Board of Trustees

T. Ryan Wilson, Esq., Chairman
Kevin T. Bryan, Vice-Chair, Strategic Outreach and Partnerships; Secretary
Nancy Havlik, Vice-Chair, Nominations
Gabriela I. Coman, Secretary
Marla Bush, Assistant Secretary
Elinor Ginzler, Treasurer

Michelle Baker
Donald T. Bliss, Esq.
Svetlana Dimovski, Ph.D.
Joyce S. Hagel-Silverman, Ph.D.
Allison Henderson
Melanie Jarratt Wolfe
Shahin Mafi
Deborah Riley
Joan Ronnenberg
Elizabeth A. Staples, Esq.
Donald E. Wright

Ex-Officio

Bruce Matter, Esq., General Counsel
Janine Tursini, Chief Executive Officer

Emerita

Lolo Sarnoff, Founder & Chair Emerita (1916-2014)


BIOGRAPHIES

T. Ryan Wilson, Esq. is senior strategic policy adviser with AARP’s Public Policy Institute, where he analyzes consumer issues relating to insurance and investments. He also serves on the Consumer Advisory Committee of the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission, and he formerly served on the Standards Advisory Committee of the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association.  Ryan advises AARP on policy matters and works with their Government Affairs department to advance investor and consumer protections.  Prior to joining AARP, Ryan was with the Maryland General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services, where he specialized in financial services, property, and consumer protection issues.  While there, he was active in the National Conference of State Legislatures and served as the Staff Chair of the NCSL’s Financial Services Committee.  Ryan received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oregon, School of Law and is licensed to practice law in California and Maryland.  He also has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science, both from San Francisco State University.

Michelle Baker has more than 25 years of healthcare communications and public affairs experience. She is currently an Executive Vice President at the Signal Group where she works with health systems, nonprofits, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies on communications strategies and campaigns. Michelle’s expertise includes many of today’s most pressing health issues, including social determinants of health, cancer, addiction and mental health, cardiovascular disease, maternal, infant and child health, telehealth and medtech.  She has helped to forge alliances between nontraditional partners in healthcare, community and business to help address healthcare disparities and engage at-risk patient populations in new ways.  Prior to joining SIGNAL, Michelle led the health practice at Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate, worked at Inventiv/Chandler Chicco Agency and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and was an independent consultant.  A Tulane University graduate with a Master’s degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin, Michelle has provided pro bono work to promote disability-inclusive work environments, support hurricane disaster communications and reduce food insecurity.  As a family caregiver, Michelle has first-hand experience with the challenges of dementia and heart disease. She is proud to support AFTA’s great work in honor of her mother who relied on painting and music for artistic expression throughout her health challenges.

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Retired) joined the AFTA Board in 1989, and as Co-chair of the Board in 2014-15. He is recipient of the 2013 Lolo Sarnoff Founder’s Award for distinguished service, humanitarianism and lifelong engagement in the arts. In 2007, he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada.  Don was a partner of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP for more than 25 years and served in the government as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Executive Secretary to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (under Elliot Richardson) and Acting General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation (under William T. Coleman, Jr.). He also served in the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for International Development. Don is President of the Boards of the United Nations Association for the National Capital Area and serves on the Board of Directors of American Ambassadors. He is the author of Airline Customer Relations, co-author of Counsel for the Situation, Mark Twain’s Tale of Today, and a play, The Return of Halley’s Comet.

Kevin T. Bryan is Senior Policy Director at Keystone Policy Center. Previously, he worked as Senior Mediator at Meridian Institute, where he designed and facilitated multi-party interactions to resolve public policy issues in the areas of climate change and energy policy; and as Facilitator and Senior Coordinator for the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) at RESOLVE, Inc. on wind energy issues, and with federal agencies and local governments on environmental decision making and energy efficiency improvements, respectively. Kevin has a BS in Civil Engineering from Howard University and, among citations, is a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow in public administration.  He has served on the board of the Environmental Leadership Program and as its chair, and is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s Environment and Public Policy Section Leadership Committee.

Marla Bush is an AFTA Teaching Artist who leads “La Movida”, an interactive dance program.  She holds a B.A. and M.A. from American University and an M.S.W. from University of California, Berkeley. Marla has over 20 years experience performing Flamenco and other Spanish dances with the Spanish Dance Society and the Raquel Pena dance troupe. Dance venues have included everything from nursing homes to the Kennedy Center. Marla has led school outreach programs and taught Spanish dance in Washington, DC and in Florida. She recently retired from the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she has developed projects with art therapy associations that use the arts with healthy and frail elderly. She also served as AoA’s representative on the National Endowment for the Arts Creativity across the lifespan Interagency Committtee.

