Director, Grants and Communications

Susan Clark

Susan joined the foundation in 2005, after a variety of technology and communications-related positions at Chicago nonprofits. She has a keen interest in using technology, data, and communications to advance philanthropy and the non-profit sector.

A native of the City of Chicago, Susan earned a Bachelor of Arts in electronic media arts from DePaul University. She was a 2017-18 Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellow, through Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. An active member and volunteer of PEAK Grantmaking, she served as co-chair of its Midwest Chapter from 2009 to 2012. Outside the office, she is an avid photographer who has shown in venues across the country. She enjoys spending time outdoors, especially via kayak, and exploring the world with her school-age son.

Executive Director

David Farren

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, Lowcountry Program

Kerri Forrest

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.

Staff Accountant

Juan Garcia

Juan started at the Foundation in 2019, after serving as accountant at The Resurrection Project, a non-profit organization located in his childhood neighborhood Pilsen. His prior experience was as an internal auditor in the banking industry, performing operational, loan and compliance audits. Juan continues a family tradition of accountants, following his mother and aunt in the profession.


Juan is an outdoor explorer and enjoys cross country road trips. He has an appreciation for music and is an aspiring guitarist and pianist. Juan has two daughters who are equally adventurous.

Executive/Board Assistant

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.

Grants and Administrative Assistant, Lowcountry

Ame Holcombe

Ame joined the Foundation in 2017 after nine years as Development Director and Grants Manager for the South Carolina Children’s Theatre. Her past experience also includes working in various capacities for land conservation organizations in South Carolina as well as a legal assistant at The Wyche Law Firm. From tracking conservation easements at the Naturaland Trust to directing operations at the Foothills Trail Conference, all of her nonprofit experience helps feed into the grant and administrative support she provides in the Foundation’s Lowcountry office.

Originally from South Carolina, Ame grew up in Connecticut, and then made her way south again attending the College of Charleston where she graduated with a degree in Political Science.  Ame enjoys experiencing and participating in the arts in Charleston, taking advantage of the Lowcountry outdoors through kayaking and gardening, and spending time with her family and two dogs.

Program Officer, Conservation

Rebecca Judd

Rebecca joined our Chicago-based staff in 2019, where she leads the Chicago region land conservation program and supports the Lowcountry conservation program. She joined us from the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, where she led statewide advocacy work to advance clean energy policies. Previously, she served as Senior Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice in Washington, D.C., overseeing federal legislative and administrative efforts on public lands, national forests, and climate adaptation among other issues.

A native Midwesterner, Rebecca hails from Indiana, where she attended Purdue University, studying management and biology. She later attended Tulane University Law School, where she graduated with honors and received a certificate in environmental law. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and walking her dogs along Lake Michigan.

Program Associate

Clover Morell

Prior to joining the Foundation in 2013, Clover supported local artists in a variety of roles including personal assistant, events/production coordinator, curator, and non-profit administrator. In addition, she provided educational 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 feedback group, for 15 years.

Clover grew up in upstate New York and spent summers in the Oregon mountains – two places with fantastic trees. 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. She recently earned a certificate in Arts & Culture Strategy from The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Outside of work, Clover enjoys spending time with her friends and family, making art, bicycling, cooking, taking classes, and being outdoors.

Director, Finance & Operations

Tom Trinley

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 has served on several non-profit boards, advising on governance and finance best practices. Tom is also a past commissioner for the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.

A native Chicagoan, Tom began his career in the investment field. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration-Finance from St. Xavier University, Chicago and a post-baccalaureate certificate in leadership/organizational behavior from Northwestern University. In his free time, he is an avid gardener and independent producer of documentary and feature films. Tom has two daughters, one of whom is a consultant to corporations advising on ethical supply chains, while the other is a budding musician.

Senior Program Officer, Arts & Collections

Ellen Placey Wadey

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.



