who, along with her partner, is the loving parent of two dogs. Karen occasionally co-teaches GBZC’s Introduction to Zen Series.
Jason Junzen Pavel
Jason Pavel has launched and scaled numerous startups and has served on the boards of directors of several nonprofits, including, for many years, the board of GBZC. He is currently Vice President of Finance and Operations at Ten Percent Happier. In his spare time, he studies Chado, Japanese Tea Ceremony, and is an officer of the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Boston Association. He has practiced Zen with this community since 2011.
James Musoku Peregrino
James Peregrino has been practicing with this community since 2006. He currently serves as practice leader on Tuesday nights and co-practice leader for GBZC's POC sitting group as well sitting on the GBZC Board. He has been working in IT at Harvard since before the dawn of the Internet and dancing Mexican baile folklorico all his adult life.
Brian Kenkan Rarey
Brian Rarey’s practice began approximately 14 years ago, and he has been practicing with GBZC for 7 years. He is currently co-practice leader at Mustard Seed Sangha. He loves this practice of one continuous mistake.
John Jinkyu Vetrano
John Vetrano is the practice leader on Wednesday evenings and also leads the Thursday evening book discussion group at GBZC. He is also the registrar for non-residential sesshins. John has been practicing with the community for about 10 years. In his professional capacity he runs the Clinical Trials Pharmacies at Massachusetts General Hospital. John enjoys music and reading in his spare time.
Sandy Seikyu Wamsley
Sandy Wamsley is a creative artist/librarian living in Somerville. You will always find her at GBZC on Tuesday nights. Aside from drawing and taking long walks she really loves studying, reading, discussing, and being perplexed by Dogen Zenji. She also loves cats, pebbles, and trees.
Other Community Leaders
Cheryl Kinzen Morrow
Cheryl Morrow serves on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer of GBZC and is the head of the Finance Committee. She has been practicing with this community since 2011. For over 20 years she has run her own business as an engineering consultant with clients all over the world. She is now semi-retired and loves gardening and long walks with her dog in the woods.