Gabriela I. Coman, Esq. is Partner and Co-Chair of Rubin and Rudman’s Intellectual Property Practice.  She concentrates on medical, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, chemical, semiconductors, and design patents.  Ms. Coman began her legal career as an intern for the Honorable Raymond J. Dearie, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, from June 1997 to August 1997.  She was a summer associate with the Firm in 1998.  From September 1998 to August 1999, she was a law clerk with the Firm’s New York office.  Before entering law school, she attended two years of medical school. Ms. Coman is admitted to practice in New York (2000) and the District of Columbia (2001), and before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Ms. Coman is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Giles S. Rich American Inn of  Court, and the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Ms. Coman attended Medical School of Craiova for two years in Romania.  She received her B.A., summa cum laude, in biology from Baruch College of the City University of New York (1996).  At Baruch College, she received the Excellence Award in Natural Sciences(1996) and the Baruch College Alumni Association Award in Liberal Arts and Sciences (1996).  She received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School (1999), where she was Notes and Comments Editor for the Brooklyn Law Review.

Svetlana Dimovski, Ph.D. is a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Leadership, founder of Dharma Growth LLC, and a Vice President of Transformation Lab at Pact, where she focuses on transformational approaches to improving the lives of those who are challenged by poverty and marginalization. Svetlana has two decades of experience in strategy and change management, innovation leadership, business and product development, and R&D analytical discovery in the private sector and academia. Her work on innovation and growth change management was recognized with the Best Open Innovation Program award at the Chief Strategy & Innovation Officers Summit in 2016. She also appeared in a documentary movie “Experiment 150” in 2016. With a PhD in materials science, and MS in Mechanical Engineering Svetlana has authored many research papers and a book chapter on nanotechnology, and held scientific and business development positions at BASF Corporation and The Procter & Gamble Company. Her deep interests include holistic and integral coaching, artificial intelligence, learning, performing arts, and meditation.

Elinor Ginzler is currently the senior director of the Center for Supportive Services at the Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA), in Rockville, Md.  With senior staff responsibility for an array of community-based programs serving vulnerable older adults, she oversees a medical adult day center, a social day program for adults with early stage memory loss, caregiver education, outreach and support, senior transportation services and mobility management programs.  Prior to her position with the JCA, Ginzler was with AARP for more than 14 years, directing strategic planning, monitoring for AARP’s integrated health work, and developing livable communities strategies in AARP’s Office of Social Impact.  Ginzler brought to AARP more than 20 years of experience in program management and development at the national, state and community levels with public, private, nonprofit and community-based organizations. Her undergraduate work was completed at the University of Pennsylvania and her graduate work in counseling at the University of Maryland.

Joyce S. Hagel-Silverman, Ph.D. has a psychotherapy private practice focusing on learning and emotional disabilities, suicide, grief, separation and divorce. She has served in many volunteer leadership roles in the community including with Black Tie, The Georgetown Club, Capital Speakers Bureau, and Washington International Piano Arts Council. Some of her associations and philanthropic circles include the Philips Collection, Smithsonian, the Washington Ballet, Arts Club and many others. She chaired the AFTA Women’s Committee several years ago and also two successful galas. Her husband Charles Silverman served on AFTA’s board for several years. Special interests include fundraising and promoting music, art, theatre, dance for all ages; advocating and assisting students and adults with learning and health challenges, suicide, grief, family issues; traveling, languages, and reading; lecturing on famous composers (amateur musicologist).

Nancy Havlik,  B.S. and M.A. in Speech, Northwestern University, has directed and choreographed for the past 25 years.  She formed Dance Performance Group (a non-profit 501c3 corporation) in 1989 as a vehicle to explore her own choreographic ideas with a small group of dancers and musicians. Through the Company her choreography has been performed extensively in the Washington, DC area at venues including Dance Place, Joy of Motion, Montgomery College, Jewish Community Center, Joe’s Movement Emporium, Mt. Vernon College and the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Her work has been shown in New York City at Joyce Soho, WAX, the Construction Company and in Eastern Europe. (Czech Republic and Slovakia). She has directed site work performances all over the Washington, DC area in places as varied as C& O Canal, the Building Museum, Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Josephine Butler Center and the Torpedo Factory Arts Center. She participated in the Capital Fringe Festival for 3 years and recently has presented performances at Flashpoint Mead Theatre and at Woolly Mammoth Melton Rehearsal Hall. She has received grants from Maryland State Arts Council, the Montgomery County Arts Council and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Nancy teaches creative movement and intergenerational workshops for older adults through Arts for the Aging (AFTA).

