Charleston 50 Most InfluentialJan 09, 2023 04:20PM ● By Donna Isbell Walker
Charleston Business Magazine celebrates another year of honoring the region's most influential people. The selection of our 50 men and women is a result of staff research and community nominations.
We also are celebrating our third year of selecting entrants to our Hall of Fame. This year, we're adding eight new members who have continued to make a lasting difference in the Lowcountry.
HALL OF FAME
Baker Motor Company
Tommy Baker was born in Charleston, South Carolina, close to the banks of the Wando and Cooper rivers and the historic Charleston peninsula. He attended Moultrie High School, and after distinguishing himself on the baseball fields and the dance floors of the Lowcountry, graduated in 1964.
Motivated by a desire to serve his country and by the patriotism of many past generations of Charlestonians, Baker enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation. His service took him far from Charleston, to Okinawa in Japan and finally back home in 1968 where he enrolled at The Citadel, South Carolina’s preeminent military college.
After spending 25 years as an automobile dealer across the South, Baker felt it was time to return to his first love, Charleston. Combining his extensive experience with acute business savvy and his one-of-a-kind amicable personality, he founded Baker Motor Company in 1988. After starting out on Morrison Drive in Downtown Charleston with a single dealership, he has since expanded Baker Motor Company to include various luxury brands, and a luxury Pre-Owned Center on its main campus on Savannah Highway.
Baker has always prioritized giving back to the Charleston community. He has served as past chair of the MUSC Children’s Hospital, the College of Charleston School of Business, YEScarolina and the Free Enterprise Foundation, a research institution that works in harmony with The Citadel, The College of Charleston and the Medical University.
Baker Motor Company received the Award for Outstanding Corporation from the Association of Fundraising Professionals South Carolina Lowcountry Chapter in honor of its community involvement, philanthropy, and financial support of charitable organizations.
YWCA Greater Charleston
LaVanda Brown joined YWCA Greater Charleston as executive director in February 2016. Her experience, leadership, and passion for serving others spans 30 years.
During her decades of on-the-ground experience in social services focused on underserved populations, she has led and advised multiple nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including Family Promise of Greater Savannah, Union Mission, Greenbriar Children’s Center, Gang Alternatives of Miami, Clarke Community Services in New Orleans, and others in the behavioral health, employment, and community services arenas.
A passionate advocate for causes including gender equality, diversity, and racial equity, and a strong ally of under-resourced teens and homeless populations, she envisions a world where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated. “The mission of YWCA is one that is very much in line with my personal mission of empowering women and celebrating differences,” she says.
Her work has garnered awards including the 2021 Trident Literacy Founder’s Award, the 2018 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Picture Award for outstanding community service, presented by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard, and being named to Charleston Business magazine’s 2020 and 2021 Top 50 most Influential list.
Brown serves on the board of Enough Pie, an organization dedicated to improving Charleston’s upper peninsula; as a founding board member of Family Promise Greater Charleston, which provided supportive services to end and prevent family homelessness; and she serves on the leadership council of the Social Justice Racial Equity Collaborative in Charleston.
Brown holds a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Wesleyan College and a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia Southern University.
Dr. David Cole
Medical University of South Carolina
MUSC President and surgeon Dr. David Cole brings integrity, intelligence, optimism, and humor to both roles, and strives to be a role model who elevates others and builds effective teams. He seeks to build on the solid foundation laid by his predecessors to enable MUSC to excel in one of the most transformative times in health care history.
Cole maintains connectivity with MUSC’s many academic, clinical and leadership teams as a physician-scientist and active surgical oncologist providing day-to-day patient care in addition to his administrative duties. He is known for encouraging and enabling MUSC team members to innovate and lead from where they are, and champions the successes and lessons learned from all corners of the institution.
Since he began as president in 2014, he has led MUSC through a period of unprecedented transformation, both in scope and scale, positioning MUSC as the academic health care leader in South Carolina. This includes being ranked Best Hospital in South Carolina by U.S. News & World Report six years running as well as achieving national recognition by Forbes Magazine as a top employer and best employer for diversity.
