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Monthly Member Muse Spotlights

September 2018 Member Spotlight

Upon graduating from The University of Arizona, where he earned dual degrees in Finance and Marketing, Mr. J.P. Dahdah began his professional career in 1997 as a financial advisor with American Express Financial Advisors, Inc., a Fortune 100 company. In 1999, he started Dahdah Global Wealth Management, LLC, a comprehensive wealth management company which specialized in working with business owners and high net worth families. His advisory work with affluent clients helped him identify a need in the financial industry for an alternative custody provider built to help Americans diversify their tax-favored retirement savings beyond the stock market. J.P. founded Vantage Retirement Plans, LLC in 2004 to fill that market need. Vantage currently administers over $1 billion in retirement assets serving clients nationally. He is recognized as a thought leader in the alternative investment retirement plan industry and has been quoted in major national financial publications including The Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Over the years, Mr. Dahdah has received a multitude of awards and recognitions, which include being awarded the prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and being honored by the Phoenix Business Journal with the “Forty Under 40 Award” as one of the Valley’s most influential leaders in Arizona. J.P. served as the President of the Arizona Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and is actively involved philanthropically in the local community via many charitable organizations.

J.P. looks to PCFR to satisfy his appetite for international news and informed perspectives. When J.P. served PCFR as a board member and membership committee volunteer, he focused on increasing PCFR’s diversity and presence in Phoenix. Not only did serving PCFR provide J.P. a tremendous education in volunteerism, he developed lifelong friendships.

J.P.’s international interests and Guatemalan heritage were the inspiration for his non-profit Advance Guatemala, a 501(c)(3) organization he founded in 2008. Advance Guatemala raises capital for organizations serving communities in Guatemala to encourage development throughout the country.

A fun fact about J.P. is that he went skydiving to celebrate his 30th birthday!

Thank you for your commitment to PCFR, J.P.!

June 2018 Member Spotlight

James Ahlers is one of PCFR's newest board members. As a former journalist and bureaucrat, and currently an active lawyer, James likes to joke that he is "working his way through the country's most hated professions."

James spent 6 years in the journalism industry. He worked on newspapers, magazines, and radio in the midwest, Santiago, Chile, and Arizona. James used his Spanish language skills to become a go-to writer for stories about Arizona-Mexico relations and the Hispanic community. James was then offered a position at the Governor's office working on Arizona-Mexico relations. He proceeded to act as a spokesperson for the Governor and a state agency before going back to school.

James considered pursuing either an MFA or J.D. He chose to pursue his J.D. at Harvard Law School. He had always been interested in law and felt it would complement his work in government. Today, James is General Counsel & Vice President Of Global Initiatives at Molera Alvarez--a government and public affairs firm.

In his spare time, James enjoys soccer, hiking, and some creative writing. One of his favorite cities is Santiago, Chile, where he lived for 3 years. Santiago is special to James because of his experiences there, such as watching the 1998 World Cup, and the people he met. In the near future, James wants to visit his brother in Myanmar and take his wife, who is of Irish heritage, to Ireland.

James joined PCFR because it provides a space for people with a global mindset to engage intellectually and philosophically. He appreciates that members are thoughtful, informed, and unified around the mission of being a center for diplomacy and productive foreign relations. James thinks PCFR is important because, as a border state, our daily lives and policy decisions are necessarily intertwined with our international neighbors. Finally, James sees being part of a relatively new community like Phoenix as an opportunity to influence its character and future to be more internationally-focused.

Thank you for your contributions to PCFR, James!

May 2018 Member Spotlight

Keith Galbut is a Phoenix native and received his B.A. in Economics from Emory University in 1997. He earned his Masters in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and obtained his J.D. with a focus in international and corporate law from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Mr. Galbut works with small and mid-sized businesses as an attorney at Galbut & Galbut, and he recently started advocate, a new businessthat specializes in aligning custom homeowners' interests directly with teams of experienced building professionals.

After law school graduation, Mr. Galbut was interested in connecting with the international community in Phoenix. This interest led him to PCFR. Since joining PCFR, Mr. Galbut has served on the membership committee, the executive board, and as president. His extensive involvement in this organization evidences his belief that PCFR serves a unique and important role in Phoenix:

"There are very few things that mean more in terms of the continued development of Phoenix than its connection to the broader world. In order for Phoenix to thrive - to have deepened capabilities, greater arts, and community building - it is essential that Phoenix be connected in a big way to the outside world; and Phoenix is today. PCFR plays a role in keeping that development going."

Mr. Galbut has built many relationships with PCFR members who have become dear friends. PCFR opened his eyes to the international business community and made him aware of important issues that he would not otherwise know about.

