Tom Tomei Knapp began practicing Soto Zen Buddhism in the early 2000’s with Rev. Dai-En Bennage at Mt. Equity Zendo. He was given by Rev. Bennage the dharma name Tomei, meaning "clear life". Tomei received the 16 precents in 2012 and was recognized in 2021 as a dharma elder of Mt. Equity Sangha. He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Colorado in 1985. Tomei retired from the economics faculty at Penn State University Wilkes-Barre Campus in 2017 after 30 years of service.
Nancy Nanshin White practiced at Mt. Equity Zendo in Pennsdale, Pennsylvania until her retirement from Bucknell University, where she was a professor of economics. She completed her shuso (head student) training in 2011 and received lay entrustment from Rev. Dai-En Bennage in 2016. She held positions on the Mt. Equity Board of directors and coordinated many events. Nanshin offered zazen to the Bucknell community for seven years and taught a first-year course at Bucknell called Mindful Consumption, which was inspired by the fifth of Thich Nhat Hanh’s five mindfulness trainings. After retirement in 2017, Nanshin and her husband, Tom Tomei Knapp, moved to Moorhead, MN. They founded Open Land Sangha in 2019 in Moorhead and nearby Fargo, ND. She is a member of the Lay Zen Teachers Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the FM Interfaith Center. She lectures on the practice of Buddhism at local universities.
Rev. Patricia Dai-En Bennage Roshi is Abbess Emerita of Mount Equity Zendo, formerly located in Pennsdale, PA. She often attributed her cultural curiosity to the influence of international students at Bucknell University in her hometown of Lewisburg, PA. Her interests took her to Japan, where she concluded a classical ballet career and completed a degree in East Asian Studies at Sophia University. During an 88 temple spiritual pilgrimage, she met her teacher, Noda Daito Roshi and was ordained in 1979. Noda Roshi sent her to Aichi Semmon Nisodo, where she became Abbess Shundo Aoyama Roshi’s translator in Europe and Japan. Rev. Bennage translated Aoyama Roshi’s book Zen Seeds and contributed to Zen Teachings in Challenging Times, a collection of 25 essays by women Zen teachers. While pioneering Soto Zen in Central Pennsylvania, she offered zazen and guest lectured at local universities and led zazen at many local prisons. She was recognized by the International Women’s Day Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award in 2008 for Outstanding Contribution to Buddhism.