Robert J. Solomon
Mr. Solomon is a retired Vice Chairman of Marsh Inc., a global insurance broker and risk management firm. He joined Marsh as Managing Director of Marsh & McLennan Italia in 1974, later becoming Marsh’s Area Head for the Far East, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Subsequently he became head of Marsh’s International Risk Management Division, and was later appointed to head Marsh’s International Specialty Operations. A graduate of Juniata College, Mr. Solomon also attended the American Institute for Foreign Trade (Thunderbird School) and the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Mr. Garrett is a great-grandson of Cleveland H. Dodge, who co-founded the Near East Foundation in 1915 and established a philanthropic foundation in 1917. He has worked as a digital media executive for 15 years, previously working at AOL, Viacom, Excite@Home, Ask Jeeves and most recently, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Mr. Garrett was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a founding member of Network 20/20, a New York–based foreign policy group. He graduated with a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
Mr. Mardikian is a graduate of Trinity College (B.A.) and Harvard Business School (M.B.A.). He is the owner of Haig G. Mardikian Enterprises (real estate investments), general partner of M&B Development (real estate investments), president/director of Adiuvana-Invest, Inc. (real estate investments), and chair/director of Forward Funds Inc. (mutual fund company). He served for many years as a trustee of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and is a trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association, the William Saroyan Foundation, The Foundation of City College of San Francisco, and the International House of the University of California at Berkeley. His father worked as a Scout Leader in the orphanages set up by Near East Relief.
Mr. Quigley recently retired from Blackstone and GSO after a 34 year career on Wall Street and in the investment management business. He is currently focused on the emerging trend towards "reurbanization" in the U.S., and the challenges and opportunities that this presents for city governments and planners as well as for those aiming to bringing mainstream financial services to the "underbanked or unbanked" residents of many urban neighborhoods. Mr. Quigley also serves on the the Boards of Camp Dudley YMCA, The National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy and the Cyrus M. Quigley Foundation. Mr. Quigley holds a B.A. with honors from Brown University and an M.B.A. in Finance from NYU's Stern School of Business. Mr. Quigley's wife Nina is a second-generation Armenian and they have three grown daughters.
Carol B. Aslanian
Ms. Aslanian is Senior Vice President of Aslanian Market Research at Education Dynamics. Until 2009, she was President of Aslanian Group and, for more than 20 years, she served as Director of the Office of Adult Learning Services at the College Board in New York. She was also the College Board’s Director of the Office of Community College Relations. Ms. Aslanian is a national authority on the characteristics of learning patterns of post-traditional students, and has co-authored two landmark reports that describe the causes and timing of adult learning. Ms. Aslanian is a member of the Cornell University Council, a Central Board Member of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and serves on the Board of Trustees member of the American University of Armenia.
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Ph.D.
Mehrzad Boroujerdi is Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He also serves as the Provost Faculty Fellow for Internationalization as well as the O'Hanley Faculty Scholar. Dr. Boroujerdi is the author of Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism (1996) and I Carved, Worshiped and Shattered: Essays on Iranian Politics and Identity (2010). In addition to more than thirty journal articles and book chapters in English and Persian he is also the editor of Mirror for the Mulsim Prince: Islam and Theory of Statecraft (2013). He is a Nonresident Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., and a principal investigator of the Iran Data Portal. HE was the President of the International Society for Iranian Studies (2012 - 2014), founding director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Syracuse University (2003-2014). Dr. Boroujerdi has been the recipient of the Foundation for Iranian Studies Best Doctoral Dissertation (1990), the Maxwell School's Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for outstanding teaching, research, and service (1998), and the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund's Outstanding Service Award (2001).
Randa El-Sayed Haffar
Randa El-Sayed Haffar is a Managing Director and Senior Private Banker serving Gulf Private Banking clients, mostly in Kuwait. Ms. Haffar manages the relationships of high net worth families, corporations, and institutions while based in New York, USA. She joined Citi in 2000 as an Associate Banker and became a Banker in 2004. There, she was awarded the prestigious Chairman Council award 15 times and the Hall of Fame Award in 2012. Prior to joining Citi, she was at Chase Manhattan Bank as a Global Business Development Officer for International Personal Banking. Her prior banking career was with Coutts Bank (Switzerland) and The Bank of New York. Ms. Haffar holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and Political Science from American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon and a master’s degree in Public Finance and Financial Management from New York University. Ms. Hafar is a member of the Board of Trustees of AUB and an Executive Board Member of the Elmer and Mamdouha Bobst Charitable Foundation, which focuses on health and education philanthropy.
Ms. Eraiba is a Senior Vice President of the Trust Company of the West (TCW), which manages a broad range of value-added investment products for many of the largest corporate and public pension plans, financial institutions, endowments, and foundations in the U.S., as well as a substantial number of foreign investors. She has over 30 years of experience specializing in technology and healthcare, having been involved in a wide range of transactions for both money management and investment banking for technology companies. Before joining TCW, she founded Rosetta Group Research LLC, an independent technology research and advisory firm catering to the investment management industry. Ms. Eraiba began her Wall Street career with Lehman Brothers and then worked at Salomon Brothers before founding Advanced Technology Investments. Prior to joining the financial community, she worked as a chief engineer in the technology industry. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Bankers Association of North America (ABANA) and Board Chairperson of iEARN-USA, the largest worldwide network of students, teachers, and schools. Born in Egypt, Ms. Eraiba received an engineering degree (B.S.E.E.) in electronics and computer science from Washington University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
Alexander S. Ghiso
Mr. Ghiso is currently a Managing Director at BlueSpruce Investments. Previously, he was an Analyst in the Global Value team at Vinik Asset Management LP, where he focuses on investment opportunities in the financial and real estate sectors. Mr. Ghiso spent two years working in Cairo with Commercial International Bank S.A.E., the leading financial institution in Egypt, where he performed a number of management roles, including Head of Strategy and Investments and Deputy CEO of CI Capital Holdings. Previously, he was a Managing Director with Ripplewood in New York and an Executive Director in Mergers & Acquisitions with Morgan Stanley in Chicago. Mr. Ghiso began his finance career with Credit Suisse First Boston. Following college, he spent a year teaching English in Lviv, Ukraine. He is the founder of the Neil Samuel Ghiso Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting compassionate medical care. Mr. Ghiso earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and a B.S. in mathematics and political science from the University of Michigan.
