Friends Of The Observatory
Board of Directors & Staff
Our Board of Directors is a group of volunteers committed to supporting and promoting Griffith Observatory as a strong community centerpiece of scientific learning, education, and public astronomy. Members of the Board come from a variety of professions and backgrounds and are united in their enthusiasm for the Observatory and the ongoing quest to improve its facilities and programs.
With a lifelong interest in mathematics and science, FOTO Chair David Primes began his university career as an engineering student. He later switched to accounting and worked part-time at a large Los Angeles firm. His three-year internship there led to a position with them after graduation. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting and forty years later went back to California State University. Northridge and earned a master's degree. One year later Primes joined the faculty as a part-time professor teaching accounting and information systems in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics at CSUN.
Primes joined Los Angeles-based Sobul, Primes and Schenkel in 1981 and now is a principal in the firm. In addition to client responsibilities (primarily for professional service concerns) he serves as Sobul, Primes and Schenkel's technology leader. A frequent lecturer and consultant on computer topics and accounting technology, Primes is a member of numerous professional associations. He formerly chaired the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California and the Education Foundation of the California Society of CPAs. He resides in Northridge with his wife Joyce.
Grady M. Smith is Senior Investment Director and Vice President at Dimensional Fund Advisors and a member of the Investment Solutions Group. He has general oversight responsibilities for a broad array of global equity and fixed income strategies. His role also includes communicating with clients and others on how Dimensional's portfolios are designed, implemented, and operated and the principles and academic research on which the firm is founded. Grady's experience at Dimensional includes portfolio responsibilities managing U.S. and global equity mutual funds and separate accounts, as well as tax-managed equity portfolios.
Prior to joining Dimensional in 2001, Grady spent more than 20 years as a management consultant, most recently with Mercer. As a principal in its Los Angeles office, he was a lead consultant for some of the firm's largest accounts. Before Mercer, Grady held a similar role with KPMG, where he also served as a national consulting skills instructor, training new consulting staff from throughout the U.S.
Grady earned a BA in economics from Stanford University in 1978 and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2001 (Harold M. Williams Fellow) and is a CFA Charterholder.
Grady has enjoyed a lifelong relationship with Griffith Observatory. His first view through a telescope was of Saturn, through the Observatory’s Zeiss refractor – and he was hooked. During a subsequent childhood spent behind the eyepiece of a telescope, living both in LA and in the mountains near Yosemite, he would frequently call the Observatory’s staff to ask questions and would anxiously await the arrival of the Griffith Observer. While majoring in economics at Stanford University, he continued to enjoy a relationship with the sciences, including coursework in astronomy and related subjects of interest. As an avocation in adult life, he has maintained an ongoing love for the sciences, particularly astronomy, and has led stargazing parties at campgrounds and other dark sky locations over the years. More recently he has appreciated the opportunity to reconnect with Griffith Observatory and looks forward to supporting its continuing science education efforts.
A drive to make science accessible to the public and a passion to increase science literacy has motivated Eve Haberfield throughout her career.
Dr. Haberfield served as the Director of Humanities, Sciences and Health Sciences at UCLA Extension where she provided academic and administrative leadership for over 800 courses each year.
With a PhD in Biology Eve conducted research in physiology and taught various college courses. The satisfaction of teaching science to both future scientists and the lay public lead to a career away from research and into teaching and academic administration.
Early in her career at UCLA Eve met Observatory Director Dr. Ed Krupp and they worked together for many years planning astronomy lay public programs and traveling together to many parts of the world through archeoastronomy travel study programs designed by Dr. Krupp and offered through UCLA Extension.
"Education is the key to understanding the world around us and Griffith Observatory is a wonderful place to look up, learn, and try to understand our place in the universe."
Ethan Eller has lived his entire life in and around the Pasadena area, and he still remembers taking a field trip with his elementary school class to Griffith Observatory. His father worked at JPL in the 50s, and instilled a lifelong love of science, science fiction, and astronomy into his son.
Ethan has been working for the Ben B. & Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation since 1986 as their Property Manager. The Foundation delights in giving every dollar they make to a wide array of charitable causes. In this capacity, Ethan has developed an additional appreciation for architecture and facilities management, and he is thrilled to be working for the incredible Art Deco building that is our beloved Observatory.
Ethan has also served for more than a decade on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Property Owners Association in the Fashion District, providing “safe & clean” services for an 84-block area in downtown L.A.
He is excited to provide his services to support the core mission of Griffith Observatory by making astronomy more accessible to the public. One of his primary goals is to enable as many children as possible to come through the Observatory, thereby firing up their imaginations to become the next generation of scientists, astronauts, astronomers, astrophysicists, explorers, or anything else that they can dream of.
"Inspiring the future, one imagination at a time."
