CSS Leadership

Council of Trustees

Thomas Peterffy
Chairman

Thomas Peterffy is founder and chairman of Interactive Brokers and sits on the Common Sense Society’s Council of Trustees. A pioneer of digital trading in the 1980s, he was the first to build computer systems able to trade financial assets electronically, independent of direct human intervention. Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, he escaped communism in 1965 by emigrating to the United States. He learned computer programming, and his formula for pricing contingent assets was an early version of what is now known as the Black-Scholes model. In 1977, he became a member of the American Stock Exchange. Peterffy built the first automated market-making firm for stocks, options, and futures, which later gave rise to Interactive Brokers, a global, electronic broker with two-thousand employees and market capitalization of $25 billion.

Marion Smith
President and CEO

Marion Smith is the President and CEO of Common Sense Society, of which he was founding president in 2009, formed to promote civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership among young professionals in the United States and Europe. He is also the chairman of Washington, D.C.’s National Civic Art Society, a former visiting fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, and the former executive director and CEO of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from South Carolina’s Wofford College and earned an M.A. from Central European University. His writings have been published in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Politico, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is a regular guest on network and cable television channels, including ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and CSPAN.

Professor Niall Ferguson, Ph.D.
Trustee

Prof. Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, where he was the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Fustenburg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Ferguson is the author of twenty-two books, including Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, which gives a historical and theoretical account of disasters, and Civilization: The West and the Rest, which traces the development of Eastern and Western culture and shows where they stand today. His 2015 biography of Henry Kissinger, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, won the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, having won an international Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money. His many other prizes include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012), and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013). In addition to writing a weekly column for the Sunday Times (London) and The Boston Globe on topics ranging from economics and monetary theory to political systems and institutional history, he is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, an advisory firm. He also serves on the board of Affiliated Managers Group.

Alexandre Pesey
Trustee

Mr. Alexandre Pesey is a founder and the executive director of the Institut de Formation Politique, a conservative training Institute in Paris. Pesey received a law and political science degree from Paris II Panthéon-Assas University, where he taught constitutional law and international relations theories for four years. Also a graduate from EM Lyon Business School, he is currently teaching economics in a private school.

Lady Sophie Scruton
Trustee

Lady Sophie Scruton is the director of Horsell’s Farm Enterprises, Ltd. which she established with her late husband, Sir Roger Scruton, to provide guidance for commercial and non-profit enterprises concerned with local farming, conservation, and the preservation of historical records. Horsell’s Farm Enterprises sponsors summer school programs and launched Athelstan Farm Foods, which uses traditional local recipes to produce cheese for wholesale partners. She is a member of the board of directors of the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation, which is a network of institutions and scholars committed to preserving and further developing the philosophies and cultural movements championed in Sir Roger’s work.

Management

Marion Smith
President and CEO

Marion Smith is the President and CEO of Common Sense Society, of which he was founding president in 2009, formed to promote civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership among young professionals in the United States and Europe. He is also the chairman of Washington, D.C.’s National Civic Art Society, a former visiting fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, and the former executive director and CEO of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from South Carolina’s Wofford College and earned an M.A. from Central European University. His writings have been published in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Politico, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is a regular guest on network and cable television channels, including ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and CSPAN.

David Talbot
Executive Vice President

David Talbot is the Executive Vice President of Common Sense Society, an international nonprofit network that advances the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty through education and informed public discourse. He was formerly chief of staff at the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He serves as treasurer of the National Civic Art Society, and is a graduate of Hillsdale College.

Elizabeth Stiff
Chief Communications Officer

Elizabeth Stiff is the Chief Communications Officer for the Common Sense Society where she is responsible for building innovative strategies for traditional press and new media outreach, product and event marketing, partner development, employee communications, and creative asset design. She was previously the founding partner of an Emmy award-winning marketing firm, where her communications and marketing success spanned the world of public policy, sports, corporate, and nonprofits. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Good Morning America, and Politico. Originally from North Carolina, Stiff studied political science at the College of Charleston.

Paige Hanson
Chief Financial Officer

Paige Hanson is the Chief Financial Officer for the Common Sense Society. She most recently served as associate chief financial officer for policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helping manage a $9 billion budget. Prior to that, she served as director of government affairs at the Organization for International Investment with a focus on taxation and appropriations. Hanson also previously served as policy staff in the U.S. Senate for the Joint Economic Committee under Senator Dan Coats and the Senate Budget Committee under Senator Jeff Sessions. She holds an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech and a B.A. in government and economics from Wofford College. Hanson is a member of The Association of Nonprofit Accountants and Finance Professionals, and was a Heritage Foundation Congressional Fellow.

Murray Bessette, Ph.D.
Vice President of Education

Dr. Murray Bessette is Vice President of Education at Common Sense Society, where he oversees its international fellowships and professional development programs, directs its middle school and high school curricular initiatives, and plans the programming for its academic events. In his eighteen years in the academic and non-profits sectors, Dr. Bessette has edited or authored numerous books, chapters, articles, and reviews; organized and presented at dozens of international and national conferences and panels; and co-directed more than $3 million in U.S. federal grants. He was previously an associate professor at Morehead State University and director of academic programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He was also a Lincoln Fellow of the Claremont Institute, an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the co-director of the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, president of the Kentucky Political Science Association, and an academic advisory board member of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Dr. Bessette earned a Ph.D. in political science and an M.A. in American government from Claremont Graduate University and an M.A. and B.A. in political science from the University of Alberta.

Melvin Schut, Ph.D.
Director of Common Sense Society—The Netherlands

Dr. Melvin Schut is the Director of Common Sense Society—The Netherlands. He is a board member of the Amstel Institute for the Liberal Arts and Sciences and a political science faculty member at Amsterdam University College. Previously, Dr. Schut taught at Leiden University, both at the Law School and the Institute for Philosophy. He studied at Cambridge, Oxford, and Leiden University, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago with a thesis on Alexis de Tocqueville’s conception of freedom.

Orsolya Domaniczky
Director of Common Sense Society—Hungary

Orsolya Domaniczky is the Director of Common Sense Society—Hungary. She is a political scientist with expertise in the fields of biodiversity and sustainability and is co-owner of a boutique consulting firm. She previously worked as a policy officer for CEEweb for Biodiversity, a network of non-government organizations that promote biodiversity in Central and Eastern Europe. As a Pannonius Fellow with Common Sense Society, Domaniczky studied under Sir Roger Scruton and published on ecology, environmental stewardship, and political philosophy. She received an M.S. in environmental science and policy from Central European University and a B.A. in political science and international relations from Corvinus University of Budapest in addition to studying philosophy at Eötvös Loránd University.

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