Allison Henderson has spent her 30 year career at Westat working in the education sector. She is well-versed in an array of federal programs and how they can be leveraged to support meaningful and transformative reform for all students.  Ms. Henderson is passionate about strengthening our Montgomery County community.  As a long-time volunteer with older adults, Allison has seen first-hand how the arts can improve physical and mental well-being throughout our lifespans.  In addition to her board membership at AFTA, she is a member of the Caring Matters and Montgomery College Foundation boards of directors.  Allison is a member of Montgomery Moving Forward’s Leadership Group, which is focusing on early care and learning in Montgomery county.  She is part Leadership Montgomery’s CORE class of 2019.  Allison enjoys the arts, travel, and reading.  She is an animal lover who shares her home with two rescue cats.

Melanie Jarratt Wolfe is known for fostering a culture of philanthropy and serving as a catalyst for inspired giving in the museum, performing arts, and medical arenas. During Melanie’s career, she has provided fundraising leadership for some of our nation’s most prestigious cultural institutions, and raised millions of dollars for the Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and Inova Health System. She has an extensive network of contacts in the arts world. Currently, she is an independent nonprofit consultant specializing in capacity building through fundraising, board development, communications, and strategic planning. She is an adept fundraising coach for volunteers and staff and she partners skillfully with executives, board leaders, subject matter experts, and colleagues to create lasting programs resulting in long-term sustainability. As a consultant, Melanie offers fundraising and management counsel to high impact nonprofits-cultural, social services, and healthcare. She also enjoys presenting on the topic of philanthropy. Melanie is a member of the National Capital Gift Planning Council (NCGPC) and National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). She is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). Melanie is also the CEO of Mighty Waves Energy, LLC, a start-up company focusing on renewable ocean energy technology. She has a B.A. in Music (with a German minor) from Wake Forest University and a M.A.I.S. in Organizational Development from George Mason University. She is an amateur flutist and is passionate about the arts and literature.

Shahin Mafi was born in Tehran, Iran.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Advance Institute of Accounting in Tehran, Iran, a MBA in Business Administration from Marshall University, in West Virginia, and a degree in Management Information Systems, from the University of Duphin, in Paris, France. She founded Home Health Connection, Inc. (HHC) sixteen years ago, an organization which provides therapeutic services for children and adults in their homes. Recently, Shahin created The AZAR Foundation for Children of the World.  The Foundation’s primary goal is to fight teenage pregnancy.  All proceeds raised from the foundation go directly to young mothers in need.  Shahin is active in many organizations serving her community.  She enjoys helping others and continues to donate her time by serving as a member of various boards and committees.  She is a Member of the Board of Directors of Innocent at Risk, Inc.; Member, The Women’s Committee of the Washington Ballet, and was formerly a member of the Women’s Committee of Stratford House, a music center located in Bethesda, Maryland.  Like her father, a practicing pediatrician, Shahin has dedicated her life to helping others, whether at work or in her off duty time.

Bruce E. Matter, Esq. practices intellectual property and technology law.  Mr. Matter’s practice is focused on transactions involving the exploitation of copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual properties primarily in the print and electronic publishing, software, and entertainment industries.  He is licensed to practice in Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Florida, and California.  In addition to being a member of the bar in his practicing jurisdictions, Mr. Matter is a member of the Intellectual Property Law Section, the Computer and Telecommunications Law Section, the Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law Section, and the Law Practice Management Section of the District of Columbia Bar.  Prior to establishing his firm, Mr. Matter served as in-house counsel with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc. and with Sea World of California and Sea World of Texas.  He began his legal career working in an intellectual property firm in Alexandria, Virginia.  After graduating from Salisbury University in 1977 with a B.A. in Psychology, Mr. Matter attended George Mason University School of Law where he served as Managing Editor of the Law Review and received his J.D. in 1982.  Mr. Matter also is the executive producer of two television documentaries: Slave Ship and Discharged Without Honor: The Brownsville Raid.

