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The Nat Welcomes Four New Board Members During Historic Anniversary Year

June 4, 2024

New Members Bring Diverse Perspectives and Will Bolster Efforts to Position the Organization for Success for the Next 150 Years

SAN DIEGO—The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) has appointed four new members to its Board of Directors. They step into their roles at the height of The Nat’s 150th anniversary—a historic moment for the Museum and its role in the region’s conservation.

“As we head into our next 150 years, we are intentionally seeking a multifaceted board—encompassing differences in age, gender, ethnicity, and background—to foster diversity of thought and reflect a wider range of perspectives and experiences,” said Judy Gradwohl, the Christy Walton President and CEO of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

The four new board members bring significant legal, financial, and public policy expertise while also representing the family and young professional audiences The Nat is serving.

Sarah E. Aghassi, Esq.
Interim Chief Administrative Officer, County of San Diego 

Sarah Aghassi has been serving as the Interim Chief Administrative Officer for the County of San Diego, where she leads a workforce of 20,000 employees and oversees an operating budget of nearly $8.5 billion. She applied for the post during this critical time of transition for the County knowing that the Interim CAO would not compete or be chosen for the permanent role. Prior to this position, Sarah served as the General Manager and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for San Diego County’s Land Use and Environment Group.

Before her tenure with the County, Sarah was the Policy Director for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, where she advocated on behalf of the business community at local, state, and federal levels. 

Sarah is a licensed attorney in California, holding a Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific in Sacramento and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations with Minors in Business Administration and Philosophy from the University of San Diego. She resides in the Del Sur community of San Diego with her family, including her dog Saffron, and enjoys photography, travel, and spending time with loved ones.

Edmond Lay
Associate, Cooley

Edmond is an associate with the global law firm Cooley LLP. His practice focuses on corporate and securities matters, including venture capital debt and equity financing, corporate governance and compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and public offerings. Edmond has broad experience representing private and publicly held life sciences and technology companies in a wide range of verticals through all stages of development from formation to exit.

Edmond earned his J.D. from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in Chicago and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. He lives in Carlsbad and enjoys exploring San Diego with his wife and two young children.

Chikako Okada Tyler
Chief Financial Officer, California Bank & Trust 

As executive vice president, chief financial officer of California Bank & Trust, Chikako is responsible for the successful execution of the bank’s financial strategy and profitability management. Chikako is a growth-focused leader and has a broad background in commercial real estate development, risk management, finance, and leading sales teams. 

Chikako holds an international MBA from the Amsterdam Business School at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the University of California, Irvine. She is also a graduate of the International Women’s Foundation Fellowship program at Harvard Business School and INSEAD for executive leadership education.  

Chikako resides in Del Mar with her family and enjoys hiking, skiing, and being an amateur foodie.

Victor Vilaplana
Chief Financial Officer,

Victor Vilaplana serves as chief financial officer at, a software company that leverages AI for business conversations, where he oversees the company’s finance, accounting, legal, and people operations. Prior to Verse, Victor served as vice president of financial relations at Renovate America, overseeing a 15-person cross-functional team that identified and capitalized on new market opportunities.

Earlier in his career, Victor worked as an associate at Morgan Stanley before holding leadership positions at Sempra Energy and its subsidiaries, including roles in mergers and acquisitions and investor relations. Victor holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Stanford University and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. 

Victor lives in Chula Vista and enjoys golfing and spending time outdoors with his family.

About the San Diego Natural History Museum  

The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and scientific institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum works to preserve and protect this amazing place we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit Follow The Nat on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on Facebook.  


Photo (clockwise from upper left): Sarah Aghassi, Edmond Lay, Victor Vilaplana, Chikako Okada Tyler. 

Press Kit

Media Info

For media inquiries, please contact:

Toni Robin, TR/PR Public Relations,, 858.483.3918
Paula Sternberg Rodriguez, Science Communicatons Manager,   
Rebecca Handelsman, Senior Director of Communications & Exhibits,