Community Foundation of the Lowcountry announces changes

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Changes are coming to the leadership of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, which announced last week that President and CEO Denise Spencer intends to retire at the end of this fiscal year in June 2019. The foundation also announced five new board members. 

Denise Spencer

Under Spencer’s leadership, the Community Foundation has more than doubled its combined assets to more than $72 million. The number of component funds served by the Community Foundation has grown to 350 and grants/scholarships made since 1994 now total $71 million. During Spencer’s 12-year tenure the Community Foundation’s impact in strengthening local nonprofits and communities has continued to grow. She was instrumental in developing the partnership to give all Hilton Head residents access to public sewer (Project SAFE initiative). Additionally, under her leadership, the Community Foundation has successfully navigated a biennial public art exhibition, responded to two hurricanes in two years with immediacy and efficiency, and leveraged collaborations to increase positive impact in the community.

All of this has resulted in Community Foundation of the Lowcountry becoming an anchor institution in our region, serving hundreds of nonprofit organizations and donors.

“Denise has always believed that ‘service is at the heart of a strong community’,” said John Weymouth, former board chair of the Community Foundation. “She seeks tirelessly to improve the lives of those less fortunate and has taken the Community Foundation to another level during her tenure.”

To build upon the expertise and high service levels the Community Foundation already provides, a national search will be conducted for a new CEO.

“Community Foundation of the Lowcountry will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2019,” said current board chair Jim Allhusen. “We look forward to it also being a year in which we celebrate Denise’s many accomplishments and in which we welcome a new CEO who will build upon that success.”

The Community Foundation announced the addition of five new members to its board of directors: Geoff Block, the Rev. Dr. Douglas Fletcher, Jeanette Taylor Jones, John Levy and Dr. Al Panu. 

Block has more than 20 years of public and private company investment experience. In 2013, Block and his wife, Kim, formed RLB Squared. Through this family entity and various other family holdings, Block oversees a portfolio of investments that include hedge funds, real estate, and operating businesses. Prior to that, Block had worked for Crown Advisors and was a founding member and co-portfolio manager of Crown Growth Partners, LP and Crown Growth Partners II. 

Block earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management from Tulane University. 

Rev. Fletcher serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hilton Head, where he’s been since 2008. Prior to that, he served as pastor of Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Tex. for 15 years. He has also served churches in Colorado Springs and Tulsa. Fletcher earned his undergraduate degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and his Master’s and Ph.D. in Bible Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Jones relocated to the Lowcountry from Minnesota after a successful career in both law and healthcare administration. Most recently Jones served as Vice President of Professional & Support Services for Hennepin County Medical Center. Prior to that she was Assistant Commissioner for the State of Minnesota Department of Human Services, CEO of Minnesota Age and Opportunity and Director of Operations at United Healthcare Corporation, in addition to other positions she held in healthcare administration. Jones has a law degree and has been a trial attorney, a professional liability claims attorney and also completed an internship at the New York Supreme Court. In addition, Jones was an adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn. and an instructor at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY. She earned an R.N. degree from Broome College in New York, a B.A. in business administration from Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minn., and a juris doctorate from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, NY. 

Levy is First Vice President-Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors in Hilton Head. He joined A.G. Edwards (a predecessor company of Wells Fargo Advisors) as a financial advisor in May 1996. He received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, followed by nine years at Dun and Bradstreet Inc. in Syracuse, NY.

Dr. Panu is the chancellor of the University of South Carolina Beaufort, only the second chancellor since it achieved baccalaureate status in 2004. He has held that position since 2014. Panu earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Tuskegee Institute, a master’s degree in chemistry from University of Alabama and a doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia. From 1978 to 2010 Dr. Panu held various university-level teaching positions, earning the Distinguished Teaching Award at Kennesaw State University College of Science and Mathematics in 1998. In 2010 he became Dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Gainesville State College in Georgia (later to become part of University of North Georgia.) The following year he was named Vice President for Academic Affairs and professor of chemistry at Gainesville State College. In 2013 he was appointed Senior Vice President for University Affairs at the University of North Georgia. 

In addition to adding new board members, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has named its board of director officers for its 2019 fiscal year: Jim Allhusen – Chair; Jeri Farren – First Vice Chair; Allen Ward – Second Vice Chair; David Wetmore – Treasurer; and Denise Spencer – President and Secretary (non-voting staff liaison). 

Since 1994, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has been connecting people, resources and needs by helping build stronger communities and assisting donors in making a difference through charitable giving. With over 350 charitable funds, combined assets totaling $72 million and grantmaking and scholarships reaching $71 million, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry is the largest source of unrestricted philanthropic resources dedicated to Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

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