Share this page:

Advisory Board

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s board members provide advice, fundraising assistance, and promote the institute’s conservation activities around the world. 

Hal Brierley

Hal Brierley serves as executive chairman and chief loyalty architect of Brierley+Partners, Inc., one of the world's leading specialists in the design and implementation of customer loyalty programs, having founded the company in 1985. B+P's clients include Allstate, American Eagle Outfitters, Express, Fandango, GameStop, Hard Rock Café, Hertz, Hilton, Levi's and 7 Eleven.

Brierley has provided loyalty program design counsel to some 200 major global brands over the past 25 years, including the design for American Express, Continental Airlines' OnePass, Hertz #1Gold and Hilton Honors, as well as a decade of support for United's Mileage Plus.

Brierley founded and served as CEO of e-Rewards, Inc., the world's largest online market research panel, with some six million panelists in 36 countries, with annual sales of over $300 million.

He began his entrepreneurial career in 1969 as co-founder of Epsilon Data Management, one of the pioneers in database marketing, serving as its president and CEO for eleven years. Epsilon's early clients included some 400 not-for-profit organizations, including the San Diego Zoo and the National Zoo.

In 1980, Brierley served as the only consultant for the launch of American Airlines' AAdvantage program, the nation's first frequent traveler program. In 1982, Brierley was elected vice president of sales and advertising for Pan American World Airways, where he launched Worldpass, the first global frequent traveler program. In 1983, he was named senior vice president of marketing for Continental Airlines.

He graduated with highest honors in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1965 and as a Baker Scholar with high honors from Harvard Business School in 1968.

Brierley is involved in a variety of activities, including: the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation as a member of the board of directors and its executive and finance committees since 2000; Dallas Symphony Association; member of the board of Marketing Edge; member of the International Board of Advisors of the National Geographic Society; member of board of directors of Baylor Health Care System Foundation, Dallas Opera, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Foundation, University of Maryland College Park Foundation; member of Harvard Business School's board of dean’s advisors; member of the Mayor's Business/Arts Initiative Action Team; and a member of World Presidents Organization.

John A. Canning, Jr.

John A. Canning, Jr. co-founded Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC (“MDP”) in 1992, and served as its Chief Executive Officer until becoming its Chairman in 2007. MDP has raised investment funds with more than $22 billion in limited partner commitments from over 400 endowments, pension funds and other sophisticated investors. MDP is one of the most experienced and successful private equity investment firms in the United States with 43 investment professionals.

Prior to co-founding MDP, Mr. Canning spent 24 years with First Chicago Corporation, most recently as Executive Vice President of The First National Bank of Chicago and President of First Chicago Venture Capital.

Mr. Canning currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Corning Incorporated and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club; and is a Life Trustee of Northwestern University. Mr. Canning is Co-Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, a Director and Chairman of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a Trustee and Former Chairman of the Museum of Science and Industry, former Director and Chairman of The Economic Club of Chicago, former Chairman of The Chicago Community Trust, a Trustee and former Chairman of The Field Museum and former Director and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Mary Cook

Mary Cook, of Dallas, Texas, is president of the Eugene McDermott Foundation. She is a founding member of the Trinity River Audubon Center, chair of the Trinity Trust Board for the overall Trinity River Project (of which the Trinity River Audubon Center is the cornerstone), vice chair of the Dallas Museum of Art Board, and on the executive committee of the Dallas Zoological Society. She enjoys spending her time with her many dogs and at her ranch in North Texas.

Stephanie Cutter

Stephanie Cutter is a founding partner at Precision Strategies, a communications, digital and data targeting consulting firm in Washington D.C. and New York City. Her political and communications experience spans two decades in public service and the private sector; crafting communications and crisis-management strategies for the White House, US Senate, and the nation's leading political campaigns and corporations. After helping to elect the president in 2008 and serving in the White House, Cutter was President Obama’s 2012 deputy campaign manager in charge of communications, media, policy, and research as well as being a member of the senior strategy team.

