Board of Directors Bios
Executive Director, President of the Board
Mary has been with Free Flight for almost 25 years. After purchasing a young Goffins’ Cockatoo in 1986 from a local pet store in Encinitas, California, it soon became apparent that she needed some help in learning how to handle this shy, wild-caught bird. Her good friend Carmen told her about this cool place in Del Mar where there was a yard full of parrots that one could play with and people who knew about birds. Mary began volunteering for several months and then accepted a part time position. She has been managing Free Flight since 1997. In 2010 she became the executive director of the nonprofit.
Mary is a graduate of California Western University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her lifelong interest in birds began with the German roller canaries her grandmother raised in her home in San Francisco. Among many other species of animals, Mary has kept budgies, finches, canaries, cockatiels, grey cheeked parakeets, Goffins’ cockatoos, eclectus parrots and a sun conure. Through independent study and practical experience, she has become somewhat of an authority on parrot care and behavior. Understanding the human-animal connection is of special interest to her and it is her desire to pass this knowledge along to others.
Stewart Halpern earned a BS degree with honors in Administrative Sciences from Yale College and a Masters in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management. He began his career as an investment banker at the former First Boston Corporation (now part of Credit Suisse) prior to becoming a sell side equity research analyst at several other Wall Street firms. He also served as Chief Financial Officer for Rush Communications (the holding company for the business interests of entertainment entrepreneur Russell Simmons), video game developer Rockstar Games and San Diego's Mad Catz Interactive, Inc., and previously served as Adviser to the Minister of Privatization of the Czech Republic. After stepping down as CFO from Mad Catz in late 2010, he has been independently advising a number of private companies on strategic, financial and operational matters. He also currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Yale Club of San Diego.
Stewart and his wife Emily, an abstract painter, are companions of a Hahns Macaw and a previously homeless Miniature Pinscher. They are avid eco-travelers and reside in La Jolla.
Caroline Morrison, Secretary and Legal Advisor, is partner at the local Del Mar law firm of Palecek, Morrison & Associates LLP. Her practice focuses on the areas of corporate and business law, real estate law, estate planning and civil litigation; however she particularly enjoys advising non-profits on corporate compliance issues.
Caroline obtained her Juris Doctor Degree in 2008 from University of San Diego School of Law and her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of San Diego in 2003.
Caroline is an active Rotarian, proudly serving as member of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club and enjoys representing her firm in her participation with the San Diego County Coastal Chambers of Commerce.
She lives in Encinitas with her husband Colin, an active duty Naval Officer and avid bird lover.
Dr. Martin M. Buncher is CEO of Intercontinental Marketing Investigations Inc, a multinational marketing research and marketing consulting firm operating in over 50 countries worldwide. As a business psychologist, Dr. Buncher has maintained a personal interest in exotic animals since coming to the San Diego area in 1977.
Dr. Buncher maintains a private aviary for flighted birds at his Rancho Santa Fe home, along with compounds for other exotic species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. He is continually on call from various local and national agencies involved in wildlife, lost souls and law enforcement for immediate response to aid in search, rescue and recovery.
In pursuit of his passion for exotic animals living in their natural state, Dr. Buncher has visited the tropical jungles of South America, the plains of Africa, the rainforests of Madagascar, islands in the South Pacific and Caribbean, Steppes of Mongolia. Etc. He maintains a private collection of thousands of photos and videos, both from land and underwater adventure. He holds the climbing record in his age group for reaching the highest mountain rainforest reserve in Marajegy Park, Madagascar.
Camille has a Moluccan cockatoo, Kiki, and has been depending on Free Flight for over 20 years for her daycare while Camille works. Not only is she a dedicated client, but she has been a frequent volunteer at Free Flight since 2013. Camille has been involved with animals for as long as she can remember. Her love for them inspired her to complete her AA degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management at Moorpark College of Animal Science. Her volunteer work includesthe Oceanside Humane Society, the Songbird Rescue at Project Wildlife, and doing rhino research at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego.
Camille currently works as an independent contractor hair stylist at Hair Lounge on Cedros Street in Solana Beach. She had been working previously in Rancho Santa Fe for almost 2 decades.
Mike discovered Free Flight shortly after he adopted his 24 year old blue and gold macaw, Chicken. Chicken frequently boards at Free Flight when his dad travels. Mike also volunteers at the sanctuary doing handyman work in his free time. His hobbies include golfing and the NFL Detroit Lions.
Mike has been an Aircraft Maintenance Technician his entire career and is currently working for a large San Diego based company in their corporate flight department.
Mrs. Wheatley, Free Flight Director Emerita, has been involved with Free Flight for over 25 years. Judy served in our critical first years as a non-profit. We still frequently communicate with Judy and she works behind the scenes in a number of ways helping Free Flight remain a success. Judy is a great resource due to her business acumen and her deep knowledge of the local community.
Judy earned a BS degree in Education from Northern Arizona University. As an educator in Orange County, she taught elementary, high school, and an extension course for UC Irvine, also working on outdoor education curriculum and a member of the state training team for drug abuse prevention education.
After leaving the classroom, she worked for 25 years in computer technology, including ten years at QUALCOMM, where she retired as director of technology and training. After retiring, she served on the California Institute of Technology Associates board of directors and the advisory board for the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center. She has volunteered with the San Diego Zoo for over 15 years and, serving as a trustee for the last five years.
An avid dressage rider, she and her husband, Chuck, have two grown daughters and live in Del Mar and Mesa Grande.