The Heritage Park Museum Executive Team is composed of members dedicated to preserving the community’s heritage for future generations. The members of this team are:
Laura Babcock, Director
currentLaura is a long-time community leader, former Planning Commissioner and Heritage Preservation Commissioner with a life-long passion for preserving history. She served on the Orchard Heritage Interpretive Exhibit Project Advisory Board for the society and was the Project Manager during its construction. Laura also chaired and served as Project Manager and Coordinator for the successful Museum Barn Relocation Project for the City of Sunnyvale in 2003, for the construction of the museum in 2008, and the city-wide Centennial Celebration in 2012.
Laura is a 1986 graduate of Leadership Sunnyvale and serves on the Historical Society Board of Directors. She brings extensive experience in leadership, project development and project management to this team. Laura has been a resident of Sunnyvale, California since 1979.
Dixie Larsen, President
Dixie De Vore Larsen grew up in Nevada with three siblings, a few horses, and great local rodeos. She graduated from the University of Utah with a BS degree in Education, then taught in public and private schools for the next several years in Utah and Pennsylvania.
In 1970, Dixie moved to California, and 1976 purchased a home in Sunnyvale. She worked in marketing with a textbook publishing company, sales training with Hewlett-Packard, followed by positions with three medical device manufacturers. She retired in 2012, which allowed more time to pursue her life-long hobby of antiques restoration.
For over ten years, Dixie was mid-Peninsula Director of Public Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In that capacity, she arranged for church members to annually converge on Sunnyvale parks, installing park upgrades and plantings in a single day that would usually take six months. As a result, Dixie was named Sunnyvale’s 2011 Outstanding Community Volunteer of the Year.
In 2014, she became a Commissioner on Sunnyvale’s Heritage Preservation Commission. Since 2015, Dixie has been volunteering at the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum in various capacities: serving at the popular teas, capturing important data on spreadsheets, and helping to inventory and document the Museum’s extensive archives.
Dixie likes visiting her daughter and five adorable grandchildren in Utah.
Dennis Mueller, Vice President
Dennis is a native of southern Illinois and attended Ohio State University, earning his Ph.D in Education with a specialization in the history of technology. He taught in high schools and universities before moving to California in 1993 to be a project manager for Hewlett-Packard, managing global security projects. Dennis has been a resident of Sunnyvale since 1994 and joined the SHS in 2017. He served at the museum as the School Program Coordinator and as a docent for several years. He enjoyed helping third graders realize that Sunnyvale didn’t just happen; people built Sunnyvale to the city it is today. He also likes to inform the students that it is their responsibility to continue this heritage and development as they become informed and engaged residents.
Allan Smirni, Treasurer
Allan Smirni was born and raised in New York City by immigrant parents from the Caribbean. He graduated from Brooklyn College, CUNY in 1960 with a degree in Economics and Accounting. Upon graduation, he entered the US Air Force as an officer, and served eight years first as an accounting and finance officer and then as a helicopter pilot. After leaving the USAF, he attended the Berkeley Law School, graduating in 1971 with a JD degree. During the next 39 years, he practiced corporate law first with a law firm in San Francisco, and then with five technology companies in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as Corporate/General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary. He retired in 2010. Allan has been married since 1998 to a woman with many years of volunteer activities, including the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce and the Sunnyvale Heritage Park (Outdoor) Exhibit. They have lived in Sunnyvale since 1990.
Allan has enjoyed the study of history since college and has visited many historical museums during his travels around the world with his wife. They have been members of the Historical Society for over 10 years. During his retirement, Allan has volunteered at his church, including St. Vincent de Paul and Bread of Life. He has served as Treasurer since 2016. Allan and his wife have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.
Jim Reynolds, Secretary
Jim stepped into the role of Secretary of the Board in late 2019. He already has a vast experience in working on the board from his years as President in 2013-2015. Jim fills many roles at the museum, including updating the museum’s computers every month and writing the letters to our members for the Annual Fund and to remind them to renew their membership. He was instrumental in having the solar system installed on the museum’s roof as well as the PA system for Speaker Nights. He shares his passion for local history with visitors as a docent. Outside of the museum, Jim serves as a volunteer for the Sunnyvale Community Services.
Shanna Gaudenti – Museum Manager
Shanna is the first person to hold the newly created position of Museum Manager. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the museum, including opening and closing on the days the museum is open to visitors, scheduling maintenance work and inspections, fielding research inquiries, and scheduling docents, among many other tasks.
Shanna has a special interest in Sunnyvale’s agricultural past from her own upbringing in a small farming town in the Central Valley. Before she joined the museum, Shanna was a social worker for the City of San José and an elementary school teacher in Fresno. She earned her BA in Liberal Arts and teaching credential from CSU Fresno, as well as an MA in Counseling Psychology from National University. Shanna currently serves as vice chair on Sunnyvale’s Heritage Preservation Commission.
Other advisory committees and chairs are established as needed.
Copyright © 2022 Sunnyvale Historical Society & Museum Association, Inc., All Rights Reserved