The San Diego Diplomacy Council’s Advisory Board meets annually to guide our council, to open doors to new opportunities, to make suggestions on how we can improve, and to create connections.
Advisory Board Chair
George was born in Louisiana and grew up in a US Air Force family that lived in many parts of the world. He graduated from high school in Naples, Italy, where his father was Commander of Allied Air Forces (NATO) in Southern Europe. He attended Yale University and graduated with a BA in International Relations. Following Law School at Louisiana State University, he began practicing law as a criminal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Read more
During his 35-year career, he specialized in white collar criminal prosecutions and served, among other jobs, as Chief of the Criminal Division in the US Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, and Chief of the Major Frauds Section in the US Attorney’s Office in San Diego. In the last five years of his career with DOJ, George worked in Southeast Europe as a legal advisor to several different countries and missions. For two years he lived and worked in Bucharest, Romania, where he was Resident Legal Advisor to the SECI Center (now SELEC), a platform for law enforcement cooperation in fighting organized crime, with representatives from 12 countries in the region. Later, he returned to the area on several occasions to provide guidance and training on Rule of Law issues. For example, he trained Macedonian judges, prosecutors and police on their new criminal procedure code; he conducted an analysis of Montenegrin efforts to combat corruption within the country; and he helped draft the new criminal procedure code for Kosovo. In San Diego, George has many interests including singing, tennis, jogging, and hiking. He is Immediate Past President of the Spreckels Organ Society, and currently Chair of Friends of Balboa Park, the non-profit organization devoted to preserving Balboa Park’s legacy for future generations through park-wide projects. George completed 6 years on the Board of the San Diego Diplomacy Council in June of 2018.
Chinyeh was born and raised in Taiwan. After finishing college, she came to the United States to pursue higher education, first studying at Columbia University in New York for a year and a half, later relocating to San Diego. Upon graduating from San Diego State University and working for large financial firms for several years, she realized her deep desire was to travel and to learn about different cultures and people. Thus, she established an import and export company which allowed her to travel to many parts of the world. So far, she have been to 150 countries and eager to visit more. Read more
She is on the Board of Trustees of People to People International which was founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to promote peace through understanding, and is a member of the Advisory Board of San Diego World Affairs Council.
Her late husband, Ambassador Charles Hostler, Ph.D., was a soldier (landed on Normandy on D-Day), businessman, scholar, author, diplomat and philanthropist. She is working diligently to carry on his legacy at Charles Hostler Institute on World Affairs at San Diego State University and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon among other non-profit organizations.
Hon. Richard C. Matheron
Former U.S. Ambassador
Former Director, Center for Environment and National Security, UCSD/Scripps
Reno L. Harnish III is the former Director of the Center for Environment and National Security (CENS) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego. He was a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service (American diplomat) and formerly served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science. Harnish received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from San Diego State University, a Master’s in International Studies from American University, and a Master’s in Economics in 1975. Read more
Before entering the Foreign Service, Mr. Harnish worked as a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, an international economist at the U.S. Department of Treasury, and as a clerk for Congressman Dave Martin of Nebraska.
Later, he served as the Environment, Science and Technology Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, as Economic and Commercial Counselor at the U.S. Embassy to the German Democratic Republic, in the Office of Developed Country Trade at the Department of State, as an Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, a Political Officer in the Status Liaison Office in Saipan, and an Economic Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Mr. Harnish speaks German, Italian, Swedish, and some Azerbaijani. He was honored for Presidential Meritorious Service, received Senior performance pay twice, and has been awarded a Meritorious and two Superior Honor Awards.
UCSD Professor and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Susan L. Shirk (born c. 1945) is an expert on Chinese politics and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the Clinton administration. She was in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs (People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia). She is currently a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego. She is also a Senior Director of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, where she assists clients with issues related to East Asia. She is married to Samuel L. Popkin, another prominent UCSD professor. Read more
Susan Shirk was born circa 1945. She received her B.A. in political science from Mount Holyoke College in 1967, her M.A. in Asian studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1968, and her Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. She first traveled to China in 1971 as a member of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars.
Shirk is the Ho Miu Lam Endowed Chair of China and Pacific Relations in the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego and Director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC). She heads the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, a track II diplomatic initiative.
Retired Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California
Mr. Ciaffa is an attorney recently retired from the U.S. Department of Justice. For over 25 years, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, first in Miami and most recently San Diego, where he investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of criminal offenses, many involving transnational organized crime. Mr. Ciaffa was also the office’s International Coordinator, providing in-house expertise and guidance on international matters, such as foreign evidence gathering and extradition, and conducting meetings and seminars for foreign professionals under the International Visitor Leadership Program.Read more
Mr. Ciaffa also served as the Department of Justice’s Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Mexico City. Mr. Ciaffa is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., where he earned a Juris Doctor/Master of Science in Foreign Service. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and speaks Italian and Spanish.