Cutter sits on the boards of Organizing for Action, the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and in 2013, she was appointed to the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities.

A Massachusetts native, Cutter lives in Washington, DC, and is a graduate of Smith College and Georgetown University Law Center.

James Dinegar


James Dinegar joined the Greater Washington Board of Trade as president and chief executive officer in July 2006. As president and CEO, Dinegar oversees an organization that represents major business interests throughout northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland. The Board of Trade puts its focus on the critical issues facing the greater Washington, D.C., region: transportation; emergency preparedness and business continuity; green as a competitive advantage; and the workforce in regards to recruiting and retaining highly qualified people. For more than 120 years, the Board of Trade has been instrumental in creating and protecting the environs of the Washington region for the population and business.

Before coming to the Board of Trade, Dinegar served as chief operating officer of the American Institute for Architects (AIA) where he was responsible for the overall operation of a 77,000-member organization and directed strategic efforts in the areas of education, technology, international collaboration, organizational alliances, and government advocacy. Mr. Dinegar lives in Arlington, Virginia and has called the Washington, D.C., region home for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. 

Joan Donner


Joan Donner of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is president of Twende, LTD, a Colorado- and Nairobi-based company that leads and coordinates safaris in Africa. She has been active on a number of boards and committees in the Washington area, including the Smithsonian national board, National Museum of the American Indian, and the James Smithson Society.

Ginni Dreier

Ginni Dreier, a Santa Barbara resident since 2000, is an active philanthropist, volunteering her time and contributing to numerous organizations, including the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, the Teddy Bear Foundation, and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

A long time board member for the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens, she first got involved in 2001, when she sponsored the zoo’s male African lion, named Chadwick, in honor of her husband Chad. Since then, the Dreier family has supported every major capital campaign, along with sponsoring and naming many of the zoo’s most iconic animals.

Ginni also serves or has served on the Board of the Directors for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Board of Directors for Loyola Marymount University, the Women’s Leadership Council of Loyola Marymount (founding member), the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. She is a fierce advocate for children, animals, education and the arts. 

James “Jim” Dyer

James “Jim” Dyer is a prominent policy strategist with a wealth of experience in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Dyer is a premier analyst of legislative issues with a tight grasp on the intersection of politics and policy. He works closely with clients in government relations and international sectors, including major defense firms, smaller research consortia, and foreign policy advocates.

Dyer has more than 30 years of experience working with the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, including serving as clerk and staff director for 10 years. During that time, he supervised a 125-person professional staff in discharging the Committee's responsibility to produce 13 annual appropriations bills. He also served as the principal committee liaison to leadership and assisted leadership staff in planning the House of Representatives agenda. Prior to his work with the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Dyer served as the deputy assistant for legislative affairs for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; as the principal deputy assistant for the U.S. Department of State; and as a budget consultant to the Secretary of the Navy.

In addition to his extensive public service, Dyer worked extensively in the private sector, serving as the director of government relations for Philip Morris International and for the Power Systems Division of United Technologies Corp.

He is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and holds the distinguished public service award from the U.S. Navy.

Elliott Ferguson

Elliott Ferguson serves as president and CEO of Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for Washington, DC.

A veteran of more than 25 years in the travel and hospitality industry, Ferguson leads Destination DC's efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization's convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations. Ferguson began his tenure with Destination DC in 2001 as senior vice president of convention sales and services and has served as president and CEO of Destination DC since 2009. Prior to working at Destination DC, he served as vice president of sales at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has also served as director of sales for both the Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Ferguson received a Bachelor of Arts in marketing and business administration from Savannah State University. His many memberships in the industry include the American Society of Association Executives, Professional Conference Management Association, International Association of Exhibition Executives and Destination Marketing Association International.

