Dona Aumann brings her zest for living to the Riford


Dona J. Aumann is the new executive director of The Riford Center in La Jolla. As such, she oversees the adult activity center’s membership, classes and events, and arranges for guest speakers who will “stretch our minds as well as our bodies.”

Previously, Aumann operated a consulting firm in La Jolla and worked with companies in the field of public relations, marketing and sales. Before that, she worked for American Express on Wall Street in Strategic Sales (accounts more than $3 million), and on the West Coast as a travel executive. She has lived in La Jolla for 15 years, but has resided in New York and in Hawaii, where she owned her own real estate company.

Aumann has had plays produced Off Broadway. She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan (New York City) with a double major in communication arts and drama.

Aumann has two grown sons. She is a member of The Boardroom at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, The La Jolla Playhouse, The Riford Center, The Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, The La Jolla Sports Club and Breakaway Training.

She enjoys gourmet cooking, reading, and running on the beaches in La Jolla — frequently in the company of Dese, a chocolate Labrador.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I had a dream about a jewel. I went to lunch with Dr. Kevin Pine, a friend of the family. He explained all about La Jolla and told me that the name meant “The Jewel” in Spanish. My eldest son, Rob, was accepted to San Diego State University. I decided to accompany him to the West Coast. I arrived with his brother, Donald, and fell in love with “The Jewel.” After I researched the school system, I was certain that this was the place I would raise my family.

What makes this town special to you?

It’s the small-town atmosphere, great schools, farmers market, art galleries, UCSD and The La Jolla Playhouse. I have traveled all over the world. La Jolla is a myriad of treasures and physical beauty. From Mt. Soledad to the Shores, and WindanSea to Bird Rock, there is beauty here all day, every day. Living in La Jolla is like living in a mini-protected paradise with the best weather in the country.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I envision a state-of-the-art Riford Center that is the hub of cultural learning, artistic enrichment, health and fitness activities and the latest lectures in scientific research for the 50-plus generation. Since the Friends of the Riford Center, a nonprofit organization, took over three years ago, we have upgraded our facility, expect to do more, and are planning exciting health and intellectual programs and events.

But we are challenged because the endowment funds have been reduced and we must now rely on contributions and membership fees. I am confident the community will respond to this challenge. My second snap-of-the-finger wish would be that our oceans would become immediately pristine and rid of any and all pollution.

Who or what inspires you?

People who contribute to their communities inspire me. Young people inspire me with their unbridled sense of adventure and amazing level of knowledge generated by the “technology age.” Older people inspire me because of their life experiences and their wisdom.

Further inspiration comes from La Jollans who have gone beyond the ordinary. As John Maxwell states, “A little extra effort goes a long, long way.”

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

1) Kahlil Gibran, author of “The Prophet,” because he comes from the same small town in Lebanon as my family; 2) William Shakespeare, because I adore his writings and his genius. I am a trained actress and playwright and would ask him questions about how he wrote and the source of his inspiration; 3) Florence Riford, because I want to ask her how she managed to become the first woman to join The Rotary and to become one of the most noteworthy philanthropists of her time; 4) Meryl Streep, because I consider her one of the greatest talents of our day; 5) Steven Spielberg, because I want to ask him specific questions about films and directing; 6) Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, because she served the Senate to date longer than any other woman — 24 years; 7) Edna St. Vincent Millay, my favorite poet of all time; and 8) Princess Diana, because I admired her strength and her discipline in spite of the adversity that she faced.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I’m reading Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation — An American Family Portrait Album of the Greatest Generation,” and “Leap!” by author Sara Davidson: reflections about individuals moving to the next phase of their lives at the top of their games.

What is your most-prized possession?

That’s my collection of books and plays.

What do you do for fun?

I train for triathlons: running, swimming in the Cove, and cycling indoors and outdoors. I also love to cook and go hiking.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

That would be my two sons — Robert, an entrepreneur, public speaker and graduate of the University of San Diego, and Donald, a research scientist and graduate of UC Santa Cruz.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Enjoy every single second of every single minute of every single day as though it were your last. During your short time on this Earth, develop your body and your mind in the spirit of the Greek tradition — excellence in mind and body.