Deborah Riley has been described as one of “the presiding goddesses of this longstanding temple of dance,” (Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post). Deborah provided 30 years of service to the Washington DC dance community at Dance Place from which she retired at co-director in 2017. In her capacity as artist-in-residence, faculty member, staff and ultimately Co-Director, Deborah has contributed immeasurably to nurturing the careers of thousands of dance artists, students and arts administrators. Under her tenure at Dance Place, the organization was awarded the DC Mayor’s Arts Awards for Excellence in Service to the Arts and Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education and is recognized as “the hub of dance activity in Washington DC” (Alan Kriegsman). As a dancer, choreographer and educator, career highlights include international touring with Douglas Dunn & Dancers, collaborative choreography with Diane Frank and director of Deborah Riley Dance Projects. In addition to guest artist residencies at universities across the country, Deborah’s choreographic work has been presented in the U.S, the U.K. and France. In the DC Metro area, Deborah’s Moving Affirmations workshops have helped to facilitate healing and recovery in partnership with community organizations such as the DC Rape Crisis Center, Montgomery County Crisis Center and Whitman Walker Clinic. Deborah currently continues to enjoy her work as a teaching artist with Studio Theater Acting Conservatory, Dance Place, Dance Exchange and Arts for the Aging which is informed by her methodology as a Certified Movement Analyst from the Laban Institute of Movement. She shares her leadership experience and passion for furthering the arts for all populations by volunteering as a board member for Dance Exchange. Past honors include the Distinguished Alumni in Fine Arts Award from Ohio University and twice for the Pola Nirenska Award – Distinguished Artistic Leadership and Lifetime Achievement. Deborah has served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the Bush Foundation. 

Joan Ronnenberg received her BA in Government from Georgetown University and a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard.  After stints working on legislative issues on Capitol Hill and in state government, she tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit and originated a newsletter following the daily workings of the Pennsylvania legislature.  Many Fortune 500 companies and other businesses and trade associations were subscribers. Family brought Joan back to the Washington DC metro area, specifically Montgomery County, where she continues to reside, and to a new career fundraising for non-profits.  For more than ten years, she has been a fundraiser, grant writer, and special events planner working for private independent schools as well as a development consultant to small non-profits. Joan currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County and is a trained mediator. For the past several years she has been a committee member for AFTA’s tennis benefit. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Junior League of Washington and Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park, MD. She is the proud mother of Annie, a University of Michigan graduate who  now works for PWC in New York City, and George, a Penn State undergraduate.

Elizabeth A. Staples, Esq. has over 15 years of in-house legal counsel experience that includes commercial software licensing, Cloud-based hosting and consulting services. Her areas of expertise are in IP licensing, custom software development and government contracts. Beth also has experience in HR matters, due diligence, general corporate matters, privacy and data security governance and asset-based financing skills. She is currently Senior Legal Counsel in the Public Sector division of Adobe Inc., where she manages software licensing and consulting services for Federal, State and Local government customers.  She also oversees government contracting compliance and data security matters.  Before joining Adobe, Beth was in-house counsel with Symantec, Hughes Networks Systems and divisions of Ernst & Young U.S. LLP and TLT-Babcock. Beth earned her Master of Laws (LLM) in IP at The University of Akron, her Juris Doctorate at Cleveland State University, and her B.A. English Literature from University of California. Beth and her husband, Steve Sterner, transitioned to the D.C. Metro area from Ohio when Steve was appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). They enjoy exploring the culture, architecture and art this area has to offer.

Donald E. Wright is Senior Director for Wealth Management at BNY Mellon in Washington, D.C. assisting clients in all aspects of planning, investment management, and specialized banking. He has held senior positions at PNC Financial, Chevy Chase Financial, SunTrust Investment Services, and Merrill Lynch. Don resides in Reston, Virginia, and has two adult sons with similar passions in their career, artistic, and recreational endeavors. Don is a painter, both in water color and oil, and is an avid tennis player. He is a devoted supporter of the Fairfax Symphony, and plays in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles tennis activities as member of the Reston Association. Don’s community involvement includes stints as Corporate Team Lead for the National Heart Walk and United Way of the National Capitol Area. He has served on the board of his neighborhood citizen’s association and local tennis club. He also has been a long time coach in the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, and assistant coach for the Hubert Blake High School tennis team.

Janine Tursini, Director & C.E.O. View biographies of staff and more here.