Russ Sperling [he/him/his] (President) is the Director of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) for San Diego Unified School District. He is responsible for all components of arts education in the California’s second largest school district. Under his leadership, the district’s board of trustees unanimously approved a district Strategic Arts Education Plan in the fall of 2016 and established the VAPA Foundation, supporting the arts in schools in 2017.
Mr. Sperling currently serves as Western Division Immediate Past President of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). He previously served as President of the California Music Educators Association (CMEA).
He is a founder and remains the lead coordinator of the San Diego Pride Youth Marching Band, an ensemble of 80 high school and college students from throughout Southern California. The band performs in San Diego Pride events and parade, and is the only one of its kind internationally.
He is the founding President and now board member of the San Diego Winds, a professional wind ensemble. He is the Director of the Grossmont College Concert Band.
Mr. Sperling served three years as Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education. He provided consultations and services to the 42 school districts in San Diego County on all facets of arts education, K-12. While at the county, he served as the leader of Arts Empower San Diego, San Diego County’s strategic arts education initiative. He has also served four years as Director of Visual and Performing Arts for the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Mr. Sperling began his career as the Instrumental Music Director at Helix Charter High School. During his fourteen-year tenure at Helix, the band and orchestra tripled in size, won numerous awards and performed in Europe on three tours.
Mr. Sperling holds a B.A. in Political Science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, a Masters in Educational Leadership from Point Loma Nazarene University and a second Masters in Music Performance with an emphasis in Conducting from San Diego State University.
Mr. Sperling was recently recognized as San Diego Pride’s Volunteer of the Year. He has received the Arts Advocate award from Bravo San Diego. From the CMEA Southern Border Section, he has received their “Music Educator,” “Administrator,” and “Band Director” of the year awards. He has received the Outstanding Administrator award by the California Art Education Association, and has been honored as a distinguished alumnus by the School of Music and Dance at San Diego State University. He has received the “Prize Principal Award” from KYXY FM and Point Loma Nazarene University. He has received the Golden Apple Award from Helix Charter High School for excellence in teaching.
Tom Abbas [he/him/his] (Treasurer) Tom is a native San Diegan and a 1984 graduate of San Diego State University with a degree in Accounting. He is a Certified Public Accountant and has been a partner with Abbas, Jenson, & Cundari for the past 30 years. He has served on the board of directors for several local non-profit organizations including Special Delivery San Diego, America’s Finest City Softball League and the Greater San Diego Business Association Charitable Foundation.
Debbie Macdonald [she/her/hers] (Member-at-Large) worked for the YMCA of San Diego County for 25 years. Debbie began her YMCA career at the East County YMCA as the director of child care services. Subsequently, Debbie was promoted to executive director of the YMCA Childcare Resource Service providing services to child care programs and low income families in San Diego County. As executive director, Debbie was responsible for a budget which included many federal, state and local government contracts. Debbie was active in state wide and federal advocacy and served on many state wide boards of directors.
Debbie graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in political science, San Francisco State University with a M.A. in child development and San Diego State with a MBA.
Debbie retired from the YMCA in 2014 and remains active in the community as a board member at Temple Emanu El, a board member for Osher, Life Long Learning Institute at UCSD, secretary of the Clairemont Democratic Club and co-chair of the leadership team of the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI).
Debbie is married to Nancy Kossan and has two sons and a new granddaughter.
Scott Williford [he/him] (Immediate Past President) was elected to the Diversionary Board in July 2014 and as Board President in February 2017. Scott stepped down as President in June 2022 and continues to serve on the Board Executive Committee. He has brought a perspective as a patron of the Diversionary Theatre from its early years, as well as a diverse business experience background across many industries in San Diego since 1982. Scott currently works at Survivors of Torture International as Senior Development Manager, after retiring from SDG&E in 2021. He has extensive experience in customer relationship strategies, product marketing and analytics in Aerospace, Technology Research, Software, Banking and Utilities industries. He was a pioneer in LGBT tennis organizations in the 1980’s and 1990’s, serving as Board President for the San Diego Tennis Federation (SDTF) for seven years and later founded the international Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA). Scott received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at UC Davis and an MBA in Finance from San Diego State University.