A fun fact about Keith Galbut: As a college student he worked as a scuba instructor. His scuba-diving career took him to the Galapagos, South Pacific, Central America, and Africa, and allowed him to dive with great white sharks and tiger sharks!

Thank you Mr. Galbut for your commitment to PCFR and the Phoenix community.

March 2018 Member Spotlight

PCFR is grateful to have Claire Sechler Merkel serve our organization as a board member. Prior to her current role as the Director of Arizona Initiatives and Human Trafficking for the McCain Institute, she worked for three presidential campaigns, in the U.S. Senate, the White House and for the International Republican Institute, working on democratic development in Eastern Europe. Claire now combines extensive international experience with her passion for her home state of Arizona. She spends the majority of her time working on programs to combat human trafficking, and collaborating with foreign policy organizations on behalf of the McCain Institute.

When Claire returned to Arizona after 30 years living in Washington, DC and Malmo, Sweden, she knew she needed a way to remain engaged with international affairs. PCFR has been a reliable source of information for Claire. She enjoys hearing from the various speakers. Through PCFR Claire has developed new connections with fellow Arizonans interested in international affairs, and she values that PCFR is a dynamic and vibrant group of thoughtful individuals. She recognizes that as Phoenix continues to develop in international importance, PCFR will continue to facilitate interactions among individuals interested in international events.

A fun fact about Claire: she lived in Sweden with her family for two years! They were able to travel together to 29 countries, making memories that will last a lifetime.

Thank you Claire for your service to PCFR and our Arizona community.

February 2018 Member Spotlight

PCFR member Sarah Suggs grew up in Tempe, Arizona as a third generation Arizonan. She attended Brigham Young University and began her career with a Fortune 50 company. Her career experiences include working for John McCain's political campaign, The National Women's Hall of Fame as an Executive Director, and currently the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute as President and CEO.

Sarah has always had a heart for the community. When she was 12 years old, she spent a summer volunteering with the deaf and blind - a life changing experience. She remains involved in the community through a variety of organizations including PCFR.

Sarah really appreciates the mission of PCFR and PCFR's willingness to collaborate with other organizations, like the O'Connor Institute, to bring remarkable speakers to Phoenix. She became a member because the organization promotes higher thinking and connects people of great accomplishments. As an Arizona native, she has seen this state grow in numbers and wealth. She recognizes that as Arizona grows, it must develop its thinking. PCFR enables this by bringing global speakers to Arizona. A fun fact about Sarah: she loves to visit small towns while travelling.

Thank you Sarah for all that you contribute to PCFR!

January 2018 Member Spotlight

PCFR board member Paul Arutt has lived in Arizona for the past 30 years. After growing up on the east coast he completed his undergraduate degree in macroeconomics at the University of Southern California, and later a Master of Business Administration at Columbia University. Paul has worked in both the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds of finance. Currently he primarily advises lawyers and physicians in investment and retirement planning as the President of Heritage West Capital.

Paul believes service and involvement is part of our responsibility to improve the quality of our global community here in Phoenix. Paul contributes to PCFR to improve open discussion and understanding of global issues affecting Phoenix and welcome those sharing our interests to join the Committee.

Paul was initially drawn to PCFR because of its interesting members and discussions. His career in finance exposed him to various international topics and participating in PCFR has allowed him to increase this knowledge. He believes PCFR serves an important role in the Phoenix community for three reasons: (1) Everyone involved in PCFR is well educated and articulate; (2) PCFR members and speakers are able to speak candidly without concern that they will be characterized by their opinions; and (3) PCFR does not push an agenda, which allows people to develop friendships organically.

A fun fact about Paul: his great-grandfather owned a jewelry store and taught Paul about watches. Whenever he travels to a foreign country he finds a broken watch to take home and repair. Thank you for your commitment to PCFR and the Phoenix community Paul! 

December 2017 Member Spotlight

James Arrowood has lived in Arizona for nearly eight years. Before he called the desert home his academic and professional endeavors took him around the world. James earned degrees in political science and theater at UC Irvine. After completing his undergraduate studies James went to Notre Dame Law School. In his second year of law school he studied international law, including Chinese and European Union Law in London and worked in the House of Lords. After law school, James developed a niche in high technology law, which is a key aspect of his current law practice.

James has always been interested in international subjects, and participating in PCFR allows him to maintain that interest and meet individuals with similar interests and concerns. He realizes that most people are unaware of how international Arizona is: our high tech, mining, and business industries make Arizona relevant internationally. PCFR allows James to have access to people who are conscious of Arizona's international relevance.

As a PCFR board member, James is working towards increasing PCFR's profile locally and nationally. He believes PCFR is important to Phoenix because it is the most prominent non-partisan outlet for international discussion. PCFR presents a neutral platform for members to explore issues that do not receive a lot of publicity. In addition, James has built great contacts through PCFR, and he is grateful to connect with PCFR luminaries such as Michael Patterson..

