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About the Steinbeck Center

Center General History & General Info

As one of the largest literary museums in the United States dedicated to a single author, the National Steinbeck Center began as an initiative by the local community and civic leaders to create a forum for his writings and one that would inspire and launch successful literacy and educational programming.

John Steinbeck received worldwide recognition for his perception of the “common man” and his keen observations and powerful descriptions of the human condition and the rich locations like the Salinas Valley in which the characters in his novels inhabited. Positioned at One Main Street in the heart of Salinas, the Center has not only served to revitalize the city’s downtown area but has distinguished itself as a locale for global conversations inspired by visiting scholars, speakers, guests, and patrons.

National Steinbeck Center Archives
Staff & Board

National Steinbeck Center Staff

TBA: Executive Director

Cat Harper: Assistant to the Director

Lisa Josephs: Archivist

Jesse Leach: Education Program Director

Frances Vasquez: Guest Services Manager

Tory Bright: Marketing Director

McKenzie Floyd: Curator

National Steinbeck Center Board of Directors


Steve Emerson – President

Dennis Donohue – Secretary

John McPherson – Treasurer


Board Members:

Pooja Bachani Di Giovanna

Yadira Hobby

Dr. David Wrobel

Dr. Carol McKibben

Dr. Willard Lewallen

Steve Emerson - Board President

Steve was born in Oklahoma, grew up in the Chicago area, and attended schools in Durango, Colorado, and Santa Barbara, California. Steve earned a degree in business economics. He spent almost 20 years in the advertising and broadcast industries in Southern California before moving to the Monterey area in 1996. Here, he met his wife, Dorothy, and his two stepsons, Max and Daniel.

Steve opened First Pacific Financial Services in Monterey (now in Marina) in 2004 after working with both Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. Today, he specializes in fee-based asset management and retirement services for individuals, companies, and nonprofit organizations. Steve is an Investment Adviser Representative of the Commonwealth Financial Network.

Steve serves as president of the National Steinbeck Center, is a founding benefactor and president of The Marina Foundation, a board member and treasurer of the United Way for Monterey County, and chairman of the United Way Finance Committee. He has served as president of the Marina Chamber of Commerce three times, served on the Marina Economic Development Commission (2006-2020), the Board of Directors of the Marina Police Activities League (PAL) (2018-2021), and was a co-creator and chairman of the Marina International Festival of the Winds.

Steve and his wife, Dorothy, co-chaired the effort to pass a local bond measure for the Marina Larger Library and served on its board of directors. Steve and Dorothy were named Marina’s Citizens of the Year in 2002 and were recognized for their contributions to the Library on National Philanthropy Day in 2004.

Dennis Donohue-Secretary

Dennis Donohue currently serves as the Director of Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, a premier agtech startup incubator based in Salinas, California. In this role, Donohue drives agtech initiatives; bolsters innovation programming; facilitates relationships between start-up companies and growers; and spearheads business development at the Center.

Donohue’s leadership in agriculture, as well as the agricultural technology industry, is extensive. He has played a key role in creating innovative business models, identifying new technologies and developing initiatives that integrate agtech and innovation into the business structure at organizations such as Cultiva Global, European Vegetable Specialties/Royal Rose, River Ranch Fresh Foods, Fresh Express Farms and Fresh Western Marketing. Additionally, his dedication to the community is unmatched. Donohue’s strong civic commitment includes his leadership as Salinas’ Mayor from 2006 to 2012 and serving on governing boards at the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, Salinas Chamber of Commerce and Steinbeck Innovation Foundation.

Donohue holds a master’s degree from Gannon University in religious education and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of San Francisco. He currently lives in Salinas with his wife, Paula.

John McPherson-Treasurer

A long-time Monterey County resident, John has served on the Monterey County Board of Education since 2012. He has been a leading advocate in the fight against Human Trafficking in Monterey County, and was the catalyst for the County Board of Education adopting an anti trafficking campaign as one of its goals, and has spoken before many civic and business groups on the issue. In addition to his work on the Board of Education, Mr. McPherson is on the executive committee for the California County School Boards Association, has served as a delegate to the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly, and was previously the President of the Oversight Board for the Sand City Redevelopment Successor Agency. 