Ferguson currently serves on the board of directors for the following organizations: the U.S. Department of Commerce's Travel and Tourism Advisory Board; U.S. Travel Association; Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID); the District of Columbia's Taxicab Commission; DC Jazz Festival; Capital Partners for Education; and the Ryan Kerrigan "Blitz for the Better" Foundation. Ferguson also serves on Brand USA's Marketing Advisory Group, DC Business Coalition, and Hospitality Alliance of Washington, DC.

Ferguson is a longtime resident of Capitol Hill, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and is an active mentor with Capital Partners for Education.

Rina Kupferschmid-Rojas

Rina Kupferschmid-Rojas is chief sustainability officer for Fidelity Investments. She was previously global head of sustainable investing at UBS Wealth Management. Prior to that, she was managing partner and CEO of ESG Analytics, an environmental, social and governance-oriented investment consultancy, and later social impact director at MasterCard. She is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University on sustainable and impact investing and, since 2013, has been one of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Young Global Leaders and is a member of the WEF expert network.

Kupferschmid-Rojas holds a master's degree from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She holds certificates on innovating for sustainability and corporate performance from Harvard Business School, as well as certificates on public policy for the 21st century from the Harvard Kennedy School and public policy and leadership from Yale. Kupferschmid-Rojas is also member of the Women Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School. She started her banking career 27 years ago with an apprenticeship.

Michael Lefenfeld

Michael Lefenfeld, a serial entrepreneur and technology thought leader, co-founded and leads SiGNa Chemistry, Inc., a global manufacturer of highly active, environmentally friendly chemicals. SiGNa’s products are used to improve production processes in the energy recovery, petrochemical refining and chemical manufacturing industries. Lefenfeld and SiGNa have been recognized with the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award and the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer Award.

Lefenfeld built his career around the belief that many of the solutions our world seeks — better healthcare, cleaner manufacturing, and sustainable energy — can be achieved with better science. He has dedicated his career to cutting-edge scientific research and his work has led to safer industrial environments, better medical technologies, and more effective, affordable energy solutions. Prior to SiGNa, Lefenfeld embraced his ability for developing and commercializing new technology and launched and sold three other companies by the time he was 30. He has been widely recognized for his efforts including:  World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, ICIS Top Chemical Power Player to Watch, Cedars-Sinai Award for Technology Innovation in Medical Devices, Red Herring Magazine’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 35, Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30, BusinessWeek’s Best Entrepreneurs Under 25. He also holds more than 50 patents in areas including medical devices, controlled release, electronics, chemical reactivity and information technology.

Lefenfeld has a Master of Philosophy in Chemistry from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. Lefenfeld is an annual lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and is an adjunct faculty scholar at Michigan State University. He is a member of the business advisory board for the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, the board of entrepreneurs for Venture for America, the board of directors for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (NYC Chapter) and the advisory board for Washington University of St. Louis’ EECE.

Kenneth "Ken" Lore

Kenneth "Ken" Lore is an attorney and partner at Kattan Muchin Rosenman LLP. He joined the firm in February 2014, where he serves as head of the real estate practice – East Coast. Lore has written extensively on all aspects of real estate law, and his articles have been published in Legal Times, New York Law Journal and American University Law Review. He also lectures on real estate finance at industry forums and seminars, such as the Columbia University real estate development program and meetings of the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association. Lore is frequently interviewed by the real estate and general press for commentary on industry developments and has been a featured speaker on regional and national news broadcasts.

Previously, he was co-chair of Bingham McCutchen LLP's Real Estate Practice Group. He is on the board of the Foundation for the National Archives and was board Chairman and President. He also sits on the Dean's Advisory Council of the Washington College of Law at American University. Additionally, he sits on the board of the National Housing Conference (formerly vice chairman) the advisory board of the Center for Housing Policy, and the editorial advisory board of "Tax Credit Advisor." He was chairman of Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies National Advisory Board from 2004–2010.

Thomas E. Lovejoy, Ph.D.