James enjoys being active in the Phoenix community. He recognizes that just as all politics are local, the local community will determine the direction and strength of our nation. By being active in Phoenix, James is able to gain perspective on issues, and better understand how to approach different topics.

A few fun facts about James: He collects coins from different countries and eras, he is the proud owner of a labradoodle with a pink mohawak, and his personal library includes over 4,000 books.

We are very grateful to have James Arrowood on the PCFR board and for all that he contributes to the Phoenix community! 

November 2017 Member Spotlight

PCFR is grateful to have Adam Mcanally serve our organization as a board member. Adam's early career involved various roles in advocacy while working at the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. He is currently focusing on energy and regulatory issues as a Regulatory Analyst for the Salt River Project, in addition to pursuing his Master of Business Administration.

Before launching his professional career, Adam studied political science with a focus in international relations at the University of Arizona.  When he completed his undergraduate studies, he moved to Phoenix and immediately began looking for an organization that shared his interest in foreign affairs. PCFR stood out to Adam because of its leadership role in Phoenix and its ability to present speakers from around the world. Given his interests, experiences living abroad, and the quality of PCFR programming, Adam became a natural fit in our organization.

Since participating in PCFR, Adam has developed many relationships. He is particularly fond of Mel Sanderson, who shared with him advice for articulating global issues to local companies. Through PCFR, Adam has built meaningful connections that have positively influenced his career.

When it comes to remaining involved in the Phoenix community, Adam is confident that "you get out of something what you put into it." By investing in the local community, Adam has strengthened his ties to Phoenix.

A fun fact about Adam: he was a competitive cheerleader in high school whose squad won national and state competitions televised on ESPN! 

Thank you Adam Mcanally for contributing to PCFR - our organization is certainly better because of you. 

October 2017 Member Spotlight

Board Member Joan Jordan's favorite memories abroad include working in Asia, especially spending months in Hong Kong pre-and post- the British/Chinese handover. She has studied sovereign history by traveling to the ancient capitols of numerous countries including Egypt, China, Greece, Kenya, Japan and Turkey. Joan's international experiences, thirty years of traveling abroad for a variety of tech industries, enable her to contribute a unique and valuable perspective to PCFR. Participating in PCFR satisfies part of Mrs. Jordan's continuing learning quest by presenting an array of global humanitarian, diplomatic, and military discussion opportunities. She enjoys spending time with PCFR members, who she characterizes as a gracious group of people willing to give of their time and energy. Mrs. Jordan considers the depth of knowledge among members as one of PCFR's most valuable assets: "over a coffee or cocktail conversation you can gain unique and personal insight to what our members have experienced abroad."

The greatest thing Mrs. Jordan has learned from PCFR is that volunteerism and philanthropy are thriving. As a part of the Membership and Navigator Committees, she sees how a few volunteer hours can add tremendous value to the PCFR experience in our global community. Phoenix, as the 5th largest city in the U.S., is an important part of the national and international conversation. PCFR hosted and co-sponsored programming allows its members to ask the tough questions and encourages deeper thought regarding issues affecting us all. A fun fact about Joan Jordan: She won't eat a fish, but she enjoys deep-sea fishing! PCFR is fortunate to have Joan Jordan as a board member, and appreciates her dedication to serving the Phoenix community.

September 2017 Member Spotlight

Board member Stephen Rodis moved to Arizona from Connecticut to attend Arizona State University (ASU). After completing his studies at ASU, Steve became a Certified Public Accountant and is now a Partner at Wallace, Plese + Dreher. Steve believes in using his knowledge and experiences to give back to the community, so he volunteers his time to educational organizations. Two organizations he is passionate about include the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants and PCFR. Steve developed an interest in PCFR after attending the annual International State of the State event. Since then, he has enjoyed learning about leadership from Colin Powell, and gaining understanding of current events in China, Russia, and the Middle East. He values the quality and reliability of PCFR's speakers, who are able to relay information from personal and professional experiences abroad. PCFR allows Steve to hear information that isn't shared in other news sources and keeps him attuned to the international events affecting his clients. 

Steve sees PCFR as a link between international news and Phoenicians. From his perspective, PCFR provides individuals an opportunity to see and hear from world leaders and is an important alternative news source for the public. As a participant in PCFR, Steve is able to remain knowledgeable of various topics and engage key speakers about international affairs. In addition, Steve enjoys making wood furniture, has three children, and is the proud grandfather of three grandsons and a recently born granddaughter. PCFR is fortunate to have Steve Rodis as a board member, and appreciates his dedication to serving the Phoenix community.