Judge H. Ronald Domnitz
H. Ronald Domnitz served for 24 years as a Superior Court Judge (1983 – 2007). During his tenure on the bench, he served in numerous court departments, including many years as a Family Law Judge. Since then he has continued to serve as a Family Law Judge on assignment to the San Diego Courts as well as those throughout the State. His prior legal background is rooted in 13 years of private practice with an emphasis in labor relations and family law. He was among the first group of attorneys in California to become a Certified Family Law Specialist. He has represented the American Bar Association in Bosnia and Ukraine by conducting “rule of law” seminars and visits to local court venues. He was the keynote speaker at the first Ukrainian Judges Association meeting held in Kiev.
James C. Clark
Managing Director and Director of Development for California/Bajio Associates
James Clark is the Managing Director and Director of Development for California/Bajio Associates. C/BA works to link academic, business and civic enterprises between the Californias (California/Baja California) Read more
Clark is a native of Illinois, and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana with a B.S. in Marketing. After military service in New York, Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Würzburg, Germany, he began his professional career in San Diego as an advertising account executive. Among his clients at the time were the San Diego Padres, Caliente Racecourse and various real estate developments. With a partner, he moved north to found a Los Angeles-based magazine company to publish airline in-flight magazines. When he left that company—East/West Network—ten years later, more than 60 percent of all flights in the United States carried the company’s magazines. Following publishing ventures included serving as President/Publisher of San Francisco Magazine, the city magazine for the Bay Area, and Publisher of The Executive, a business magazine that profiled Los Angeles and Orange County companies through the eyes of those companies’ chief executive officers. Clark was also Director of Magazine Development at Freedom Communications in Irvine, and interim publisher of both World Trade and Latin Trade magazines, based in Irvine and Miami, respectively.
Prior to leading the California/Bajio Associates, Clark was the Founding Executive Director of the San Diego/Tijuana Smart Border Coalition (2007/2017). The Coalition is the leading bi-national organization working to ease border wait times between California and Baja California. It is the only regional organization with board members equally from Both San Diego and Tijuana. The Coalition also promotes the San Diego-Tijuana Region for investment, and is an advocacy group for bi-national border efficiency issues in Mexico City and Washington.
Clark was the founding Director of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Mexico Business Center and led the organization for 11 years (2003-2014). Before joining the SDRCC, he was Director for the Californias of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, based in Los Angeles (1997-2003). The United States-Mexico Chamber is headquartered in Washington, D. C. with sub-headquarters in Mexico City.
He was an International Friendship Commissioner for the City of Chula Vista, and has served on the Advisory Boards of San Diego Citizen’s Diplomacy Council, XLNC1 Classical Radio and LEAD San Diego. He has been a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Community Foundation and Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center as well as having served as the U.S. California Regional Team Leader for FUMEC and BIMI (Border Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative). He is a member of the North American Competitiveness Initiative of the George W. Bush Center, Dallas. He also continues as an Honorary Board Member of the San Diego/Tijuana Smart Border Coalition as well as being an honorary board member of Mainly Mozart 25 and the South (San Diego) County Economic Development Council. He was inducted into the Tijuana Paseo de la Fama in 2015.
Clark has been honored by the Congress of the United States, California State Senate, the State of Baja California, the Consulates General of Canada, Mexico and the United States, Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, Tijuana Innovadora, Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, and the Mayors of San Diego and Tijuana among others for his service to the region.
Ric Bainter is an attorney in San Diego who has practiced internationally for more than 20 years. He has provided legal advice to organizations in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Lithuania, Poland and Vietnam. Ric has taught courses on international law and international organizations at the University of San Diego School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the University of California, San Diego. He serves on the Executive Committee of the International Law Section of the California Lawyers Association, the National Governing Board of Common Cause, and the Advisory Board of the San Diego Diplomacy Council.
Cath Kachur DeStefano
Cath is founder of Human TuneUp Company, an author, keynote speaker, workshop leader, and artist who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science/International Relations.
Cath was appointed by mayor as chair of the International Affairs Board for the city of San Diego, a San Diego Business Journal Women Who Move the City finalist, and past president of La Jolla Sunrise Rotary. Her company’s Vital Signs for Vets Campaigns spread appreciation to inpatients in military medical centers throughout San Diego County. Read more
Those who have benefited from Cath’s human development expertise and skill building include Amazon, Marriott, Nestle’, Silicon Valley Catalysts, Sharp Healthcare, University of California San Diego, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Sempra and the U.S. Department of State. Over 200,000 from six continents and across 49 states have attended her sessions.
Her books Vital Signs! for Customer Care, Vital Signs! for Life and other inspiring resources can be found on her website: HumanTuneUp.com.