Melody Corvalán [she/her] (Trustee) Granddaughter to Mexican migrant field workers is a San Diego native. Melody was the first in her family to attend college. She was accepted to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where she majored in International Studies. She spent her 20’s living in Argentina where she brought back a big souvenir, her now 13 year old son Diego. Melody is the daughter of a retired Mariachi musician, her son has taken on the family tradition and is now a 5th generation trumpet player. Melody however, has no musical talent and instead has learned she possesses other useful talents. Melody has been planning weddings and events for 15 years, moving back to San Diego in 2016 to work for the Hotel del Coronado as the head of their weddings department. Melody didn’t come out of the closet until her 30’s which prompted her to dive into nonprofit work benefitting the LGBT community including the SD Human Dignity Foundation, the SD Human Rights Campaign as well as the SD LGBT Center. Melody and her partner Roman (a trans man, advocate & housing specialist) coparent two dogs (Storm, a white husky and Oso a black poodle mix).
Jay Henslee [he/him/his] (Trustee) is originally from Northern California, but has enjoyed calling San Diego home for the past eight years. Jay attended Chico State University with a major in marketing and sales. He is currently a Vice President, District Manager for U.S. Bank, having spent the past 14 years in various roles throughout California. He was a recipient of the Sacramento Business Journal “40 under 40” award, and was instrumental in expanding the U.S. Bank retail market in Northern and Southern California. He is heavily involved with a number of local non-profit organizations, and is on the Board of Directors for Rebuilding Together San Diego, City Ballet of San Diego and the San Diego Performing Arts League. Jay is a 2017 graduate of LEAD San Diego.
Daniel Jáquez [he/him/his] (Trustee) is a Director, Theater-Maker and Translator of plays. He is co-founder of San Diego’s TuYo Theatre and is one of the inaugural Classical Directing Fellows at The Old Globe, where he directed The Winter’s Tale. Jáquez serves on the Latinx Theatre Commons Advisory Committee, and is adviser and director for the Lark’s U.S./México Playwright Exchange. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. In New York City, Jáquez was Director and co-founder of Unit52, Intar Theatre’s acting company; Director of Intar/Jerome Foundation NewWorks Lab, a festival producing four new plays by emerging Latinx playwrights annually. Jáquez spent a year in Portland, Oregon serving as Interim Artistic Director of Milagro Theatre where he directed several productions in Spanish and English and received Portland’s DRAMMY award for outstanding direction. Jáquez earned an M.F.A. in Directing from Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University/Moscow Art Theatre, and a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Texas.
Colleen Kendall [she/her] (Trustee) earned a BFA in Speech & Theatre from Rowan University and worked in advertising and television production in New York before pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities. She co-founded an R&D company in photographically personalized giftware. Among other products, the firm developed and patented family entertainment equipment—at the time cutting edge—that made “customized picture postcards with the consumer’s image in a choice of site-specific backgrounds,” which was installed internationally. After an early retirement, Colleen qualified for her SAG-AFTRA cards and performed in commercials, industrial films, episodes of Renegade (Stu Segall Productions), and at San Diego theatres including Moonlight, Starlight…and Diversionary where she appeared in Coming Soon, Small Town Confidential, and both the original production and revival of 10% Revue. While in her acting career, she accepted her biggest role: Financial Consultant at Smith Barney. After another early retirement, Colleen completed a Copyediting Certificate program at UCSD and has over fourteen years of experience in corporate writing and editing and creative writing. She and her wife Georgia Griffiths—a former Diversionary trustee—married four years ago on their twentieth anniversary as a couple. The two are active volunteers for Angel Flight West (Georgia as pilot and Colleen as co-pilot), a nonprofit organization that arranges free, non-emergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions and other compelling needs.
Catherine Hanna Schrock (she/her/hers) ) is an Applied Theater Practitioner, which unites her roles as an educator, theatre artist, writer and community organizer. She designs creative programming that equips diverse communities to engage in complex dialogues toward social and community development. Her original performances and interactive experience designs cultivate empathy and deepen human understanding and connection.