August 2017 Member Spotlight

Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations is fortunate to have Michael Patterson as a board member. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing  Mr. Patterson and enjoyed hearing about his background, passion for international law, and interest in PCFR. Mr. Patterson is an international business lawyer with Polsinelli, one of the 100 largest firms in the country. He works with clients primarily on transactional, merger and acquisition and securities deals. His family is from Arizona - his grandfather owned the Purity Dairy in Douglas two blocks from the historic Gadsden Hotel.

After completing his undergraduate degree in History with a focus on Latin American Studies, he worked with the poor in Latin America, which is where he developed an interest in an international career and learned to speak Spanish fluently. He returned to the States, graduated with his Juris Doctor from Arizona State University, and went back to Mexico City to work with law firms there. He loves being an international business attorney because he works with clients from around the world and participates in internationally focused organizations, such as PCFR. Mr. Patterson became involved in PCFR at founding member Shoshana Tancer's recommendation. PCFR allows Mr. Patterson to connect with top international leaders in the region. He considers PCFR a great organization because it keeps Phoenicians abreast of international policy. He recognizes that PCFR performs a key role in keeping global policy clarified for our city and state by facilitating timely, interesting, informative, and critical dialogue. An interesting fact about Michael Patterson: he sings in a Spanish band called the Hijos de Papi!

June 2017 Member Spotlight

I recently had the privilege of interviewing PCFR board member, Mr. Matthew Apfel. Matthew is originally from Arizona and discovered an interest in international affairs after he was selected to represent Phoenix as a high school Sister Cities youth ambassador living abroad in Chengdu, China. This experience opened a whole new world to him which compelled him to study at The George Washington University in Washington D.C., where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs with a focus in Chinese politics, and later his Juris Doctor degree with a focus in public international and Chinese domestic law. As an attorney in Phoenix and Washington DC, he enjoys working with complex and culturally sensitive issues. Following work at the U.S. Department of State, Matthew helped direct litigation in Federal court in Washington DC against terrorist sponsor nations such as Syria, Libya, and Iran. 

When Matthew moved his primary residence back to Arizona from Washington D.C. he wanted to join a group that would allow him to speak with people from different perspectives about international affairs and PCFR provided him this outlet. He believes PCFR is important to the Phoenix community because it exposes people to think about pertinent and daily issues from different perspectives and allows for discussions on how these issues will affect the United States and Arizona. He values that PCFR provides an opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers explain international events. As an active member in PCFR and the Phoenix community, Matthew believes maintaining our civil society requires bringing people together and taking action. He wants to see Arizona continue to sustainably grow and takes much pride in his home state.  A fun fact about Matthew: he enjoys cooking, and has been to every national park and monument in Arizona!

May 2017 Member Spotlight

I recently had the privilege of interviewing PCFR board member, Mrs. Lorianne Taitano. Lori lives in Tempe, AZ with her husband of 20 years and three sons. After a childhood of living abroad, since her father was in the military, she attended Arizona State University where she received her degree in Political Science. She has worked with SRP for 12 years and loves her role as Executive Analyst and Chief Compliance Official. She joined PCFR because her role at SRP involves work in public affairs and managing international programs. PCFR allows her to develop a clearer understanding of international events, and strengthen her relationships in the community. She enjoys the speakers PCFR hosts and engaging in thoughtful discussion at the unique events. 

From her perspective, the opportunity to ask key speakers questions and the reasonable cost of PCFR sets this organization apart from other organizations in Arizona. As a board member, she looks forward to connecting more of the community to PCFR and facilitating opportunities for the next generation of PCFR members. As a member of various local groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, and Valley Leadership, she realizes engaging the greater community is key to understanding the world around us. She has seen Arizona grow over the past 25 years and firmly believes that Arizona will be most successful as people stretch beyond their comfort zones to build community. A fun fact about Lori: She learned to speak German in elementary school in Germany, but couldn't learn Spanish in high school in Arizona, despite being part Mexican!

April 2017 Member Spotlight

I recently had the privilege of interviewing PCFR founding member, Professor Shoshana Tancer. Early on, she recognized the need for an organization in Phoenix that would allow individuals interested in international topics to connect with and learn from one another. Professor Tancer has learned a lot from the PCFR lectures, and most values the community she's gained. Because of PCFR, she has a professional network she can call on if she ever needs insight from an area outside of her expertise. Professor Tancer told me that she believes the quality of life in a community is based on a variety of factors including the arts, education, international topics, and women's rights and access to the community. By contributing to organizations focused on these topics, she is able to improve the quality of life in Phoenix. Professor Tancer is the first founder to take advantage of the new PCFR Lifetime Benefactor Program. She recognizes that every organization has a lifecycle, from founders to those who continue it. Professor Tancer and her husband wanted to make sure that as PCFR founders make way for other members, the organization continues to be successful.


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