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Meet This Year's Champions of Southern Philanthropy


For the third year in a row, SECF’s Annual Meeting will include a morning plenary showcasing a few of the leaders who represent Southern Philanthropy’s power to transform lives and communities and are among our sector’s strongest supporters.

That’s right – the Breakfast with Champions of Southern Philanthropy is back! This year, we’ve introduced a new twist: All five of this year’s panelists are trustees. As stewards of the mission and purpose of their foundations, these men and women provide a long-term perspective that is essential to making a lasting impact across the region.

One thing we’re glad hasn’t changed: Mark Constantine, president and CEO of the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, has once again agreed to moderate this discussion, guaranteeing insightful questions, meaningful dialogue, moving moments – and more than a few laughs.

Joining Mark on stage will be five trustees selected for their strong leadership – at their foundations, in their communities, and within the philanthropic sector.

Terri Lee Freeman, a member of the Board of Governors of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, also leads one of that city’s most important institutions – the National Civil Rights Museum. Named president in 2014, Terri is responsible for providing strategic leadership in furthering the museum’s mission as an educational and cultural institution. While stewarding the integrity of the museum’s historic content, Freeman has expanded the public programming to increasingly focus on contemporary civil and human rights issues such as criminal justice, education, and basic human rights for marginalized populations. Prior to joining the museum, Terri served as president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region for 18 years.

Jerry Gonzalez currently serves as secretary on the Board of Trustees of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. He is also the founder and executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). GALEO’s mission is to increase civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino/Hispanic community across Georgia. During his tenure with GALEO, the GALEO Institute for Leadership (GIL) program has become a flagship leadership development for the Latino and immigrant community in Georgia, equipping more than 600 community members with skills to serve their communities. Through GALEO’s voter engagement efforts, the Georgia Latino electorate has grown to well over 240,000 from a mere 10,000 in 2003. 

Dr. John Stockwell, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Spartanburg County Foundation, is also is the executive director of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, an organization committed to supporting academic achievement for all children cradle to career. He served as chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate from 1994 to 2011, leading the university toward its vision as one of the leading metropolitan universities in the Southeast. He has served in numerous volunteer civic capacities in Spartanburg County, including as the founding board chair of the Spartanburg Chapter of the Urban League of the Upstate, and as a board member and chair of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the Children’s Services Alliances, and the College Hub.

Bobby Thalhimer, the investment committee chair for the Board of Trustees of the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, is also a former president of its predecessor organization, the Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation, and worked for 16 years as senior vice president for philanthropic services at The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia. Today, he’s senior consultant for The Monument Group, a financial planning firm serving the nonprofit sector. Other nonprofit board service has included the University of Richmond’s Institute of Philanthropy, the Financial Planning Association, and the Children’s Museum of Richmond, at its inception.

Claire Webber is a member of the Distribution Committee of her family’s foundation, the May P. and Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust. The trust, established in 1977 under the will of her grandmother, May Patterson Abreu, was intended to honor her late husband, Francis, through philanthropy. She also serves on the SECF Board of Trustees. Claire is also a member of the Board of Trustees at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School, a private day school in Atlanta, as well as WonderRoot, an arts and service-based organization with a mission to unite artists and community to inspire positive social change in the Atlanta enclave of Reynoldstown.

These five trustees join an already stellar lineup of keynote and plenary speakers that help make SECF’s 49th Annual Meeting an essential experience for Southern grantmakers.

You can learn more by visiting our Annual Meeting website – and don’t forget, if you register by July 1, you’ll save $100 off the registration fee!

David Miller is SECF's director of marketing and communications.

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