Mr. Habib is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Intercontinental Aircraft Group LLC (IAG), a global aircraft acquisition consulting and brokerage firm. Prior to co-founding IAG in 2012, Mr. Habib spent 17 years at a leading corporate aircraft manufacturer, where he held various positions of leadership, lastly as a Senior Vice President and corporate officer. Mr. Habib’s operational aviation experience includes eight years of active duty service as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy where he was designated as a naval aviator- he flew duties as a pilot with Southwest Airlines Co., and spent time as a demonstration pilot for an aircraft manufacturer. He holds an FAA Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license and numerous aircraft type ratings. Mr. Habib is a graduate of Rutgers University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.
Yezan Haddadin leads the North America direct private equity investment platform for GMS Holdings, a MENA-based family-controlled holding company for a group of diversified businesses and assets around the world. Yezan has over 17 years of investment banking and private equity experience. Throughout his career, he has developed extensive experience across a range of industries and advised on over USD 100 billion in M&A transactions in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Prior to joining GMS Holdings, Yezan was the Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of a regional investment bank based in Amman and Dubai (2014-2017); Advisor at Ripplewood Holdings LLC, a New York-based private equity firm (2013-2014); Managing Director at Perella Weinberg Partners in New York (2007-2013) and a Executive Director in JPMorgan’s M&A Group in New York (2000-2007). He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of SODIC, a publicly-listed real estate development company in Egypt.
Yezan holds a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University School of Law (USA) and a Bachelor of Science from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (USA). He is admitted to the New York State Bar Association and is an FAA licensed pilot.
Linda K. Jacobs, Ph.D.
Dr. Jacobs has been involved with development work in the Middle East for 30 years as a scholar, business executive and nonprofit administrator. She has served on the boards of several nonprofits as well as a Fortune 500 engineering company, worked in the private sector with the East-West Group, founded a small consulting firm, and previously served as NEF’s Chief Development Officer and President. Dr. Jacobs holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern archaeology. She is the author of Digging In: An American Archaeologist Uncovers the Real Iran. Currently, Dr. Jacobs is writing a social geography of the nineteenth century Syrian Colony in New York City. Dr. Jacobs also serves on the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut.
Mr. Mardirossian has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Near East Foundation since 2002, was NEF's Board Chair from 2007 to 2015, and now continues to serve as Chairman Emeritus. He is a Partner and the Chief Operating Officer of Kohlberg & Company, a middle-market private-equity firm, and serves on the board of directors for several companies controlled by Kohlberg & Co. Mr. Mardirossian was born in Lebanon of Armenian decent and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1969. He is actively involved in international and Middle Eastern affairs. Mr. Mardirossian received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from the Lubin School of Business at Pace University. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.
Mr. Nosseir was a Founding Partner of Perella Weinberg Partners and was responsible for the firm’s business activities in the Middle East and firm relationships with a select group of founding investors. Mr. Nosseir has 25 years of investment banking experience, having been involved in a wide range of corporate advisory assignments, mergers and acquisitions, privatizations, equity and debt financings and asset management initiatives. Prior to joining Perella Weinberg Partners, he was Managing Director and Head of the Middle East Group in Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division for 12 years. Mr. Nosseir received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Colgate University and a master’s of business administration in finance from Columbia University. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Bankers Association of North America and is Co-chair of the University of Virginia's Parents Committee.
Mr. Sullivan is Assistant Dean for External Relations at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. He works closely with the School’s development team to identify and cultivate new donors. Prior to this, he worked for the New York Governor's Office of Employee Relations where he implemented "Managing New York State," which was recognized by the American Society of Training and Development as the best management development program in the United States. Mr. Sullivan is the recipient of the Syracuse University Chancellor’s Citation in 1999 for being awarded the largest Federal grant ever received by the University, the Friendship Award in 1999 from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) for work to promote the acceptance of the field of public administration in China and the Educator of the Year award in 2001 from the National Forum of Black Public Administrators (NFBPA). Mr. Sullivan achieved his BA in political science and philosophy from College of the Holy Cross, his MA in political science from Boston College, and his MA in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Charles Benjamin, Ph.D.
President, ex officio
Dr. Benjamin has over twenty-five years of experience in international development, with extensive experience in community development and natural resources management though the Middle East and Africa. He began his affiliation with the Near East Foundation in 1993 as Country Director in Morocco. Before joining NEF he spent several years in Morocco as a Fulbright Scholar and as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After leaving Morocco, Dr. Benjamin was Senior Manager for a large international development consulting firm based in Washington DC and a Professor of International Environment Issues and Development at Williams College in Williamstown (MA). Dr. Benjamin became NEF’s President in 2010. Under Dr. Benjamin’s leadership, NEF has seen steady growth. Dr. Benjamin holds a PhD from the University of Michigan with a focus on decentralization and local institutional development in West Africa. He is a published author in the areas of natural resource management and policy.