Those were the words that persuaded me to become actively involved in Griffith Observatory. Like most Angelenos, I am proud of the Observatory being a part of our southern California landscape. I saw the true beauty of the Observatory, the ability to capture the minds and spirits of young people, no matter what their race, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Having a mid-August birthday gives me a gift each year with the Perseid meteor shower. Through the years I have shared this gift with family and dozens of friends. Taking people to remote places or even to our yard to observe this event encouraged many of them to take an interest in the universe. I want to be part of the effort to help others become aware of the worlds above us. Starting with school children, we can get them interested and engage their families with their new found enthusiasm. My goal is to have a Student Griffith Observer in every classroom in Los Angeles.
After working in publicly traded Corporate offices, I decided that it was the right time to see what was happening in the family business, Canter's Fairfax. I have been there ever since.
My interest in the Observatory started on the 5th grade tour and has continued through the years. I am honored to serve on the FOTO Board of Directors.
Mr. Bormanis is a writer, consultant, and television producer, currently serving as a writer and co-executive producer of the Fox / Hulu television series, The Orville. He was also a writer and consulting producer on the latest season of the Fox / National Geographic television series Cosmos, based on the award-wining PBS series created by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. In 2016 he was the head writer and co-executive producer of the Mars documentary / drama series for the National Geographic channel.
In 2010 and 2011, he worked as a writer and consultant for the Disney XD animated series Tron: Uprising, based on the feature film Tron: Legacy. In 2009, he was a writer and supervising producer for the ABC Studios series Legend of the Seeker. The previous year, he was a writer and producer on the CBS / Warner Brothers television series Eleventh Hour, and in 2005, for the CBS / Paramount television series Threshold. Prior to Threshold, he was a writer / producer for the Star Trek: Enterprise television series, and science consultant for Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation feature film series. He has written stories and teleplays for both Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Voyager, is the author of a book, Star Trek Science Logs, published by Pocket Books in February 1998, and is a contributor to another book, New Worlds, New Civilizations, also published by Pocket Books. He co-authored the narration for Centered in the Universe, a planetarium show currently running at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. He has written numerous magazine articles for popular science publications including Sky & Telescope, Mercury, The Journal of Materials, and The Colorado Plateau Journal, and is a frequent contributor to the online space policy forum The Space Review.
Mr. Bormanis received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Arizona, and an M.A. in Science, Technology, and Public Policy from the George Washington University. His master’s thesis, directed by Dr. John Logsdon, was entitled A Program in Transition: Policy Aspect of U.S. Planetary Exploration.
Alan has been fascinated with astronomy since he was a child. Growing up in New York, he spent hours at the Hayden Planetarium telling everyone he was going to be an astronomer! Although his career ultimately took another path, that of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, his love of astronomy never waned. He was fortunate to visit many planetariums throughout the U.S. over the years, and is honored to have friends at JPL and NASA.
Alan is an active member of the professional community, having held leadership roles in many programs and organizations. Speaking to his new role with FOTO, Alan says, “I look forward to the excitement and future experiences that await me as a Board member of Friends Of The Observatory. I consider my new position a great honor promoting the Observatory and all the great work that it does educating the future generations as we direct them to look up and witness the wonders of the universe.”
Griffith Observatory is Danish’s connection to space, one that started with childhood trips to Johnson Space Center. The wonders of the universe have inspired Danish all his life, and he hopes his work with Griffith Observatory will help provide the same inspiration to future generations.
Danish strives to improve the human condition by challenging all of us to think differently. He achieves excellence through an uncommon blend of creativity and data that enables holistic, informed decisions. Danish is a driven industry leader recognized for his passion and positivity.
He also mentors students and professionals through local programs. Danish previously helped develop and teach seminars for future scholars in South Los Angeles. He strongly believes success is collective, and it is our obligation to support and elevate everyone, especially those who are underserved.
Native Angeleno and current Los Feliz resident Chris Laib works and lives literally in the shadow of the Griffith Observatory. A graduate of UC San Diego with careers in sales and marketing management, he currently is a realtor with Sotheby's International Realty, Los Feliz. He also sits on the Greek Theater Advisory Committee.
A passion for restoration of historically significant structures drew Laib to the FOTO board, citing in particular the Art Deco Ballin murals and Beaux Arts architectural elements of the Observatory's design. His earliest memories of the Observatory were as an elementary student on several school field trips.
Lowell Orren believes strongly in FOTO's mission to support Griffith Observatory and astronomy education. He is honored to serve on the Board and work with FOTO to further the intellectual and cultural life of southern California.
Lowell grew up in southern California and has lived in Pasadena since 1978. He has been practicing law there with his wife, Tyna, since 2001 - primarily Probate, Trust, and Estates. Before opening his private practice Lowell worked for Southern California Edison and Edison International. Prior to that he was a Senior Economist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena doing energy research. He also worked at City National Bank. Lowell has taught economics at the University of Minnesota; and the colleges of St. Thomas and Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota; UCLA Extension; and California State University, Los Angeles; and business law at University of Phoenix.
