AAFSW’s Women’s History Month Panel

“The Increasingly Insightful Leadership Role that Women Play in Resolving Global Challenges”


H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the USA

Annie Simonian Totah, “A Woman Immigrant’s Story”

Jenny Bilfield, President and CEO, Washington Performing Arts

Anne L. Howard-Tristani, “Making A Difference in Life”


Friday, March 22, 10:30 a.m.
Burns Auditorium, George Marshall Center

AAFSW cordially invites you to join us for our eleventh annual Women’s History Month panel entitled “The Increasingly Insightful Leadership that Women Play in Resolving Global Challenges,” which will take place on Friday, March 22 at 10:30 a.m. in the Burns Auditorium at the George Marshall Center of the State Department in Washington, DC.

The event celebrates and promotes women’s history and empowerment and recognizes the important role that women have been playing in our society throughout the centuries, demonstrating their exceptional vision and leadership in all spheres.

The panel discussion will feature three highly accomplished women who have contributed to advancing women’s causes in important ways: Jenny Bilfield, Annie Simonian Totah, and Anne L. Howard-Tristani. Their biographies are below.

Please RSVP by March 19th to office@aafsw.org or 703-820-5420 to register. All attendees without a State Department badge will need to provide their date of birth and a driver’s license or passport number to submit to the Office of Security at the State Department. The charge for the program is $10.00 per person to cover catering costs. Please send your information and a check (made out to AAFSW) to our headquarters at 4001 North Ninth Street, Suite 214, Arlington VA, 22203. You may also pay online at www.aafsw.org. Scroll down to find the PayPal “Donate” button on the right sidebar. Where the donation page gives you an option to “Write a Note,” put “Women’s History Month.”

Please come to the 21st Street NW entrance of the Department of State (between C Street and Virginia Avenue NW). After going through security, go up the ramp, through the large Diplomacy Center atrium, through the heavy double doors into the original 21st Street Lobby. Rather than reporting to the main desk, please go to the table to your left where one of our members will check you in.
The closest metro is Foggy Bottom (Blue, Orange, Silver lines).

Parking: Columbia Plaza — on the corner of Virginia Avenue and 23rd Street. Columbia Plaza may be entered from Virginia Avenue or E Street. Expensive — $24 for more than 2 hours.
There is a small parking garage at 2112 F Street NW, which is less expensive than Columbia Plaza, but space is limited.

We will have an informal coffee (and tea) social time, which begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by the panel discussion, beginning at 11:00 a.m.
We look forward to seeing you.

Sheila Switzer
AAFSW Program Chair
Biographies of the Panelists


H.E Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the U.S.A.
H.E Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao is the African Union Ambassador to the United States of America since December 1st, 2016. She was nominated by H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chaiperson of the African Union Commission, to lead the African Union Mission to the USA, the first bilateral diplomatic Mission opened by the AU in 2007.

As the African Union Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Chihombori-Quao is fully committed to reinforcing the longstanding and deep historic, cultural and economic relations between Africa and the U.S. She plays a key role in reinforcing the African Union startegic partnerships with the United States, grounded on shared values and mutual interests. Ambassador Chihombori-Quao is a strong believer in the promise that the African Union- U.S. partnership holds and that a prosperous, peaceful and intergrated Africa is a shared strategic interest.

Prior to her appointment, Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao was a renowned family medicine doctor in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she has been practicing medicine for the last 25 years. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao is known internationally for her diligent efforts to improve healthcare systems, particularly in countries in Africa, and to promote women’s rights around the globe. Nearly 20 years ago, at a conference organized by then Africa Resources, Presidents Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe presented the noted philanthropist with an Achievement Award.This was her first major distinction which she highly appreciates and cherishes.

In September 2013, Dr. Chihombori-Quao was one of four women who represented Africa at the International Conference on Women’s Rights, hosted by the Government of Argentina in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. She delivered a moving speech on the topic, “Violence against Women and its Worldwide Effects.” At this conference, Dr. Chihombori shared the stage with two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Rigoberto Menchu of Guatamala and Alfonso Perez Esquivel of Argentina.

Ambassador Chihombori-Quao has also been actively involved in various programs and projects of the African Union. Since 2012, she was the Chair of the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI) where she was involved in mobilizing the African Diaspora health professionals to assist in addressing the healthcare crisis on the continent of Africa.
In 2015 at the 25th AU Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Chihombori-Quao was one of the fifteen women who received the “Women of Excellence Award” alongside with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Mrs. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, and Mrs. Winnie Mandela, the former first lady of South Africa. And several other prominent and remarkable African women achievers.