Other transformational highlights under his leadership include developing MUSC into a statewide health system through strategic partnerships, acquisition of regional hospitals and other ancillary facilities, and achieving national leadership in telehealth services and programs as recognized by MUSC’s designation as one of only two centers of excellence in the United States; obtaining record research funding that positions MUSC as the leading research university in South Carolina and among the top 20 percent in the country for National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding; and opening state-of-the-art MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion supported by a record-breaking $150 million-dollar fundraising effort.
A native of New Mexico, Cole attended New Mexico State University, was a Rhodes scholarship finalist, and earned his medical degree from Cornell University in New York. He completed his surgical residency at Emory University affiliated hospitals in Atlanta, Ga., and his fellowship in the surgical oncology branch at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, part of the National Institutes of Health.
President and CEO
The Beach Company
John Darby is president and CEO of The Beach Company, a privately owned company founded in 1945 headquartered in Charleston, S.C. As one of the state’s largest real estate firms, The Beach Company is focused on real estate development, construction, acquisition, sales, and management of commercial and residential properties.
The company is ranked in the top 40 of the state’s largest privately held companies (Grant Thornton South Carolina 100). With more than 350 employees, The Beach Company is active in over 20 cities throughout the Southeast.
Among his goals for 2023: The Beach Company will continue to expand its multifamily development footprint across cities in the Southeast, including Wilmington, Nashville, Chattanooga, Richmond, Greenville and Huntsville, and grow its investment fund through value-add multifamily acquisitions.
It also plans to open several new projects including Stono Oaks on Johns Island, The Assembly in North Charleston and The Foundry in Huntsville, AL. At The Beach Company’s Kiawah River community, the company will reach its 200th home milestone and launch the marketing campaign for The Dunlin, an Auberge Resorts Collection hotel property. Lastly, it will break ground on the Emanuel Nine Memorial project.
President and CEO
Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
As president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Bryan Derreberry leads one of South Carolina’s largest chambers in its regional advancement work, securing economic prosperity for businesses and residents of today and tomorrow.
Through the platforms of Talent, Government Relations and Community Advancement, Derreberry, the Chamber staff and a host of volunteer leaders drive regional private sector collaboration and success for businesses large and small.
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is the oldest continually operating chamber in the U.S., comprising approximately 1,600 members collectively employing 165,000 people. It is an accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with 5 Stars, and is one of 0.2 percent of chambers nationally achieving a 5-Star Accreditation three times. The Charleston Metro Chamber was also named the metro Chamber of the Year in 2018 by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Derreberry has an established executive management track record featuring more than 30 years in chamber leadership and advocacy roles. Prior to joining the Charleston Metro Chamber, he was president and CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in Wichita, Kan., where he directed the state’s largest metro chamber for 7½ years. He also served as president and CEO of the Catawba County, N.C., and Middletown Area, Ohio, chambers of commerce respectively. He began his chamber career as the state lobbyist for the Greater Cincinnati (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and has completed graduate coursework toward a combined MA/PhD in American Politics and International Relations from The American University in Washington, D.C.
President and CEO
As president and CEO of Blackbaud, a Fortune Change the World company and repeat Forbes Most Innovative Growth Company, Mike Gianoni focuses on delivering unmatched value and cloud innovation to organizations that make the world a better place.
Under his leadership as a top 50 SaaS CEO, Blackbaud is building a new legacy that reaches far beyond its position as the leading cloud software company powering social good — a legacy that puts customers first every time, connects them in unique ways, and puts information and innovation in their hands at a high level of quality and speed.
An experienced IT services executive, Gianoni found that his interest in technology was sparked in high school when he took his first engineering class. Today, with degrees in both engineering and business —as well as an MBA and honorary doctorate from the University of New Haven — he has a successful track record of strong operational management of IT businesses that deliver value for customers, shareholders, and employees, and is an advocate for corporate cultures that encourage employees to thrive professionally and personally while accomplishing strong top-line growth.