Lowell has extraordinary credentials as well, with a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley; an M.A. in Mathematics from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut; a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Minnesota; a J.D. from Loyola Law School; and an LL.M. in Tax from Golden Gate Law School.
For four years Lowell was on the Board of Directors of Temple Beth David in Temple City. He also served five years on the Board of Governors of the Alumni Association for Loyola Law School.
Arnold Seidel is chairman of Morton Seidel & Co., Inc, an independent family-owned brokerage firm established in 1925. He serves as executor and trustee of numerous trusts.
Current community activity includes service as treasurer of the Young Musician Foundation, board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of American Technion Society, founding chairman of Friends of Greystone, and mentor of classical voice at the Fraternity of Friends of the Music Center.
Seidel is a long-time Observatory fan. Bringing all the necessary players together in the best interests of the facility during the renovation was important for success, he believes. "The FOTO board, the Observatory staff and the City of Los Angeles have worked together to make sure everything done has been done with quality."
The Seidels have two sons, David and Craig, and three grandsons, Danny, Tommy and Ronnie. David shares his father's passion for astronomy and currently heads pre-college education programs at JPL in Pasadena. Arnold's wife, Joan, shares his commitment to community service and education and will serve as National President of the American Technion Society, a university based in Haifa with programs comparable to Caltech and MIT.
Vicke Selk credits synergy with bringing her to the FOTO board. She and her husband John had just become interested in amateur astronomy and with the purchase of a telescope were beginning to become acquainted with the night sky, when she was asked to meet with Griffith Observatory personnel to discuss the upcoming Observatory renovation and expansion project that was in the early stages of development. Selk, then vice president and treasurer of Pitzer College in Claremont, California, had acquired considerable experience with construction financing and project management as chief financial officer at the College.
Selk's early tenure on the board grew out of a keen interest in the Observatory as an important architectural symbol for the City. She was anxious to have a role in fostering preservation of the Observatory's historical architectural heritage. However, with increased familiarity of the Observatory and its mission, her interest evolved. "I grew to understand and enthusiastically support Griffith Observatory's role in promoting public astronomy and science education as well, as its function as an important architectural and cultural icon" she says.
A native of Oklahoma, Selk joined the Pitzer administration in 1971. She holds a master's degree from the Drucker Management Program at Claremont Graduate University. She and husband, John, are both private pilots and music lovers with wide-ranging interests from opera to blues. Retired in 2008 after 37 years of higher education administration, Selk is currently enrolled as a student at the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colorado. She is pursuing a second career as a design bookbinder and letterpress printer.
Rich Semler has been a Board Member of Friends of The Observatory since 2013, and served as FOTO President from 2016 through 2018, after serving as Vice President in 2014 and 2015. He has also been an Executive Producer for Signs of Life since 2016.
He is honored to be associated with the Griffith Observatory and its unique contributions to Southern California and the world. He describes himself as a lifelong science and science-fiction buff. It all started in the fifth grade, when he discovered Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs and A Princess of Mars, too. A used 5-inch Celestron telescope with assorted lenses, and later a star globe, sealed his interest in astronomy, and friendship with JPL and Cal Tech scientists cemented it all.
Rich's education is in the liberal arts, although his career was in the business world. He attended graduate school and taught at Case Western Reserve University and at Tufts University. Following his academic studies, he turned to the financial services industry and built a successful career as a Citicorp executive in NY and LA. For 12 years he helped run a mid-sized management consulting firm, and in 2000 co-founded the Semler Brossy Consulting Group, who are advisors to the CEOs and Boards of a significant cross-section of the Fortune 100 and Fortune 500. Rich is still Chairman, but no longer an active consultant. Over his career, Rich has served on the Boards of various not-for-profit organizations and President of several and has been an advisor to and investor in several start-up firms in technology and finance. He and his wife are strong supporters of various community organizations in education, the arts, and social services.
Like Griffith Observatory Director Dr. E.C. Krupp, Rich is fascinated by ancient cultures. He has visited dozens of important archaeological sites, including several trips to Egypt, and such wonderful places as Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Turkey, and Syria. Rich is an avid golfer and tennis player.
Rich has fond memories of Griffith Observatory: from movies, visits over 50 years, and from history. He loves the grounds and the iconic building and is happy to help preserve it. But he is especially proud of the educational mission of the Observatory and the broad reach of its science programs.
