Board of Directors Officers
Founder and Board Co-Chair – Nancy Parrish
Parrish is an active leader in community and public affairs. She has devoted much of her life to issues of social justice and human rights.
In 2011, Parrish founded Protect Our Defenders, the only national human rights organization solely dedicated to ending the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military and its wide-ranging effects on our communities. In 2014, the New York Times wrote that Protect Our Defenders has “quickly become the nation’s pre-eminent advocacy group on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military.” In recognition of her work with Protect Our Defenders, Parrish was named the 2016 recipient of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.
Parrish was also a founding co-chair of Human Rights Watch’s Northern California Chapter, an organization dedicated to protecting human rights around the world. She has worked with President and Mrs. Carter in support of their international humanitarian work at the Carter Center, which is guided by a fundamental commitment to the alleviation of human suffering. Parrish served two terms as development trustee of UCSF’s Friends of the Department of Psychiatry’s Hospital Board, which led to the creation of a children’s center. She also served as an officer of the Children’s Guardian Fund Board of Sarasota, helping to provide basic needs and enrich the lives of foster children.
During her professional career, Parrish was founder and managing partner of a southern-based political strategy and public relations consulting firm.
Board Co-Chair – Davis Weinstock
Davis Weinstock, Chairman of Clark & Weinstock, counsels leaders of large, complex organizations on strategies relating to reputational challenges and opportunities. Davis has counseled the Federal Trade Commission, Harvard Graduate School of Business, the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Davis has provided strategies and/or counsel relating to many of the largest and best-known companies, transactions and events over the past twenty years.
As a writer and producer, Davis’ work has included a large number of films, series and pilots for three national networks and the BBC, three plays presented in New York, the feature film Tomorrow and articles in numerous national publications.
In volunteer activities, he has been president of the Board of Trustees of Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut and has headed the boards of the Nation Institute and CORO. He is a director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard University, New Visions for Public Schools, Apollo Inner-City Corporation and Impact Repertory Theater
Davis was educated at Harvard College and the London School of Economics.
Secretary and General Counsel – Russell H. Miller
Russell Miller, a California attorney for thirty years, is Managing Partner of Miller & Olson, LLP, with offices in Burlingame and Sacramento. He specializes in nonprofit law, including formation and operation of charitable organizations. He also specializes in Federal and state political, campaign, lobby, and election laws, representing clients located throughout California, in other states, and in Washington, D.C.
Chief Financial Officer – Kirk Pessner
Kirk Pessner is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Paralegal of Miller & Olson, LLP, has extensive and specialized expertise in campaign committee compliance, lobbyist registration and disclosure provisions, and conflict of interest disclosure for California and federal public officials. He also is an expert in the formation, operation and informational returns compliance of nonprofit organizations.
Board of Directors Members
Scott Jensen, Colonel, USMC (Ret.) is the Chief Executive Officer of Protect Our Defenders. Commissioned in 1989 and designated a Naval Aviator in 1992. Jensen served in various command, operations, maintenance, and logistics assignments in operational units where he participated in peace keeping operations in Somalia, noncombatant evacuation operations in Rwanda, Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait, and combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He commanded at various levels to include: Platoon; Headquarters Squadron; Light Attack Detachment; Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron; Marine Aircraft Group; and Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). Additionally, he served as an instructor and staff officer in various positions to include: The Basic School; the Aide-de-Camp to the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; the Joint Staff J-8; and as an Assistant Wing Commander.
Scott completed his military service by serving as the Chief of the Marine Corps’ Behavioral Programs at Headquarters Marine Corps where he was responsible for developing and leading a portfolio of programs that included the Marine Corps’ Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Suicide Prevention, Domestic Violence Prevention and Response, Community Counseling Services, and Substance Abuse and Drug Demand Reduction Programs. Upon his retirement and prior to joining POD, Jensen served as the Assistant Vice President for Leadership Development Programs at the American Council on Education in Washington, DC.
Colonel Jensen holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the United States Naval Academy, a masters degree in military studies from Marine Corps University, and a masters degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.
His personal decorations include two Legion of Merit medals, three Bronze Star Medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal with strike/flight numeral “22”, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals one with combat “V”, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Don Christensen, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) is President of Protect Our Defenders. In his role as President, Col Christensen has appeared regularly in broadcast and print media to advocate for rights of crime victims, including appearances on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, and the BBC, in addition to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, and Newsweek. He served as chief prosecutor for the United States Air Force between 2010 and 2014. He served as a trial counsel, defense counsel or military judge for every year of his 23-year career in the United States Air Force.
Christensen has served as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, Area Defense Counsel, Circuit Defense Counsel, Deputy Chief Circuit Defense Counsel, and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, as a deployed Staff Judge Advocate, Chief Circuit Trial Counsel, and Staff Judge Advocate and as a Military Judge. He has tried over 150 courts-martial as a trial and defense counsel and has presided over 100 trials as a military judge.
