Our Volunteers

Ryan Aikin, J.D.

Ryan Aikin, J.D.

Ryan  joined the Merlin volunteer team in the Spring of 2017, shortly after relocating to Helena from the East Coast.   A valuable member of our crew, Ryan generously donates his time, research and leadership skills to Merlin CCC, helping us to secure grants and funds that further our mission, as well as assist in the management of our fundraising events.

An assistant attorney general in the Appellate Services Bureau of the Montana Department of Justice, Ryan attended Purdue University in Indiana. In 2005, he earned a B.A. in philosophy with minors in political science, management, and German. He is a 2011 graduate of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Pennsylvania bar. Ryan was formerly a lieutenant in the Navy serving as an appellate defense counsel with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.


Michael Chapman, B.S.

Michael Chapman, B.S.

Michael Chapman has been a loyal volunteer of the Merlin team since we opened our doors for business in the Winter of 2015.  In addition to research and assistance with many of our community events, Michael donates his time and expert photography skills to Merlin CCC, helping us capture memorable moments at numerous of our organization activities.  He also plays an integral role in the development and implementation of our philosophy walks and symposiums.

Philosophy is a record of the evolution of humanity, etched into our cultural DNA by the best minds across ages of the world. Philosophy today is our sea anchor, stabilizing our headlong rush toward a technological world cut off from nature. Merlin CCC, through the medium of philosophy, seeks to connect people once more to their own nature and the natural world. As a philosopher, I want to be a part of that noble cause. – Michael

A compulsive philosopher and perpetual student, Michael has a B.S. in science from the US Naval Academy and graduate work in solar energy and the future of climate via an Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Montana.  He regularly audits philosophy courses at Carroll College, has consistently served as a firetower watchman in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and enjoys writing, philosophy, history of ideas, brain and neuroscience, complexity science, evolution, nature photography, and much more.

Pastor Russ Danaher, B.A.

Russ Danaher, B.A.

Russ is a “freelance” pastor who is a student of philosophy as well as theology. He is the former pastor of the Vineyard Church of Helena. Even though the church he pastored closed its doors, he continues to love people, serve his community and give his time and energy to the people of Helena.

He still enjoys guest preaching and lecturing as well as his full time job with the Montana Department of Corrections as the Offender ADA Coordinator. He works as an advocate for disability rights for those incarcerated across the state.

Russ found his love of philosophy at a young age and followed it though his academic career with a BA in Biblical Literature and a double major in Religion and Philosophy.

He enjoys being a part of the Helena Community, working with various non-profit organizations, including Merlin CCC, where he can give back and help the community he loves in meaningful and interesting ways.


Ross Peter Nelson, B.S., M.F.A.

Ross Peter Nelson, B.S., M.F.A.

Ross Peter Nelson’s volunteer work for Merlin began as a “beer-and-wine-slinger” for the 2017 summer fundraiser the Brew-Wine-Chu. By the end of the year, he morphed into one of our strategy & tech gurus (a much needed role!) and served as a panelist on the 3rd installment of our Philosophy Symposium: Vulnerable Humanity, Predictable Machines.

A regular and enthusiastic participant in the Merlin philosophy think & drinks (as well as other philosophical discussions and activities), Ross is a lapsed software engineer turned playwright. His Silicon Valley career included work at a number of now-defunct startups, along with stints at major companies including Intel, Apple, IBM, and Google.

In 2012, he forsook the tech world and ran off to New Orleans to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. While he self-identifies as a playwright, he admits to enjoying cross-genre experiences as well. His work has been performed across the US and on three continents and he is a co-producer of the Last Chance New Play Fest.

Ross has authored several full-length works as well as three-dozen short plays, short fiction, and two books on computer technology. He is also an amateur photographer whose photographs have been published in both outdoor and literary magazines. (He also donates his time to photographing many of our events!).

Ross considers himself more fox than hedgehog, and is happy to curl up with articles on history, evolution, cosmology, or philosophy when not immersed in reading drama or other literature.


Jonathan Drake, B.A.

Jonathan Drake, B.A.

Jonathan Drake, a Helena native, joined the Merlin volunteer crew in the summer of 2018. He received his B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Montana and is volunteering while he applies to graduate school to further his study of new religious movements. As part of his volunteer work, Jonathan will be regularly contributing to the resources library of our website and assisting in several of our philosophy in the community events.

Jonathan believes in applying the insights of critical theory and materialist analysis to power and culture, so that we might live a more deliberate life. In his free time he enjoys rereading the jacket cover of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

Comments are closed.