The Buttonwood Tree

Our Board & Staff

Board of Directors

John Bell


John Basinger

President Emeritus

John has been with The Buttonwood Tree since its inception in 1989. He is a Retired Professor, Actor, and Board Member for The National Theatre of the Deaf.
Institutions John has associated with over the years: Bluffton University, University of Chicago, United States Army, Kakamega Secondary School, Kakamega Kenya, Wesleyan University, Yale University, The National Theater of the Deaf. National Storytelling Association, The Omega Institute, Paramount Pictures, Long Wharf Theater, The Hartford Stage Company, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Three Rivers Community College, NEAR, Inc., Degrees, BSc, MAT, MA (Theater).

Awards: Distinguished Alumnus Award, Distinguished Faculty Award. Middletown Arts Council Award; Connecticut Humanities Council Award

Activities: Write Plays, Write Poetry, Memorized and Perform John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Conceived of and Perform THE KING, a one-character adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Sheila McKinley-Bell


Ms. McKinley-Bell has been a homeowner, real estate investor and member of the community in the City of Middletown since 2003. She has served as a volunteer with The Buttonwood Tree since 2012 and joined the Board of Directors as Board Secretary in 2014. She is the Principal Consultant for Shoreline HR Consulting and has been a HR Executive and Entrepreneur for over 30 years. She achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh and holds a Master’s in Business Administration and an Advanced Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from UCONN. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional. Ms. McKinley-Bell is also certified by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Rashaan L. Baskerville


Rashaan Baskerville, Director of Angus Finance, has nearly a decade of experience in the financial services and energy services fields. He has several years of experience in the industrial business services field, working with small and middle market companies, across multiple industries, to structure and finance capital projects based upon underwriting reviews utilizing the companies’ financial statements and industry metrics.

Rashaan earned both his BS in Business Management and his MBA from Florida A&M University. Away from the office, Rashaan enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and a good Thai meal.

Barry Chernoff

Board Member

Professor Barry Chernoff joined the Wesleyan Faculty in 2003 where he holds the Robert K. Schumann Chair of Environmental Studies. He is currently chairs the Environmental Studies Program and is Director of the College of the Environment. He teaches courses in Environmental Studies, Tropical Ecology, Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation, Quantitative Analysis and Evolutionary Biology for the departments of Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences.


Llyod Duggan

Board Member

Lloyd Duggan, father, grandfather and long time resident of Middletown, is an accomplished and goal-oriented MARKETING EXECUTIVE skilled in digital marketing, brand management, market research, and strategic planning. He has established capabilities in transforming concepts into tangible business solutions to achieve and exceed sales goals. 

He possesses a proven track record of generating revenue and boosting company performance. As a forward-thinker with exceptional business acumen, Lloyd visualizes, expands, and generates ideas to increase the awareness and visibility of the company brand.

Steve Minkler

Board Member

Dr. Steven Minkler was appointed Campus Chief Executive Officer of Middlesex Community College in May 2017. He was the college’s Dean of Academic Affairs from January 2012 until July 2019, and served in the dual role of “PresiDean” for two years. Dr. Minkler is the leader, supervisor, and member of an executive team who manages 350 full- and part-time unionized employees, $24 million budget (plus grants), annualized unduplicated headcount of 5,000 students (credit and non-credit), and 70+ academic programs offered at a main campus in Middletown plus a satellite location in Meriden, off-campus manufacturing centers at two technical high schools, two correctional institutions, online, and at numerous dual-enrollment, clinical, and internships sites.


Anne-Marie Cannata Mcewen

Executive Director

Anne-Marie first became acquainted with TBT in 2003 when she learned members of her favorite band, Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, were performing at The Buttonwood Tree. When her daughter learned about the appearance there, she made the request of her mother who was in the Parent Leadership Training Institute program at the time. The trio performed at Middletown High School for 300 music students. Little did she know it was only the beginning of her “Booking” career.

She retired from a career in Dental Hygiene and her 21 year marriage in 2003 and laughs (gratefully) at how a new job teaching a Dental Assisting course at Middlesex Community College literally knocked on her door. She also then focused on her food business, running a booth at the Durham Fair and other fairs around the State, which she did for over a decade. She opened a “Good Food” cart in downtown Middletown in 2004 and late night at Wesleyan, until retiring in 2006.

In February 2007, Anne-Marie responded to The Buttonwood Tree’s newspaper ad looking for help with grant writing. A few months later Kunle Mwanga invited her to join the board. A year later, she followed her instinct and volunteered to serve as ED. She’s been thoroughly enjoying the music, the people, the community and all the good that comes from it ever since. For three years she also worked the overnight shift at the Warming Center when it first opened, during the cold months.

She enjoys the outdoors (especially at sunrise and sunset), hiking, swimming, running … tennis and ping-pong, discussing spirituality, reading and helping people to become their best Selves. She has three children, two grandchildren and through her marriage in 2015, three children, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter born in May 2018! She met her husband, Mike McEwen at Laughter Yoga at The Buttonwood Tree and is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. She is in the Celebration Singers choir and a member of First Church, Middletown, on Court Street. She is blessed to be one of more than a dozen marriages that have come out of The Buttonwood Tree, and often says, “Love is in the air at The Buttonwood Tree.