It is worth indicating that upon graduating from Medical School in 1986, Ambasador Dr. ChihomborI-Quao did three years General Surgery at State University of New York in Brooklyn, NY, USA, and another residency in Family Medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and Tennessee Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Chihombori-Quao’s Awards:
Ambassador Chihombori-Quao’s contributions to the cause of Africa have earned her many prestigious honors and awards with the most cherished one being an achievement award from the late South African President Nelson Mandela in 1996. Among the numerous awards, mention can be made of the:
• African Women of Excellence Award, African Union Diaspora Africa Forum Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2015.
• April 2014: Dr Chihombori-Quao was crowned “African Diaspora Queen”. The Coronation was Officiated by Chief Dasebre Kwebu Ewuusi, Chairman of the Central Region House of Chiefs in Ghana.
• Bridge Builders Award, African Communications Agency, Lilongwe, Malawi, June 2013.
• Renaissance Award, Planet Africa- Toronto Canada, November 2013.
• The Axel C Hansen, MD, Distinguished Physician Award, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennesse, October 2013.
• Fisk University Society of Philanthropist Award, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, October 2013.
• Gold Circle Plus Award, Meharry Medical College, July 2012.
• African Personality of the Year, December, 2011.
• April 2011: ”Change Agent Award” from African Communications Agency, Durban South Africa.
• America’s Top Family Doctor, Consumers Research Council of America, 2009.
• Outstanding Practitioner Award, Pan Africa, Nashville, Tennessee, 2004.
• Achievement Award, Bristol Myers Squibb Company (presented at the 1995 American Academy of Family Medicine Scientific Assembly).
• Excellence Award, Tennessee Managed Care Network, Nashville, Tennessee, November 1994.

Ambassador Dr. Chihombori-Quao is a native of Zimbabwe who immigrated to the USA in 1977. She is also Ghanian by marriage and a proud Mother of five children.

Annie Simonian Totah
For over forty years, Mrs. Annie Simonian Totah has been a leading defender of human rights, a vocal advocate of Armenia, Artsakh, and the Armenian American community, and fundraiser in local & national politics, as well as a staunch supporter of cultural, charitable, religious, and education programs in the Washington, D.C. area.

A graduate of the American University of Beirut, with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Annie Totah’s life as a community leader and activist has been a “journey of dedication.” Mrs. Totah has served in leadership positions in several Armenian charitable, cultural, and humanitarian organizations. As the first and only woman to serve as Chair of the Armenian Assembly of America, Mrs. Totah is recognized as an effective spokesperson for Armenian issues on Capitol Hill. She was also Chairman of the Washington Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and National Chair of the Armenian Rights Council of America, as well as the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the largest Armenian American Political Action Committee (ARMENPAC).

Since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Annie has worked tirelessly with Congress for the appropriation of more than $3 billion in foreign aid for the Republic of Armenia. Her contributions with the Armenian Assembly have included enactment of several pieces of legislations, the launching of numerous Annual Tribute Galas, and Missions to Armenia that have raised awareness, understanding, and funds both inside and outside the Armenian community. Mrs. Totah mobilized relief efforts for the homeless Armenian earthquake victims, and collaborated with the Marshall Legacy Institute to help raise $100,000 for the “Mine Detection Dog-Partnership” program in Armenia. She is affiliated with the U.S.-Armenia Task Force for Economic Cooperation, working to promote the economic development for the Republic of Armenia.

At the same time, with the encouragement of her late husband Sami Totah, Annie has also spearheaded countless Jewish initiatives, and has served as a bridge between the Armenian and Jewish communities. In 1999, she was part of an Armenian Assembly and American Jewish Committee delegation to Israel and Armenia, connecting the two communities. She was entrusted with managing the design, funding and construction of the only Moorish-style, Sephardic synagogue in the Nation’s Capital, to raising $6.5 million in Israeli Bond sales in a single event hailed as “Oscar Night” in Washington, D.C. She also conceived and executed a tribute gala for “Women of the Middle East Peace Legacy” honoring Mrs. Leah Rabin of Israel, Mrs. Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and Her Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran, with special guests Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace. The event raised $5 million for Save a Child’s Heart Foundation and $.25 million for the Tel Aviv University’s Center for Tolerance and Understanding, and was taped and televised nationwide. In addition, she has been the moving force behind galas, tributes, and fundraisers for the Magen David Sephardic Congregation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, American Friends of Hebrew University, American Friends of Tel Aviv University, American Sephardic Federation, Operation Embrace, and others. She was responsible for organizing the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Armenian Studies Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where leaders from Armenia and Israel were honored. She has coordinated many historic events with the Ambassadors of Israel and Armenia, along with several dignitaries from the two communities at the Armenian Embassy.

