Welcome to Our New Chairperson + Board Members

Gehl Institute is pleased to welcome Benjamin de la Peña and Heather Thompson to our Board of Directors, and to announce that Kimberly Driggins, who joined the Board in May 2017, will now be serving as Chairperson.

Our Board of Directors draws on a variety of disciplines. Their range of diverse expertise, backgrounds, and perspectives is essential to Gehl Institute’s success. Our newest additions, Benjamin de la Peña and Heather Thompson, will add their expertise in transportation, climate adaptation, technology, and non-profit management. Benjie has worked closely with Gehl Institute via his former post at the Knight Foundation, and Heather is a longtime advocate of public space and public life. Kimberly Driggins, a former Loeb Fellow and veteran board member, will succeed Jeff Risom, Managing Director of Gehl’s US offices, as our Chairperson. Jeff remains a Director of the Board.

“We are thrilled to grow the leadership of Gehl Institute with Kimberly at the helm as Chair of the Board, and Heather and Benjie as new Directors for the Board. We are at a formative moment in our organization’s development and I could not imagine more capable minds and full hearts guiding us forward,” says Shin-pei Tsay, Gehl Institute’s Executive Director.

Meet Benjie:

Benjamin (Benjie) de la Peña serves as the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Deputy Director for Policy, Planning, Mobility, and Right of Way. Under his guidance, SDOT produced Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook. Benjie has worked on urban issues that cover public life, engagement, technology, sustainable transportation, and informal systems. Before joining SDOT, he spent nearly a decade in philanthropy supporting pioneering work such as Walk Score, Transit Score, Digital Matatus, CityCamp, TransportationCamp, the BRT Standard, the Informal City Dialogues, Code for America, and Gehl Institute. 

Benjie is local to Seattle, Miami, New York, Baltimore, D.C., Boston, and Metro Manila. He has an M.A. in Urban Planning from Harvard University and B.A. in Communication (Journalism) from the University of the Philippines.

“I am really excited to help build a movement and discipline around public life,” states Benjie. “We live in a world where the digital commons increasingly divides us. We need a clearer view of how the real world—our shared spaces—can unite us.”


Meet Heather:

Heather Thompson is currently serving as the Interim CEO for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a non-profit organization that promotes equitable and sustainable transportation to make cities around the world more livable. Heather has focused her career on working with the non-profit sector to design and carry out strategies with large-scale impact. Most recently she was advising clients, including the Asian Development Bank, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and Environmental Defense Fund, on finding ways to help our cities and natural systems increase resilience in the face of climate change, population growth, and other development pressures. Heather was also co-founder and Vice President of Programs for ClimateWorks, a network of 13 regional foundations and expert teams which promote sectoral polices to mitigate climate change. 

Heather has lived and worked abroad in China, the U.K., and Denmark. She holds a MSc in Environmental Economics from the University of York, U.K. and a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, San Diego.

“I am very excited to join the Gehl Institute Board, an organization that has been at the forefront of making cities more livable. I want to help make public spaces full of art that inspires people, full of playgrounds that get people active and interactive, full of trees and plants so people can breath fresh air. Let’s have people sitting in plazas, not cars!”

Meet Kimberly:

Kimberly C. Driggins is currently the Director of Strategic Planning in the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department. In this capacity, she is responsible for citywide planning initiatives in the following areas: comprehensive planning, capital improvement planning (CIP), open space, historic preservation, neighborhood retail, and creative placemaking. In addition, she is the Mayor’s representative for arts and culture for the City of Detroit. Prior to joining the City of Detroit, Kimberly worked for the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning for seven years, as the Associate Director for Citywide Planning. Kimberly began her career as a consultant working on real estate, affordable housing, and neighborhood revitalization projects in the private and non-profit sectors. She received a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts degree, with highest honors, in political science from Hampton University. Kimberly was a 2016 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where she explored the intersection of design, civic engagement and creative placemaking through the lens of equity and inclusion.

“I am honored and excited to be selected as the new Chairperson of the Board of Directors. Jeff has done an outstanding job establishing the Institute and has developed a strong foundation.  I look forward to growing the organization and expanding the Institute’s impact through diverse collaborative partnerships and innovative research.”