HCCO Board

The Board of Trustees of The Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) are elected by the membership, to a two year term, to direct and program the day to day operation of the group. Also assisting the group and the Board is our part-time paid Coordinator. Feel free to meet them and ask questions at an HCCO sponsored event, through our contact page, our group Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Rita Messer – President

Rita discovered Humanism as a worldview shortly after her transition out of over 20 years as a Christian who had always been devoted to the principles of compassion and reason. She is a Licensed Independent Social Worker in private practice, avid reader, and loves to be outdoors. Having grown up in New Mexico, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and snowboarding are among her hobbies, as well as painting and Krav Maga. She is a regular volunteer with Camp Quest Ohio and co-hosts Columbus Rationality and Rational Mindfulness, two of HCCO’s regular events.

Jeff Dubin – vice President

Like most Humanists, Jeff was one long before he knew what the word meant. Today, he understands it as incorporating human-based ethics, reason-based epistemology, politics, environmental concern, interest in the arts, and valuing community. Here’s the concise “elevator speech” with which he’s become pretty content: “Humanism = compassion + reason.”

Jeff has a degree in Psychology from Earlham College, and a Master of Social Work from OSU. He works full time as a clinical social worker, mainly with clients who have severe mental illnesses. He likes to read books and news, critically discuss politics and philosophy, go to the gym, and spend time outdoors.

He has served on the HCCO board for numerous years, in addition to involvement in Students For Freethought and the Secular Student Alliance, and attends local Humanist and freethought events whenever his schedule allows.

DJ Gregor – Treasurer

DJ is a self-described geeky nerd that enjoys helping to build and run the Humanist Community in his spare time. By day he’s a computer geek and in his off hours he enjoys working on open source computer software, tending to a small but growing vegetable garden (when in season and Sharon lets him), and working on the endless stream of projects that comes with an old house. He holds a bachelors degree from The Ohio State University in economics.

Nathan B. Weller – Secretary

Nathan grew up in a non-denominational evangelical home. After graduating high school he went into full-time youth ministry as a writer and producer for one of the largest independent youth ministries in the United States.

Before too long however, the deeply problematic practices of Christian ministry and a critical analysis of the Bible began to erode his faith. Over the course of five years, starting in 2007, Nathan painstakingly de-converted from Christianity and began to build a new secular framework for his life.

In discovering Humanism and HCCO in particular, Nathan found a like-minded community interested in living and promoting the values of reason, compassion, and basic human dignity above any notion of the “sacred”.

He hopes to help strengthen and expand the good work that HCCO does by volunteering his time, money, and talents.

John Sterling

John has been a member of HCCO since 2001 and served on the HCCO board for a few years. He was treasurer for a year. He grew up in a fundamentalist church, The Church of Christ, but was always interested in Science and spoke out against creationism even within the church. He left the church after college when a friend said something causing him to question his assumptions. Being used to a church community, he found the Unitarian Universalists Humanist group, then found this more secular HCCO group, which was a better fit for him.

John is a programmer by day. He has a degree in Engineering Physics from The Ohio State University and also discovered a liking for philosophy there, which has continued after college. He loves to jog – always outside (sometimes up mountains), loves nature, hiking and the outdoors. He’s an amateur bird watcher. After college he has taken more interest in social issues and environmental conservation.

Derrick Strobl

Derrick’s background in teaching and law has given him experience both in critical thinking and in the thoughtful caring needed for effective community building. His interest in being “good without God” and ensuring human rights for LGBT people fit well with HCCO’s goals.

In his earlier work as a board member and president, Derrick helped expand our outreach, diversify our membership, organize operational systems, build our capital and welcome the contributions of other volunteers who have taken HCCO to a new level. Derrick is excited to be back on the board again to help HCCO take advantage of the many opportunities to expand our community  and  to plan ways to meet the our future needs.

Paul Venting

Paul was born and raised an Atheist in Columbus, thanks to his freethinking folks! He moved to California to complete Radiologic and Cardiovascular Technology training. He’s been back here working at Riverside Hospital for 24 years. He has three kids and lives in Westerville.

As a kid Paul learned, sometimes the hard way, to keep his lack of belief in pretend gods or devils quiet. He didn’t know of anyone outside of family who wasn’t religious. That’s why he feels strongly about the existence of a secular community like HCCO! He only wishes his parents could’ve known about it.

As a member of HCCO, and several other secular groups, Paul’s greatest ambition is to spread the word about good secular community. He believes that people cling to myths out of fear. Fear of death and fear of being alone. So he wants people to know they’re not alone!

Carl Tracy

Carl likes making things on computers and building things in his free time which is useful because he lives on a horse farm and there’s always something to build or fix on a farm. He studied physics but his day job is in finance, which he doesn’t talk about much because people seem to find physics more interesting than finance. He was raised in an evangelical church, but became a Humanist in his 20s – even though he didn’t know the word for it until much later. He has run the Skeptics at the Pub meetup since 2010 and plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Carl joined the board because he wanted to be more involved with the Humanist community and give back to the people in central Ohio who have made him feel so welcome here.


Rose Hagalaz – Coordinator

Rose discovered HCCO through a Columbus Rationality event in 2013 dealing with issues of rational relationships and polyamory. She is very active within the local polyamorous community. She currently serves on the board of directors for Open Hearts Central Ohio and formerly served on the board of directors of PolyColumbus. She graduated with honors from Ohio University in 2011, earning a degree in Sociology and Psychology.

Rose is an avid fan of craft beer, books, and television shows and is happy to have lengthy discussions about these and many other things. She greatly enjoys music and has performed with the Dublin Silver Band on and off throughout the past few years as a percussionist. She is always curious and eager to learn new things.

Great community starts here

HCCO is the largest and longest active secular community in Ohio.

Pin It on Pinterest