2021 Board of Governors
Richard (J.) Ward, CFP®
Serving since 2010
About Richard (J.)
Richard Ward holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional certification and has a passion for helping people find their purpose in life. With more than 35 years of industry experience, Richard believes in taking a holistic approach to creating a financial portfolio that offers fulfillment and possibilities. Richard is First Vice President/Investments at Stifel, committed to helping you build upon your success as you pursue significance. Many clients he works with are Baby Boomer business owners and executives who are considering a transition out of the business world, or financially secure pre-retirees who have little interest in traditional retirement and are looking for guidance for the second half of their life.Richard received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from UCLA, and his CFP® education from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, Colorado. He holds a Series 7 (General Securities Representative), Series 63 (Uniform Securities Agent), and Series 65 (Inves...
Paul Evan Greenwald
Serving since 1986
About Paul Evan
Paul Evan Greenwald is first and foremost a proactive lawyer. In the corporate setting, Mr. Greenwald has developed skills regarding board dynamics and knows how to create emotional connections that are very effective. Regarding litigation, Mr. Greenwald has been successful in obtaining millions of dollars in favorable judgments and settlements for his clients. Mr. Greenwald has represented clients as large as the General Partner of the California Mart, the largest apparel showroom in the world, as well as individuals, entrepreneurs, private and public companies. Mr. Greenwald is a member of ABOTA (American Board of Trial Advocates) has received the highest rating (AV) from Martindale-Hubbell and is recognized as a pioneer in the use of video to settle cases or if not, to use for mediation, arbitration and trial. He has been named a “Super Lawyer”. Mr. Greenwald has taught civil trial practice and continuing legal education courses. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Cal...
Victoria Collins, Ph.D.
Serving since 1985
Victoria Collins, Ph. D., is Founder and CEO of Your Legacy Project and Center Club’s past chairman of the Board of Governors. Known for her community leadership, Victoria serves on the Board of Orange County’s United Way and was named Outstanding Philanthropist at National Philanthropy Day and one of the Top Influencers in Newport Beach. Dr. Collins helped found First Foundation Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm which today manages about $4 billion and offers banking and trust services. Her most recent book, Best Intentions, Ensuring that Your Estate Plan Delivers Both Wealth and Wisdom addresses the question, “How do we pass along our values?” She has been a guest on major radio and TV shows including Good Morning America, Bloomberg, CNBC, MSNBC and CBS’s news affiliates. She has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Money, Business Week, Investor’s Business Daily, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Orange County Register. Dr. Collins also c...
Patti E. Larson
Serving since 2016
About Patti E.
Patti Larson is the founder and CEO of SunUp Group, Inc., a business strategy, brand and marketing agency in Orange County, California, and the co-founder of Ignite Brandz, a partnership between SunUp Group and Convergent7. Her wealth of experience includes over 25 years in accelerating bottom line profits through strategic growth plans, brand development and innovative sales and marketing strategies. Prior to founding SunUp Group, Inc., Patti was the Managing Partner at BoardRoom Performance Group and Spire Leadership where she supported Boards of Directors and Executives with organizational effectiveness and leadership development. Patti also spent over 12 years with Centex Corp. where she was a Senior Executive leading major turnaround and growth initiatives in Sales, Marketing and Operations by formulating strategic growth plans and executing high-performance sales initiatives. Patti serves on the Board of Governors and is the Center Club Vice-Chairman Elect for 2018-2019 and ...
Serving since 2012
Liza Krassner, Current Position: Chief Admin Officer, Public Health UC Irvine. Is a veteran UC Irvine administrator whose professional background and interests includes program planning and administration, education, and public service within local and global communities. Her personal interests include travel, cooking, and the arts. She loves jazz, film, theater, and dance, but specially the tango, which she dances socially whenever her time allows. As an occasional writer/producer, Liza’s public service mission is in the workforce development of persons with autism and developmental disabilities which she likes to do through story-telling in film. She presently serves in the board of the Regional Center of Orange County where she chairs the Legislative and Community Awareness Committee, and is also board delegate of the California Association for Regional Center Agencies. Liza currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two sons.