He joined Blackbaud from Fiserv, Inc., a global provider of financial services technology solutions, where he was executive vice president and group president of the Financial Institutions Group. Previously, he was president of Fiserv’s Investment Services division, executive vice president and general manager of CheckFree Investment Services, and the leader of numerous divisions at DST, where he focused on developing new platforms and ensuring stronger operational controls.
Gianoni is chairman of the board of directors for Teradata and serves on the board of directors for the International African American Museum.
President and CEO
Charleston Regional Development Alliance
As president and CEO of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, David Ginn works closely with the region’s top business, academic, and political leaders to shape and execute a comprehensive regional economic development strategy. He also leads the organization’s day-to-day efforts, and is directly involved with global business development and global marketing initiatives.
Ginn has been with the CRDA since its inception, serving as the organization’s executive vice president and project director before being named president and CEO in 2000. A Certified Economic Development professional, he maintains a comprehensive awareness of current issues in economic development, thanks in part to affiliations with the International Economic Development Council and as past president of the S.C. Economic Developers Association. He has also held professional economic development and industrial marketing positions in Atlanta and Savannah.
Ginn grew up in the Atlanta area, and holds a degree in economics and international business from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also studied abroad at the London School of Economics.
Philanthropist and business leader
Philanthropist Ben Navarro is committed to improving education in South Carolina, having founded the Meeting Street Schools. Through the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, the philanthropic commitment supports thousands of Charleston County students on their path to college.
In November, the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit helping high-achieving students with financial need pay for college, announced expansion of the scholarship to Barnwell County thanks to the generosity of a group of anonymous donors. The expansion to Barnwell County was projected to impact more than 60 high school seniors in the next five years, awarding each recipient up to $40,000 in total college scholarships. The estimated scholarship awards will exceed $2.4 million, and there is no limit to the number of recipients who can earn the Meeting Street Scholarship.
The scholarship is available in 10 counties, including six with the highest poverty rates in South Carolina: Barnwell, Charleston, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, and Williamsburg. The fund provided over $3 million to 276 students in its first two years. With the addition of Barnwell County, the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund projects it will award more than 200 scholarships annually.
“Students who have worked hard to earn acceptance to our state’s best colleges should not be held back by daunting college costs,” Navarro says. “Expanding opportunity is our mission, and we are excited to follow these incredible students as they achieve their dreams.”Now here are Charleston's 50 Most Influential:
CEO and Co-founder
Grier Allen is the CEO and co-founder of BoomTown, a real estate software company designed to empower agents, teams, and brokers with the tools they need to succeed.
After receiving a degree in computer science, Allen partnered with Copper Bane to start BoomTown in 2006.
After 20 years of experience, he was named on the Swanepoel Power 200 List for eight consecutive years. Allen has also received HousingWire’s Rising Star Award for his expertise and success in the industry.
Allen leads the BoomTown team, which consists of over 500 engineers, consultants, digital marketers, and customer-focused teams.
Under Allen’s leadership, Boomtown has been named the 2022 Innovator of the Year for Technology, and 40 percent of the Real Trends Top 250 Real Estate teams are powered by BoomTown.
Vice President and General Manager
787 Program and Boeing South Carolina, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Lane Ballard was named vice president and general manager of the 787 program, and Boeing South Carolina site leader, in June 2020. In this role, he leads the team that designs, builds, and delivers the 787 Dreamliner family of airplanes. He oversees the execution of program priorities and the shaping of the long-term strategy for the 787 production system. He also has overall leadership responsibility for Boeing’s South Carolina (BSC) facilities in North Charleston.
Ballard previously served as vice president of Delivery and Paint for Boeing South Carolina, with responsibility for taking 787 Dreamliners after their rollout from BSC Final Assembly and preparing them for delivery to airline customers. He also served as the vice president of Production Transformation for the BCA program office. In that role he was leading a team that was helping to define the future production system.
He started his career at Boeing in 1996 as an engineer in composites and advanced assembly technologies, and has served in a number of leadership roles of increasing responsibility and breadth.