Thomas Lovejoy passed away Dec. 25, 2021. Read a statement from Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.

Thomas E. Lovejoy served on the advisory board from 2014 until his passing in December 2021. Lovejoy was a university professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation, and the former biodiversity chair of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

Lovejoy introduced the term biological diversity to the scientific community in 1980. From 2009-2013, Lovejoy served as chair of the Scientific Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the multibillion-dollar funding mechanism for developing countries in support of their obligations under international environmental conventions and served as a senior advisor. Lovejoy was assistant secretary and counselor to the secretary at the Smithsonian Institution, science advisor to the secretary of the interior, and executive vice president of the World Wildlife Fund–U.S. He conceived the idea for the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems project, a joint project between the Smithsonian and Brazil's INPA, originated the concept of debt-for-nature swaps, and was the founder of the public television series Nature.

In 2001, he was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and in 2012, he received the Blue Planet Prize, which recognizes outstanding efforts in scientific research or applications of science that contribute to solving global environmental problems. Lovejoy served on science and environmental councils or committees under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations. He received his B.S. and Ph.D., both in biology, from Yale University.

Angela "Angie" Marriott


Angela Marriott is a member of the Marriott Family, long-time supporters of Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. With the Marriott Family's dedication and support, the Zoo has achieved much-needed momentum for its continuing efforts to raise awareness and funding for its work and to maintain its global leadership among zoos.

The Marriott's have also introduced the Zoo's work and important initiatives to other animal lovers, conservationists, and local philanthropic leaders. The Marriott Family played a leading role in securing the funding necessary to bring the Giant Pandas back to the Zoo in 2000 with a gift of $1.6 million, as well as a generous $3 million gift to the Elephant Trails exhibit in 2007, allowing critically endangered Asian elephants to flourish in a state-of-the-art habitat.

Marriott currently serves as a board member of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Mid-Atlantic chapter; the American Heart Association's Women's Board and is a former board member of Best Friends Foundation and Washington Performing Arts Society.

Adrienne B. Mars


Adrienne B. Mars of Jackson, Wyoming, has been involved with various environmental organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution. Since 1974, Mars has served on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater. She has been a part of the Board of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, and the Smithsonian's National Board.

For nearly two decades, Mars has been active with the World Wildlife Fund, sitting on the Board and the National Council. She is also involved with the Washington Opera's Board. Born in Quincy, Florida, Mars earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and history from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

Susan A. Mars


Susan A. Mars, of McLean, Virginia, lived in Singapore and in Belgium before moving to the Washington area. A nurse by training, Mars' passion revolves around providing opportunity for disadvantaged children to lead both a productive life and to learn to appreciate and respect their local environment.

While residing in Singapore, she was an active board member of Caring for Cambodia, a non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of children through education and outreach. Mars served on the board of Insulated Shipping Containers, Inc. from 1990 to 2001 and currently serves on the board of Demios, LLC, a private venture capital firm based in Southern California, whose primary mission is to identify and support early start-up businesses in the areas of health and environmental sciences.

Ziad S. Ojakli


Ziad “Z” Ojakli is executive vice president of government operations at The Boeing Company, the world’s largest aerospace company and one of America’s most significant exporters. Appointed to this role in October 2021, Ojakli reports to Boeing President & CEO Dave Calhoun and is responsible for advancing the company's public policy priorities, including all U.S. federal, state and local government liaison operations, as well as Boeing Global Engagement, the company’s global philanthropic organization. He also serves as Boeing’s chief lobbyist and sits on the company’s executive council.

Ojakli joined Boeing following a successful and diverse career in senior global government relations roles in the automotive and financial services industries, in addition to serving in the White House administration of former President George W. Bush.

