Saturday, November 27, 2021

Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosts annual meeting, elects new chair and board members, honors outgoing board

Environmental activist Fabien Cousteau is keynote speaker

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosted more than 700 members at the organization’s annual meeting held on Jan. 17 at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. In addition to board elections and the Board of Directors’ annual report to members, the meeting featured keynote speaker Fabien Cousteau, an ocean explorer, environmental activist, filmmaker and grandson of world-renown ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau. In addition to sharing highlights of his family’s underwater adventures, Fabien Cousteau spoke to members about his recently launched “Plant-A-Fish Initiative” aimed at promoting mangrove restoration.

“If we invest in nature, nature will invest in us,” said Cousteau to attendees.

“Carrying on his family’s legacy, Cousteau brings an inspiring message of the importance that environmental stewardship to the health and future of our land, water and wildlife,” said Conservancy President Andrew McElwaine. “His story resonates with our members and challenges each of us to do more to protect our planet for generations to come. We invite our members to take this message to the community and encourage their neighbors, friends and colleagues to join us.”

With more than 4,000 members, the Conservancy relies on its member dollars to help support the day-to-day financial operations.

“Our members are the backbone of the organization,” says Jack Hannings, Director of Membership and Annual Giving for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “In addition to providing operational funding, our membership base gives us strength to support our public policy efforts and is our conduit to educating the community on the critical needs of Southwest Florida’s environment.”

While highlighting the role of Conservancy members, McElwaine and outgoing board chair Dolph von Arx also recognized outgoing board members Edie Andrews, Jenny Cheng, Maureen Lerner, Kermit Sutton and Eva Sugden Gomez with service awards. In addition, Conservancy Co-Director of Environmental Science Dave Addison was honored with a retirement award and Nick Batos, former Chairman of The Brooks Concerned Citizens with a leadership award for mobilizing the community to protect critical wetlands from development. A highlight of the awards ceremony came as McElwaine presented outgoing chair von Arx with a Yogi Berra baseball, signed by Berra with his infamous quote: “when you come to a fork in the road, you take it.”

“Throughout his tenure as board chair and throughout the Conservancy ‘Saving Southwest Florida’ Capital Campaign, when Dolph von Arx came to a fork in the road, he kept the destination in focus and led the way for the Conservancy, board and members to exceed our highest goals,” said McElwaine. “We are grateful for his unwavering dedication, leadership and support.”

Also during the annual meeting, new board members were welcomed and will serve a four-year term. They include Wilson Bradshaw, president of Florida Gulf Coast University; Dennis C. Brown, co-managing regional office attorney for Bond, Schoeneck & King; Jane Pearsall, a former Conservancy Capital Campaign cabinet member; Anne Drackett Thomas, retired senior manager of Proctor and Gamble; Jay Tompkins, a retired former partner at Columbia-Naples Capital LCC; and Nancy White, a former legislative assistant and a licensed real estate associate. In addition to welcoming the incoming board members, Robert L. Heidrick, was elected chair of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida board of directors. Having recently retired as an active partner of Spencer Stuart, Heidrick continues to serve as an adviser to the firm, focusing on the client relationships. He was vice Chairman and managing director of Spencer Stuart’s Global Industrial Practice, which accounted for over 20 percent of the firm’s revenues. At the same time, he was responsible for senior-level executive search engagement and dedicated more than half of his time to conducting assignments for the firm’s Board Services Practice. Heidrick received the McGinley Award in 2007, given annually to the partner who exemplified the spirit of the firm by delivering the highest level of service.

“Bob brings years of global corporate expertise and heartfelt passion for the Conservancy mission to the board’s leadership,” says McElwaine. “We are pleased to welcome him to the role of board chair. Under Bob’s leadership, we’ll introduce the nation’s premier new Nature Center and explore new opportunities to enhance education and impact policy changes that will benefit Southwest Florida for generations to come.”

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida began in 1964 when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed “Road to Nowhere” and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay. The Conservancy is a not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. This is accomplished through the combined efforts of environmental education, science and research, policy and advocacy and wildlife rehabilitation. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic treats more than 2,400 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half of them back into their native habitats. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Nature Center is located in Naples, Fla. at 1450 Merrihue Dr., off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit

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