Betsy Chaffin is the Founder and the past Executive Director of the Spring Island Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the environment and cultural history of Spring Island, SC. She is also the co-founder of the Low Country Institute created to provide responsible leadership in the conservation and use of Lowcountry natural resources. Ms. Chaffin is a past trustee of the South Carolina Nature Conservancy, the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment and the Aspen Foundation and is a Life Trustee of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She received a B.S. in History and Education from the University of North Carolina. An artist, she lives with her husband on Spring Island, SC and Snowmass Village, CO.
Brian Bannon serves as Commissioner & CEO of Chicago Public Library. Appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012, Bannon is charged with the oversight of the $130 million urban public library system that serves more than 10 million visitors annually through a network of 80 libraries. CPL is the largest and most visited civic institution in Chicago and is among the largest urban public library systems in the world. Under his leadership, CPL has been recognized as a top U.S. urban library and has won numerous awards and accolades including the National Medal for Museum and Library Service and being named the best urban public library in the United States. Bannon is a recognized leader in the government and nonprofit sectors and known for driving growth and impact within large complex organizations. Prior to this role, Bannon held a variety of leadership positions within the San Francisco Public Library, Seattle Public Library and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He received his master of library and information science from the University of Washington Information School and is a 2017 Henry Crown Fellow.
Grants and Administrative Assistant, Lowcountry
Ame joined the Foundation in February 2017 and supports the Lowcountry office and staff. She has over nine years experience working in the arts, most recently as the Development Director for the South Carolina Children’s Theatre in Greenville, SC. In addition, Ame has an equally strong background in land conservation in both the Upstate and the Lowcountry, providing administrative support for the Naturaland Trust, as a legal assistant at The Wyche Law Firm and as Director of the Foothills Trail Conference, as well as Membership Coordinator for the Lowcountry Land Trust. Ame has volunteered with various non-profits and schools in both communities. In 1991, Ame earned a degree in Political Science from the College of Charleston.
Alaka Wali is curator of North American Anthropology in the Science and Education Division of The Field Museum and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University. She was the founding director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change from 1995- 2010. She currently curates the sizeable North American collection which includes a contemporary urban collection. She also works closely with colleagues in the Science Action Center to implement community based environmental conservation efforts in both Chicago and the Amazon regions of Peru. Her current research focuses on the relationship between art and the capacity for social resilience. Alaka received her B.A. from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University in New York. She lives with her husband in Evanston, IL and has two children.
Director, Lowcountry Program
Kerri joined the Foundation in February 2015 and directs the arts, land conservation and collections programs in the Lowcountry region.
A Charleston native, Kerri returned to the Holy City in 2010 after a 16-year career covering politics with national broadcast outlets MSNBC, NBC NEWS and CBS NEWS. For four years, she was the Director of Institutional Advancement with the American College of the Building Arts, the only institution of higher education in the U.S. offering a liberal arts degree in traditional building crafts. There she was responsible for all fundraising, marketing and alumni relations for the College as well as creating community partnerships.
Kerri is heavily involved in the arts and civic communities and has served with a number of local and regional organizations including the Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline; TEDxCharleston; the South Carolina Arts Commission Leo Twigg Scholars. In addition, she has been an adjunct professor of professional communications and public speaking at the Art Institute of Charleston and of fundraising at the College of Charleston. She is currently a board member of the YWCA Greater Charleston and a member of the One Region Executive Committee.
Kerri graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences from Clemson University in 1994, a Masters of Arts in Interactive Journalism from American University in 2001, became a DLI Riley Fellow in 2013 and is a member of the Liberty Fellowship Class of 2018.
Trenholm is an attorney who handles primarily trial and appellate litigation with the firm of Walker Gressette Freeman & Linton, LLC in Charleston. His practice includes land use and environmental matters as well as conservation easements. He has served on the board of local conservation and preservation organizations and currently sits as a trustee of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. He and his wife Susan, live in downtown Charleston, escaping when they can to their retreat on close-by Wadmalaw Island.
