SFOS Board Member Bios

Jeff Harris, MD, PhD

President

San Francisco Orchid Society

Jeffrey Mark Harris, MD, PhD is a board-certified clinical immunologist who was on faculty at UCSF’s Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, Allergy and HIV in the Department of Pediatrics and a scientist at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology where his clinical and research interests included assessment of human thymic function, HIV vaccine development and the diagnosis and treatment of immunodeficiency disorders. For the past 15 years has worked in biotech most recently at Genentech. He has been involved in new drug development for asthma and other respiratory and immune-based disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.

Jeff’s interest in orchids arose over 20 years ago from friends who were already orchid fanatics, who gave him plants as gifts, as well as invited him to travel with them on orchid/hiking tours to various places including Costa Rica, Ecuador and Borneo. As his own collection of plants grew, he was compelled to set up a warm-intermediate greenhouse in his backyard where he could more successfully grow and bloom a variety of orchids – especially vandas and bulbophyllum. He also has a small outdoor cool-growing area under his back deck for masdevallias and draculas.

Jeff has been a member in AOS and SFOS since 2009, served as SFOS treasurer from 2012-2014, as SFOS Vice President and newsletter editor in 2017-2018, and currently serves as the SFOS President. Jeff hopes to see SFOS modernize, re-invigorate and grow it’s membership with an ongoing appreciation for the elegance and beauty of orchids and efforts aimed at conserving them and their natural habitats.

Erik Sayle

Vice President

San Francisco Orchid Society

Erik Sayle has been a member of SFOS for about 15 years. He is currently SFOS Vice President, after serving as secretary in 2017 – which was a return to the position he held for two years when he first joined SFOS. His interest in orchids has “grown” over the years and he now maintains hundreds of (mostly) species outdoors in his yard in San Francisco as well hundreds more in a 16′ x 16′ greenhouse at his family’s place in San Mateo, close to the Bay. He has been renting additional space from Dan Newman’s Hanging Gardens in Pacifica for the past 15 years. Erik is particularly interested in cool and intermediate outdoor orchids such as Himalayan Dendrobiums, coelogynes and pleurothallids. He likes warm-growing orchids like Bulbophyllums, though doesn’t have much space for them indoors!

Erik considers himself a naturalist and also has a degree in molecular biology. He has worked as a consultant in a variety of areas including biotechnology, computers, recruiting, nanotechnology, agtech and business.

Erik’s interests include all aspects of nature. Alongside his partner Josie, he enjoys scuba diving in the Philippines and other warm water locations, where he hopes to travel further in search of orchids. Other hobbies include cutting-edge science and futurist studies, catch-and-release fly fishing, mountain biking and martial arts. He is extremely concerned about climate change and frequently sounds the alarm on social media, or at almost any opportunity, about this imminent catastrophe that is destroying the nature we all love so much.

Faye Rabino

Treasurer

San Francisco Orchid Society

Having lived in a country where farming is the main livelihood, plants were always a part of my life growing up. Our house was surrounded with fruit trees, veggies and flowering ornamentals.  I always admired the white flowered orchid which we in the Philippines generically call a Butterfly Orchid (as the flower looks like a butterfly). My love of orchids got deeper when I was in college. My late brother brought home one day different wild native orchids, species from the mountains where he was working at that time. He collected each kind and brought home around 10 of them. We tried to mimic the slow running water through the roots by placing a used dextrose bottle and tiny hose. We cleaned the used bottle and filled it up with water and suspended it on the tree above the orchids so the water will slowly drip through the branches of the tree where the orchids were tied and the roots get continuously wet.  They did survive for a while and I was loving their unique forms, leaves & roots, but there was nobody left at home when everyone went to school and work.  They eventually died as the lowland is warm and even with the humid the air, they easily got dried out. Around 1984 while I was rearing my first born, I began to collect orchids again.

I had many Vandas and Cattleyas, and some Phaleanopsis and Dendrobium species, but I can’t remember the names.  All were tied around dried tree trunks – about 30 of them with 3 or 4 orchids in each.  I was fascinated by the healthy roots every watering time. The root tips are really glossy green when actively growing, and the waxy leaves are beautiful too. The flowers for me were just a huge bonus then and to show off.  Now I have learned that the flower also  serves as one of the the best ways to identify what they really are – whether genus, family, or species.

