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Our Mission

The mission of the Savannah Council on World Affairs (SCWA) is to foster individual awareness of, broaden community interest in, and promote the study of international issues, and to work with other organizations concerned with similar objectives.

What We Do

  • The Council provides a forum for discussion of international affairs by hosting monthly programs from September through May. Speakers are recognized authorities including current and former government officials, diplomats, educators, journalists, and members of non-governmental organizations. They come from both the U.S. and around the world. These programs have been offered since 1984.
  • The Council is a non-partisan, tax-exempt organization and neither participates in political campaigns nor attempts to influence legislation. It is affiliated with, and pays dues to, the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), located in Washington, D.C. This "parent" organization, founded in 1918, has 83 member councils with approximately 80,000 members, and is considered the premier organization providing information to the citizens of our country on international affairs. It organizes an annual National Conference focused on a subject or region of current interest, which many members of the Council choose to attend.
  • Each year the Council provides a stipend to several undergraduates to assist in their decision to study abroad during the summer. Undergraduates from Savannah State, Armstrong Atlantic State and Georgia Southern Universities are chosen using the following criteria: a-they have already been selected for a study abroad program, b- they have a good academic record, and c- they have financial need. Each stipend recipient gives a brief report on their program at the beginning of one of our Fall programs. In addition, a college-level "Great Decisions" program has been implemented in the form of an Honors course at Armstrong Atlantic State University and Savannah State University.
  • Council members are eligible to participate in travel programs sponsored by the Philadelphia Council. A wide variety of guided trips are available each year, and some are outstanding values. For further information on these programs, click here.

Officers, Program Chairs and Directors

(Names in blue are linked to a brief resume)


President Byron A. Boyd
Vice President
Martin Vernick
Treasurer Justin A. Godchaux
Recording Secretary
Olavi Arens, Ph.D
Corresponding Secretary
George B. Pruden, PhD.

Committee Chairs

Program Jose de Arimateia da Cruz, Ph.D, Melvyn P. Galin, Ph.D
Kathy S. Ledvina
Membership Pamela Rhoads Allen
Sponsorship Michael D. Brown
Communications Marty Vernick
Michael D. Brown


James N. Anderson, Ph.D Randy Moffett
Bernard Bongang, Ph.D Roger H. Smith
Claudia (Candy) R. Baxter Emmanuel M. Naniuzeyi, Ph.D.
John L. Neely Mohamed Mukhtar, Ph.D
Sherry G. Leblang Ex-officio voting Director
George B. Pruden, Ph.D. Ex-officio non-voting Director
Charles (Chip) O'Brien Roger. H. Smith
Danielle L. Smith

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The Savannah Council on World Affairs, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-profit, all volunteer organization. Its purpose is to make available information, analysis, and strategic thinking about important international issues. The Savannah Council neither participates in political campaigns nor attempts to influence legislation. Founded in 1984, the Savannah Council is one of 85 councils affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America, established in 1918.

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Kathy S. Ledvina

Raised in Chicago, IL I combined my passion for history and architecture and pursued a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation at the Savannah College of Art & Design.  Mentored by Leopold Adler, II the City of Savannah became home in 1994.  As a SCAD professor I shared the preservation knowledge and enthusiaism taught to me with incoming college students.  A teaching experience which lead to the co-founding of SCCPS High School Historic Preservation Program.  Under the umbrella of Historic Preservation, I manage Preservation Associates, II and am engaged with Preservation Consulting, Recognized Rehabilitation Construction, Real Estate & Development, and National & State Advocacy.  Actively involved in Savannah’s non-profit community I participate/d with:  Junior League of Savannah, Historic Savannah Foundation, The King Tisdell Cottage Foundation, Heritage Committee Chair at the First City Club, Leadership Savannah, Savannah Development & Renewal Authority, and the Ossabaw Island Foundation.  Interests include traveling, cemeteries, and art.

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Pamela Rhoads Allen

Pam Allen, our current Membership Chairman, is a native of Savannah.  She received a Bachelor’s degree in English literature with a minor in French from Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia, and a Juris Doctor degree from Walter F. George School of Law, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  In 2006 she retired from the practice of law with the local firm Oliver Maner & Gray LLP, where she had been a partner concentrating in the area of public finance law.

