Deborah Szekely, Founder
Deborah is the co-founder (1940) of the health spa and fitness resort Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, and founder (1957) of the Golden Door in North San Diego.
Deborah's service and activism career includes being President of the Inter-American Foundation, founder of Eureka Communities, and she is currently a board member for Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Congressional Management Foundation (she conceived and launched “Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide” now in its 14th edition), Washington Spa Alliance, and International Spa Association.
Her community work and philanthropy in the San Diego area spans seven decades. She founded a major arts foundation, spearheaded the campaign to rebuild the Old Globe Theatre, and San Diego Rotary named her “Mrs. San Diego” in 2002, among many other honors from other organizations.
In 2012, Mexican President Felipe Calderon presented her with Mexico’s highest honor for a foreign citizen: The Order of the Aztec Eagle. President Calderon praised her life-long community involvement and efforts to further the health of Mexico’s environment and people.
Now 92 years old, “but feeling like she’s in her 50s,” lectures and travels frequently, speaking on the high principles of “living the longer, healthier life,” as well as being a tireless advocate for health reforms.
“I dream of the time, very soon, when we will celebrate a wellness movement that has forever changed the lives of the American people,” she says. Through Wellness Warrior and her many other efforts, Deborah will continue to carry the banner of prevention into every battle against those practices and policies that threaten the health of our nation today, and the generations of Americans to come.
Read more about Deborah here.
PHOTO: Carol Sonstein
Wellness Warrior Team & Advisory
Mary-Elizabeth Gifford, Senior Advisor and Strategist
A strategist and social entrepreneur known for her work in organic luxury, natural beauty, and global sustainability issues, Mary-Elizabeth has worked for some of the world’s leading destination spas as well as on the green side of the beauty and skin care business. In addition to serving as a Board member of both Demeter and Stellar, she is a past Director of the International Spa Association and is currently Vice-Chair of the Washington National Spa Alliance, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Center for Responsible Travel, based in Washington, D.C., and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Mary-Elizabeth, a native New Yorker, graduated from Brown University with honors and had a year of post-graduate study at Harvard University, where she was an Affiliate of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation of Journalism. She is a Strategic Partner, Tattoo Strategy Network of Expertise. She has presented at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, the Global Spa Summit, the annual LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Forum in Boulder, the International Spa Association,and on the faculty of the Health and Beauty Association. A prize-winning former journalist, her work has been published in Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, New York magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, an editor at NPR, National Public Radio, and their family.
Peter Jensen, Editor in Chief, Senior Advisor
Longtime magazine writer and editor Peter Jensen has focused most of his career reporting on natural history, lifestyle, architecture, travel and what he calls “a healthy interest in creating a life filled with adventure, creativity, and deep family ties.” During his career he has enjoyed long tenures as a staff editor at Sunset magazine, the Editor of San Diego Home/Garden magazine, and a contributor to dozens of national publications, including This Old House and Coastal Living. He is the author of 10 books on travel-related subjects. He has also been a marketing consultant and writer for the destination spa/resorts Golden Door and Rancho La Puerta for over 20 years, deepening his connection to both his own health and the health of others via a rewarding life of wellness.
Peter lives in Del Mar, California, where he spends a good deal of time as a board member of two parks and arts non-profit organizations. He avidly explores the outdoors daily, from his backyard garden to the waves a short walk down the cliff below his house, to the desert canyons of Anza-Borrego. His favorite outdoor activities include annual backpacking trips of a hundred miles or more in the Sierra Nevada, touring Canadian lakes and rivers by canoe, and “culinary tourism” in search of the slow-food, artisanal traditions of the U.S. and other countries.
A widower, he is the father of two sons, and a grandfather twice over—what he calls the “ultimate wellness challenge to help them inherit a world worthy of their innocence.”
Laurie Dietter, Creative Director
Brand expert, creative director, and artist/designer Laurie Dietter has paralleled her personal life’s passionate attention to wellness with a career often devoted to wellness clients and causes.
