Mark Dickey joined Avalon in the fall of 2012 as General Counsel, with more than 20 years of legal experience, including 14 years in private practice. Before he joined Avalon, 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.
Regional Focus: Bermuda, North America
Jacob supervises management of the Foundation’s granting portfolio, primarily for ocean conservation efforts worldwide. He joined the Foundation in 2009 as lead policy advisor and has since served as the primary liaison between Ted Waitt and his global companies, staff, public policy, and philanthropic activities. Before joining the Foundation, he was involved in both local and national public affairs, most recently serving San Diego’s communities as an aide to Congresswoman Susan A. Davis. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Point Loma Nazarene University, Jacob graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in government. On behalf of the Waitt Foundation, Jacob serves as an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative and The San Diego Foundation.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.
Director of Science & Solutions
Regional Focus: Caribbean, Pacific Islands
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.
Program & Operations Director
Regional Focus: Africa, Europe
Cherie joined the Waitt Foundation in 2004, transitioning from Gateway Computers co-founded by Ted Waitt, where she worked in a variety of positions beginning in 1999. Currently overseeing the day-to-day operations of the grants department, she helps identify appropriate 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.
Dr. Dominique Rissolo
Executive Director, Waitt Institute
Regional Focus: Latin America
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.