Kris de la Pena
Serving since 2017
About Kris de la
Kris currently serves as the President of the C39 Committee, and has also held a position on the BLC Committee. He is a franchise owner of a Platinum Financial Advisory Practice with Ameriprise Financial. Ameriprise is a financial planning firm focusing on retirement planning, innovative portfolio design, tax strategizing, college savings, and insurance. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Ecological and Evolutionary Biology from UCLA, he declined an offer from medical school in order to focus on his true passion: helping people with their finances. He sits on the Board of Directors at the Thomas House Family Shelter in Garden Grove, and has been a longtime supporter of Children’s International and the Best Day Foundation. After moving from Los Angeles to Kentucky and to Spain, he purchased a house in Costa Mesa in 2012. In his spare time, Kris enjoys fine dining, wine, golf, travel, cooking, music, art, reading, movies, snowboarding, scuba diving, self-development, mountai...
Serving since 2018
Greg Dill has been an active member of the Center Club since 2015 and currently serves as chair of the Business Connections as well as a participant in the Membership Council. Outside of the Center Club, he sits on the boards of the CCIM Southern California Chapter (a commercial real estate educational organization) and Pure Game (a local nonprofit organization that provides mentors to help children develop character through experiential learning facilitated through the game of soccer). Mr. Dill “works at a bank, but is not a banker” and has held a real estate / mortgage broker license in the state of California since 2010. He is a “Commercial Mortgage Strategist” whose practice focuses on helping entrepreneurs achieve the “American Business Dream” of acquiring own-occupied real estate for company operations, which is likely to be the largest and most impactful investment of their life. In addition, Mr. Dill provides expertise in the financing of business acquisitions and partne...
Serving since 2019
Mike is owner and president of Championship Strategies, Inc, which is a full-service public affairs company with over 18 years of public affairs experience. His primary areas of focus are energy, public education, small business, and collegiate and professional sports. He has provided consulting services in both government and community relations throughout the state of California. He has assisted in public sector captures, provided public awareness campaigns, US Census participation campaigns, made presentations to local and state elected officials and made community presentations on behalf of clients. He has worked with many high profile clients including Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), Raytheon Corporation, UCLA, Chevron Renewable Energies, the City of Baldwin Park, Coro Southern California, Santa Barbara City College and Southwest Voter Registration.Mike also is owner and president of Inner Champion Consulting, an executive leadership company providing leadership coaching se...
Serving since 2016
Gary Johnson, President of J2 Marketing Consultants, helps attorneys get more profitable clients. With over 20 years of sales and marketing experience, Gary builds strategies and offers simple solutions to help attorneys grow their practice by bringing in ideal clients. His expertise takes the mystery out of developing new business and gives them the road map to increased profits.
Board Nomination Committee Chair
Serving since 2014
Susannah Benchetler Johnston has served as an executive in the field of Business Development, Sales and Marketing for over 20 years; working in industries such as Aviation, Professional Services, and Luxury Goods. From running global divisions of fortune 100 companies, to international start-ups; what has never wavered is her focus on providing a boutique level of personal service that’s designed to “delight and deliver” – beyond clients’ expectations. Susannah is committed to connecting with clients on different levels and building long-term relationships based on common interests and goals. As President of Cultural Table, her marketing strategy firm helps businesses and C-Level executives maximize their impact to drive significant results. A native to Orange County, she has enjoyed living all over the United States, Europe and the Middle East while assimilating into the local cultures. Susannah holds a B.S in International Business, B.S. in Marketing, and a B.A in German from Cal ...
Center Club Cares Chair
Serving since 2019
Isaiah is an entrepreneur who has built two successful businesses in Southern California, a court reporting legal services and video media company. His professional philosophy centers on the idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats." He lives this philosophy by serving on boards of non-profits and other organizations that are actively doing this. Isaiah currently serves on the board of directors and is a past chair of the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce. He also serves as a Trustee on the World Affairs Council of Orange County, as an advisory board member of WHW (a non-profit organization that provides the unemployed and underemployed the skills and resources they need to get and keep a good job) and a Trustee on a political action committee that is committed to the principles of individual choice and economic freedom.Isaiah's current big project at Regal Court Reporting is the acquisition of industry-leading Court Reporting agency in West LA that will double the size of his cur...
Serving since 2017
Diana Sabatino is originally from Pittsburgh Pa, but has lived throughout the US as well as 3 years in Ireland. She is married to husband & best friend Mike Sabatino since 2000. They love going to Vegas on the weekends, seeing shows and playing poker. You can also find Diana singing and playing music, working out and enjoying new food experiences.Her business career started in sales and training for large corporations. After 14 years in corporate Diana decided to use her business savvy in the entrepreneurial arena. In 2004 she founded Diana & Company Jewelry Designs ; a concierge jewelry company that brokers loose diamonds and colored stones; and creates high end custom jewelry pieces. Diana caters to a clientele base that wants a more secure, private and exclusive buying experience. Looking to continue her success, Diana has recently decided to initiate a new business venture. TRAIN International is a training and sales development company focused on serving corporate, small b...