Professionally he has been Executive Director for three non-profit organizations, and also held executive roles in both the produce and financial services industry. He demonstrates his passion for young people through coaching youth sports,  and volunteering with the Buena Vista 4H Club. Also an author, Mr. McPherson has written a book on parenting titled “Ten Simple Rules for Being a Better Parent.”

A graduate of the University of Southern California in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Mr. McPherson resides with his wife Christina and two children in Las Palmas.

Pooja Bachani Di Giovanna

As the Assistant Director of the Davenport Institute, Pooja works on curriculum development and program design for educational training opportunities and fostering relationships with strategic partners. Bringing a breadth of communications and writing experience to her role, she manages the promotion and marketing of all Davenport offerings including a growing writing portfolio for the Institute. She has researched and written numerous articles on public engagement, including multiple pieces in ICMA Public Management Magazine. 

At Pepperdine University, she works closely with the Graduate Assistant team and serves as the Faculty Advisory for the student ICMA chapter. She serves on the steering committee and is the co-chair of the Teaching and Training Committee for the University Network of Collaborative Governance. She also serves on the Board of Directors at the National Steinbeck Center. 

Prior to her current role, she worked in Washington D.C. in communications, advocacy, and partner relations. She has a Masters degree in English Education from Long Island University, a Masters in English Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and Bachelors degrees in English and Philosophy from Boston University.

Yadira Hobby

Yadira Sandoval Hobby is the Director of Annual Programs with Natividad Foundation. Yadira is a proud Salinas native and a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. Yadira is dedicated to improving the status of children, youth, and families throughout Monterey County. Feeling an obligation to her community, Yadira started volunteering in 2009 with Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She has continued volunteering in leadership roles with organizations such as Hijos del Sol, Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County (NAMC), Veterans Day Parade, and the Salinas Hometown Hero Banner Program. 

She believes that building deeper connections creates unity and a sense of belonging, leading to thriving, healthy communities.

Dr. David Wrobel

David Wrobel, David L. Boren Professor and Merrick Chair of Western American History at OU, is a historian of the American West and American thought and culture. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the American West, modern American thought and culture, the Progressive Era, historical methods and the introductory course, U.S. History: 1865-Present. In 2016, he received the OU College of Arts and Sciences Holden Award for Teaching Excellence.

Wrobel joined the OU faculty in 2011. In 2014, he received the Western Heritage Award for his nonfiction book, Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression. His latest book, America’s West: A History, 1890-1950, will be published in October 2017. Wrobel is also the author of Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory and the Creation of the American West and The End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the Old West to the New Deal. He is currently working on a new book project, “John Steinbeck’s America, 1930-1968: A Cultural History.” Wrobel also co-edits The Modern American West book series and is the author of numerous articles and essays.

Wrobel is widely known and respected for his community engagement and generous mentorship of teachers beyond the University. He has participated in and directed many teacher institutes sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, U.S. Department of Education, and National Council for History Education. He is a participant in the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecture Program and in 2005-2006 was Senior Research Fellow in Western American History at the Beinecke Library and Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders at Yale University.

A former president of the American Historical Association’s Pacific Coast Branch and a member of the Western History Association Council, Wrobel also served as president of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society. He has received numerous research fellowships, including from the Huntington Library, California, Chicago’s Newberry Library, and the American Philosophical Society.

Wrobel was the inaugural recipient of the David L. Boren Professorship, one of the most prestigious honors at OU, created to recognize scholars whose excellence in teaching and research makes a positive difference in public affairs and civic life.

He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in American Intellectual History from Ohio University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history/philosophy from the University of Kent, Canterbury, England. Prior to coming to OU, Wrobel was department chair and professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Dr. Carol McKibben

Dr. Carol Lynn McKibben is an Affiliate Scholar and Lecturer for the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University and has been teaching courses in California history, Urban history and Immigration history for the Department of History and Urban Studies at Stanford University since 2006. Her recent book, SALINAS: A History of Race and Resilience in an Agricultural City was published in January 2022, Stanford University Press.

