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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2021 3 months ago

$16 million nonprofit adds three new board members

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Sharon Hillstrom, Rochelle Nigri and Walton Pearson were each unanimously approved to serve a three-year term.

SARASOTA — The Van Wezel Foundation recently announced the addition of three new board members.

Sharon Hillstrom, Rochelle Nigri and Walton Pearson were each unanimously approved to serve a three-year term. Also during the annual meeting in June, Board Chair James Travers, Vice Chair Jenne Britell, Secretary Julie Harris and Treasurer Vernon Chalfant all received approval to renew terms. 

Courtesy. Rochelle Nigri, a financial advisor with The Bellwether Group at Morgan Stanley, was approved to serve a three-year term on the Van Wezel Foundation board.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sharon, Rochelle and Walt to the Van Wezel Foundation’s board of directors at such a pivotal time,” Jim Travers, board chairman, says in a press release. “We are so fortunate to have board membership made up of leaders in our community who share in the foundation’s values of passion, inclusivity, collaboration and stewardship.”

Hillstrom is president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. She is currently serving on the executive committee of CareerSource Suncoast, the board of directors of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County and the Advisory Commission for the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

Courtesy. Walton Pearson, a managing director at Brown Capital Management, was approved to serve a three-year term on the Van Wezel Foundation board.

“I am so pleased to have the opportunity to contribute my experience in economic development to realize the promise of a new performing arts center that will serve the entire region and be a catalyst for economic vitality,” Hillstrom says in the release.

Nigri is a financial advisor with The Bellwether Group at Morgan Stanley. She has over 17 years of experience as an advocate for clients with companies in finance, retail, media and philanthropy. She also volunteers for causes including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Girls Inc. of Sarasota County.

“The Van Wezel Foundation is committed to creating a vision for greater Southwest Florida that includes building an accessible and dynamic arts scene with innovative programming, education and lifelong learning at its core, and I am excited to be part of this transformative initiative for our community,” says Nigri.

Pearson is a managing director at Brown Capital Management headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, and has been in the investment management industry for over 35 years. He has served on several nonprofit board of directors, including, Baltimore Community Foundation, Baltimore School for the Arts, Garrison Forest School, The Park School of Baltimore and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Pearson was also one of the founding members of the National Association of Securities Professionals Boston Chapter, where he served as the organization’s first president.

“I am pleased to join the Van Wezel Foundation’s Board of Directors as the Foundation seeks to chart a new, powerful course for the arts on the Gulf Coast,” he says. “I look forward to championing the Foundation’s mission to extend arts education and bolster the vision for a new performing arts center as a cultural beacon that’s open to all.”

Additional board members who will continue their service for the Foundation, include: 

  • Ali Bahaj. 
  • Gerald Biller. 
  • Chad Campbell. 
  • Mark Famiglio. 
  • Michele Hooper. 
  • Jaih Jackson. 
  • David Koffman. 
  • Michael Martella. 
  • John Maupin. 
  • Elaine McClure. 
  • Karl Newkirk. 
  • Nanci Ross-Weaver. 
  • Charlie Wilson. 
  • Michael Wilson. 


Ex officio members are Van Wezel/Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation CEO Cheryl Mendelson and city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Executive Director Mary Bensel.

The nonprofit organization has assets totaling $16,378,010.

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