Ballard earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech University. He also earned a Master’s of Business Administration and a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering, both from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jeff Baxter is a leader in the field of real estate and sustainable development. As a founding partner in Cityvolve, he has been at the helm of several transformational redevelopment projects within the Charleston area. He is a proponent of adaptive building reuse, urban infill development, and strategic urban planning initiatives. He is frequently invited to participate on panels as a planning and development expert. In 2012, Jeff served as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston, teaching Sustainable Urbanism.
Before co-founding Cityvolve, Baxter was director of development for The Noisette Company, the Master Developer for the Navy Yard at Noisette in North Charleston, South Carolina. He oversaw various planning and redevelopment efforts including development management, property management, leasing and sales, historic preservation, low-income housing tax credits, and LEED certification at the Navy Yard. He managed and edited the creation of The Noisette Company’s 2001-2007 Sustainability Report and oversaw the certification process for the Navy Yard’s LEED Neighborhood Development certification — the first in South Carolina.
He is an active member in the Urban Land Institute, and has served on the North Charleston Housing Authority since 2008. Baxter graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and Harvard University with a Master’s of Landscape Architecture, with a concentrated focus on urban redevelopment.
President and CEO
Mercedes Benz Vans LLC
Axel Bense took the job of president and CEO of Charleston-based Mercedes Benz Vans in April 2022, taking over from Arnhelm Mittelbach, who moved on to the company’s Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters.
Bense has had a long career with Mercedes Benz, beginning in 1999, when he worked as a graduate process engineer for the then-DaimlerChrysler AG in Bremen, Germany. Since then, he has worked for Mercedes in Russia and in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and he came to Charleston from a stint at Mercedes Benz in Thailand, a position he had from 2020 to 2022.
Lowcountry Local First
Deeply dedicated to advancing equitable economic prosperity, Jacquie Berger utilizes her more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership on behalf of Lowcountry Local First, a nonprofit that promotes local ownership through innovative and inclusive initiatives that build the Lowcountry’s wealth and well-being.
Berger became LLF’s second executive director in May 2021, having previously served as director of development for the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry and as executive director of Just Food, a nonprofit in New York City. Her previous experience honed her ability to balance dedication to mission with the need for bold entrepreneurial initiatives and the application of sound nonprofit management practices.
Gail Tiburzi Buck
Gail Tiburzi Buck and Rebecca Oppenheim have over 20 years’ combined experience working with companies from early-stage development to global industry leaders. In 2015, they co-founded nextOPP Search, a double-bottom-line company that answers to both profit and purpose.
They designed nextOPP to offer the same suite of services as a traditional recruiting agency but with a social responsibility program that helps domestic violence survivors who are trying to achieve financial independence.
Inspired by the one-for-one social-entrepreneurship model pioneered by companies in the CPG space, Buck and Oppenheim created their Hire One Help One program to empower women and take on social responsibility in a tangible way.
In 2019, nextOPP became a Certified B Corporation joining a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. These for-profit companies use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy while meeting the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Charleston Market President
First Reliance Bank
Frank Bullard retired from his post as Charleston Market President of First Reliance Bank in December 2022, but his influence will live on long after his retirement.
Bullard joined the bank in 2020 after 38 years with BB&T. Over the course of his career, he has worked in both retail and commercial banking roles.
Since he joined First Reliance, Bullard has been responsible for overseeing the expansion of the bank’s footprint in the Charleston region.
Bullard is a graduate of East Carolina University and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. He holds an honorary doctorate from Charleston Southern University.
eGroup | Enabling Technologies
Mike Carter is a South Carolina native and 1992 graduate of The Citadel. With three decades
of experience in the information technology sector, Carter founded and runs eGroup, an IT consulting services firm. Listed as one of the fastest growing businesses at the state, regional and national level appearing on the Inc. 5000 list multiple times, under his leadership the firm has also been named an Inc. "Best Places to Work."
A volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and a council member with Charleston Open Source, Carter has been a member of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce since 2017, as well as a board member of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance since 2019.
