Dr. Albert Celoza Executive Director
The Arizona Interfaith Movement (AZIFM) appointed Dr. Albert Celoza as its Executive Director beginning July 7, 2022. Dr. Celoza succeeds Rev. Larry Fultz. Dr. Paul Eppinger, whose name has been associated with interfaith and Ecumenism in Arizona, is the founding director of the organization.
Dr. Celoza has served as faculty in World Religions and Political Science since the 1980’s at Phoenix College, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Arizona State University. He is a faculty fellow of the Brandeis University ENACT – The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation, The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. He gave classes and chaired the Season for Nonviolence at the Franciscan Renewal Center, or the Casa (Paz y Bien).
He has been recognized for excellence in teaching and was awarded the Arizona Professor of the Year in 2001 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He holds degrees in the humanities, religious studies, political science, and public administration. Recently, Dr. Celoza completed Applied Compassion Training (ACT). “The implementation of the Capstone Project for CCARE Stanford enriched and enlivened my vocation as a teacher. ACT gave me the opportunity to do research, formulate and design teaching and learning strategies. Compassion as a subject of inquiry and study presented me with curricular opportunities for enriching my mission of education,” said Dr. Celoza. (CCARE is the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University Medicine.)
Dr. Celoza’s travels have taken him to France to study with the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village, to the Middle East to study Biblical Archaeology, to Morocco to learn about Islam, and to various pilgrimage, religious sites and shrines.
Additionally, Dr. Celoza has been a long time member of AZIFM. He has partnered in significant ways to further the mission of AZIFM in 2009 when he was on a sabbatical, which included participation in AZIFM’s workshop at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia.
For more than 15 years he led Phoenix College Liberal Arts and established programs related to citizenship and civic engagement, and international studies. In addition to mentoring students, he funded scholarship endowments to support students in the sciences and international studies.
Dr. Celoza served as president of the United Nations (UNA-USA) Phoenix & Arizona and is currently Board President of the Asian Pacific Community in Action. Among his published works is the book Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism (Praeger, 1997).
Albert is married to Ann McLean Celoza. Their daughters are Amelia, assistant professor of engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and Emma, academic advisor at the W.P. Carey College of Business, Arizona State University and instructor at the Sun Devil Fitness Center.
Anne has served as Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona as an official representative appointed by her church to provide to the public, various media and the state legislature and agencies accurate information about Christian Science. Served as Treasurer for 5 years and as a member of the Golden Rule Committee, actively helped Arizona to become the 1st Golden Rule State in the U.S.
Anne Taylor (Christian Science) Business Manager
Eldred Spain (Community of Christ) President
Eldred and late his wife, Carolyn, began serving as representatives for Community of Christ on our Board in 2001. Eldred Is an ordained Evangelist in Community of Christ. Previous experience includes High School Social Studies Teacher for 19 years, and Full time ministry in Community of Christ for more than 21 years. His Higher Education is From Graceland University, University of Central Missouri. Arizona State University, and advanced studies at the Southern California School of Theology at Claremont CA. He has been serving as President since 2006.
Anita is a practicing Hindu who has lived with her family in the Phoenix metropolitan area, since the mid ’80’s. She is active in the temple activities around the valley and has led a devotional group “Vishnu Saharanama Satsangha” for the past 23 years.
She has a diverse educational background and experience of working with professionals of various caliber, over a thirty-year period. She received her BS in Engineering in 1985, MBA from Arizona State University in 1992, and a Master of Public Health from George Washington University in 2017.
In 2007, she started Prana Gyana Holistic Health and Wellness to teach yoga and meditation. Over the past fifteen years, she has willingly volunteered to share her knowledge and expertise as a board member, committee member, or a member at large for several non-profits including: International Yoga Association, American Association of Public Health, Indo American Cultural and Religious Foundation Senior Center, Arizona Forward, and Vitalyst Foundation.
Anita has served on the board of the Arizona Interfaith Movement since 2015 and is currently the Vice President of Membership.
Anita Rangaswami (Hindu) VP of Membership
LeAnn Basha (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) VP of Arizona Golden Rule Education (AGREE)
LeAnn Basha, Representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has served in many leadership positions both in her community and within her church. Most of her church service has been with the children and young adults. She has also had the opportunity to sit on many Boards in her community, one of her favorites being the Emily Andersen Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. LeAnn has a passion for children’s issues and things that effect their ability to grow up in a healthy community and world.
President of SAS Strategic, a domestic de-radicalization and counter-terrorism consulting firm. He also works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State involving faith matters and national security. He is also the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center of Peoria. He is a public speaker and he has written numerous publications on issues surrounding American Exceptionalism, social harmony, the religion of Islam, and counter-terrorism.
Sid Shahid (Muslim) VP of Education
Edward Casper (SGI Buddhist) VP of Education
Ed has served for many years in many capacities to further the mission of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and is an active speaker on the AZIFM Speaker’s Bureau. He assists AZIFM educational program planning on all levels and is active in the community working for social justice and legislative support.
Arizona with her husband, Ramesh(Roy) Somaiya. Patricia and Roy moved to Arizona over 30 years ago from England. They are originally from East Africa where Patricia was a dentist and Roy was a CPA.
Ramesh & Pratibha Somalia (Hare Krishna) CPA Treasurer(s)
Ginny Leason (Scientology) Secretary
Rev. Ginny Leason is the director of public affairs at the Church of Scientology Phoenix and has been working with volunteer ministers, drug education and interfaith communities here since 1990.
Karolyn Benger is the owner of KB Enterprise, a nonprofit consulting firm in Phoenix, AZ. Previously, she was the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Phoenix and served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta. She is a graduate of Emory University with a degree in Political Science and a specialization in the Middle East where she studied Arab and Islamist opposition groups in Egypt. Ms. Benger has taught at Emory University, Georgia Tech, and Emerson College and is passionate about interfaith dialogue, race relations, and community relations between Jews and non-Jews. She is a Modern Orthodox Rebbetzin who regularly speaks on Women in Orthodoxy, Women in Islam, Democratization in the Middle East, Social Movements, Anti-Semitism, and Islamist organizations. Her non-academic publications can be found with eJewish Philanthropy, Blue Avocado, Kveller, North Shore Children and Families, Times of Israel, and Binah.
Karolyn Benger (Jewish) VP of Education
Richard Gulbrandsen (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Attorney (non-voting member)
For over thirty years, Richard Gulbrandsen has focused on personal injury law, including motor vehicle accidents and wrongful death claims. His record of success is a reflection of his focused, passionate and well-informed approach to every claim. It is an approach that has garnered acclaim for both he and his firm.