Governing Board    |   Scientific Advisory Board   |   Business Advisory Board

The Gorilla Foundation staff comprises a small team of dedicated professionals that span business to education to gorilla research, care and conversation, and are managed by co-executive directors and co-founders, Drs. Penny Patterson and Ronald Cohn.

 Governing Board

PENNY PATTERSON, Ph.D. ( President / Chairman )
Co-Founder and Director of Research, The Gorilla Foundation

Dr. Patterson is the president, director of research, and co-founder of the Gorilla Foundation. Her responsibilities range from supervising gorilla care and research activities, to overseeing major development projects and meeting with key stakeholders to maximize the impact of Project Koko towards achieving conservation through interspecies communication. Dr. Patterson's entire adult life has been dedicated to the well-being of gorillas.   More ...

RON COHN, Ph.D.  ( VP / Treasurer
Co-Founder and Chief Photo-Documentarian, The Gorilla Foundation

Ron shares Penny's life-long commitment to the gorillas. He serves as an authority figure for Koko and his presence is an integral part of their daily routine. His award winning photos and videos of the gorillas have helped to make the Gorilla Foundation well-known around the world. He received a Ph.D. from the Univ. of Illinois, and was a cell biologist at the Stanford Depts. of Medicine and Pediatrics where he did research in genetic engineering.

Retired Human Resources Specialist and Active TGF Volunteer

A California native, born in Berkeley, Jeanne Gardner’s professional career includes an extensive background in Human Resources within the aerospace industry, and 28 year small business ownership of “Alternatives” providing care management services for elderly and disabled individuals. Born with an innate love and compassion for the elderly and animals, her background and deep commitment to animal advocacy is life long. Jeanne has been a strong and dedicated supporter of The Gorilla Foundation for many years.

Founder, Wizdom on Wheels (Technology Support) Company) 

David has served on the Palo Alto Humane Society (PAHS) board since 2011 and is the current PAHS Board President. He is the founder of the technology company Wizdom On Wheels and was one of the original Mac Geniuses at various Bay Area Apple Stores. His passion for technology and education is as strong as his compassion for people and animals. With more than 17 years of experience in the technology industry, David is bringing about creative ways of using technology to help fulfill our multiple missions in education and outreach.

Architect and Education and Animal Welfare Advocate

Kerry has a BA in Design from Stanford University and a Masters in Architecture from UCLA. During her successful career as an architect, Kerry has been the designer on a number of significant buildings including the Hewlett Packard Headquarters in Atlanta and The Multi Modal Transportation Center, Atlanta. An active volunteer, her main interests are animal welfare and rights. Previously a Board member of “Pets in Need” and a member of the San Francisco Zoo and WWF, Kerry is also a full-time parent to 2 young girls, one of whom (Parker) has become one of the Gorilla Foundation's most productive volunteers.

Emeritus Board Members

BETTY WHITE LUDDEN ( Board Service: 2004 - 2016 )
Actress and Animal Welfare Advocate

Betty White, an American actress, comedian, and former game show host, and is known for her television roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, and more recently on Boston Legal and Hot in Cleveland. Her career has spanned over 70 years, during which she has won seven Emmy Awards and 20 Emmy nominations. She is recognized for her affiliation with animal charities such as "Actors and Others for Animals" and the Morris Animal Foundation.


Scientific Advisory Board

Professor Emeritus of English and Linguistics, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI

Dr. Fries is helping the Gorilla Foundation analyze its interspecies communication database to answer questions of interest to the scientific, conservation, zoological and education communities.

Founder, the Biosynergy Institute;  Emeritus Dir. of Conservation, TGF

Dr. Rose is an applied social psychologist and organization developer. He has studied macaques, humans, and other apes, and advised government agencies and private foundations on issues of forest management, military diplomacy, religious community development, educational innovation, and health care quality assurance. Dr. Rose has been overseeing the Gorilla Foundation's conservation program since 1999.

Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona
Dr. H. Dieter Steklis is a world-renowned great ape researcher, conservationist and professor. His research interests include the behavior and ecology of African apes in the wild, including the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, as former Chief Scientist for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Along with his wife and frequent collaborator, Netzin Steklis, his aim has been to better understand the connections between biology, behavior, and ecology, and to explore how this understanding might better guide conservation programs. Dieter is currently collaborating on a research project with TGF

Adjunct Research Specialist & Instructor, University of Arizona
For more than 15 years, Ms. Steklis has served the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) as Director of Scientific Information Resources and Affiliate Scientist. Her research experience includes work at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda on the vocalizations and social organization of mountain gorillas. Further research focused on mountain gorilla life history, population and application of GIS technology to behavior and conservation. She is a frequent collaborator with her husband, Dieter, including on recent projects with the Gorilla Foundation.

CProject Manager for the Equity, Povety, and Environment Initiative, World Resources Institute, Washington, DC
Dr. Veit's work has focused on a range of environmental governance matters, particularly environment/democracy and environment/human rights links. He has conducted research and written on community-based natural resource management, environmental decentralization, and environmental advocacy matters. He has undertaken long-term field research in African countries, including in Rwanda as Director of the Karisoke Mountain Gorilla Research Center. 

Professor of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Dr. Wrangham's research group is part of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. He is co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, the long-term study of the Kanyawara chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. His research culminates in the study of human evolution in which he draws conclusions based on the behavioral ecology of apes. Dr. Wrangham is the author of the book Catching Fire, How Cooking Made us Human.   He studied under Robert Hinde and Jane Goodall and helped introduce the concept of zoopharmacognosy and the study of chimp self-medication.



Business Advisory Board

Scientific Writer and Media Specialist

Mr. Cheifet is the former host of the award winning PBS series Computer Chronicles (1982-2002). He is the President & CEO of Stewart Cheifet Productions, where he consults on production strategies at the interface between technology and media. Stewart has held numerous executive positions for news and media was the Director of Media for the Internet Archive from 2004-2008. He has been an occasional consultant to the Gorilla Foundation, helping to manage relationships between media, celebrities and our mission.  

Education and Art Consultant, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Munitz is Trustee Professor of California State University, Los Angeles and president of the Cotsen Family Foundations. He is founding chair of California's P-16 Council, a group of education, business and community leaders charged with developing strategies to improve education for preschool through college. Munitz also chairs the President's Advisory Committee of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He is chancellor emeritus of The California State University, and served previously as president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.   

Certified Public Accountant, San Francisco, CA
Mr. Sack has been The Gorilla Foundation's C.P.A. since 1977 and has been a practicing certified public accountant since 1961. He moved to San Francisco in 1967 and worked for eight years at the international firm Deloitte, Haskins & Sells. In the 1970's, he served as business manager of the San Francisco Opera. His first encounter with Koko was in 1978 as a fellow passenger in Penny's Volkswagen beetle during a drive around the Stanford campus. Michael has served on various non-profit organization boards in the San Francisco Bay Area.   

Advertising Executive, Dalkeith, WA, Australia
Mr. Steel began his career in advertising as a 21-year-old account planner with the English agency Boase Massimi Pollitt. By the age of 26, he was appointed to BMP's board of directors. In 1989 he left the United Kingdom to become the first Director of Account Planning, and later Vice Chairman, at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners ("got milk") in San Francisco. Mr. Steel later became the Director of WPP's Marketing Fellowship Programme. He is the author of "Truth, Lies & Advertising" and "Perfect Pitch".  While at Goodby, he supervised Koko's first public service announcement.

Media Archival Consultants
, Oceano, CA
Mr. Wheeler was one of the pioneers at AMPEX and has become an expert consultant in multimedia preservation and forensics. He has helped the Gorilla Foundation over the years plan for the archival of its 4-decade multimedia research collection, a project that is finally coming to fruition.   



Contact Us



The Gorilla Foundation /
1733 Woodside Rd., Suite 330
Redwood City, CA, 94061
1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273)

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Our mission is to learn about gorillas by communicating with them, and apply our knowledge to advance great ape conservation, education, care and empathy.
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