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Volunteer Profile


Volunteer of the Year: Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham

Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham

Pacific Symphony is pleased to nominate Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham for a Spirit of Volunteerism Award in 2020. OneOC’s Spirit of Volunteerism Awards provide an opportunity to recognize individual, group and corporate team volunteers for their dedicated service to Orange County.

Write on Jo Ellen's Spirit of Volunteerism virtual wall.

Since she joined the Pacific Symphony Board of Directors in 2003-04, Jo Ellen has taken an active role in the overall health and governance of the organization, creating opportunities to promote and advocate for the orchestra. She has been a key player in helping to engage new donors and patrons and has assisted in outreach to new communities. For 17 years, Jo Ellen has consistently gone above and beyond her duties as a treasured board member, patron, donor and volunteer. 

Jo Ellen first became involved with Pacific Symphony when she was the Director of Public Affairs for Edison, which has a strong presence in the communities it serves. Coupled with a love for music, her strong community ties perfectly blended her personal and professional interests for both organizations. Jo Ellen is the current Chair of the Board’s Education and Community Engagement Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. She recently joined the adjunct Capital Campaign Committee which is in the middle of the silent phase of a goal to boost the Symphony’s endowment by $50 million for its 50th anniversary in 2028-29.

Beginning in 2019, Jo Ellen initiated, created and implemented Pacific Symphony’s new Speaker’s Bureau comprised of volunteer advocates and influential activists to represent the orchestra around Orange County. She recruited and trained each volunteer speaker, who are now embarking to provide greater awareness of the orchestra at luncheons, community meetings, receptions and other social business events.

One of her greatest contributions to Pacific Symphony was helping the orchestra secure a concert broadcast on PBS Great Performances in June 2018. The project began with her interest as an Ellis Island medal recipient to produce and present the musical work “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” written by American composer Peter Boyer. Jo Ellen helped find major financing for the work included during the Symphony’s classical series, but also opened doors and helped ensure a nationally-televised concert of the work on PBS, where she sits on the station’s Orange County board. Jo Ellen shares her commitment to Pacific Symphony by saying: “The arts are an important part of a healthy, vibrant community. I am very aware of the impact music has on people – including education and mental health. Pacific Symphony excels in educational programs and community engagement and is a model for other orchestras.“ There is no stronger voice than Jo Ellen’s and the Symphony feels privileged to have her on the team.

Currently Dr. Chatham is Director of the Center for Public Policy, Citizenship and Ethics at Concordia University in Irvine. She has developed and is managing its signature project, United We Stand: Civility, Citizenship and the Constitution, whose mission is to increase the levels of civility and civic literacy in Orange County. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Media Group of Southern California which governs the operations of KOCE and KCET public television stations, as noted above. For ten years she was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of KOCE PBS SoCal. In 2015, she retired as Director of Public Affairs for the Southern Region of Southern California Edison (SCE) where her team of Regional Managers was responsible for overseeing the relationships between SCE, the County of Orange and more than fifty cities in LA and Orange Counties.

Jo Ellen served for six years as the Lay-Vice Chair of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), and continues to serve as a member of the boards of the Orange County Forum, World Affairs Council of Orange County, OC Music & Dance and the Irvine Music Festival. For nearly 15 years, Jo Ellen was an Associate Professor of Political Science at West Los Angeles College where she also served as an administrator and officer in the Faculty Senate.

Jo Ellen received her B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from California State University at Northridge and a second M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Southern California. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled “Constitutional Interpretation: Views of the Early Congresses Concerning Judicial Review and Original Meaning.” She also studied Consumer Economics in the UCLA graduate school. Pacific Symphony takes pride in nominating Dr. Chatham who is an indispensable volunteer board member and friend to the orchestra.