Board of Directors

The Stoughton Opera House Friends Association is led by a volunteer board of directors and works closely with the Stoughton Opera House's professional staff and city-appointed board of directors.


Jonathan Lewis

President & director
Jon is a retired neuropsychologist. He is a member and vice chair of the city-appointed Stoughton Opera House board, member of the Stoughton Police & Fire Commission, the Stoughton Syttende Mai Executive Committee, the Stoughton River and Trails Task Force, the Stoughton Area Community Foundation Board, and is president of the Dane County Friends of Scandinavian Culture. His past experiences include work with the Stoughton Heritage Livsreise Center Steering Committee, the Stoughton Planning Commission, Stoughton Hospital Medical Staff and Chief of Geriatric Psychology, Chair of the Madison Hospitals United Credentials Commission Psychology Section, President of the Norwegian Singers Association of America, and Chair of the Forensic Psychology Division of the Wisconsin Psychological Association. Jon is married with one son, has lived in Stoughton for 28 years, and sings in the Edvard Grieg Chorus. He also volunteers at the Nature Conservancy and fishes a lot! 

Mary-Carel Verden

Vice President & director
Mary-Carel owns Grote Publishing, a communications, design, and marketing firm. Her professional background includes more than 30 years of magazine management, publication design and production, advertising, marketing, photography, public relations, social media, and exhibit work. She has worked closely with clients as varied as McGraw-Hill, John Deere, and CUNA, and was National Marketing Director for American Learning Corporation, an Encyclopaedia Britannica subsidiary. Prior to that, she was part of the international and national training and marketing staff for Encyclopaedia Britannica. She attended the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, majoring in Theater & Communications. Mary-Carel serves as head of the Drama Program at the Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts, and on the board of directors for StageWorks Projects. She has volunteered for many Stoughton activities since moving to the city in 1995. She is president of the Stoughton Opera House board, past chair of the Victorian Holiday Weekend Committee, and past president of the Stoughton Arts Council.

Sara Johnson

Treasurer & director
Sara works at the Bryant Foundation and divides her time between the Bryant Foundation offices and Livsreise, The Norwegian Heritage Center in Stoughton, which was built and funded by the Bryant Foundation. She is actively involved with many organizations the Stoughton Community and is part of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce as a representative for the Bryant Foundation. Her past work experience is in backing and she has worked at Wells-Fargo in Stoughton, at the Stoughton Hospital Foundation, and for the City of Stoughton. She has lived in Stoughton for over 12 years and is married with three kids, her stepson Andy, her daughter Brianna, and son Jarrett - all of whom attend Stoughton schools. She enjoys works and living in Stoughton and is committed to working together to ensure that it will be a destination town and place where people both want to visit and to live. 

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William Brehm

Bill is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and currently works as the director of the Stoughton Opera House and Media Services for the City of Stoughton. Bill's past experiences include work as a freelance video producer for the Madison Metropolitan School District, owner of Bill Brehm Video Productions, Education and Outreach/Education and Production Director for WYOU Community Television, as well as multiple  media-related positions with the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Bill's volunteer work includes serving as a board member of the Stoughton Arts Council. He is also the founder of the Catfish River Music Festival.

Steve Christenson

Steve is the retired Director of the Bureau of Human Resource Services for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, and is the treasurer of the Dane County Friends of Scandinavian Culture, and is a member of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce's Syttende Mai Committee. His past experiences include work as the treasurer of the Christ Lutheran Church Endowment Foundation, president of the Edvard Grieg Chorus, Syttende Mai King, vice president of the Stoughton Lion's Club, member of the Stoughton Village Players board, president of the Martin Luther Christian School Board, and a member of the Stoughton Heritage Mural Committee. Steve is a lifelong resident of Stoughton and is a widower with three children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Michael Engelberger

Michael is a retired labor leader current business owner and a member of the Stoughton Common Council since 2012. He has spent over 25 years operating and overseeing many for profit and non-profit organizations. As a labor leader Michael served a state wide membership of over 5000 members serving on many boards, committees and benefit trust funds on a local, state, national and international level. Michael has served the city of Stoughton as council president, vice president, committee chair of Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Public Safety as well as many other committees including Redevelopment Authority, Housing Authority, Utilities, Personnel, Planning Commission and Landmarks Commission. Michael owns and operates two businesses one as a service provider for the State of Wisconsin DVR providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and a photography business where he displays and sells photos at area gallery’s and coffee shops. Michael is a member of the Downtown Madison Rotary Club and served several years on their Community Grants Committee. Michael holds a BA in Labor Relations from the National Labor College in Washington DC. Michael is a lifelong Dane County resident raised in Monona and has resided in Stoughton since 2010.

Gary Funk

Gary is an ex-officio member of the Rural Schools Collaborative board of directors and currently serves as the organization's director. Gary is the former president of the Missouri-based Community Foundation of the Ozarks. In 2013 he and his wife Jana moved to a small farm near Cambridge, Wisconsin, where they have been engaged in conservation work and community philanthropy. Gary and Jana have two children, Megan and Thomas. Gary began working with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks in 1999, and during his tenure the Foundation experienced wonderful growth in total assets and grant making. The Foundation became a rural philanthropy innovator with the establishment of more than 40 affiliated community foundations, a 400-agency non-profit capacity building program, and the Stewardship Ozarks conservation initiative. In 2009 the organization launched the Rural Schools Partnership, an effort dedicated to school-centered philanthropy, place-based education, and the recruitment, preparation, and retention of outstanding rural teachers. This last element, the Ozarks Teacher Corps, has been featured by national media such as Education Week, National Public Radio, and USA Today. Prior to his work with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Gary spent two decades in public and higher education as a teacher, professor, and administrator. While at Missouri State University, he co-founded the Southwestern Bell Literacy Center, the Storefront School for at-risk children, and the Center for Outstanding Schools. He has authored and co-authored several books and articles on education issues. 

Chris Ziemba

Chris has spent the majority of his career helping nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions. After graduating from Loyola University Chicago, Chris worked at Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (HOME), an organization helping low-income seniors with their housing needs. He also worked with the Illinois Alliance for Aging. Since moving to Wisconsin, Chris has held various roles at the Stoughton Hospital Foundation, Three Gaits, and Salvation Army of Dane County. He currently works as Gift Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Leadership Stoughton, a program organized by the local chamber, and is also an Ambassador for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. Chris and his wife Kathy live in the Town of Rutland and enjoy attending musical performances at the Stoughton Opera House.