She is the Cofounder of Imagine (imaginebravespaces.com) where she works alongside a team of compassion-driven artists who invite communities to imagine and then create new ways of being together through theatre.
Catherine also specializes in Theatre of the Oppressed and specifically, Forum Theatre, an uncommon kind of interactive theatre that allows audiences to roleplay toward conflict transformation. Since 2017, her Forum Theatre projects (kNOw MORE, Safa's Story, Danny's Story, Brea's Story) have reached over 25,000 people in San Diego County where she is applauded as a “spectacular facilitator who handles children with extreme sensitivity and respect, and engages the audience from the moment they enter the theater” (Times of San Diego, 2020).
Additionally, Catherine has worked with numerous local and international organizations including the Global Immersion Project in Palestine and Israel, Arts for Life-- a girls' empowerment and arts program she founded in Kenya, Invisible Children’s Teacher Exchange program, which she helped develop and directed in Uganda, and is a teaching artist with the Old Globe Theatre.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Theater from New York University and a BA in Sociology and International Development.
Glenn Sipes [he/him] (Trustee) hails from the Pittsburgh area. After receiving a B.S. in Pharmacy from the University of Cincinnati he earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh. After three years of additional research training at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, he joined the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in 1973 as an assistant professor and was promoted to Professor in 1982. During his 40 years of service at the UA he served as Head of the Department of Pharmacology and the Department of Toxicology and was also the Founding Director of the UA’s Center for Toxicology and of its Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center. His research accomplishments were recognized by The Society of Toxicology (SOT), the American College of Toxicology and the Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS) all of which honored him with their Distinguished Scientist Awards. He served as President of SOT, ATS and the International Union of Toxicology and was elected a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. When he retired from the faculty, he stated that his greatest satisfactions were to be a part of the professional and scientific development of junior faculty and postdoctoral fellows and serving as a mentor for over 100 graduate students. As Professor Emeritus he spends a few hours a month conducting safety assessments on food and fragrance ingredients and as a member of the National Advisory Board of the UA College of Pharmacy. After retirement he was finally able to move to San Diego where he keeps busy practicing yoga, playing bridge at Redwood Bridge Club and raising funds for the Diversionary Theatre’s Annual Gala.
Mark Somers [he/him/his] (Trustee) recently retired after 15 years as Director of Finance of The Old Globe, Mark Somers has worked professionally in performing arts management for 45 years. He previously served as Director of Finance of La Jolla Playhouse; Managing Director of Portland (ME) Stage Company; and Managing Director of Alaska Repertory Theatre. He served on the board of Identity, which hosted Alaska’s Gay Crisis Hotline; chaired the Portland Public Access Cable Board; and served on the board of Creative Response of the Arts in San Diego. Mark received his B.S. in Theatre and Communications from Drexel University in Philadelphia. For nine years, Mark hosted Front Row Center, a weekly program of Broadway cast recordings on KSKA, Anchorage Public Radio.
Paula Tallal, Ph.D. [she/her/hers] (Trustee) is a research scientist, professor, board certified clinical psychologist and entrepreneur. She received her B.A in Art History from NYU and Ph.D in Experimental Psychology from Cambridge University. Over the past 40 years she has held academic positions at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, UCSD School of Medicine, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey and The Salk Institute for Biological Sciences; living both in New York City and San Diego. She is currently a Board of Governor’s Professor of Neuroscience Emeritus and Co-Founder of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutger’s University in New Jersey and Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Paula was named one of the “Ten smartest people in the State of New Jersey” by the New Jersey Star Ledger and won the Thomas Edison Inventor of the Year Award for her several dozen U.S. patents leading to the invention of Fast ForWord, the first individually adaptive (“smart”), neuroplasticity-based software, designed to remediate language-based learning disorders. Paula Co-Founded Scientific Learning Corporation in 1996, the company that has brought Fast ForWord to over 3 million struggling learners around the world. Tallal is a sought -after international authority and keynote speaker on language and literacy development and disorders with over 200 academic publications. She was honored to be invited to presented testimony to the U.S. Congress on Dyslexia.