Most recently, Ojakli served as the managing partner and senior vice president of SoftBank from 2018 to 2020, where he created and led the investment company's first global government affairs operation in support of all legislative, regulatory and political matters for the company. Prior to joining SoftBank, Ojakli spent 14 years at Ford Motor Company as group vice president, where he led a global team that amplified the company's core business objectives and managed interactions with governments in 110 markets around the world. In that role, he also directed Ford's philanthropic arm devoted to supporting global causes.

Previously, Ojakli served in the White House as principal deputy for legislative affairs for former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. Earlier, Ojakli was chief of staff and policy director for Sen. Paul Coverdell. He also held a number of additional U.S. House and Senate policy and legislative roles as he began his career.

Ojakli currently serves as chairman of the board of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., and he is a board member of The Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Henry Ford Learning Institute.

Ojakli holds a bachelor's degree in American government from Georgetown University.

Nels B. Olson

Nels B. Olson is a vice chairman and co-leader of Korn Ferry’s board and CEO services practice, based in the firm’s Washington, D.C., and New York offices. In addition to his board and CEO services practice role, Olson is the head of the global government affairs practice. 

Olson is recognized in the industry for his keen business sense and political knowledge. He has advised many clients through challenging management transitions. Over the past 20 years, he has completed in excess of 1,000 successful searches for a wide range of Fortune 500 companies. Olson’s executive search and board assignments span the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America, and lie across multiple industries, including financial services, technology, consumer, industrial and healthcare.

Recent CEO-level assignments include Sallie Mae, the Commissioner of the NFL, and the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Boston. Recent board assignments include American International Group, Occidental Petroleum Corp., The Carlyle Group, NewsCorp and The Travelers Companies. Olson is a leader in placing senior-level professionals skilled in government/regulatory affairs, as well as international and public affairs, among them: Boeing, Carlyle, Caterpillar, Starbucks, Hilton, Aetna and Wellpoint. He has extensive experience in leading associations and nonprofit organizations, including Business Roundtable, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and Motion Picture Association of America.

Olson joined Korn Ferry in 1993 after a successful career in public relations and government service. Prior to joining the firm, he was with the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. Preceding this, Olson gained experience in executive search when he was on the staff of the White House in the Office of Presidential Personnel. In this capacity, he identified and recommended candidates for senior political positions in cabinet agencies and was responsible for the political clearance for all presidential appointees. Olson earned a master’s degree in business administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the State University of New York.

Jason Palmer

Jason Palmer is general partner at New Markets Venture Partners, one of the nation’s leading education-focused venture capital firms. As a double-bottom line investor, New Markets focuses on innovative, high impact, early and growth stage edtech companies that improve student outcomes while building profitable organizations. Over the past decade, New Markets has invested in more than 30 education and workforce technology companies that have positively improved the outcomes of more than 47 million schoolchildren and adult learners.

Palmer has been affiliated with New Markets since 2011 and became a general partner in 2016 after three years at the Gates Foundation.He brings 20 years of experience as an education technology entrepreneur, executive and investor, and focuses on fund strategy, supporting portfolio companies and leveraging deep connections with industry leaders. He is a board director for Climb Credit, Motimatic, Mursion, PAIRIN, Signal Vine and Village Capital, and serves as a board observer for APDS, Credly, LearnPlatform and Regent Education. Palmer previously served on the boards of Moodlerooms and StraighterLine, and as a board observer for Galvanize.

Prior to his current role, Palmer served as deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading postsecondary innovation efforts to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged college students by investing in colleges, universities and entrepreneurs pursuing digital and adaptive learning, student coaching and advising, financial aid innovation, and employer pathways. Prior to the Foundation, Palmer founded and grew three investor-backed technology and services companies before holding a series of executive positions at Microsoft, SchoolNet, Kaplan and StraighterLine. At Kaplan, Palmer led three education businesses as general manager or president, in addition to founding and leading the company’s venture capital effort.

Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He is a proud resident of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a 9-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Terry W. Prather

Terry Prather of Winter Park, Florida, recently served as senior vice president of operations at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment with oversight of safety, environmental compliance, ride operations and standardization functions across the company’s 11 parks.

Prather is an industry veteran with more than 29 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. His SeaWorld career started in maintenance and water quality for SeaWorld San Antonio, where he worked from the park's inauguration in 1988 to 1997. During his tenure, the park's security, safety and environmental compliance functions were added to his responsibilities. Prather left SeaWorld San Antonio in 1997 to serve as managing director of San Antonio's Witte Museum. He held that position until being named vice president and general manager of the park that would become Six Flags New Orleans in 2000.

He was promoted to president of Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland, in 2006. Prather returned to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in May 2008 and led Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia, before moving to Orlando in May 2010 to become vice president of operations at SeaWorld Orlando. In October of that same year, Prather was named president of SeaWorld Orlando. Prather led the long-range planning, daily operations and conservation initiatives of the world’s most popular marine life park, SeaWorld Orlando, and its two sister properties, Discovery Cove and Aquatica.

Prather serves on several community boards and has served on many others, including Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, Bethune-Cookman University, Visit Florida, LIFT Orlando, Maryland Tourism Development Board, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, and United Way of Greater New Orleans.

Beth Stevens

Beth Stevens is a former senior vice president of environmental affairs at Disney Worldwide Services. Her responsibilities included reducing company-wide CO2 emissions, promoting nature conservation efforts, and creating a culture of "environmentality" within the corporation. Before joining Disney, Stevens worked at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and then led conservation, science and education programs at Zoo Atlanta. After joining Disney, she became the conservation and science director and then vice president of Disney's Animal Kingdom. She later led the environment and conservation portfolio for Disney's corporate citizenship team. Stevens is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Tubingen and holds a doctorate in biology with emphasis in animal behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Geoff Tracy

Geoff Tracy, of Washington, D.C., graduated from Georgetown University in 1995 with a degree in theology. He then went on to graduate first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Tracy opened Chef Geoff’s in 2000 and Chef Geoff’s Downtown in 2002. Both were opened before he reached the age of 30. In 2006, Tracy opened LIA’S, his third restaurant, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 2015, Chef Geoff’s opened at Dulles International Airport. Chef Geoff’s also provides food service operations for the Jesuit Residence at Georgetown University. Tracy, along with a very talented team, oversees restaurant operations as well as manages the concept, menu development, marketing, finances and growth for eight locations.

As an active member of the Washington, D.C., community, Tracy has served as chairman on the executive board of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Additionally, Chef Geoff’s has contributed to hundreds of charities and local schools and organizations in the form of silent auctions and fundraising. In 2014, Tracy cooked in the East Room of the White House as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. In 2019, Tracy became the ambassador for La Cocina. La Cocina is a local organization with a mission to create opportunities for social and economic change through education, empowerment and culinary training. Tracy is also a member of the Washington Baltimore chapter of the Young Presidents Organization.

James G. “Jim” Vella

James G. “Jim” Vella is the founder of Vella Strategic Philanthropy Group, a Detroit-based consulting venture focused on helping corporations and non-profit partners leverage their resources to develop solutions to complex social issues. Prior to that he was the head of the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, and oversaw Ford Fund’s expanding global outreach.

Vella became president of Ford Fund on Dec. 1, 2006. Prior to this assignment, he served as visiting university professor at the University of Michigan Dearborn, a position he assumed in December 2005. From 2000 through 2005 Vella served in a variety of executive leadership positions, including chief of staff, vice president of corporate public affairs and executive director, corporate communications.

Vella joined Ford in 1988 as a producer for the Ford Communications Network. He held a series of public affairs positions, including broadcast news manager, regional news manager for the Northeast region, director of public affairs for Ford's global manufacturing operations, and director of public affairs global operations. He retired from Ford in December 2019 and began Vella Strategic Philanthropy Group.

Vella is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Detroit-Mercy.