Dr. Patrick Cawley
Under Dr. Patrick Cawley’s leadership, the Medical University of South Carolina has significantly expanded its clinical enterprise by creating a new Children’s Hospital, a regional health network, and multiple ambulatory sites.
It has also developed additional clinical affiliates and numerous novel joint ventures. MUSC has become a national leader in telehealth and has continued to be recognized by U.S. News and World Report as South Carolina’s No. 1 hospital/health system. It also continues to receive many awards for the high quality of its safety, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, timeliness, and patient centeredness.
Cawley has served as the chief medical officer of MUSC Medical Center and has led MUSC’s improvement transformation in quality and patient safety, which was recognized by the University Healthsystem Consortium with the Rising Star Honor.
He is a certified physician executive through the American College of Physician Executives and a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is also a Fellow in the Liberty Fellowship Program and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Dondi Costin, Ph.D.
Charleston Southern University
Dondi Costin, Ph.D., began serving as Charleston Southern University’s third president in 2018. He led the university through the Covid-19 pandemic, during which the university launched several new academic programs, including aeronautics and engineering.
Costin served as the 18th Air Force Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon prior to his current position. He began his military career in 1986 when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from the Air Force Academy.
In addition to a stint as an Air Force chaplain, Costin worked as an assistant professor of aerospace studies at Texas Christian University, as an industrial engineer evaluating air-to-ground precision guided munitions, and as chief of scientific analysis on a major command headquarters staff. He is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister and is a retired major general.
He has earned several military awards, including Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, and Gallant Unit Citation.
After graduating from college, Rick Crawford moved from Savannah, Georgia, to Wyoming and spent several years in Jackson Hole, where he fell in love with the sport of fly fishing and decided to pursue a career protecting what he loves. Crawford then pursued an MBA in sustainable business from Marylhurst University and spent over a decade in the sustainability field doing everything from installing solar panels and manufacturing biodiesel, to working in the green-building industry.
Crawford united his passions for fly fishing and sustainability when he founded Emerger Strategies, a sustainable-business consultancy, in 2016.
Emerger Strategies’ mission is to measure and improve clients’ sustainability performance, reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions, and help them tell a compelling story to their customers through transparent reporting. Most recently, Crawford has founded the Fly Fishing Climate Alliance, which is made up of guides, shops, lodges, brands, and nonprofits that have committed to going net-zero emissions by 2050.
Director of Operations
Holy City Hospitality
Tony Cuajunco became director of operations at Holy City Hospitality, the Charleston restaurant group, in 2018 after spending more than a quarter-century with Outback Steakhouse, where he was a managing partner.
Holy City Hospitality operates six restaurants, including 39 Rue de Jean and Vincent Chicco’s, along with event venues such as Historic Rice Mill and the Cottages, and a catering company. Its newest restaurant, Victor’s Seafood and Steak, opened in November 2022.
Charleston County Council
North Charleston High School
His goals and key issues as a council member include diversity within the workforce and procurement of the county; fair and equitable pay for all employees; and employment for the underprivileged.
Gov. Henry McMaster presented Henry Darby with the Order of the Palmetto for Darby's efforts to provide financial assistance for his students and their families. Darby has worked a third job at Walmart; all of the money he has made as an associate at Walmart supports NCHS families. His story attracted significant local and national media coverage, including a report by NBC's The Today Show.
The Order of the Palmetto is the state's highest civilian honor awarded to citizens of South Carolina for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The Order of the Palmetto is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi
President and CEO
Roper St. Francis Healthcare
As chief executive officer of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi has launched a bold roadmap for the next decade for the Lowcountry’s largest healthcare system for adults.
He has also expanded services and modernized technology to better serve future generations. Under his leadership, Roper St. Francis Healthcare has been honored as one of the top 150 Best Places to Work in healthcare by Modern Healthcare Magazine. It was also listed as No. 2 on the America’s Best Employers list for South Carolina, according to results released by Forbes magazine.
Before his current role, DiLisi served as senior vice president and chief medical officer of Virginia Hospital Center, where he was responsible for major procedural and ancillary areas accounting for 60 percent of the hospital’s revenue.
