As the elder daughter of the Fund’s founders, Carmen and Allen D. Christensen, Diane has been actively involved with the Fund since initially becoming a Trustee in the early 1970s. She took over from her father as its Executive Director and board chair in 1988 and served as such until Ken Wilson’s arrival as ED in 2002. During this time, she directed its transformation from an Operating Foundation in the visual arts & wildlife conservation to a grantmaking Private Foundation with a self-governing board of trustees, as well as overseeing the donation of its extensive non-western art collections in the 1990s and early 2000s to a number of museums and universities in the USA and overseas. Diane did her undergraduate work at Stanford and her graduate work at Columbia in African and Latin American History (with a particular focus on the economic history of Angola in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries). She then taught at Tufts in the 1970s where she also served as an Assistant Academic Dean. Later she co-founded and directed for ten years the Christensen Research Institute, a conservation biological research facility in Papua New Guinea. She currently oversees her family’s asset management firm while serving on several nonprofit boards, including those of the California College of Arts, Wildlife Conservation Society, Stanford University’s Humanities and Sciences Council and its Arts Initiative, and chairs the board of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation USA which works in Afghanistan. She travels widely and is fascinated by animals & wildlife, non-Western & comparative history, the visual arts, and Papua New Guinea, E Africa & Afghanistan.
Walt Coward holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Iowa State University. His career has combined five years in Laos with International Voluntary Services and serving as research director for the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction in the Philippines with an academic career first briefly with Pennsylvania State University and then sixteen years at Cornell. At Cornell University he served as Professor of Rural Sociology and Asian Studies, Chair of the Department of Rural Sociology and Director of the International Agriculture Program focusing in human ecology and the connections between rural social organization and natural resource management most notably in irrigation in Montane Asia. Walt then spent nine years with the Ford Foundation as Director of the Foundation’s Rural Poverty and Resources Program and later as the Senior Director of the Foundation’s Asset Building and Community Development Program. At Ford he played a particular role in building a global field of environment and development, integrating it with the Foundation’s grantmaking in Rural America and especially the American Southwest. After retiring from Ford, Walt rejoined Cornell to inaugurate a research program on environment and development issues in mountain regions. Walt has played a significant role in reforming the international agricultural research institutions (CG system), and serves on the board of Hispanic Leadership in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA).
Kenneth Kirshenbaum, C.P.A., is the senior partner of Kirshenbaum, Urban & Tan, LLP., located in White Plains, N.Y., a diversified, 10 person certified public accounting firm. His firm provides accounting and tax services to approximately 150 companies and 500 families. Kenneth received his bachelor of science from New York University and served as a senior accountant for the then Big Eight firm of Touche Ross & Co. before joining Mark L. Kirshenbaum & Co. the predecessor firm. Kenneth is the Treasurer and Board member of the Westchester Institute of Human Development, and has served on the boards of Verde Valley School (Arizona), and The Children’s Village Institute in New York.
Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist who lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota. She is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth Foundation, an Indigenous led advocacy and regranting organization with strategic initiatives on Native environmental issues and the survival of sustainable Native communities. She is also the Founding Director of White Earth Land Recovery Project, working for two decades on the land issues of the White Earth Reservation, including litigation over land rights in the 1980s. She has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. Her books include: Last Standing Woman, All Our Relations, In the Sugarbush (children’s non-fiction), The Winona LaDuke Reader, Recovering the Sacred, and her latest, The Militarization of Indian Country, released in 2011. A graduate of Harvard University, with a graduate fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Community Development), and a Masters in Rural Development from Antioch University, Winona is a two time vice presidential candidate for the Green Party, and serves on several advisory boards.
Peter Liu is an entrepreneur who has founded companies and organizations which promote sustainable resources for economic growth. Peter is the co-founding partner of Clean Energy Advantage Partners, an investment fund sponsored by the California Clean Energy Fund and New Energy Capital to provide tax equity capital for renewable energy projects. He is the founder and vice chairman of New Resource Bank, an innovative commercial bank in San Francisco that focuses on the green economy. He is also the co-founder and vice chairman of the China US Energy Efficiency Alliance which coordinates policy and technical collaboration to help China meet energy demands with increased efficiency. Peter is also a board member and shareholder in other innovative companies, such as Ecologic Brands, which makes fully compostable and recyclable packaging for national consumer product brands. In the area of sustainable development, he currently serves on the boards of the Climate Action Reserve and the Roots of Change Fund. In serving his state and local governments, Peter has served as a clean technology advisory board member for the California Public Employees Retirement Systems and the California Teacher’s Retirement Systems and he also served on two Mayor’s green and efficient buildings task forces for the City of San Francisco. Earlier, Peter was a banking and investment banking executive at JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse First Boston. He previously also served as an air quality regulator at the California Air Resources Board and an engineer at the Chevron Corporation. Peter is a graduate of UC Berkeley Engineering and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.