Ellen Placey Wadey
Program Officer, Chicago
Ellen joined the Foundation in 2013. She was executive director of the Guild Complex – a literary arts organization – for seven years and in that time built the Guild’s impressive artistic accomplishments on a firm foundation of organizational development. Before that, Ellen was the director of marketing and development for the Marwen Foundation. Before joining the Foundation, she was an independent fundraising coach, serving a number arts organizations including the Chicago Cultural Alliance and the Ragdale Foundation. She has reviewed arts proposals on behalf of Prince Charitable Trust and served as a jurist or panelist for the likes of the Illinois Arts Council and the Third Coast Festival New Audio Competition. An accomplished writer, Ellen has two advanced degrees in fiction writing, is the recipient of the Scott Turow Fiction Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Prior to joining the Foundation in 2013, Clover supported local artists in a variety of administrative and program support roles including personal assistant, curator, and non-profit administrator. In addition, she provided publishers with freelance photo research and editing services for many years. She has exhibited solo and group performance pieces at venues in Chicago and abroad, and worked on collaborative pieces with a number of local artists. She was a facilitator for The Field Chicago, an artist’s critique group, for 15 years. She holds a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts in Performance from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In her free time, Clover enjoys time with her family, painting & drawing, and assisting other artists with their work.
David assumed leadership of the foundation in January 2013. For 20 years prior he worked with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), where he led major legislative, litigation and agency policy initiatives involving land use, transportation, air quality, water resources and natural area protection in six southeastern states. His work included collaborating with the foundation and other partners on conservation strategies in coastal South Carolina. Throughout his career, he has served on a number of nonprofit boards and government advisory commissions.
Before joining SELC, David was a partner with Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove in Raleigh, North Carolina. A native Midwesterner, he began his career at Jenner & Block, a national litigation firm based in Chicago. David attended Amherst College and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Cultural Anthropology. He holds a law degree from the University of North Carolina. David is an avid lover of the arts and an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying visual and performing arts, sea kayaking, and wilderness camping. He has three daughters, all of whom are professionals in the arts.
Director, Finance & Operations
Tom joined the foundation in 2002 after serving as president of Skipping Stone Entertainment, a documentary production company. Previously, he was a financial analyst for WFLD-TV and vice president of finance and administration for Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. Tom is finance committee chair of Links Hall – a nonprofit dance incubator and performance organization, and PRI Makers – a national membership organization, which helps foundations expand their use of program-related and mission-related investments to achieve philanthropic goals . Tom is also a commissioner for the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration-Finance from St. Xavier University, Chicago.
Director, Chicago Program
Arthur directs the Foundation’s arts, land conservation and collections programs in the Chicago region. Following a 15-year career as a professional actor, musician and playwright, Arthur turned his attention to conservation. He has published articles about a wide range of conservation issues in such publications as Archaeology, Chicago Wilderness Magazine, Chicago Life, Outdoor Illinois, Illinois Heritage, Illinois Steward and Northwest Quarterly. He has written for many of the region’s conservation organizations and was the technical writer for The State of Our Chicago Wilderness: A Report Card on the Health of the Region’s Ecosystems and the Chicago Wilderness Atlas of Biodiversity: 2011 Edition. He is a contributor to the Center for Humans and Nature’s City Creatures Blog and maintains his own blog – A Midewin Almanac – about restoration efforts at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. In 2017, the University of Wisconsin Press published Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement - Arthur’s biography of the driving force behind the founding of The Nature Conservancy and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. Before joining the Foundation as staff, he had consulted for many years with a number of regional arts and environment funders, including GDDF.
Director, Grants and Communications
Susan joined the foundation in 2005. She has a keen interest in using data and technology to refine strategy and advance philanthropy and the non-profit sector. She is a 2017-18 Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellow, through Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. An active member of PEAK Grantmaking, she served as co-chair of its Midwest Chapter from 2009 to 2012. At Illinois' regional association of grantmakers, Forefront, she has served as co-chair of the Microedge Users Group and the Peer Network for New Grantmakers. Susan has a lifelong interest in the creative arts and the environment and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in electronic media arts from DePaul University. You can follow her on Twitter @sbc_at_work.