He was born in Sturgis, South Dakota and received his law degree from Marquette University Law School. A third generation Air Force officer, he received his commission as a second lieutenant through ROTC and entered active service on 15 July 1991. Christensen is licensed to practice law before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Christensen has received numerous awards and decorations including the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
Paula Coughlin, former Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Founder, Owner of Ocean Yoga Center in Atlantic Beach Fl. Paula Coughlin-Puopolo comes from a lineage of military and community leaders. Before settling in Florida, she served in the US Navy as a helicopter pilot, serving aboard Naval vessels as one of the earliest women in aviation to become flight deck qualified and maintenance officer/post maintenance check qualified. While serving as Aide de camp at the Naval Air Test Center, in 1991, her role as a whistle-blower in the infamous Tailhook Convention ended her aviation career, and Coughlin pushed forward working to rectify inequities in the military’s policies for the role of women in aviation and in combat. Coughlin is unwavering in her efforts to make positive changes; she has testified before SASC sub-committee, met with former President GH Bush, Sec. of Defense and more recently through an online petition and appearance on the Hill, forced the House Armed Services Committee to hold open hearings on the sexual abuse scandal at Lackland AFB. In recognition of her leadership in modernizing the roles of women in the military, in 1992, she was honored as “Woman of the Year” by Vanity Fair. Coughlin was featured in a feature-length feature film, “She Stood Alone,” as well as the academy award nominated documentary “Invisible War” and most recently in the historical series “Retro Report” with the New York Times.
Former Congressman George “Buddy” Darden. As a member of Congress he served 11 years on the House Armed Services Committee from 1983 – 1995. Prior to being elected to Congress he served as District Attorney of Cobb County, Georgia and in the Georgia House of Representatives. Throughout his years in Congress Darden advocated maintaining a strong national defense. From 1999 – 2003 Darden served as chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission for then Governor Roy Barnes. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from LaGrange College and currently serves as Senior Counsel in the law firm of Denton McKenna Long.
In 2010, Mr. Darden was honored by the State Bar of Georgia with its Tradition of Excellence Award, which recognizes outstanding lawyers and judges and has become one of the most prestigious honors a lawyer or judge can receive.
Ronald T. Gault served as head of JP Morgan’s South African office in Johannesburg after the demise of the apartheid regime. Prior to the South African post, he was an investment banker at JP Morgan and before that at First Boston.
Prior to his banking career, Gault was a department head and senior advisor in New York Mayor Ed Koch’s Administration.
Prior to the Koch Administration, Gault served as a Ford Foundation program officer from 1969 to 1978.
Before the Ford Foundation, in the late 1960s, Mr. Gault directed field operations for the U.S. Justice Department’s newly established Community Relations Service, which acted as peace-maker during conflicts and tensions arising primarily between police and black communities.
Before the Justice Department, Mr. Gault served at USAID for two and a half years.
Mr. Gault began his professional career in 1964 at the Urban League, working on the nationwide Voter Education/Voting Campaign.
After retiring from his banking career, Mr. Gault has returned to the U.S. from South Africa and now concentrates his professional attention on philanthropic activities, mentoring of young men, and leading Passages, the wine business he started in South Africa.
Mr. Gault earned his bachelor’s degree at Grinnell College, master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Michigan, and law degree from the George Washington University School of Law.
Nicco Mele is currently the Director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School. He is an entrepreneur and consultant who, above all else, has his finger on the pulse of what is happening in our rapidly-evolving digital age. As webmaster for Governor Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Nicco helped popularize the use of technology and social media that revolutionized political fundraising and reshaped American politics. Drawing from his experience, Nicco teaches graduate-level courses on the internet and politics as a faculty member at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also the co-founder of EchoDitto (now Echo & Co.), a leading internet strategy and consulting firm, and is the author of The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath, in which he explores the consequences of living in a socially connected society.
Lilli J. Rey is a community activist with years of volunteer experience that have focused on protecting and restoring the rights of women. A political fundraiser as well, Lilli joined the board of Protect Our Defenders to help bring awareness to this issue with the goal of seeing change for the victims once and for all. Lilli lives in California with her four children.
Wendy C. Wolf, Ph.D. Wendy C. Wolf, Ph.D. is a policy analyst, activist and philanthropist focused on improving the lives of women and their families. Since retirement from running her own company, she has focused her energy on organizing women donors in support of progressive social change. She was the leader of the Women Donors Network’s (WDN) work on reproductive rights for eight years: she spearheaded the venture funding (including 86 donors) of WeareUltraViolet(UV), an on-line organizing effort fighting sexism. She is on the steering committee for UV’s (c)(3) and Treasurer of their (c)(4). At WDN, she was on the board, served as Treasurer and was chair of the education and action efforts. She has been chair of the Board, as well as Treasurer and head of policy activities for the Healthy Teen Network, an organization of providers addressing issues of adolescent pregnancy and parenting. And she has participated in similar roles on the boards of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth and Living Beyond Breast Cancer. She was the Founder of the Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD), which she led for 12 years. At CAPD, she and her staff provided strategic assistance and evaluation expertise to large foundations around how to improve the life outcomes of women and children. Prior to founding CAPD, she was the Director of Research for Public/ Private Ventures for 7 years. She has had a teaching position at the University of Arizona, with a multitude of published papers on women’s economic security. She received a Ph.D. in Demography and Sociology from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Brown University.