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, Grants and Communications

Susan Clark

Susan leads GDDF’s grants management, communications, equity work, and IT. She has a keen interest in connecting technology, data, and communications to create stories that advance philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. She joined the foundation in 2005, after a variety of technology and communications-related positions at Chicago nonprofits. She was a 2020-21 member of the Center for Effective Philanthropy inaugural Learning Network and 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. She currently serves on the board of IAMAS: International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship. A Chicago native, Susan earned a Bachelor of Arts in electronic media arts from DePaul University. Outside the office, she’s an award-winning 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.

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.

Lowcountry Program Associate

Ame Holcombe

Ame handles GDDF’s Lowcountry arts portfolio, working with current and potential grantees to help support their work in the region through grants and technical assistance. She also provides support across all program areas and manages Lowcountry office operations plus the biannual Lowcountry Land Conservation Symposium.


After working in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade, Ame joined the Foundation in 2017. Prior, she served as Grants Manager and Development Director for the South Carolina Children’s Theatre, Executive Director for the Foothills Trail Conference, and Membership Coordinator for the Lowcountry Land Trust.


Originally from South Carolina, Ame lived in Connecticut and Georgia, before returning to SC to earn a Political Science degree from the College of Charleston.  She currently serves as Program Chair for PEAK Grantmaking’s Southeast Chapter and serves on the Advisory Group for the South Carolina Arts Commissions’ Art of Community – Rural SC. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, their two dogs, and living in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

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.

Chicago 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.

Program Director, Chicago Artistic Vitality and 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.



Laura Donnelley

Laura is chair of the Foundation’s board. She has pursued her lifelong passion for innovative contemporary art in a variety of ways. She founded Art Matters Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that funds artists taking risks outside the boundaries of the commercial arts culture. She founded the Good Works Foundation supporting arts, education, and climate resiliency primarily in Southern California. Laura chairs the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICALA), and she sits on the board of Sarah Lawrence College. She is the daughter of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley.


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.


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 M. Donnelley is President of Strategic Giving, a firm providing consultation on philanthropy. She is a Guild Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge and on the boards of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Foundation, American Associates of the National Theatre, Cambridge in America and is past Chairman and Life Trustee of Goodman Theatre.  Her honors include Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network Award, Outstanding Individual Philanthropist, Treasure Coast Association of Fundraising Professionals, and Crain’s Chicago Business “Forty under Forty.” A member of the Economic Club of Chicago and The Commercial Club of Chicago she previously served 10 years on the boards of United States Artists, Chicago Community Trust, and Loyola University New Orleans.  The former head of political affairs for R.R. Donnelley, she received a B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans and an M.A. from Emerson College.


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 Chair-Elect 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.


Laura Gates

Laura Gates is a retired executive with ties to Chicago and the South Carolina Lowcountry. After a 14-year career in the Chicago office of McKinsey & Company, Laura joined the Field Museum where she served as Vice President for Museum Affairs. She served on the boards of directors of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Wetlands Initiative, and Chicago Wilderness Magazine.

In Charleston, Laura is an active participant in civic life. She currently serves on the boards and executive committees of The Southern Environmental Law Center and the Preservation Society of Charleston. She chaired the boards of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Gibbes Museum of Art. She served on the board of the Historic Charleston Foundation and as a member of the Tourism Commission. Further afield, Laura is a board member of the National Archives Foundation.

Laura is actively engaged with her alma mater, Wellesley College. She is a trustee, and served as Chair of the Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2018. In addition, she has served as a Director and President of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and Chair of the Business Leadership Council.

Laura received an AB from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard University. She lives in Charleston and on Wadmalaw Island.


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.


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.


Dan Ray

Dan Ray is a senior executive with over 36 years of finance, energy, and leadership experience. He currently serves as chairman of the board for the South Carolina state public power authority, Santee Cooper, after being nominated to this board by former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in 2014. Dan’s banking career included serving as Managing Director and Global Head of Project Finance for Jefferies, Capmark Finance, and GMAC Commercial Mortgage during his 23 year investment banking career. Additionally, Dan has served on the national board of Ducks Unlimited and Wetlands American Trust since 2005 where he continues to advocate for conservation, land protection, and clean water related issues. Dan resides in the Santee Delta area of the Lowcountry of SC where he enjoys the outdoors, including fishing, hunting and spending time with family.


Mark Templeton

Mark N. Templeton is Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, and a Research Affiliate of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago. Previously, Templeton was a Trustee and Executive Director of the Office of Independent Trustees for the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust. He previously served as the cabinet-level Director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Associate Dean and COO at Yale Law School, and at McKinsey & Company, where he worked on sustainability issues. Prior to that, he worked on human rights issues at the State Department and as an adviser to the US Delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Early in his career he was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs. Mark has an AB from Harvard College and a JD from Yale Law School.


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 trial and appellate litigation with the firm of Walker Gressette Freeman & Linton, LLC in Charleston. His broad trial practice includes land use and environmental matters as well as conservation easements.  He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Attorneys as well as the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has been recognized by his peers in SuperLawyers® as one of the ten best attorneys in South Carolina.

He has served on the board of local conservation and preservation organizations. He and his wife, Susan, live in downtown Charleston, escaping when they can to their rural retreat on the marsh on nearby 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.