Serving since 2017
Ryan Seven, Owner/CEO of 7G Technologies, has been actively involved in multiple facets of the electronic payments workflow for the last 10 years. His prior focus in the business consulting and customer loyalty industries provided him unique perspectives on what merchants need to be successful in the information age. Having engineered payments workflows for retail, online, mobile and government clients and by being an inventor on multiple pending patents, in both the loyalty and payments verticals, Ryan is becoming regarded as a thought leader in emerging payments. In 2000, Ryan graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration with emphases in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from The George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. Ryan was born in Laguna Beach and raised in Newport Beach. Although he has always lived in Southern California, Ryan has traveled to over twenty countries on 5 continents. He speaks semi fluent French, conversati...
Serving since 2015
Dinia Takacs is a business professional whose entrepreneurial instincts, mentoring skills and clarity of vision have strengthened business leaders and carried multiple companies through successful, continuous growth. Dinia started her corporate career with a Fortune 500 Company rising from an entry-level position to executive leadership roles including National Operations overseeing and directing over 3,500 employees throughout the US. As the Vice President of The CEO University, Dinia mentors executives and professionals to strengthen their leadership skills, business acumen and deliver exceptional results. This includes one-to-one coaching and inclusion in their Peer Advisory Boards. She is distinguished by her passion for business, her focus on management issues, and her commitment to inspiring clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. She serves on the business connections, center club cares and membership committees.
Serving since 2014
With more than 25 years of dedication and service, Bart Zandbergen is an esteemed Certified Financial Planner and Wealth Strategist. Globally respected as an authority in financial planning and investment advising, he has devoted his career to guiding men and women with diverse portfolios through building, managing and carefully fostering overall financial health. His service first approach and methodical attention to detail has allowed him to play a pivotal role as a trusted advisor to his clientele, team and industry peers throughout nearly three decades of market ebbs and flows. Purpose driven strategies and a forward thinking philosophy have been integral components that Bart has relied on to guide those around him on their road to financial wellbeing and legacy development. Bart currently serves on the Culinary Experience, Center Club Cares and Member Engagement committees.
Serving since 2017
Evelyn M. Zohlen is the founder of Inspired Financial, LLC. Inspired Financial is a fee-only wealth management practice that specializes in serving affluent women in transition in southern California. Prior to founding Inspired Financial, Evelyn served on both the personal and the institutional sides of financial services for over ten years. She was a Relationship Manager at The Vanguard Group where she was the trusted advisor for clients with retirement plan assets ranging from $175 million to $500 million. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, her Master of Science from the Joint Military Intelligence College, and her Master of Business Administration from Villanova University. Evelyn is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) professional and is President of the Financial Planning Association. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Investments and Wealth Management at the University of California at Irvine. In addition, she is a communit...
Member Engagement Chair
Serving since 2019
Marcia Riner grew up in Northern California and after moving around the country she decided to settle is S. Orange County. She is the proud parent of 2 young adults and a very young grandma to a little boy. Marcia enjoys any outdoor activity, exercising, yoga, playing ice hockey, and riding her Harley. She is a foodie and loves a good glass of wine. Marcia is the owner of Bella Financial Group and her entire career has revolved around money. She started in a bank, dealt blackjack in the big casinos, and ran a mortgage planning firm and a financial planning practice. Through it all her true passion has been helping successful business owners with strategic financial business planning designed to produce an ROI focusing on increasing profits now and in the future. With more than 20 years of experience, Marcia brings entrepreneurial and small business financial expertise to the board. Her passion and enthusiasm is in consulting and coaching a business with short and long-term strateg...
Serving since 2020
Matt received his M.S. degree in Physics from San Jose State University and started his career as an optical engineer. His first 19 years of professional career were in small and startup high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley. Matt quickly moved up to various executive roles. He co-founded a startup in uses of nano-technology in data storage.He later on joined a Fortune 500 multi-national design and manufacturing company managing an international team of program managers. His team generated revenue between $5M to $50M per quarter as new products were delivered to the market. While there, Matt also received his MBA degree with concentration in Global Management.For the last few years, Matt has owned and operated a full business brokerage and M&A agency. He has completed the only two certification paths available to the business brokerage community – Certified Business Broker (CBB) from CABB, and Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) from IBBA which carries a global accreditation.M...