DiLisi received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College and completed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Duke University.
Ben Ellsworth dedicated 25 years to the restaurant industry and to creating memorable experiences through food. As an executive chef and later as a restaurant consultant, Ellsworth recognized that the overwhelming task of keeping each restaurant adequately staffed often took away from the focus on food and guest experiences.
In November 2019, Ellsworth launched Gigpro in Charleston. The on-demand app helps connect workers with hospitality businesses recruiting to fill shifts. Gigpro also strives to facilitate long-term, positive changes needed to stabilize the hospitality industry including better pay, flexible hours, and connecting workers with businesses that suit their needs and help make their careers more sustainable.
Gigpro continues to make waves in the hospitality industry one shift at a time and stands true to its mission of being a leading tech company dedicated to providing hospitality workers freedom and flexibility in finding opportunities for short- or long-term employment. Gigpro has since expanded to cities throughout the Southeast and as far west as Denver, with plans for further nationwide growth.
President and CEO
John Fortson became president and CEO of Ingevity in September 2020, after having served as the company’s chief financial officer for almost five years. Fortson helped orchestrate the company’s successful spin-off from WestRock and establish it as an independent, publicly traded company.
Since its listing on the New York Stock Exchange in March 2016, Ingevity has doubled its EBITDA to over $400 million and completed three acquisitions, two in the United States and one in the United Kingdom. The company managed through the economic disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic and is now focused on leveraging its core products to rapidly grow through meeting the demands of consumer focus on sustainably sourced chemistries.
Prior to joining Ingevity in October 2015, Fortson was the chief financial officer and treasurer at AAR Corporation, a publicly traded aerospace and defense company outside Chicago.
He also was a managing director in the investment banking department of Merrill Lynch, working in the firm’s New York, London, and Chicago offices before he joined AAR.
A former Army infantry officer, Fortson is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Principal and Managing Director
As Managing Director of Avison Young’s South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, commercial real estate offices, Chris Fraser uses data and analytics to provide experience-based advice to his customers, lead with passion, and empower others to succeed. He has received numerous awards, including the 2019 REALTORS of Distinction Award.
His team has over 75 years of commercial real estate experience and decades of office leasing, development, and management experience.
He holds several community and leadership roles, including being a member of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Council and the UD Business Continuity Committee at Avison Young. He is also the chair-elect of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, and he will begin as chair in July 2023.
Darrin Goss Sr.
President and CEO
Coastal Community Foundation
Darrin Goss Sr. is the president and CEO of Coastal Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in South Carolina. Under his leadership, the foundation has experienced significant asset growth as well as community impact in the nine counties of the Lowcountry it serves.
Goss has also been instrumental in establishing the foundation’s first advocacy initiative, The Policy Agenda, as the first Placed-Based Impact Investing Program to provide capital to emerging enterprises that address social needs. Looking forward, he plans to create deeper and more robust community engagement.
Before joining Coastal Community Foundation, he worked as president and CEO of Capital Area United Way in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was previously Vice President of Community Impact at the United Way of Greenville County.
Goss serves on several boards, including the Philanthropy Southeast Board of Trustees and Metro Chamber Board. He is a U.S. Army veteran, and he received his undergraduate degree from Wofford College and his master’s degree from North Greenville University.
Hall Management Group
Tommy Hall oversees Hall Management Group’s nine restaurants and events venues in South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee. Since its founding in Charleston in 2009, Halls Chophouse has won several honors, including being named the No. 3 U.S. Fine Dining Restaurant in 2021, placing in the top three for its second consecutive year. It was also named Best Brunch Spot in the U.S. by TripAdvisor in its 2021 Traveler’s Choice “Best of the Best” Restaurant Awards.
His leadership follows that of his father, Bill Hall, who opened the first Halls Chophouse in Charleston in 2009. Before joining Hall Management Group and becoming the proprietor, Tommy Hall served as general manager at Del Frisco’s Eagle Steak House in Dallas, Texas.