McKinley Tennyson is a Vice President of MUFG Union Bank's Commercial Banking team in Los Angeles. He has served both private and publicly held companies across several industries, including: financial services, technology, manufacturing, real estate, and nonprofit. Prior to joining MUFG Union Bank, McKinley worked for a boutique investment bank, an international public accounting firm, local government agency, and a Fortune 500 commercial real estate firm. He has also been apart of several entrepreneurial ventures and versed in Small Business and community development lending.
McKinley holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California-Los Angeles and a Master of Accounting degree from the University of Southern California along with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
McKinley is an avid soccer fan, who is also involved with many local youth soccer organizations in Southern California as a coach and mentor. He is a former professional soccer player that played both domestically and abroad with notable teams GIF Sundsvall of Sweden as wells as the Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS. He was also a National Champion and All-American while competing for the Men's Soccer program at UCLA. Lastly, McKinley is an active member of the Riordan Fellows Alumni Association at UCLA Anderson, an advisory board member of The Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation, board member of the Education Fund for the Greater Los Angeles African-American Chamber of Commerce and a recent addition to the Water Buffalo Club of Los Angeles.
McKinley resides in Los Angeles with his wife and their two children.
Charles Wilmot has been a banking professional for more than 20 years and currently serves as a senior vice president and group lead in the commercial bank with Wells Fargo Bank. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Wilmot spent 10 years with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi / BTMU Securities and Union Bank (all members of MUFG, a global financial services firm) in corporate and capital market banking. His prior experience also includes Bank of America's commercial banking group where he worked with both publicly-held and privately-held businesses in the Greater Los Angeles region; while there he led the tax-exempt banking practice for Bank of America in Los Angeles. At Wells Fargo, Wilmot and his team are centered on growth capital, leveraged finance, the capital markets, and a client-centered focus delivering innovative solutions.
A southern California native, Wilmot was born and raised in Orange County; he earned a BA in Economics from Graceland College and an MBA in Finance from the University of Iowa. He studied at Manchester Business School (graduate summer program) and is also a FINRA registered principal with series 79 and 63 security licenses.
“I remember as a youngster taking field trips to the Observatory and had fond memories. That was the initial spark for my involvement now,” he says. “I already supported their mission of education outreach as I benefited from that personally and thought this would be a great opportunity. But part of my interest has to do with what the Observatory does besides that [educational] mission: the scientific mission of the observance of the heavens”.
Wilmot formerly served on the Alumni Board of Directors for Graceland College and the South Bay Economic Development Partnership. In addition to Friends Of The Observatory, he also serves on the Trustees of the Pacific - Aquarium of the Pacific and on the Finance Council for American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach. He is an active volunteer with the University of Iowa’s ASIST (Alumni Seeking Iowa Students) Program recruiting high school kids from southern California to attend the University of Iowa, is active with the Knights of Columbus, and serves as an adult leader in the Boy Scouts of America.
A resident of Hermosa Beach, Wilmot and his wife Maureen have two children Charlie and Isabel. He enjoys family travel, skiing, SCUBA, tennis, Iowa Hawkeye football, Taekwondo, and observing the night sky.
Les was born in Los Angeles and attended primary, middle, and high school in the Hollywood area. When he was eight years old, his dad took him to this amazing place where he had never been and could have scarcely imagined: Griffith Observatory. What impressed him most at the time were 31 of the best paintings (all originals) created by the celebrated astronomical artist, Chesley Bonestell, that were on display in the rotunda. Les did not keep his delight with the Observatory in general – and with Mr. Bonestell's works in particular – a secret from his family, as a result of which Santa Claus, in his infinite goodness, left a copy of The Conquest of Space under the Christmas Tree that year, and Les became hooked. He never missed a new planetarium show, and he bought all the books that he could find that featured the astronomical paintings of Mr. Bonestell. In 1969, while finishing his senior year at USC, it was Les's pleasure to make the great artist's acquaintance when he interviewed Chesley Bonestell for some classwork, an interview that was published in L.A.'s original underground newspaper, The Los Angeles Free Press, two years later.
Although he has always been interested in astronomy, Les never had the aptitude for the math a degree would have required and has, instead, pursued a career in law and real estate. He graduated from Southwestern University School of Law with a practice that has focused for most of those years on personal injury and real estate and business matters.
As for his other interests, Les's dad was a composer of some renown; and for the past five years, it has been Les's pleasure to assist with the production of CDs of the music of Eugene Zador that have been released on the Naxos label. Les also has a genuine interest in outstanding film music (Aaron Copland, William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, etc.) and has served for the past 15 years on the Board of Directors of the Film Music Foundation, a charitable institution which generously supports students studying the art of composition for film and television and also produces broadcast quality interviews with outstanding composers and orchestrators working in film and television both domestically and abroad. It was because of his good friend and fellow Film Music Foundation Board Member Linda Danly that he met her sister, Laura – Curator of Griffith Observatory, and started attending All Space Considered as a regular about six years ago.