Annie serves on too many Boards to enumerate. Annie’s fame and success has not been only in her charitable giving, but in her ability to conceive and produce spectacular and unique events for dozens and dozens of charitable causes like CARE, Washington Ballet, Heifetz Music Institute, Strathmore Music Center, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Marshall Legacy Institute, Young Concerts Artists, and more. She donates, networks, elevates the cause of the organization, and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions – for Washington Performing Arts Society about $1.0 million, Best Buddies with Anthony Kennedy Shriver $1.25 million, Susan G. Komen Honoring the Promise Gala $2.0 million, John Hopkins Sibley Hospital Gala $2.5 million, Israel Bonds Ambassadors’ Gala $6.5 million in bonds sales, and the list goes on. For chairing the Spring Gala of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the event was so spectacular that the Washington Post described it as “Annie Totah’s Show.”

Mrs. Totah is a breast cancer survivor and a supporter of Sibley Hospital. And through the Totahs’ generousity of $1 million, the Hospital has dedicated the Executive Wing in the name of Sami & Annie Totah Family Foundation. A major donor and supporter of political causes, Annie has hosted in her beautiful home several fundraisers for Democratic candidates, and has raised significant funds while serving on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.

Mrs. Totah is a recipient of many honors and awards, including:
-The Ellis Island Medal of Honor
Movses Khorenatzi Medal, the highest honor given by the President of the Republic of Armenia, for outstanding achievements in the spheres of culture, art, literature, education, social sciences, and for advocacy regarding the general welfare of the Armenian people
Medal of Appreciation by the President of the Republic of Artsakh (NKR)
Encyclical of Gratitude and Appreciation by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Contributions to Human Rights by the United Nations
International Cultural Ambassador Award by Moment Literary Magazine
-American Woman of Valor Award by Save a Child’s Heart Foundation
Distinguished Humanitarian Award by the Armenian Assembly of America
Business Hall of Fame award from Montgomery County, MD
-Shining Star Award from Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital, and many others.

Jenny Bilfield, President & CEO, Washington Performing Arts
Jenny Bilfield was appointed Washington Performing Arts’ fourth President and CEO in April 2013. Based in Washington, D.C., with performances and programs spanning the Capital region, Washington Performing Arts was founded in 1965. It thrives today as one of the nation’s preeminent multi-disciplinary arts presenters, especially notable for launching and nurturing innumerable performing artists, and sustaining high-impact arts education partnerships with the D.C. public schools and diplomatic community. In 2013, Washington Performing Arts was the first organization of its kind to receive the coveted National Medal of Arts (conferred by President Obama at the White House), as well as a Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts, and most recently the Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education. In her first year Bilfield broadened Washington Performing Arts’ profile and organizational capacity through an institutional re-branding, by launching the Mars Urban Arts Initiative (funded by Mars Inc. and Jacqueline Badger Mars) to fuel connections between mainstage and amateur D.C. artists, initiating new commissioning projects with composers and performers, and in conceiving and producing the landmark, multi-partner concert, Of Thee We Sing, at Constitution Hall celebrating the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Bilfield has also initiated robust partnerships, including one with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to create SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras, and with Building Bridges Across the River for the 11th Street Bridge Park (which received early support from the Mellon Foundation and ArtPlace respectively). Early in her tenure she was recognized among the “30 Key Influencers in the Arts: Movers and Shakers” by Musical America, honored by the Washington Chorus at its 2015 gala, and has been recognized (2013, 2015, and 2017) by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Washington.”

From 2006-2013, Bilfield was Artistic and Executive Director of Stanford Lively Arts and Artistic Director of Stanford Live (its successor organization) at Stanford University. During this time Bilfield stewarded the organization’s transformation from university presenter to a campus-based arts producer. Hired during the early days of Stanford’s arts initiative, Bilfield collaborated extensively with faculty and program partners to develop new pathways for immersive arts experiences for students and arts-goers in Silicon Valley and the wider Bay area. Programs garnered support from major multi-year and project support from national foundations including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Koret Foundation, and first time support from Doris Duke Charitable Trust and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others. She was a member of the core planning team for Stanford’s 842-seat Bing Concert Hall (named for Helen and Peter Bing, designed by Ennead Architects, Nagata Acoustics, and Fisher Dachs Associates), which opened to critical acclaim in January 2013. With a refreshed mission, to “engage artists’ and audiences’ imagination, creativity and sense of adventure,” Lively Arts and Bilfield received early accolades for her programming (inclusive of 25+ commissions) including special mention on the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of top 10 Notable Classical Music Developments of the Decade. Her active role in the Silicon Valley community was additionally recognized with the 2012 Champion of the Arts Award, presented by Cantabile Youth Singers with a Proclamation from the Mayor and City Council of Palo Alto, CA.

Prior to joining Stanford, Bilfield held numerous leadership roles in the arts throughout her 21 years in New York City. Best known for her specialized work in the strategic management, promotion, and presentation of contemporary music and cutting edge artists, Bilfield spent 12 years at music publisher Boosey & Hawkes where, as President, she was part of the international management team that led the company’s public-to-private transition. While there, Bilfield had a key role in business development that was both content-oriented (catalog acquisitions, new publishing lines in band and choral music, Boosey’s first foray into Jazz) and operational (a new strategy for printed music production and distribution, integrated management of composers). Bilfield also stewarded high visibility composer focused initiatives for the company, notably The Stravinsky Project, Steve Reich @ 70, and the international multi-year Copland 2000 celebration.

