Key Staff

Waitt Foundation

mark-dickey.jpgMark Dickey

General Counsel

Mark Dickey joined Waitt Foundation in the fall of 2012 as General Counsel, with more than 20 years of legal experience, including 14 years in private practice. Before joining the Waitt Foundation, Mr. Dickey served as General Counsel of Phoenix Solar US, a designer and builder of large-scale PV solar projects, and as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of VeraSun Energy, a leading producer and marketer of ethanol and distillers grains. Previously, he was Vice President, Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Secretary at Gateway, Inc., a world-wide leader in the PC industry. Prior to Gateway, Inc., Mr. Dickey was in private practice in North Carolina and Oklahoma, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, private placements of equity and debt securities, tax planning, financing and commercial transactions, licensing and joint ventures. Mr. Dickey earned his law degree from the University of Oklahoma, his Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University, and his bachelor’s degree in finance from Oklahoma State University.

jacob-james_staff-cropped.jpgJacob James

Managing Director

Jacob James focuses on novel approaches to philanthropy and public-private partnership. Joining the enterprise in 2009 as executive assistant and policy advisor to the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Ted Waitt, Jacob was later named Managing Director and became a member of the Waitt Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2012. Drawing from his community relations experience in the U.S. and abroad, Jacob¹s approach to advancing the Waitt Foundation’s goals is rooted in pragmatism and results. He was previously involved in local and national public affairs, most recently serving on the staff of Congresswoman Susan A. Davis of San Diego. Jacob holds a bachelor¹s degree in biology from Point Loma Nazarene University and a master¹s degree in government from Georgetown University. On behalf of the Waitt Foundation, Jacob serves as an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative and is a member of the Board of Governors at The San Diego Foundation.

ayana-johnson-headshot_cropped-2.jpgAyana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Programs & Strategy / Waitt Institute

Ayana is a marine biologist with a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She has a particular interest in holistic approaches to sustainable management of ocean resources the incorporate ecology, economics, and sociology. Joining the foundation in 2012, she spends a majority of her time on the road with the mission to collect, create, curate, actualize, and amplify the best ideas in ocean conservation. Her primary motivation is ensuring sustainable seafood for the approximately 1 billion people in developing countries who depend on the ocean for the their nutrition and livelihoods. She has a BA from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and has worked on ocean policy at NOAA and the EPA. You can find out more about her research on her website, and follow her adventures in ocean conservation on her National Geographic blog.

                               Cherie Prothro

Program & Operations Director

Cherie Prothro joined the Waitt Foundation in 2004.  She transitioned to the foundation from Gateway Computers when co-founder, Mr. Ted Waitt, made the decision to focus full-time on his philanthropic work and activities.  While at Gateway, Cherie worked in the General Counsel’s office at the San Diego corporate headquarters beginning in 1999.  Currently overseeing the day-to-day operations, reporting, and management of the foundation’s grants department, she helps identify appropriate programs, projects and organizations for funding and matches them with the interests of the foundation’s Board of Directors. Cherie holds a bachelor’s degree in business operations, with a minor in accounting.

dominique-rissolo_1.jpg

Dominique Rissolo, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Operations / Waitt Institute

Dr. Dominique Rissolo is an archaeologist with field experience in the United States and Latin America. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in anthropology, with an emphasis in archaeology, from the University of California, Riverside, and received his B.A. in anthropology, with a minor in geological sciences, from San Diego State University. Prior to joining the Waitt Institute, Dominique taught anthropology and archaeology at San Diego State University where he is currently an adjunct professor.