I left all of those healthy orchids when I moved to San Francisco in 1995, but as soon as I settled in, I bought my first set of orchids here again – a set of 4 Phals and a “bellina” is one of them. I was able to rebloom the bellina twice until its roots were all eaten by slugs and eventually died. I learned to identify some of the orchids by going to orchid shows and attending the orchid classes and demonstrations during these shows and meetings.  I haven’t stopped acquiring orchids since and to date I have close to 300 orchids. Cold growers are kept outside in the backyard, and tropical warm loving orchids are growing inside.

I love all of them, though the orchids that I really like best are Paphs, Phrags, Masdas and Draculas. I am wishing for a Cypripedium soon too; their flowers for me are so unique and I am amazed by them all the time.  I have a small greenhouse for my orchids and hoping to put all of them all together soon.  I’d  love to have more plants, but space is getting overcrowded already.

Volunteering at every orchid event is another way for me to enjoy their beauty and to learn even more about them, and the SFOS monthly meetings are also really educational for orchid lovers like me to learn even more.

Vacant

Secretary

San Francisco Orchid Society

Dave Hermeyer

Member of the Board

San Francisco Orchid Society

Dave Hermeyer has been retired for 28% of his entire life now, after a long and highly lucrative careers as an undercover CIA agent (don’t tell anyone), exorcist, and astronaut. It was so long ago in the last millenium that now he can’t even imagine how he ever managed to work full time. But that’s a good thing, because shortly after retiring, on one fateful day he bought a $6.99 Phalaenopsis traderjoensis on a whim (Ooh, it’s so pretty…). He took it home, determined to figure out how to keep it alive. And he did, which isn’t too surprising, since he had already been gardening for over 20 years before that, in one form or another. First organic vegetables (he was a Birkenstock-wearing down-to-the-earth granola guy in Eugene Oregon in the ‘80s), then some houseplants, then landscaping ornamentals, then even more ornamentals.

After being lured to San Francisco in ‘91, he and (eventual) hubby Sam bought a Victorian in the Haight with a “garden” of 1,500 square feet of masses of blackberries and weeds, and his eyes glazed over with thoughts of how many vegetables and ornamentals he could grow there. The present estimate is somewhere between 500-1000 species.

But back to that Phal. It thrived, so he figured he’d add oh, maybe one or two more orchids. About that time (this was 2000) he shelled out 15 bucks to see something called the “Pacific Orchid Exposition”, and was promptly gobsmacked by the size and awesomeness of the show. He went home with “one or two orchids”. One thing led to another, and before anyone could warn him, he had joined the SFOS. In 2005 he and Sam built a little greenhouse, where about 200 happy orchids live now. In 2013 he got roped into becoming got elected as a Board Director, and two years later became President, with all its attendant glory and perks.

He’s also been a volunteer at Strybing Arboretum for 1.5 decades, been helping protect baby sea turtles nests for a few years at Cape Hatteras and recently in Costa Rica, coordinating phone bank volunteers at the Hillary SF headquarters in the 2016 election, and fretting about Trump, climate change, and the state of the world in general.

Debra Vails-Qualters, RN, PNP, MSN

Member of the Board

San Francisco Orchid Society

Born and raised in Harlem, Debra Vails-Qualters migrated to California in 1970 to achieve her dream of becoming a registered nurse.  In 1975, Debra graduated from the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certificate.  In 1984, she returned to the University of California School of Nursing to earn a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Administration.

Following graduation, Ms. Vails-Qualters held numerous clinical and leadership positions. In 1985-86, Debra was an Associate Clinical Instructor in the School of Nursing where she provided off-site instruction to graduate students, focusing on the integration of theory and community health nursing practice. In addition, she worked as a PNP and clinical nurse leader in Bay Area hospitals. After a long stint in the ambulatory care and outpatient arenas, Debra returned to UCSF to earn a Post-Master’s Degree as an Advanced Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in 1997.