As the former executive director of San Diego Diplomacy Council for eight years, Cath is honored to serve in this advisory capacity.
Jill spent her initial years at a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) serving as Program Manager for Foreign Military Sales. Jill represented the US government in key foreign policy security assistance efforts, including working to rebuild Bosnia, drug enforcement support in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia, and development support in Africa. Additionally, she facilitated the successful transfer of all F-111 aircraft spare parts in the Air Force and DLA inventory to Australia. Jill received the Vice-Presidential Hammer Award for Customer Service and DLA Personnel of the Year for her contributions to the agency. Read more
As a healthcare executive, Dean was the first chief executive officer of Sharp HealthCare, an integrated healthcare system based in San Diego. Following retirement, he served in various capacities including president of the International Visitors Council of San Diego. He is an emeritus member of the San Diego Rotary Club and its Rotary International Foundation Committee. He has been a volunteer with a number of community organizations, most recently the Friends of Balboa Park and the Speckles Organ Society. Read more
A fourth generation Californian, Dean’s initial exposure to international relations was as a resident at the International House at UC Berkeley. Over the years, he has found that spiritual travel is a profound way to experience other cultures and has journeyed to a number of pilgrimage sites around the world.
Darlene G. Davies
Balboa Park/Old Globe/SDSU Emeritus
Darlene Davies graduated San Diego State in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication Administration and her Masters Degree in Communicative Disorders in 1965. She’s a published writer in Speech Pathology, San Diego history, and co-producer of educational videos on international topics among others. Read more
With her long standing love of theatre and the arts, and her commitment to improving our community, Darlene served for eight years as a member of San Diego City Advisory Board on Women, two terms on San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, nine years on the City Park & Recreation Board (simultaneously serving on the Balboa Park Committee, four years as Chair), twelve years on the Old Globe Theatre Board, and five years on the Board of YWCA of San Diego County. Darlene Davies achieved a unique trifecta of honors, November 14, 2006 which included “Darlene Davies Day” proclamations by the San Diego City Council, San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the State of California.
Darlene served as Director of the Speech Pathology department at Children’s Hospital and Health Center and was the first supervisor/director of the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Naval Regional Medical Center in Balboa Park. She is Faculty Emerita at San Diego State University. Five San Diego Mayors appointed her to four boards and one commission. The Board of Supervisors appointed her to the County Commission on the Status of Women, where she served as Chair.
Among her more than sixty awards and honors are: Honorary Chair of the opening of the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe; Salvation Army Woman of Dedication; Mortar Board Honor Society Outstanding Alumna of San Diego County; Millennium Award from Friends of Balboa Park; Darlene Davies Day in both the City and County of San Diego, Resolution of Commendation of Darlene Davies entered into the records of the California State Senate by Senator Christine Kehoe; Monty Award as Outstanding Alumna from SDSU; Junior League of San Diego Charter Day Honoree; JT HONORS from San Diego Junior Theatre; eight First Place and one Best of Show awards from the San Diego Press Club; Honorary Chair of The Old Globe’s Celebrating Couture event; Special Congressional Recognition by the U. S. House of Representatives; and induction in the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame. Darlene received the 2017 Distinguished Lifetime Mortar Board Member Award from national Mortar Board in in Columbus, Ohio in 2018, on the occasion of its centennial celebration.
Darlene performed in her first production @ The Old Globe in 1952 and in her last show there in 2011, served on the Globe Board of Directors for 12 years, and was The Old Globe Historian for six years, from 2012-2018. Three published histories authored by Darlene (Panama-California Exposition; The Old Globe 80 Years in the Making; and Everything Old is New Again A history of San Diego Junior Theatre 1948-2008) were placed with other selected ephemera in the 2015 Time Capsule marking the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, to be opened in 2115. The Time Capsule is buried in the Craig Noel Garden in Balboa Park. Ephemera from the Darlene Gould Davies Old Globe Theatre Special Collection at San Diego State University were included in the First Folio exhibit at the San Diego Central Library in 2016. Darlene has served on myriad Boards of Directors and Trustees.
Darlene co-produced (with Martha Longenecker and Paul Marshall) 15 professional videos for Mingei International Museum, covering such diverse topics such as The Beaded Universe, Yurta, European Dowry, Keisuke Serizawa, Dolls Mirrors of Humanity, A Palace for Wednesday, Arrows of the Spirit, Artes de Mexico, Silver and Silk (China), Village India, Mingei of Japan, Origami, The Indonesian Archipelago, Antique Toy Banks, The Life and Legacy of Martha W. Longenecker (six hours).
