Our Board of Directors

Children of Vietnam has a board of directors consisting of a diverse group of professionals who all share a passion for helping the poor and underprivileged children in Vietnam. Our board is very “hands on” and many members travel to Vietnam to assist the staff in meeting our goals.

Ben Wilson

Founder and President

Ben Wilson has thirty years of successful and responsible business experience. He graduated with a B.S., North Carolina State University, School of Mechanical Engineering. Since graduating, Ben has directed numerous studies and projects in numerous countries including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, China, and Mexico. After retiring from his final assignment in Vietnam, he founded Children of Vietnam in 1998 in partnership with Ms.

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John Merson

Board Chair

During his first career, John Merson worked as a consultant to not-for-profit organizations on their management, organization, and strategy. Next, he worked as a marketing executive for technology start-ups. He also worked at IBM, where he helped start a new software publishing venture. He currently works in real estate development, restoring historic properties on Nantucket Island and providing consulting to Vietnamese companies. He is

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Richard Gervase

Board Vice Chair

As the adoptive father of a son born in Ho Chi Minh city, Richard Gervase joined the COV Board in 2017 to engage in work that helps children living in poverty in Vietnam have brighter futures. He is drawn to COV in particular because of its holistic, proven and culturally aware approach to alleviating poverty in Vietnam. Richard is a member of the Board’s

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Scott Smith


Scott Smith discovered the team and work of COV while researching organizations doing children’s missions in Vietnam. He and his wife, Dawn, adopted their youngest son from Hanoi. They were looking for ways to continue to support children in Vietnam and were impressed by COV and wanted to contribute to its success. Scott and his wife Dawn have 3 biological children and reside in

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Deborah Baker

A graduate of Santa Clara University, with a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education, Debbie is a retired elementary school educator and librarian. After retirement in 2000, she worked on program development for children and adults through the Ojai Valley Museum in Southern California. In 2008, she became involved with the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program in Santa Clara County in Northern

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Rhonda Grissom

Rhonda Grissom, MD resides in Kentucky and practices medicine there. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas Medical School and a diplomate of the American Board of Radiology. She lives on a horse and cattle farm with her husband Steve. Their son Zach is a college student at the University of Miami in Florida. Rhonda’s interests and hobbies are many, from metal

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Kernan Manion M.D.

Kernan Manion M.D. joined the COV Board in 2016 after expressing an interest in the importance of organizational focus and well-designed group process in humanitarian societal agendas. Kernan is a physician who transitioned from the clinical practice of psychiatry to executive coaching and healthcare group consulting with a predominant focus on career fulfillment, team cohesion and organizational alignment. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana,

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Thanh Xuan Nguyen

Thanh Xuan Nguyen has a Masters in Business Administration from New York University, a Bachelor in Economics from the University of Lausanne and a Trainer’s certificate from the Global Health Action in Atlanta, Georgia. Born and raised in Vietnam, Thanh Xuan worked for the Central Bank of Vietnam when she became a refugee in 1975. This experience changed her career from banking to organizing

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Hung Pho

Hung Pho immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975, with his parents, older brother, and some extended family. Most of the Pho family settled in south Texas, where they were embraced and generously supported by a church community that helped them to acclimate to their new home. With this support, hard work, and creativity, Hung’s parents eventually started a family business that enabled

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Natalie Pho

Natalie Pho is a wife and mother of two teenage children. Since her early years in rural Pennsylvania, Natalie wanted to be an educator. While working on her B.A. in Elementary Education at Bloomsburg University, Natalie was inspired by a local community activist to work with children in the inner city. After college, she moved to the D.C. area and worked as an assistant

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Vinod Rangra

Vinod retired as Global EVP-Business Development from an international engineering company that builds polyester, biofuel, potable LNG manufacturing facilities around the globe. He has traveled extensively to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Vinod always put high importance on building trust,understanding of culture, and heritage of the people with whom he did business and has made lots of friends around the globe. Both of

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Dabney Schmitt

Dabney Schmitt holds two degrees from Smith College. She is married, the mother of two sons and has one grandson.  She is an avid reader, travel enthusiast (all 50 states and 60+ countries), opera lover, skier and hiker.  She has climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with her family.  Dabney Schmitt is a native of Washington, DC. When her son Landon died, her

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Elliott Wilson

Elliott has a successful career in the recruiting and staffing industry. He has owned TRC Professional Solutions in Columbia, SC for over 17 years. He has traveled to Vietnam twice to raise funding and see the work of Children of Vietnam. Elliott brings human resource and non-profit experience to the board after serving on multiple related boards over the years. He is a competitive

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