Mary Jo Harney
Mary Jo joined the foundation in 2006. Her prior experience was as an administrative assistant for a small public relations firm and paralegal for a large Chicago law firm. Her non-profit experience stems from many years as a volunteer at Old St. Patrick’s Church. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio.
Jeff joined the Foundation in March 2007 after working in cancer research for Molecular Imaging Research, Inc. and Molecular Therapeutics, Inc. of Ann Arbor Michigan. Previously, he and his wife relocated from their home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where Jeff spent twelve years in the equipment lease financing industry as a Controller and then more recently as Vice President of Finance for Accurate Leasing Ltd. Jeff graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours), majoring in finance. Jeff and his wife enjoy traveling the world and exploring the arts and entertainment community of Chicago.
Alex is a resident of Beaufort, SC and is Executive Vice-President of South Carolina Bank & Trust. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and The School of Banking of the South at LSU. He is a past President of the USC Alumni Association and member of the University's Board of Trustees. Alex has held leadership positions with a number of non-profit and civic organizations in South Carolina.
Mimi Wheeler is the granddaughter of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley. She has a B.A. in the liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a classically trained chef. Mimi is currently involved in education through the arts. She lives in Venice, California with her husband and their son and daughter.
Vivian is the Senior Admissions Associate and former Trustee of The Dalton School, New York City, where she chaired and co-wrote the 2007 Dalton Ten-Year Strategic Plan. She served on the board, as member and chair, of Green Chimneys’ Childrens’ Services, a pioneer in the field of animal-assisted therapy, serving at-risk youth on its farm campus in Brewster, New York, and is presently a member of the board of The Friends of Green Chimneys. She is also a trustee of The American Museum of Natural History, New York City. She recently joined the board of The Center for Humans and Nature, founded in 2002 by her late husband, Strachan Donnelley, son of Gaylord and Dorothy, to explore and promote moral and civic responsibilities to human communities and to natural ecosystems and landscapes.
Shawn M. Donnelley
Shawn is President of Strategic Giving, a Chicago based firm providing consultation on philanthropy. She is a member of the executive committee of the Chicago Community Trust as well as on the boards of United States Artists, Northwestern Memorial Foundation, American Associates of the National Theatre, the Visiting Committee of the Division of the Humanities University of Chicago and is a past chairman of the Goodman Theatre. Her commitment to Chicago’s nonprofit community was recognized by Today's Chicago Woman magazine which named Ms. Donnelley one of 100 Women Making a Difference in Chicago and by Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network. In 2008 she was selected as one of Crain’s Chicago Business “Forty under Forty.” She is the former head of political affairs for R.R. Donnelley, the world's premier full-service provider of print and related services. She received a B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans and an M.A. from Emerson College. A Florida native, Ms. Donnelley resides in Chicago and Cambridge, England. She is a granddaughter of Gaylord & Dorothy.
Laura has pursued her passion for innovative artwork in many ways. She founded the Good Works Foundation, which supports innovative approaches to education and cultural enrichment, individual and world peace and spiritual tolerance. She also founded Art Matters Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that supports individual, experimental artists. Laura serves on the boards of the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Opera, and helped develop the Aspen Art Museum. She is the daughter of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley.
Timothy H. Brown
Tim Brown is the founder and president of Wabashco LLC, a project development firm for green investments in renewable energy and carbon offsets. He is also a principal of Forest Hill Energy, LLC a wind energy development firm in the Great Lakes region. In 1998 he co-founded the Delta Institute, a nonprofit organization to promote community economic development and improve environmental quality in the Great Lakes region. He ran the environment program at the Delta Institute, which included a range of Great Lakes water quality projects and pollution prevention and toxic reduction work. Prior to starting the Delta Institute, he opened and ran the Midwest office of Clean Sites, a national nonprofit environmental organization. He’s held positions at ICF Kaiser Engineers, Communicore, and the Center for the Great Lakes. Tim serves on the boards of the Delta Institute, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation, and the Lochland School. He holds a B.S. from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago with his wife, writer Jill Riddell, and two daughters.