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Mrs. Allen has served on the Boards of Directors of Parent and Child Development Services and Hope School for Hearing Impaired Children, serving mainly in the area of legislative advocacy.  She also has served on the Open Space Committee of the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Committee and is a graduate of Leadership Savannah.  She served as Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Landings Association, the governing body for The Landings.  She joined the Board of SCWA in 1994 and has served as Vice President and Corresponding Secretary of the Council, and Chairman of the Membership Committee and the Nominating Committee.

Michael Brown

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Michael Brown was appointed to the Board in February 2008 to complete the unexpired term of the late Admiral Owen W. Siler, USCG, Ret.  Mr. Brown has been a member of a Council on World Affairs since 1983, first in Washington, D.C. He has been directly involved in Economic Development and Real Estate for over 35 years throughout the United States including Washington State, Baltimore, MD, the Washington D.C. area (Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Capital Hill, Logan Circle), as well as internationally in Greece, Hungary, and soon Albania.  Mr. Brown is President and Co-Owner of Marley Management and President and Owner of Durbin Holdings, both of which are involved in historic preservation and real estate development, both residential and commercial.  He is responsible for purchasing and restoring 19 buildings along Broughton Street.  He is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Georgia Historical Society.  He is the recipient of many awards, including the Historic Savannah Foundation Rehabilitation Award (2001, 2002, 2004, 2-2005, 2-2006, 2007), the King Tisdell Cottage Foundation-Leopold Adler II, Historic Preservation Award, the Savannah Downtown Business Association Successful Urban Savannah Independent Entrepreneur Award, the City of Baltimore Historic Preservation Award, and the Small Business Assistance Corporation Award.

Jose de Arimateia da Cruz, Ph.D

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Jose de Arimateia da Cruz, Ph.D, our current Chairman of the Junior Councils, has been Program Chairman for current program season.  He joined the Board in December 2006.  A native of Brazil, Dr. da Cruz received a B.A. Degree in Philosophy from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, an M.A. Degree in Political Science/Political Philosophy from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  Dr. da Cruz has been Assistant Professor of Political Science/Comparative Politics at Armstrong Atlantic State University (“AASU”) since 2003.  He teaches World Politics, Environmental Politics, Latin American Politics, Theories of International Relations, Governments of Africa, Third World National Security, Comparative Foreign Policy, Media and Politics in Latin America, Foundations of International Relations, International Organizations, G8 and Savannah (Honors Course), Ethical Theories and Moral Issues in Government, HIV/AIDS in the Developing World (Honors Course). During the summer, he teaches at the La Serena Universidad in La Serena, Chile.  Dr. da Cruz is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.

Melvyn P. Galin, Ph.D

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Melvyn P. Galin, Ph.D., a native of Savannah, received a B.S. degree from Georgia Tech and a Masters and Ph.D. from Indiana University.  He also studied at The American University and at MIT.  Dr. Galin worked in the medical and chemical supply field, in structural steel, and in the duplicating and printing industry. For four years he was in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.  He worked for almost 27 years at MITRE Corporation, a system engineering organization established by MIT.  At the end of his career with MITRE he was special assistant to the President and CEO, leading a project with the American Academy of Opthalmology that resulted in a White House invitation by President Reagan.  In Massachusetts, Dr. Galin also did much pro bono work, serving on three Governor’s Management Task Forces and a Board of Regents Task Force.  He represented the MITRE President on the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce and was appointed by the Governor to the Massachusetts Energy Advisory Board.

For three years Dr. Galin was Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Human Resources and for 16 years was a member and the Executive Secretary of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Information Technology, serving for three governors. Dr. Galin taught graduate and undergraduate economics, investments, entrepreneurship and small business management at Northeastern University and at a Massachusetts public college. Since 1985 he has been the President and CEO of the Institute for Educational Services. He is currently the Executive Secretary of the 62-year-old National Conference on the Advancement of Research (NCAR) that brings together top-level R&D officials from industry, government, education and independent research organizations.  For six years Dr. Galin was on the Advisory Board to the Department of Energy at the Savannah River Site, including four years as Chair of the Strategic Management Committee and a year as Vice Chair of the Board.  He worked on the boards of CBETA and the Coastal Venture Investment Forum (CVIF).  He is on the board of the Mulberry Grove Foundation and the Skidaway Marine Sciences Foundation and performs merger, acquisition, and other management consulting work.