Center Club Speakers Forum Chair
Serving since 2020
Dennis Backer is an internet marketing expert with over 35 years’ experience in marketing, both online and traditional, video production, and digital strategies.Throughout my career, I have consulted and strategized with clients and prospects on traditional and internet marketing and advertising strategies and requirements. In addition, I was responsible for and/or supervised the administration of my businesses, including strategic business plans and financial projections, banking relationships for loans and lines of credit; payroll, human resources, insurance, management, email and direct mail campaigns, and sales and marketing.Over the years, I have presented educational seminars (in-person and online) on various marketing topics including video production, internet marketing, social media, reputation management, and reviews acquisition.
Serving since 2021
LaVal Brewer brings more than three decades of experience in nonproﬁt management, business development, and a decade of leadership experience in executive and development roles. He currently serves as the President & CEO of South County Outreach focused on hunger and homelessness. LaVal has served as executive director for several YMCAs throughout Southern California. LaVal has been a trainer for CaliforniaVolunteers, Points of Light, served on the board of California Communication Access Foundation and the Capistrano Uniﬁed School, District Foundation, is a active Rotarian, and regularly volunteers in his community. LaVal is married and has three daughters. LaVal serves on the following committees: Center Club Cares & Ben Franklin Forum
JJ San Jose
Serving since 2021
JJ San Jose combines her appreciation for the industry and passion for education. She started, AppreciaDng Real Estate in 2006, with the vision to simplify the real estate investing process. JJ is passionate about helping new and seasoned investors on their journey to generating income and preserving wealth. She is married with 3 children and has become part of the sandwich generation. In 2011, JJ founded the Women’s Investment Network focused on educating single mothers, widows and other women to build income with the goal of ﬁnancial independence. She continues her mission to share resources that impact communities and provide endless possibilities. JJ has been a guest on InvestClub regarding ﬂipping and real estate investment systems, Expert Exchange Studio and recently received the Woman Business Owner of the Year at the NAWBO-OC's Remarkable Women Awards. JJ Serves on the Business Connections & Member Engagement committees.
Serving since 2021
Kate is a business attorney and acts as outside general counsel to small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. After cutting her teeth in Biglaw, where Kate won a U.S. Supreme Court case 9-0, Kate founded her firm in order to counsel her clients through the myriad of legal issues that confront and challenge small and growing companies in California. Kate is also active in representing nonprofit organizations and also serves on the boards of nonprofit organizations that dovetail with the causes Kate supports. She has also been named a Rising Star by her peers for the last 6 years. Kate currently serves on the Culinary Experience committee.
Serving since 2021
I have been involved in Community Service for most of my life starting in High School where I worked with abused children. I continued on through my children’s growth years through their schools volunteering for everything under the sun from PTA President and every Board position there was as well as Fundraising, and for 2 different schools at the same time. I was instrumental in the inception, implementation, and grant writing of one of the first CharterLanguage Schools in South Orange County. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others. With all the child abuse and trafficking we see around, I find myself excited to have the time to get involved again with victims of crime and the trafficking problem. I see Center Club as the perfect place to provide the avenues to advocate for these passions. I am Serving on the Center Club Cares committee.
Women Inspire Network Chair
Serving since 2021
Susie Clisson is the co-owner of West County Tire & Automotive along with her husband and business partner John. Susie and John are second-generation owners of their small family business and have been working in the business since 1985. Susie is the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce and is the group leader of her Master Mind Group as a member of Connected Women of Influence. She has also sat on the Executive Board for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Late the Night" annual fundraiser event.
Omni Group Chair
Serving since 2021
Saji Gunawardane has been a member of Center Club since December 2017. He is Founder and Principal Attorney at US Business Counsel, providing efficient, highly-involved "outside General Counsel" services to growing businesses. His practice focus is on the regular needs of all growing businesses: contracts, employment law matters, regulatory compliance, strategic planning, and management/board advice. Saji is also the founder and lead advisor of Business Rising Advisors, a web-series that launched in March and which provides key expertise and overviews of important issues which business owners must be aware of to help them navigate risk and rise from the Covid-19 pandemic. He serves on various boards, including Veterans Legal initiative, Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, and, like his colleague and fellow "C39 brethren" Isaiah Leslie, is a trustee of the World Aﬀairs Council of Orange County and co-chair of its Young Professionals Program.