Today we welcome aboard William Roka (pronouns: he/him) as Village Preservation’s new Director of Programs. William brings a wealth of experience working at museums and education non-profits, with a stint in the tech world. As the South Street Seaport Museum’s public programs manager and historian, he played a critical role in helping the museum recover and reconnect with the public in the years after Hurricane Sandy. The opportunity to design innovative programs, create meaningful partnerships, and connect communities with the incredible city around them is what makes him passionate about the power of public history. He also worked on the Hamilton Education Program at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The program helped thousands of underserved high school students to see the hit musical Hamilton here in New York and across the country, from Boston to San Francisco. He also hosted Gilder Lehrman’s digital book talk program ‘Book Breaks,’ where he interviewed dozens of renowned historians. Most recently he worked at Giveffect, a software company that specifically serves non-profits.
In addition to his non-profit work, William is an independent historian and writer. His research has focused on the history of travel and ocean liners in the early 20th century. He has presented his research at conferences in the United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, and across the United States. His paper on building luxury ocean liners such as Titanic was published in the inaugural edition of the Yearbook of Transnational History.
William has lived in New York for nearly 14 years now, but had a bit of a nomadic upbringing before settling here. Growing up he lived in Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Germany, Hungary, and Romania. However, his dad grew up in New York, and when he was younger, he visited his grandparents in Elmhurst, Queens every summer. As for Greenwich Village, it played an important part in welcoming him to the city when he first moved here.
“At the time I was a volunteer at the New York branch of the National Archives and their offices were then located at the corner of Varick and Houston Streets. Before jumping on the subway to go home, I would love to walk through the Village with its quirky streets and shops, admiring the beautiful architecture. As an admitted book addict, I loved nothing more than wandering into one of its many great bookstores. It was always fun to explore this magical slice of the city.”
William is looking forward to being a member of the Greenwich Village community and the chance to share his passion for history with the public. “I am just incredibly excited about joining Village Preservation and furthering its important work of protecting the architecture and culture of the Village, and helping develop fun and innovative programs for people to enjoy!” If you are unable to catch William in a bookshop or walking in the forest of Inwood Hill Park near his home, you can reach him at email@example.com.