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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Walt Disney World Ambassadors



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

WALT DISNEY WORLD AMBASSADORS

By Jim Korkis

In June 2021, the Walt Disney World Ambassadors for 2022-2023 were announced: Raevon Redding and Ali Manion are the “Emissaries of Goodwill” to represent Walt Disney World and all Cast Members.

Ali Manion and Raevon Redding 
(c) Disney

The park Ambassador program began in 1965 at Disneyland, when Walt Disney needed help with all the hundreds of requests for media events and hosted visits at the park for VIPs during the park’s Tencennial. It was meant to be just a one year position but the incumbent Julie Reihm was so popular and successful she was asked to remain.

When she declined so she could return to her college education, the Ambassador program was established, originally as an extension of the Guest Relations department. It has since been incorporated into every Disney theme park worldwide.

In 1970, nineteen year old Debby Dane (now Browne) became the first Walt Disney World Ambassador after working a year as a hostess at the Walt Disney World Preview Center explaining to people what Walt Disney World was going to be.

She received three months of training at Disneyland and at the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank for the Ambassador role. Her term lasted a few months longer than the normal year for Disney park ambassadors so that she could participate in the opening month activities in October 1971.

She recalled, “It was almost like the place was a child and I was watching it grow. I began to feel a part of it in many ways. I remember driving across Bay Lake after they had drained it and parking for awhile right at the middle. Now I go back and point it out to my kids and tell them how I once parked there.”

The responsibilities for the role have gotten so large that has program expanded into having multiple Ambassadors each year. After their year of service, Ambassadors often go on to other roles at Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World Ambassadors:

  • 1971 – Debby Dane Browne
  • 1972 – Sherry Swets Hornsby
  • 1973 – Karin Cheatham Dent
  • 1974 – Christi Zeisler Aldridge
  • 1975 – Suzy O’Hara Welbaum
  • 1976 – Mary Ann Carter Lunde
  • 1977 – Debby Bennett Griswold
  • 1978 – Vicki Jaramillo
  • 1979 – Pam Carpenter
  • 1980 – Monica Hallecks McEwan
  • 1981 – Robin Maples Davis
  • 1982 – Jeanne Thiele Reynolds
    1983 – Cynthia Pleasant-King
  • 1984 – Susan Ralston Hartnett
  • 1985 – Linnae Williams
  • 1986 – Jody Carbiener Dreyer
  • 1987 – Elizabeth Thompson Herrin
  • 1988 – Susan Anderson Kuhnlein
  • 1989 – Kathleen Sullivan Riordan
  • 1990 – Karen Tucker Kurth
  • 1991 – Kerry Kalus
  • 1992 – Dawn Kuchar Brogan
  • 1993 – Kim Hursh Piercy
  • 1994 – Anne Roberts
  • 1995 – Rhonda Anderson, Shelby Fronzaglia, Susie Geiger, Natasha Hogan, Chris Hurt, Erin Ramsey, Michelle Reynolds, Robert Sias, Winifred Whitehouse
  • 1996 – Darren Chiappetta, Sara Jones, Keith Smith, Gayle Stevens
  • 1997 – Kendal Jolly, Melissa Valiquette
  • 1998 – Camye Mackey, Jill Hughes, Pete Sergi
  • 1999 – Maria Rodriguez, Collin Shaughnessy Conaway, Gregory Taylor
  • 2000 – Kitty Byron, Kristin Vaughn McNab, Tom Thomson
  • 2001-2002 – Diana Ballard, Francesca Galarraga, Steven Miller
  • 2003 – Scott Hammerle, Kathleen Ochab, Wendel Philp
  • 2004 – Juan Aviles, Sara Spike, Christopher Stewart
  • 2005 – Jeannie Amendola, Rebecca Godsil, Christopher White
  • 2006 – Marjorie Colas, Michael Collier
  • 2007 – Lowell A. Doringo, Michael Kelley
  • 2008 – Kerri MacPherson, TC Newman
  • 2009-2010 – Vanessa Rosas, Clay Shoemaker
  • 2011-2012 – Jennifer Mason, Norman Vossschulte
  • 2017-2018 – Ken Facey, Brandon Peters
  • 2019-2021 – Stephen Lim, Marilyn West
  • 2022-2023 – Ali Manion and Raevon Redding
  • WDW Honorary Ambassador (1990) – Louise Gerow, former program manager

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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