Hall is a graduate of Clemson University.
President and CEO
The Bank of South Carolina
Fleetwood Hassell has been with The Bank of South Carolina since its organization in 1986. He began as an assistant vice president for commercial lending and business development.
Effective April 11, 2012, Hassell was elected president/chief executive officer. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, he graduated from Porter Gaud High School and earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of South Carolina School of Business. He began his banking career in 1983 as a management trainee at the Citizens and Southern National Bank of South Carolina.
In addition to serving on the bank’s board Hassell has served on the boards of the Kidney Foundation, Crime Stoppers, Atlantic Coast Conservation Association, Trident Tech Foundation, Charleston Breakfast Rotary Club (President), Charleston Day School (Treasurer), Porter Gaud School Alumni, the Preservation Society, and South Carolina Bankers Association.
Andrew Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston
Andrew Hsu, Ph.D., the 23rd president of the College of Charleston, took office in 2019. Previously he was the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo and had been the dean of engineering at San Jose State University and the associate vice president for research and the dean of the graduate school at Wright State University.
Earning a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1986, he worked for 11 years in industry before joining academia. Under his leadership, the CofC has added two new engineering programs and kicked off a 10-year strategic plan; as a faculty member he has maintained a continuously funded research lab, and published close to 100 journal/conference articles.
Hsu serves on the boards of the Spoleto Festival USA, the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance Leadership Council and the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs - Asian American, and Pacific Islander Advisory Committee.
Faith Rivers James
South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
As executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, Faith Rivers James leads advocates dedicated to conserving rural landscapes, protecting natural resources, and preserving South Carolina’s coastal plain. She started her position in August 2022, and, since then, has led successful campaigns to preserve more greenspace while also launching efforts to balance growth and natural resources protection.
She began her career in Washington, D.C. as a legislative attorney. After that, she dedicated several years to teaching law. Most recently, she served as Assistant Provost for Leadership at the Citadel.
In 2023, James plans to expand efforts to support farmers and enhance local food access through the new GrowFood Carolina facility, advocate for policies to protect the health and natural resources of the South Carolina coastal plain, and help citizens engage with local governments to promote land use strategies ensure a high quality of life for all people who call the Lowcountry their home.
Noah Leask is a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) National Small Business Award Winner, SBA South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year, two-time Top 10 American Indian Entrepreneur, and Strayer University Outstanding Alumni Award Winner.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Leask founded cyber security company ISHPI -- named a seven-time consecutive Inc 500|5000 fastest-growing company. Leask's previous work included creating warning threat detection systems and networks. He was on the national Y2K critical manning list for the U.S. and the U.K. as the lead programmer and has also led an intelligence agency directory services team.
In 2017, Leask donated $1.92 million to the College of Charleston School of Business to establish the Noah Thomas Leask Distinguished Professorship in Information Management and Innovation.
Angela D. Mack
Gibbes Museum of Art
Angela Mack has worked with the Gibbes Museum of Art for 38 years, and over those years she has organized hundreds of exhibitions in her roles as curator of collections, chief curator, and deputy director of curatorial affairs. She became executive director of the museum in 2008.
A native of Spartanburg, Mack told Philanthropy Journal in 2022 that she has long had the goal of showcasing the art of the South, which has sometimes been overlooked. “When you look at the evolution of American art as a distinct invention, the South isn’t there,” Mack told the magazine.
Mack’s publications include “Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art” (2008); “Charleston Portrait Painter” (2001); and “In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad, 1740-1860” (1999).
Kameelah Martin, Ph.D.
Professor of African Studies and English
College of Charleston
Graduate School of the University of Charleston
Kameelah Martin, Ph.D., has taught at College of Charleston since 2017, and she was named dean of the Graduate School in 2021.
She is a cultural studies scholar whose areas of expertise include the African diaspora, literature, folklore, and film studies.
Martin is the author of “Conjuring Moments in African American Literature: Women, Spirit Work & Other Such Hoodoo” and “Envisioning Black Feminist Voodoo Aesthetics: African Spirituality in American Cinema.”