Proficient in both start ups and re-branding, Laurie and her California-based studio, Dietter Design Group, provide creative services — including brand identity, product packaging, print collateral, website design and development, logo design, and marketing strateg—to spas and other wellness businesses that have included the original Golden Door, award-winning Rancho La Puerta, the organic garden-to-table cooking school La Cocina Que Canta, the community-based non-profit organization Fundación La Puerta, and the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Jurlique, a pioneering brand in the organic skin care category, has been another noted client.
Before joining Wellness Warrior, Laurie worked with the historic Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, California, where she created, directed, and executed all communications, including the spa’s noted 150th anniversary history project. She is a founding board member of the Washington Spa Alliance, based in Washington, D.C.
An artist and photographer, Laurie lives in San Diego, California, with her three children. Her wellness passions include hiking with her Lab “Starr,” yoga, Pilates, hitting a different farmers’ market every few days, and cooking gourmet organic meals daily on her beloved Chambers 1950s-era range and oven.
Damon Cory-Watson, Director of Development, Chief Correspondent, Activist and Writer
Chief Correspondent Damon Cory-Watson is committed to reporting sustainable, healthier ways of living that develop and benefit global wellness programs, natural ecosystems and human welfare. He is particularly expert in the intersection of agricultural, human health and the environment. He also reports on a wide variety of breaking news in the wellness world, from scientific breakthroughs to human interests, and specializes in interviews with leading-edge scientists, holistic health pioneers, and wellness activists.
Damon is a graduate of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment from which he received his Master’s of Environmental Management. Prior to attending graduate school he had a long stint running an outdoor education program and teaching in the classroom at a public charter school in Washington, D.C.
He lives with his wife in Durham, North Carolina. Experienced travelers, youth-program volunteers and advocates, they particularly enjoy living a sustainable home life centered on gardening, exercise, and music.
Juniper Briggs, Writer
Lifestyle blogger, writer, and artist with a background in content curation, social media, and public relations, Juniper has a passion for promoting interesting, educational, and exciting material in order to inspire her readers.
Juniper received an Integrative Studies degree in Cross-Cultural Communications from Guilford College. Along with her extensive travels abroad, she has studied and worked in Mexico and Spain.
Although she has worked in both public relations as well as magazine writing, Juniper’s most recent endeavor has been to create the lifestyle blog, Superb in the Burbs. It is through her blog that she has been able to explore her love of family and healthy living, along with her enthusiasm for seasonal and local food, DIY projects, thrifting, art and beyond.
Happily married, Juniper is the mother of two little girls. Her other passions include painting and novel writing, which she works on whenever the time allows.
Marissa Ochoa, Social Media Intern
Marissa Ochoa, an aspiring journalist and social media content creator, has always sought after greener ways of living. Whether it's eating organically or creating a home garden, she believes in inspiring others to live cleaner and sustainable lives.
Marissa is a graduate of San Diego State University with a degree in journalism/media studies. She's a social and broadcast media enthusiast, contributing to numerous sites and publications throughout her college career. She hosted her own radio show through KCR, SDSU's college radio station, wrote for the Daily Aztec, and has branded herself through marissaxochoa.com. Currently, she is part of the promotions department for Entercom Communications and interns with the marketing and communications director of Dance to Evolve.
She has a huge soft spot for the arts coming from a decade-long dance background in ballet, tap, and jazz. She continues to train, more specifically in aerial silks. She enjoys quiet time at home watching movies and experimenting with new baking recipes from time to time.
Claire Northrop, Social Media Intern
Claire is a young environmentalist who has been accepted to several prestigious universities, but higher studies will wait while she takes a gap year to get some real-world experience. Active in her community, some of her previous experience with non-profit organizations includes an internship at San Diego's Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego. She plans to major in Environmental Studies.
Claire is a California native, born in San Francisco but now making her home in San Diego. She is a health-conscious foodie who makes it a hobby to seek out interesting, substantial foods that are kind to the planet as well as a young person’s budget. Being the only Millennial on the team, her job naturally revolves around social media postings but she also helps with some reporting and editing.