Tom Seligman is the John & Jill Freidenrich Director Emeritus of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. Prior to becoming the first full-time Director in the museum’s history, Tom was a deputy director and Curator of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where he served for twenty years. Tom serves as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and was a trustee of the American Federation of Arts and The American Association of Museums International Council of Museums (AAM/ICOM). He is founder of the Friends of Ethnic Arts. From 1988-92, Mr. Seligman served on the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which reviews requests from other countries for assistance under the terms of the law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Cultural Property Convention. He is a specialist in the arts of Africa. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, he taught college and directed a museum of African art. He subsequently specialized in the arts and culture of the Tuareg people of the central Sahara.
Atossa Soltani is the founder and executive director of Amazon Watch. Founded in 1996, Amazon Watch is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the rights and the territories of indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin (www.amazonwatch.org). Since 1991, Atossa has been working to support indigenous peoples in their efforts to protect their rights to self-determination, territories, natural resources, culture, and way of life. Prior to founding Amazon Watch, Atossa directed campaigns at the Rainforest Action Network (1991-1996). Atossa has worked on documenting and publicizing human rights abuses and environmental disasters caused by extractive industries and large scale infrastructure projects throughout the Amazon. She has led successful campaigns challenging oil companies and international financial institutions to adopt stronger environmental and social standards globally. Atossa is a skilled media strategist, photographer and filmmaker and has produced a number of short educational films about this subject. Atossa serves on the board of directors of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, and has served as the Energy and Water Conservation Program Director for the City of Santa Monica from (1988-91). In her free time, she serves as a photographer for Project Bandaloop, a non-profit aerial dance company. Atossa holds a B.S. in Public Policy Management from the University of Akron, Ohio. She is fluent in Spanish and Farsi.
Richard B. Williams, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian College Fund since October 1997. The American Indian College Fund transforms Indian higher education in the United States by funding and creating awareness of the unique, community-based accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities, offering students access to knowledge, skills, and cultural values which enhance their communities and the country as a whole. Trained as an historian at the University of Nebraska, and with a masters in educational administration from the University of Wyoming, Rick began his career as a paralegal and later director of the Indian Corrections Project at the Native American Rights Fund in Colorado, as well as directing the Cheyenne River Swift Bird Project in South Dakota. From 1981 to 1997 he served in a series of capacities at the University of Colorado-Boulder beginning with directing the American Indian Upward Bound Program and ending as Director of the Academic Services Center for the university as a whole. He is a renowned thinker and frequent speaker and advisor on indigenous educational issues and received an honorary doctorate from Roger Williams University in 2007. Rick currently serves on the boards of Independent Sector and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Endowment. Previous Board and Advisory membership responsibilities have included The White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU), Native Americans in Philanthropy, Scholarship America, IBM Native American Family Technology Journey Advisory Council, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundations’ National Selection Committee and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Tribal College Advisory Panel.
MNY is the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practices of the North West at the Fine Arts Department of the University of Victoria in British Colombia. He is also a practicing visual artist using a range of media, from sheets of steel to watercolors and in between. His work includes numerous publications some of which – co-authored by the Dali Lama, Wangari Mathai and David Suzuki – are printed in multiple languages. The primary theme explored in his practice is an exploration of personal engagement in areas frequently claimed as exclusive to institutional structures. Having trained as a forester, MNY spent two decades in the struggle to conserve the temperate rain forests and associated marine environments of his Haida Gwai homeland, an archipelago off the West coast of Canada. In one of North America’s most successful popular environmental struggles, MNY helped to combine blockades and direct action with innovative legal, political and financial strategies that bridged Indigenous and mainstream Canadian society. MNY has served as the elected chief of a Haida village and run wilderness-experience cultural programs for Haida and settler youth.