Chair of the International Affairs Board for the City of San Diego
Bruce currently serves as the Chair of the International Affairs Board for the City of San Diego, since 2014. He is also serves on Sheriff Gores Advisory Board and Mayors Faulconer’s Advisory Board since 2015 . Previously, Bruce served as Chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) for four of his eight years with the HRC. He also served as a San Diego County Commissioner on the Social Service Advisory Board for three years. Prior board service includes: Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Conflict Resolution Center, ACLU, and Equality California. Read more
Other involvements include San Diego Mediation Center, The San Diego LGBT Center, San Diego AIDS Foundation and the Interfaith Committee for Worker’s Justice and many more.
Bruce came to San Diego in 1981 to attend Law School and has remained a dedicated, engaged citizen of our community. Throughout Bruce’s successful law career, he worked with many underrepresented people. Bruce has been a guest lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam law school for four years speaking on American law and current legal issues . Bruce has traveled to every continent except Antarctica. He speaks French, Hebrew, conversational Spanish, and studied Dutch and German. His professional and volunteer activities reflect his deep longing for a better world.
Knox Bell has been a business transaction attorney in San Diego for more than 50 years, with the law firm of Gray Cary, now named DLA Piper. The law firm has more than 4,000 attorneys, in more than 45 countries. Knox’s area of legal practice has been focused on entrepreneurial technology companies, and biomedical research organizations.Read more
For personal cultural travel experiences, Knox has traveled in more than 100 countries. Knox has a law degree from UCLA (1968), and a bachelor degree from UC-Davis. Knox studied for one year (1961-62) at the University in Aix-en-Provence, France. Knox is pleased to be a citizen of the global world, and he is eager to expand his knowledge and interests worldwide.
Fern P. Nelson. M.D.
Born in Detroit Michigan, Dr. Nelson graduated from Wellesley College (1975) and University of Michigan Medical School (1980). Her dermatology residency was completed at University of Illinois where she remained as an Assistant Clinical Instructor teaching dermatology residents and students. She served as Division Chair of Dermatology at West Side Veterans Administration Hospital, was well as having a private practice (1984-2000). Dr. Nelson joined the faculty of the Department of Dermatology at UCSD upon her move to southern California in 2002. She was head of medical student education in Dermatology as well as teaching dermatology residents until her recent retirement in 2020. Fern is a founding member of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art, and member of the Balboa Park Conservancy.
Elena Salsitz is one of the community’s leading experts in the field of protocol, diplomacy and management of visits of dignitaries, diplomats and high-level international and domestic guests of the city. After working as chief of protocol for the NASA/Johnson Space Center and an assignment at the White House, she amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in managing all logistics and details surrounding visits of hundreds of dignitaries from across the country and around the world. Read more
Elena has extended the reach of the protocol office to several organizations, including the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association, World Affairs Council, San Diego World Trade Center, Japan Society of San Diego/Tijuana and the San Diego Concierge Association. She also coordinated making the 9/11 Day of Remembrance and established strong ties with the San Diego area military community. Elena has established strong ties with many sectors and sub-communities within the city, and during her tenure, San Diego has gained an additional two sister cities: Jalalabad, Afghanistan and the Shannon Region of Ireland.
Elena has also coordinated or participated in visits by the President, White House officials, international officials and many other notable visitors. Elena participates in community organizations including the Japan Society of San Diego/Tijuana, Citizens Diplomacy Council of S.D., KPBS, Crawford High School Somalian/Ethiopian Refugee Education Program, Bird Rock Elementary’s Homework Help Center, READ San Diego’s Citizenship Exam Preparation Program, Duke University Alumni Admissions Agency, Refugee Services Agency, Better Business Bureau, American Cancer Society and is a graduate of Leadership Houston. Her awards include being listed in Who’s Who Among American Women; the NASA/Johnson Space Center’s Certificate of Commendation, Outstanding Performance Award, Superior Achievement Award and Go the Extra Mile Award; and the NASA Administrator’s Commendation for management of JSC Distinguished Visitors Program.
Mary McKenzie. J.D., Ph.D.
Dr. McKenzie received her BA from Georgetown University and her MA and PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. More recently, Dr. McKenzie received her JD from the University of San Diego School of Law. During her graduate studies, Mary spent several years in Germany, where she studied German foreign policy in the context of transatlantic relations. She was also awarded a MacArthur postdoctoral research fellowship at the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt to investigate international security institutions. In 2001, Dr. McKenzie was selected to participate in an International Faculty Development Seminar on Contemporary Cuba, sponsored by the Council for International Educational Exchange.Read more
Since receiving her PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1994, Mary M. McKenzie has taught regularly in the Political Science Department. She also has taught at California State University, San Marcos and at Grossmont College. At USD, Dr. McKenzie teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in international relations, including International Organizations, American Foreign Policy, Politics and the Environment, International Human Rights, and Model UN.