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Collaboratory Coalition Funding Requests for Information is Now Open through May 13th.

The Governing Team and Founders

Trustees

Dennie Hamilton, Chair
Former Executive Vice President and Former Chief Executive Officer of Lee County Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Aysegul Timur, Vice Chair
Vice President and Vice Provost for Strategy and Program Innovation, Florida Gulf Coast University

Malike Adigun
Entrepreneur

Julie Ben-Susan
Retired Banker, JPMorgan, and General Manager, Shelter Island Heights POC and North Ferry Company

Juan D. Bendeck
Attorney, Partner, Hahn, Loeser & Parks, LLP

Carolyn E. Conant
Former Director of Budgets, Turner Corporation

Andrew Couse
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of First Bank, Clewiston, FL

Mary Beth Crawford
Estate Planning Attorney

Indera DeMine
Immigration Attorney, DeMine Immigration Law Firm

Chauncey Goss
Former Member, President’s Office of Management and Budget, Former Deputy Staff Director of the US House Budget Committee

Gary H. Griffin
Construction Professional, President and CEO B & I Contractors, Inc.

Sally Jackson
TBA

Hugh Kinsey, Jr.
Attorney. Partner, The Sheppard Law Firm

Harrison S. Knight
Sr. Pastor of Thee Trinity Church, Agency Owner, Senior Life Insurance Company, and Real Estate Agent

Gail Markham
CPA and Founding Partner, Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & CO., PA

Fred Moon
Former Assistant Treasurer, Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Former Director, Surdna Foundation

Dale Anne Reiss
Retired Ernst Young LLP, Global and Americas Head of Real Estate, Construction, Hospitality and Infrastructure

Robbie B. Roepstorff
President, Director and Co-Founder of Edison National Bank and Bank of the Islands

 

 

Senior Advisors

Audrea Anderson
Retired Teacher and Administrator Associate Vice President for Community Relations and Marketing, Florida Gulf Coast University

Gary Aubuchon
Builder. Founder and CEO, Aubuchon Team of Companies

Jay Brett
Retired Attorney, The Sheppard Law Firm

Dawn-Marie Driscoll
Attorney, Emeritus Executive Fellow at the Hoffman Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University

Craig Folk
Retired CPA and Shareholder, Miller, Helms & Folk, PA

Robert da Frota
Financial Advisor and Accountant. President and Owner of RDF Financial Services and RDA FROTA Accounting & Taxes LLC

Patricia K. Dobbins
Nurse, Teacher, Healthcare Professional. Administrator, Health Departments for Hendry and Glades Counties

Larry Allen Hobbs 
Emergency Physician at Gulf Coast Medical Center

Howard Leland
Pilot. Retired Northwest Airlines Captain

William T. Prather
Entertainment Industry Entrepreneur. Executive Producer, Owner, The Prather Family Theaters

J. Tom Smoot, Jr., Co-Founder
Retired Attorney, Author, Lecturer

Gay Rebel Thompson
Business Owner. President and Chairman of Cement Industries

Guy Whitesman
Attorney, Immediate Past Chair, Business and Tax Department, Henderson, Franklin Starnes & Holt, P.A.

 

Emeritus

Marie Mallory Ackord
Susan Bennett
Joseph Catti
Guy S. Emerich
Kevin Erwin
M. William Frey, Ph. D
Chris A. Gair
Hon. Archie B. Hayward, Jr.
Lee Howington
Jerry Hussey 
Charles K. Idelson
Donna Kaye
David Lucas 
Joe Mazurkiewicz, Jr., Ph. D
Jim McFadden
Melvin Morgan 
Jim Nathan
Steve Pontius 
Karson Turner 
Gene Solomon
Steven R. Whitley, CPA

Fifty-two years ago J. Tom Smoot, Jr. created what would become Collaboratory, and continues to serve with us to this day

As early as 1969, together with representatives of the three local banks with trust departments, Tom began the task of creating a community foundation for the Southwest Florida area. Because the IRS regulations affecting community foundations had not been developed, the Foundation would not come into formal existence until 1976.

Tom was born in Fort Myers and attended the University of Florida, where he obtained his BSBA and law degrees. He practiced law full time for 46 years, and served as one of the Foundation’s early Chairmen. Tom’s civic contributions extend well beyond the Foundation. He was Director and President of the Chamber of Commerce, a Salvation Army Advisory Board member, Chairman of the Edison Ford Winter Estates, President of the Lee County Bar Association, a member of the First United Methodist Church and a Trustee of the Charles Edison Fund.

Tom is semi-retired now. He serves “of Counsel” at his son’s law firm. He’s the author of “The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart,” and lectures on the subject at the Edison Ford Winter Estates and to other groups in the area. Tom is the recipient of the John W. Sheppard Award for Selfless Dedication to Humanity, the American Red Cross Clara Barton Award and the Uncommon Friends Honorary Lifetime Member Award.

John Sheppard formally co-founded us with Tom in 1976

John, Tom and a small group of civic leaders founded the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in 1976. He was a trustee for 31 years, serving in the position of President twice and on many committees. John was beloved and well-known in the community as a humanitarian who devotes his life to helping others. He epitomized the idea put forth by President Kennedy that, “One person can make a difference, and every person should try.”

John’s family roots in Florida went back three generations to the 1880s. Born in Lee County, Florida, he attended Fort Myers High School and went on to the University of Florida in Gainesville to earn his bachelor’s and law degrees. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army for two years and then joined his father and uncle in their downtown Fort Myers law firm, where he became one of Southwest Florida’s foremost estate planning attorneys.

John was President of the Lee County Bar Association, Chairman of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, Chairman of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee and a member of the Second District Court of Appeals Judicial Nominating Commissions. He was granted the highest rating given by the International Martindale Hubbell Law Directory for each of the years from 1965-1992.

John’s humanitarian contributions to the community have been inspirational. He was President of the American Cancer Society, President of the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, an Elder and Chairman of the Ministerial Relations Committee of the First Presbyterian Church, and an Elder at the Covenant Presbyterian Church and Pilgrims Church. He received the American Red Cross of Lee County Humanitarian Award and — perhaps most impressive and symbolic — he had given over 30 gallons of blood since 1951.

In retirement, John wrote and published books and authored articles for the University of Florida Law Review, Florida Bar Journal. John was also a wonderful poet. View John’s poetry here.

John passed away in 2022. John is survived by his wife, Ellen and two sons: John, Jr. (deceased); Andrew; a daughter, Sandra; and 11 grandchildren, all located in the Fort Myers area. John will be missed but his legacy truly lives on.