The Van Wezel Foundation Announces Fiscal Year 2021 Board of Directors

Van Wezel Foundation Board of Directors, jim travers,

Foundation continues to lead vision to build new performing arts center as part of the Bayfront master plan

SARASOTA, July 15, 2020 – The Van Wezel Foundation is pleased to announce the fiscal year 2021 officers and board members confirmed for service at its recent annual meeting.

For more than 30 years, the Van Wezel Foundation has had a thriving partnership with the city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. In 2018, the city of Sarasota approved a master plan to develop The Bay into a vibrant park with a new performing arts center at the heart of it. The Van Wezel Foundation board committed to lead this vision, in partnership with the city, to design, build and operate a new world-class performing arts center. Members of the Board have a wide-ranging background, serving as business leaders, philanthropists and civic partners.

“As the Van Wezel Foundation evolves into the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation, the Board is committed to best practices in governance,” noted Chairman of the Board, Jim Travers. “The success of our mission starts with the passion and leadership of the Board. We are so fortunate to have this incredibly talented group to share their breadth of experience and invest in the future of our community.”

The Foundation Board Officers includes Chairman of the Board, Jim Travers, former Chairman and CEO of Fleetmatics, Inc.; Vice-Chair, Jenne Britell, Ph.D., former Chairman of United Rentals; Treasurer, Vern Chalfant, former Executive Chairman and CEO of McLarens Global Limited and Secretary, Julie Harris, civic leader.

Executive Committee leadership includes Governance Committee Chair, Ali Bahaj, former Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Japan; Strategic Planning Committee Chair, Jenne Britell; Audit Committee Chair, Michael Wilson, Partner with Williams Parker; Finance Committee Chair, Vern Chalfant and Arts Education and Community Engagement Chair, Nanci Ross-Weaver, former award-winning news and content producer with CNN, CBS and ABC News. 

Additional members of the board renewing their terms include Gerald Biller, Executive Vice President, Production Services Associates; Chad Campbell, Regional President, BMO Harris Bank; Mark Famiglio, Sarasota Film Festival President and real estate investor; David Koffman, civic leader and business owner; Mike Martella, Boar’s Head President; Elaine McClure, retired educator and Karl Newkirk, retired businessman and consultant. Ex officio board members include Mary Bensel, Executive Director, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Cheryl Mendelson, CEO, Van Wezel Foundation/Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation.

“The experience and dedication of our board of directors and committee leadership is extensive,” commented CEO, Cheryl Mendelson. “The Foundation is committed to meet the growing needs of the community at this pivotal time, and to play an important role in the economic recovery of the region with the building of a new world-class performing arts center.”


Since 1987, the Van Wezel Foundation has partnered with the city of Sarasota to foster a connection between the people, the bay and the spirit of human creativity. The Foundation’s mission is to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds. 

Each year, the Foundation provides grants to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to support arts education throughout our region. Together, we serve more than 30,000 students with enriching arts-based education opportunities and professional development for more than 400 teachers across five counties. In 2018, the city of Sarasota approved a master plan to develop 53 acres on The Bay into a vibrant, accessible park with a new performing arts center at the heart of it. 

The Foundation is leading The Future is Now Campaign to help the community realize the promise of the master plan. To learn more about the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center and get involved, visit For more information on the Foundation and its mission, visit, or join us on Facebook and Instagram5

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