Sherry G. Leblang

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Sherry G. Leblang graduated magna cum laude from Wake Forest University in 1972 with a B.A. in Spanish where she was a Carswell Scholar and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Her junior year was as an exchange student at the University of the Andes in Bogota taking numerous courses in Latin American literature, culture, anthropology, and political science.  After moving to Savannah, Sherry taught in a public high school where she served as chair of the Foreign Language Department for ten years, sponsored the Foreign Language Club, and took students on trips abroad to Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  She is a certified Advanced Placement instructor and received an M.Ed. in Spanish from Georgia Southern University in 1992.  Sherry joined the faculty of Savannah Christian Preparatory School in 1999 where she presently teaches or has taught Spanish I, II, III and IV.  She sponsors the Global Forum Club and served as a co-advisor to the National Honor Society for six years.  Since 2001 she has traveled to Guatemala six times with Faith in Practice, an ecumenical medical-surgical-dental mission organization.  Fluent in Spanish, she volunteers as a translator and patient advocate.

George B. Pruden, Ph.D

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George Pruden is a charter member of the Savannah Council on World Affairs and has served almost continuously on its Board of Directors.  During his tenure he was on the Program Committee and served as Recording Secretary, Vice President, and President (2005-2006).  He also made four program presentations, three as speaker and one as a panelist.

He is a 1960 honor graduate of Wake Forest College, where he majored in History and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa..  Upon graduation he joined the U. S. Naval Reserve, completed Officer Candidate School, and was commissioned as an Ensign.  His duty stations included Subic Bay, the Philippines; the Defense Language Institute in Washington, DC (completing a 15-month course in Mandarin Chinese); Okinawa; and Japan.  After his release from active duty with the rank of Lieutenant in 1967, he enrolled in American University and earned an M.A. in Far East Area Studies and a Ph.D. in International Studies (with Certificate in Asian Study).

His academic career began in South Carolina in 1970, where he taught in several colleges and a middle school and completed post-doctoral work in Middle East history.  He was hired by the Department of History at Armstrong State College in 1982 to teach advanced courses in Chinese, Japanese, and Middle East history, the World Civilization survey, and Secondary School Social Studies Methods.  He also supervised student teachers, having earned an M.Ed. at the University of South Carolina.  He published several articles and reviews in scholarly journals, delivered papers at academic conferences, and made a number of general-interest presentations to a variety of groups.  He actively promoted the study of Asia in the University System of Georgia, holding several state-wide offices in organizations related to Asian studies as well as serving as President of the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Seminar and Vice President of the Southeast World History Association.  He organized and led four tours to the People’s Republic of China, two of which were study programs for the University System of Georgia faculty, at Nanjing Normal University and Yangzhou University.  He retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus in 2002.

Locally, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Coastal Georgia-Carolina Phi Beta Kappa Association from 1988 through 2006 and in 2007 assumed the position of Secretary-Treasurer of the South Atlantic District of Phi Beta Kappa.  He is an active member of First Baptist Church, Savannah, where he has served on the Diaconate and as chair and member of committees and taught Sunday School.  Currently he is chair of the History Committee, rings handbells, and sings in the adult choir.

He met Ginger Battershall, a Navy nurse, while in language school.  They married while he was stationed on Okinawa and she was stationed in Japan.  Their two children were born during the time he was teaching in South Carolina.  When they were old enough for after-school day care, she completed a Master of Nursing degree at the University of South Carolina.  Once they moved to Savannah, she was hired by Armstrong to teach Nursing and retired in 2002 also.  They bought a waterfront lot in rural McIntosh County and built a house where they now live.  Both of their children are married and they have two granddaughters with another one expected in June 2010.

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Bernard L. Bongang, Ph.D

Benn L. Bongang is a native of Cameroon in Central Africa. His undergraduate studies were in the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, the University of Western Ontario and the Universite de Montreal in Canada.  He is a former Journalist and TV Producer/Director at the Cameroon Radio and Television Corporation, and was a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Boston University. He earned a M.S. Degree in Journalism from Boston University as well a M.A and Ph.D in International Studies from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  Before his graduate studies in South Carolina, Bongang worked for the United Nations Radio and for the Office of Disarmament Affairs at the UN headquarters in New York.

His first book, The United States and the United Nations: Congressional Funding and UN Reform was published in 2007 by LFB Scholarly of New York.

He is currently an associate professor of political science at Savannah State University where he teaches courses in Global Issues, Political Communication, U.S. Foreign Policy and International Politics.  He is also the former chairman of the department of political science and public affairs at SSU.

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