Brian Bannon

Brian Bannon is The New York Public Library’s first-ever Merryl and James Tisch Director. Bannon is the chief librarian responsible for directing NYPL’s 88 neighborhood branches, as well as the Library’s educational strategy. Most recently, Bannon was commissioner and chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Library, serving as chief library officer for one of the largest urban public library systems in the world. Bannon came to NYPL in 2019 with 20 years of experience in developing and implementing educational programs and leading large-scale operations that maximize impact for all citizens and contribute to a culture of learning, reading, and community learning. Before his successful tenure in Chicago, Bannon was Chief Information Officer at the San Francisco Public Library, and worked at the Seattle Public Library and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has been recognized as an innovator throughout his career: amongst many other accolades, he has been named to Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” list, and was named one of Chicago’s top 100 innovators by Blue Sky Innovation, a publication of the Chicago Tribune. Bannon received his bachelor of arts from Pacific Lutheran University and his master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Washington Information School.


Betsy Chaffin

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.


Laura Donnelley

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.


Inanna Donnelley

Inanna Donnelley is a granddaughter of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Yale College and an M.S.T. in Education from the University of Chicago. Inanna has taught at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, the Latin School of Chicago, and the Brearley School in New York City. She is currently a seventh-grade math teacher and advisor at the Dalton School in New York, where she and both of her sons were students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. She coaches the seventh-grade Math Team and is an Equity Group facilitator, a position she has held for the past two years. Inanna has served as the Middle School Math Department Chair for grades 4-8 while at Dalton. She returned to serve on the Foundation board in 2016, having previously served from 2004 to 2007.


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.


Denise Barnett Gardner

Denise Barnett Gardner is a retired marketing executive and former president of Insights & Opportunities, a research-based marketing and strategic planning firm. She is also the co-founder of Namaste Laboratories and former VP, Marketing of Soft Sheen Products Company. Denise is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Art Institute of Chicago and also serves on the Board of Governors of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She has served on the Executive Committee of The Chicago Community Trust, the Board of Visitors of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College, Chicago Humanities Festival, and The Chicago Public Library Board.


Denise and her husband, Gary, have invested significantly in improving college access in Chicago and have a long-time commitment to supporting critical educational needs at the high school level. Because of their commitment to collecting and promoting art by African American artists, they received the Citizens Advocate award from Arts Alliance Illinois and have been featured in the New York Times.


Denise began her professional career at Leo Burnett Company after graduating from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. She also holds a B.S.J. from Northwestern University in Advertising and Social Psychology.


Rick Lowe

Rick Lowe is a Houston-based artist who has exhibited and worked with communities nationally and internationally. His work has appeared in Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; Phoenix Art Museum; Kwangju Biennale, Kwangju, Korea; the Kumamoto State Museum, Kumamoto, Japan; the Venice Architecture Biennale; and Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece. He is best known for his Project Row Houses community-based art project that he started in Houston in 1993. Additional community projects include the Watts House Project, Los Angeles, CA; the Borough Project, Charleston, SC (with Suzanne Lacy and Mary Jane Jacobs); the Delray Beach Cultural Loop, Florida; Small Business/Big Change, Anyang, Korea; Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow, Dallas, TX; and Victoria Square Project, Athens, Greece. Among Rick’s honors are the Rudy Bruner Awards in Urban Excellence, the AIA Keystone Award, the Heinz Award in the arts and humanities, the Skowhegan Governor’s Award, the Skandalaris Award for Art/Architecture, and a U.S. Artists Booth Fellowship. He has served as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, a Mel King Fellow at MIT, an Auburn University Breedan Scholar, and a Stanford University Haas Center Distinguished Visitor. President Barack Obama appointed Rick to the National Council on the Arts in 2013; in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2016 he joined the University of Houston as a professor of art.


Alaka Wali

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.


Trenholm Walker

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.


Mimi Wheeler

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.


Wendi Huff

Wendi Huff is an executive strategic partnership leader who forges innovative alliances among nonprofit, advocacy organizations and global corporations to advance healthcare, education, research and community development. She is a former professional ballet artist, choreographer and dance educator. Her advocacy and civic work includes supporting the arts, youth education, climate action, women’s rights, and health equity. She currently serves on the boards of New Morning Foundation and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

Wendi has held executive leadership positions to include Chief Advancement Officer and Senior Director of Industry Affairs at the National Brain Tumor Society Foundation, Vice-President of Institutional Advancement at the Morehouse School of Medicine and Chief Executive Officer of a YWCA chapter. She is a trusted corporate and stakeholder engagement strategy advisor and has been the recipient of local and national awards over her professional and volunteer career.

Wendi and her husband Ray Huff live in Charleston, South Carolina.