Foundation Council Welcomes Tony and Jonna Mendez
- Published: February 19, 2014
The Foundation’s Council is now under increased “surveillance” with the addition of retired Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers Jonna and Tony Mendez. Together the couple has more than 50 years of service to the United States, and both are decorated heroes. Tony is also an author and award-winning painter; Jonna is a fine art photographer, a consultant/lecturer, and an author. ARGO, one of Tony’s autobiographical books, became an Academy Award-winning movie.
Due to Tony’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, the couple appreciates first-hand the urgency of the Foundation’s mission: this technology needs to be widely available as soon as possible. Because both Tony and Jonna believe in the potential of this technology to revolutionize treatments for patients like Tony, they have eagerly accepted our invitation to join the Council. We are thrilled that this talented, involved, and extremely interesting couple will help us in our ongoing quest to make this treatment available to patients in the shor time possible.
Tony Mendez is a retired CIA officer, an author, and an award-winning painter with an international reputation. He lives and works in his studios and gallery on 40 acres in rural Maryland. For 25 years, Mendez worked undercover for the CIA, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. As Chief of Disguise, he was responsible for changing the identity of thousands of clandestine operatives. In 1980, he was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor for engineering and conducting the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the hostage crisis.
Mendez retired in 1990, having also earned the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit and two Certificates of Distinction. In 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of the CIA, he was one of fifty officers awarded the Trailblazer Medallion, recognizing him as an “officer who by his actions, example, or initiative…helped shape the history of the CIA.” His books include The Master of Disguise, Spy Dust (co-authored with his wife Jonna), and ARGO (2012).
Warner Brothers and Ben Affleck produced the story of the escape from Iran in the 2012 film ARGO, in which Affleck starred as Tony. The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2013. The Mendezes travel extensively to lecture and consult to the U.S. Intelligence Community and have together participated in more than two dozen television documentaries. They are founding board members of the International Spy Museum in Washington DC.
Jonna Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with 27 years of service. She joined the CIA’s Office of Technical Service in early 1970, providing the agency with the technical wherewithal to facilitate its operations around the globe. A specialist in clandestine photography, her duties included training the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets in the use of spy cameras and processing the intelligence they gathered. Upon her retirement in 1993, she had risen to the position of Chief of Disguise and earned the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal.
Jonna has since continued her career as a fine art photographer, a consultant/lecturer, and an author. Today she works in her photo studio at the family gallery in Maryland. She and her husband, Tony Mendez, collaborated on the book Spy Dust about their work against the Soviets in Moscow during the Cold War. She also worked closely with her husband in the writing of ARGO. Jonna is a founding board member at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. and also serves as Vice President of the La Gesse Foundation, under the auspices of the Princess Cecilia de Medici, presenting American pianists in Europe and at Carnegie Hall in partnership with Catholic University. She is on the board of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, MD and is a board member of Breast Cancer Awareness, Cumberland Valley.