The Governing Team and Founders


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

Gary H. Griffin, Vice Chair & Secretary/Treasurer
Construction Professional, President and CEO B & I Contractors, Inc.

Aysegul Timur, Immediate Past Chair
President, Florida Gulf Coast University

Malike Adigun

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

Juan D. Bendeck
Attorney, Shareholder, Dentons Cohen & Grigsby P.C.

Suzanne Boy
Employment Attorney and Founding Partner, Boy Agnew Potanovic Miller, PLLC

Lauren C. Drasites
Attorney, Patrone, Kemp, Bentley & Mace, P.A.

Rosemary Fllori
Executive Director, Glades County Economic Development Council

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

Sally Jackson
Community Volunteer

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

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

Khandyce Mosely
Consultant and Grant Writer, City of Fort Myers Police Department

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

Lillie B. Rentz, C.M.
CEO – LBR Strategies, LLC

Karen Watson, MSW
Medical Social Worker, Lee Health, Co-founder of Impact Dunbar, Executive Director, After the Rain of Southwest FLORIDA Inc.

Senior Advisors

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

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

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

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



Marie Mallory Ackord
Susan Bennett
Joseph Catti
Robert da Frota

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
D. Hugh Kinsey, Jr.

David Lucas 
Joe Mazurkiewicz, Jr., Ph. D
Jim McFadden
Melvin Morgan 
Jim Nathan
Steve Pontius 
Robbie Roepstorff
J. Tom Smoot, Jr., Co-Founder

Gene Solomon
Gay Rebel Thompson
Karson Turner

Scott White
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.