Honorary Board Members

James C. Strickler

James C. Strickler, MD, Professor of Medicine and Community and Family Medicine Emeritus, graduated from Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical School, and the Cornell Medical College. He trained in internal medicine and physiology at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in NYC. From 1954-1956 he served as the independent medical officer aboard the USS Kenneth Whiting in the western Pacific. In 1958-59 he was the Chief Medical Resident at the New York Hospital. From 1959-62 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology and from 1962-67 served as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Cornell Medical College. In 1967 he moved to Dartmouth as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to plan, along with Dean Carlton Chapman, the transition from a two-year, basic medical science program to a full MD curriculum. He served as Dean of the Dartmouth Medical School from 1973-81 and sponsored the development of the Brown-Dartmouth MD Program. Following his deanship, he qualified in geriatrics and as a member of the faculty of the Dartmouth Medical School, specialized in the care of the elderly until 1996, when he retired from clinical practice. After working with Cambodian refugees in Thailand in 1982, Dr. Strickler joined the Board of the International Rescue Committee. Along with Ambassador Winston Lord, he co-chaired the IRC Board from 1999-2004 and is now Chairman Emeritus and an Overseer of the IRC. As a member of the IRC Board he made over 35 trips to visit refugee programs in Asia, Africa, the Balkans, Central America and the Mid-East. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Global Health Council and is a former Chairman of the Board of the National Council for International Health. Dr. Strickler continues to teach international health at the Dartmouth Medical School and since 2000 has coordinated the School’s extensive activities in Kosovo, which have included a continuous, bilateral, student exchange program with the School of Medicine at the University of Prishtina and three, sequential, USAID funded health programs to improve primary, antenatal and perinatal care throughout this former province of Yugoslavia. Dr. Strickler recently founded the Kosovo based Foundation for Healthy Mothers and Babies and was a charter member of the Board of Trustees. This foundation, now dissolved, has evolved into the nonprofit organization Action for Mothers and Children, and Dr. Strickler is the Honorary Chairman. His 14-year interests in Kosovo recently facilitated a new academic liaison between Dartmouth and the American University in Kosovo. In 2012 Kosovo President Jahjaga presented Dr. Strickler the Mother Teresa Medal and in 2013 the Albanian American Medical Society honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his humanitarian work in Kosovo.

Elia Zaharia

Elia is the daughter of George Zaharia and Yllka Muji. Yllka Muji is the famous Albanian actress who was given the title of “Maestro of Arts” in recognition of her career in the National theatre. Elia Zaharia is the fiancée of Prince Leka of Albania. She graduated from the St. Denis University in Paris, in theatre. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Elia is very interested in the film industry, taking part in a number of short script films in France, whilst supporting her brothers projects in Albanian. From a young age Elia has shown vocal talent for light Albanian Music. From 1999 until 2002 Elia took part in a successful girls group called “Spirit Voice”, giving her the opportunity to take part in concerts throughout the Albanian region, including war torn Kosova, where the group was very active in supporting the humanitarian aid activities. Elia is an actress who lived in the beautiful city of Paris for 8 years, and parallel studies, she was an actress of the Theatre of Paris in several plays. She has also studied in “Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Bordeaux” in Bordo, France from 2003-2005, and later in “Cours Florent” until 2007. Besides her passion for theatre, Elia is also a singer and philanthropist and will soon be crowned as Princess of Albania. Since 2010, Elia lives in Tirana, Albania and is engaged in many theatre projects as well as her newly founded Foundation. Being member of the Royal Family of Albania, Elia spends a lot of time on the Royal Family activities as well. Elia is the President of Queen Geraldine Foundation whose purpose is to provide humanitarian support to families in poverty, orphans and children of all social strata of the population in need.

Richard Lukaj

Richard Lukaj is a founder and Managing Partner of The Bank Street Group LLC, a US registered Broker Dealer headquartered in the New York metropolitan area. Rich has over 20 years of investment banking experience and has executed hundreds of transactions over the course of his successful investment banking career, ranging from mergers and acquisitions, underwriting of debt, equity and derivative securities, restructurings, exclusive sales and other financial advisory mandates. He has broad experience in a variety of industries including Media, Communications, Technology, Consumer, Retailing, Energy, Aerospace, Specialty Finance, Real Estate and Natural Resources. Richard has been recognized as a significant voice for economic development, stability and pro-democratic initiatives in Southeastern Europe. Mr. Lukaj was the Chairman of the National Albanian American Council (NAAC), the leading organization in the United States with offices in Washington and throughout the Balkans. He developed a reputation with diplomats in the US and abroad for pragmatic thinking and acting as a reliable bridge between the region and the international community. Mr. Lukaj was honored for his work by the Republic of Albania by being selected as the Honorary Consul to the United States and later confirmed by the U.S. Department of State. Richard has also been active in philanthropic activities throughout the region, both as a significant donor personally and prolific fundraiser. He was a founder and currently serves as the Chairman of the A.U.K., which has partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Dartmouth University and other prominent educational institutions to deliver the highest quality accredited private education in Southeastern Europe. Richard was also a founder of the Hope Fellowship program, an organization partnered with USAID which provides leadership training for women of the Balkans and arranges for executive exchange programs with the largest corporations and governmental and non-governmental agencies of the United States. He also led the Hands of Hope campaign which targeted multi-year fundraising initiatives which raised funds and collaborated with organizations such as Mercy Corps., AmeriCares and many others to transform the standard of living for orphans and young people in the region. More recently, hejoined in founding the Foundation for Healthy Mothers and Babies in Kosova in honor of his late daughter Adelina, which delivered over $500,000 in medical essential medical equipment and supplies to Kosova this year alone. Richard has also been a founder and/or supporter of APEN (Albanian Professional and Entrepreneurs Network), “Motrat Qiriazi”, the leading Albanian women’s organization, the Albanian American Cultural Foundation, the Albanian American National Organization and numerous other Albanian regional, religious, educational and cultural institutions. In addition to his advocacy and philanthropic activities, Richard established the Lukaj Foundation and has been extremely active in promoting investment in the region and has led numerous business/investor delegations related to potential investments in the area. He has contributed to the development of investor conferences in the US and Europe related to potential investments in the Balkans, particularly focused on Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. Richard also led delegation visits by various congressional groups, OSCE observation teams, international election monitors, various ambassadors and orchestrated and participated in the visits of President William J. Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other such dignitaries to the region. Richard has personally known and interacted with many of the pertinent leaders of Albania since the fall of Communism and is seen as a non-partisan activist for Albania and Albanian affairs. He is also well known among the international entities that are engaged in the region, particularly the U.S. embassies in the region, UN, USAID, EBRD, the World Bank/IFC and NATO representatives in the area.

Philip Sigwart

Philip has spent most of his career working in banking in emerging markets. He is currently based in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo where he works in a senior management position for Equity Group Holdings (Kenya). Prior to that, he was CEO of ProCredit Bank Kosovo, the leading bank in Kosovo, and Chairman of the Kosovo Banking Association. Before that, he was CEO of ProCredit Bank in Georgia. He started his career with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Russia. During his time in Kosovo, Philip helped found the Kosovo based Foundation for Healthy Mothers and Babies and was acting Chairman of the Board of Trustees. This foundation, now dissolved, has evolved into the non-profit organization Action for Mothers and Children. Philip has a Bachelor and a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.