Paula loves choral music and theater. She is proud to have sung with the Cambridge University King’s and Queen’s College Choruses, The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Chorus, The San Diego Master Chorale and The La Jolla Symphony Chorus. She has been a singing member of the San Diego Women’s Chorus since 2012, served on their Board of Directors and is currently on their Board Development and Fundraising Committee.
Paula was in a 32 year relationship with her spouse Colleen Osburn who died in 2014. In her memory Paula established the Colleen Osburn Gratitude Fellowship for the San Diego Women’s Chorus to assure no women is denied the opportunity to sing because of financial concerns. She also had a stone placed on the Diversionary Theater’s patio in Colleen’s memory. Paula has been in a loving relationship with her current partner, Lark Bearden, for the past 7 years.
Vincenzo Tarantino [he/him/his] (Trustee) is a San Diego native that works at Options For All, a non-profit organization dedicated to inclusion and equity for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). He holds a Bachelors of Science in Television Film and New Media from San Diego State University and emerged in his career as a Program Director for a Film and Media Training program at his current place of work. Now Options For All’s Director of Marketing and Communication, Vincenzo tells the many touching stories and successes of his organization’s mission. Vincenzo believes that all individuals are storytellers which is what made him pursue an educational foundation in Film and Media. He is proud of the work he does every day, sharing stories of resilience, inspiration, and inclusion. During his leadership, Vincenzo has led his team to be recognized as the San Diego Pride “Partner of the Year” in 2020, the recipient of the “Diversity in Film Award” at San Diego Film week in 2019, and the 2020 recipient of the Adam Heavner Memorial Award for Business of the Year. Vincenzo enjoys painting, being around family and friends, spending time with his corgi Calvin, and being an active member in his community.
Richard P. Trujillo [he/him/his] (Artistic Trustee) Mr. Trujillo led the artistic vision for the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. Under his guidance the arts flourished into five distinct majors and ten programs of study preparing students for audition and portfolio readiness at the post-secondary level. In addition, the SDSCPA has had 21 YoungArts Award winners, and received two Craig Noel Awards for Outstanding Resident Musical in partnership with the San Diego Repertory Theatre Company. The SDSCPA was awarded the 2018-2023 Exemplary Arts School Award from the Arts Schools Network, and the 2021 Exemplary Arts School Award from the California Department of Education. Richard served 6 years as the City of San Diego Representative for the National Association of College Admissions Counselors Visual and Performing Arts Fair. He served as Director of Education and the Multidistrict Arts Director for the West Valley Arts Council representing 13 cities and four school districts in Arizona. Mr. Trujillo has shared the stage with Tony Award Nominees Grace Keagy, Clayton Corzatte and Patrick Page, and has worked with nationally acclaimed directors such as Edward Payson Call, Sam Woodhouse, Greg Leaming, Jared Sakren, Stephen Wrentmore, Matthew Wiener, and the late Diane Rodriguez. Theatrical highlights include playing the crazy family in John Leguizamo’s one-man show Spic-O-Rama, and directing James E. Garcia’s Voices of Valor, a joint project from Artes Americas partners Arizona State University Public Events and University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center. He is a proud member of Actors Equity Association, with over 100 shows to his credit as an actor, director and producer, and UNESCO International Dance Council.
Alex Villafuerte [he/him/his] (Trustee) Alex Villafuerte is the Director of Communication and Community Engagement for San Diego City Councilmember Kent Lee. Alex has 11 years of experience in marketing and communication strategy as well as five years in event and community organizing in both the Asian and Pacific Islander community and the LGBTQ community locally and internationaly. In 2018, he co-founded the San Diego Queer APIMEDA Coalition and in 2021, co-founded the San Diego API Coalition. Currently, he serves on the County of San Diego Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission, the co-chair of the San Diego API Coalition, and a board member of the ABC 10News Community Adivsory Board. In his free time Alex enjoys traveling, exploring San Diego’s food and beer scene, as well as staying active with yoga, rock climbing, hiking, and snowboarding.