During Ms. Vails-Qualters’ long career, she is proud to announce that she was awarded Caregiver of the Year, Alameda County Medical Center, 2003.  In 2006, she was inducted in the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, Alpha Eta Chapter and from 2004-2008; 2010-2011 Debra served two terms as President of the UCSF School of Nursing Alumni Association. In 1997 through 2003, Ms. Vails-Qualters was promoted from a Clinical Nurse III position to Obstetrical Services Program Administrator at Highland Hospital. She was responsible for marketing and outreach to specifically increase client volume.

Since retiring in 2009, Debra enjoys many hobbies and activities, including bicycling and camping with her husband (of 36 years), growing orchids and making quilts. Most important, she loves being a sports grandmother and taxi for 13 grandchildren (7 in the Bay Area).

Debra’s interest in the SFOS began about 3 years ago while attending and volunteering at the POE at Fort Mason.  From there she caught the orchid bug and loves tending orchids, often referred to now as her “pets.”

Jeremiah Chua

Member of the Board

San Francisco Orchid Society

Jeremiah Chua is a content marketer and social media specialist for GetFeedback, a Salesforce partner that creates beautifully branded surveys. As a content marketer, Jeremiah creates blog posts and and uses resource articles to inspire people and generate interest in software products. As a social media specialist, he actively engages with a client’s online community through conversation and “think pieces.”

Jeremiah studied Marine Biology for a period in college in pursuit of making an impact on protecting the earth’s environments. However, he pursued a Marketing degree to be better able to communicate to the masses about the importance of environmental protection.There is sufficient evidence as to why the environment needs to be protected, but what drives Jeremiah is how to best relay this to the general public.

As a child, Jeremiah has always been fascinated by nature. His youth was mostly spent in his parents’ backyard catching critters and tending plants.

His love for nature persisted throughout his life, with plants being the main focus.

As a San Franciscan urban horticulturist, he tends to mostly miniature orchids and bromeliads, specializing in Neofinetia (Vanda) falcata, small Dendrobiums, Asian Cymbidiums and Tillandsias. However, he is always expanding his indoor garden – so no plant is off-limits to his interests.

As a member of the SFOS, Jeremiah hopes to bring in a more diverse group of people who can better share and inspire each other with their knowledge in growing orchids.

Mary Antonnette Queri

Member of the Board

San Francisco Orchid Society

Mary Antonnette Queri has been living in San Francisco since 1990. Born and raised in Quezon City, Philippines, she is a graduate of the City College of SF Nursing program.

Her fascination with orchids was reignited in 2014 after receiving a few plants which she nurtured while in recovery from surgery. Though her love of orchids started in the Philippines in the ’80s, it was short-lived as her vanda collection was stolen on New Year’s Day!

She is an adventurous person having walked several hundreds of miles from France to Spain on the Camino de Santiago Compostela in 2007. Antonnette and her husband enjoy camping and hiking to combine their love of nature, wildlife and astronomy.

Ron Norris

Past President

San Francisco Orchid Society

Ron Norris currently serves as the Director of Administrative Services for the UCSF Controller’s Office. In this role he is responsible for overseeing a budget of $20 million, and managing an office with 140 employees. Ron has been with the University of California system for 28 years and plans to retire in June 2018. Prior positions with the University have included roles in accounting, budgeting, financial reporting, and office management.  Ron holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management from Northern Kentucky University.

Ron has been a member of the San Francisco Orchid Society for 30 years, and served as President in 2017-2018. In his early years with the society he managed the corsage sales booth at the annual show for a number of years. As his orchid collection grew he started a part-time orchid business (Utopia Orchids) and had a sales booth at the show for several years. Due to life changes he closed the orchid business and stepped away from orchids for a period of time. After meeting his current partner of 18 years, Jason Douglass, his interest in orchids returned and together they have amassed a significant orchid collection of about 400 plants. Ron’s collection consists mainly of cooler growing cattleya, dendrobium, vanda, and cymbidium species and hybrids, but also a number of phalaenopsis. Much of the collection is grown outdoors in the Mission Dolores area, with some plants grown indoors or in a micro greenhouse.

Florence Inserto

Membership Co-Chair

San Francisco Orchid Society

Claire Zvanski

Membership Co-Chair

San Francisco Orchid Society