As Executive Director of the National Orchestral Association and founder of the New Music Orchestral Project (Jorge Mester, Music Director), Bilfield launched new American orchestral works through readings and premieres at Carnegie Hall and Manhattan School of Music. For this work Bilfield received an Adventuresome Programming award from ASCAP, and the Helen M. Thompson orchestra leadership award from the League of American Orchestras. Bilfield is an active participant in industry convenings and foundation and presenter panels, and has held seats on boards of organizations including the American Music Center and League of American Orchestras. She is a member of the Federal City Council in Washington and on the Steering Committee for ArtsActionDC. Jenny was chosen to participate in the 2017-18 National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program: Community and Culture, bringing together 50 arts executives from 34 states and 18 countries who are working to lead change in their organizations and communities and in the cultural field.

In 2016, Bilfield was named an Honorary Commander (CC) of The United States Air Force Band, only the second person to hold this title in the Band’s 75-year history.

Bilfield began playing the piano at age three and later received training with principal teachers including Walter Ponce and Harris Goldsmith, as well as Sylvan Levin (Associate Conductor to Leopold Stokowski). She began composing at age ten, and pursued studies with Edward Bilous, Jay Reise, and Samuel Adler. Bilfield attended Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Music at age 20. She is married to composer Joel Phillip Friedman, who teaches composition at Catholic University and privately in the D.C. area. They live in Washington, D.C., with their teenage daughter Hallie, two teenage parrots, and an adopted dog.


Anne L. Howard-Tristani

Anne L. Howard-Tristani is a Government Relations, International Public Affairs and Higher Education executive, with professional experience and accomplishments in the public, private and non-profit sectors. During her career she has worked at a senior and executive administrative level for two major Hispanic Serving Institutions of higher education, the state university and a private university, in Puerto Rico; for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce; for a U.S. Congressional Committee, an international public relations firm, a non-profit foundation and founded her own government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Howard-Tristani was promoted to the Senior Executive Service (SES) of the U.S. Government and awarded the SES Certificate of Recognition by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. She was also awarded the U.S. Department of Commerce Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Congressional Liaison Work by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Mrs. Howard-Tristani is currently President of Howard-Tristani International Consulting and works as a private consultant in the areas of Government and Diplomatic Relations, Public Affairs, International Education and Cultural Affairs, Business and Organizational Development, Strategic Marketing and Fund-Raising. She is also continuing her work on an oral history and book project she commenced a decade ago about the lives and legacies of her late Uncle, former U.S. Vice-President and Senator from Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey and his sister, her late mother, Frances Humphrey Howard. The book project, entitled: Sibling Citizens: The Lives and Legacies of Hubert H. Humphrey and Frances Humphrey Howard, will provide new insights about the significance of the Humphrey-Howard public service legacies, including major innovations and institutional changes they pioneered and implemented in politics, government and international relations.

Mrs. Howard-Tristani served as the first Vice-Chancellor of International, Federal and Corporate Affairs (IFCA) of the Universidad del Este (UNE) of the Ana G. Mendez University System (AGMUS), in Puerto Rico, from 2008-2012. She served as Special Assistant to the President of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the first Director of the UPR’s Office of Federal and External Affairs from 1994-2003. Mrs. Howard was a Visiting Scholar of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, from 2004-2008. She was the founding Executive Director of the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Foundation, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, created as a living memorial to Puerto Rico’s first woman Mayor of San Juan, from 1990-1994.

Mrs. Howard-Tristani is a former Carter Administration official and worked as Special Assistant to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Deputy to the Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Commerce. Following her service in the Carter Administration, Mrs. Howard became Vice-President of International Affairs of Fraser-Associates, an international public affairs firm. She later founded and served as President of Anne L. Howard and Associates, an international government relations consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. until moving to Puerto Rico in 1990. Earlier in her career, Mrs. Howard was a Professional Staff Member of the U.S House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Subcommittee on Economic Development and also worked at the Population Crisis Committee in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Howard-Tristani serves on the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution; the Board of Directors of The Embassy Series; the Advisory Council of the United Nations Association of the National Capitol Area (UNA/NCA) and, the Advisory Council of the Washington Opera Society.

Mrs. Howard-Tristani holds an M.A. in Political Science from Georgetown University, School of Government and a B.S. Cum Laude in Public Relations Journalism from Boston University, School of Public Communications. She is a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executive Service Program for State and Local Government, at Harvard University. She is married to Dennis Chavez Tristani and they have three adult children.