Dr. McKibben has engaged in numerous community-based research projects on the Monterey Peninsula for thirty years.  

Her first book, Beyond Cannery Row: Sicilian Women, Immigration, and Community in Monterey, 1915-1999 placed women at the center of a transnational migration story that focused on the ways migration re-shaped Sicilian fishing families as they moved back and forth from villages in Sicily to Monterey, California and, at the same time, altered the character of the city over the course of the twentieth century.

Dr. McKibben served as Director of the Seaside History Project from 2005-2012. Her second book, Racial Beachhead: Diversity and Democracy in a Military Town (Stanford University Press, 2012) showed how federal investment and diversity of personnel stationed at nearby Fort Ord transformed a small community, Seaside, into an important center of civil rights activism in California.

She is currently engaged in a new book project: Water Politics in an Age of Drought on the Central Coast of California, which is part of a larger project at Stanford’s Bill Lane Center on Environment and the West .

Dr. Willard Lewallen

Dr. Willard Clark Lewallen is a native Californian and a product of the California public education system where he graduated from Garey High School in Pomona. He completed a B.S. degree with honors at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona and was a member of the 1976 national championship baseball team. He was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship at Purdue University where he completed two master’s degrees. He completed a Ph.D. in education at UCLA.

From 1979-1984 he served as an academic advisor at Purdue University. From 1984-1999 Dr. Lewallen served as a faculty member and as a dean at Antelope Valley College. From 1999-2007, Dr. Lewallen served as the vice president of student services at Victor Valley College (Victorville, CA). From 2007-2012 he served as president of West Hills College (Coalinga, CA). He served as the superintendent/president of the Hartnell Community College District (Salinas, CA), an Hispanic Serving Institution, from 2012-2019. He retired in October 2019. At Hartnell College he provided leadership that led to a 159% increase in degrees awarded, a 231% increase in certificates awarded, and a 63% increase in transfer. In 2017 Hartnell College was named as one of the top 100 producers of associate degrees for under-represented minority students and was ranked 9th of 1,400 community colleges in percentage of degrees awarded to under-represented minority students. During his tenure the number of local high school graduates attending increased by 54%. He provided leadership for a 5-year fund raising plan that exceeded its target by $30 million. In 2018, Hartnell was the recipient of what is thought to be the single largest gift to a community college when the Matsui family donated 215 acres of farmland valued at $20 million. Under his leadership in 2016 Hartnell College founded the first DREAMer Center in California (Mi CASA, Center for Achievement and Student Advancement), serving the needs of undocumented students. Hartnell College experienced a 300% increase (from 200 to over 800) in the number of undocumented students attending over a 7 year period. Additionally, he has served as an adjunct professor in graduate studies at two universities (Chapman University and University of La Verne) where he taught psychological assessment, statistics, and research/evaluation methods. He has firsthand experience teaching online classes.

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National Steinbeck Center

The building located at 1 Main Street in downtown Salinas is a beacon for Salinas, a steward for John Steinbeck, and home to several organizations.

Yes, the The National Steinbeck Center is still here! The NSC is a museum and 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that honors Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. The National Steinbeck Center holds educational programs throughout the year which aim to expand the public’s knowledge about John Steinbeck and the themes he explored in his books. The NSC also oversees the Steinbeck Museum Hall, Steinbeck Archives and Collection, and the Museum Store all at 1 Main Street.

If you have questions concerning John Steinbeck, Salinas history, museum information, or anything involving the National Steinbeck Center’s programming or events, contact the appropriate channels listed above. If you are looking for facility rentals or California State University Monterey Bay events, please contact 831.772.7021 or salinascityctrevents@csumb.edu

Who else is here? California State University Monterey Bay is the owner of the building and separate organization which operates all facilities management operations and event rentals in the building at 1 Main Street, Salinas.

If you have questions concerning facilities rentals or non-Steinbeck related events, please contact:

Salinas City Center
Events & Facilities Assistants