Prior to joining College of Charleston, Martin taught at Georgia State University, Savannah State University, and the University of Houston.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, a master’s from University of California at Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. from Florida State University.
Tonya Matthews, Ph.D.
President and CEO
International African American Museum
Tonya Matthews, Ph.D., has been a poet and an engineer as well as nonprofit executive leader. As president and CEO of the new International African American Museum located at Gadsden's Wharf, set to open in January 2023, Matthews brings years of experience to the role, including having served as associate provost for Inclusive Workforce Development & director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center for Wayne State University.
Prior to that she was the president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, where she founded the STEMinista Project, a movement to engage girls in their future with STEM careers and tools. She continues this work today through STEMinista Rising, supporting professional women in STEM with an inclusive emphasis on women of color.
Matthews is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education and was appointed by both Democratic and Republican administrations to the National Assessment Governing Board. She has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor of science in education from Duke University.
Bernett William Mazyck
President and CEO
South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development
Bernie Mazyck has served as the president and CEO of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development (SCACED) since 1998.
SCACED’s purpose is to improve the quality of life for poor families and communities through community-based organizations, attracting public and private capital, and influencing public policy to benefit poor and marginalized individuals.
The organization under Mazyck’s leadership has expanded from four organizations to more than 150, and has helped to create more than 6,000 jobs.
Mazyck, who received the Order of the Palmetto in 2014, is the former board chairman of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations.
He also serves on the board of governors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Charleston Trident Urban League
Otha Meadows, a West Virginia native, has seen the fight against racism on many fronts, from the civil rights era to the uniquely 21st-century struggles.
Before joining the Charleston Trident Urban League in May 2006, Meadows served as the executive vice president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League.
He has worked with the Medical University of South Carolina on developing models for Community Based Participatory Research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee.
He serves on the Charleston Redevelopment Corporation.
The Rotary Club of Charleston once noted the primary focus of the Urban League is to foster diversity and racial inclusion and helping minorities to reach economic self-sufficiency. Meadows was quick to point out, however, that not only minorities are assisted by the programs of the CTUL, and more than 30 percent of Urban League clients in the region weren’t people of color.
President and CEO
Beacon Community Bank
In 2017, Brooks Melton and a group of other Lowcountry community leaders got together to form a new bank. In less than six years, Beacon Community Bank has grown to three branches, and in the summer of 2022, the bank broke ground on a new headquarters building in Mount Pleasant.
Beacon thrived through the Covid-19 pandemic, loaning out $50 million to local businesses through the Payroll Protection Program.
Melton began his banking career in 1994 with BB&T, and since then, he has worked with a number of banks, as well as Glandon Capital Group.
Outside of work, Melton is an avid boater and a member of the Hobcaw Yacht Club.
Patrick Melton, Will Culp, Chris Randolph, and Jordan Phillips
South Street Partners
Patrick Melton and Jordan Phillips didn’t have a whole lot to lose when they started their South Street Partners real estate enterprise in the recession of 2009.
Thirteen years later, South Street has exceeded expectations by any measure, having deployed more than $600 million to become the largest owner of luxury residential club and resort communities in the Southeast with more than $1 billion of assets.
The partners, who were joined after inception by fellow Chapel Hill grads Chris Randolph and Will Culp, have partnered with major investors to acquire a big chunk of South Carolina’s Kiawah Island; seven Cliff Communities golf-oriented developments in the Carolinas mountains; thousands of undeveloped acres in the Southeast assembled by Charlotte investor Robert Pittenger; and a variety of other thriving developments.
President and CEO
South Carolina Ports
Barbara Melvin became president and CEO of South Carolina Ports in 2022. She is the first woman to lead a top 10 U.S. operating container port. During her more than 20 years with S.C. Ports, Melvin has held several leadership positions, including COO, senior vice president of operations and terminals, senior vice president of external affairs, and vice president of government relations.
Before joining SC Ports in 1998, she served as director of government relations for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Melvin is a Riley Institute Diversity Leadership graduate, and has been a member of the South Carolina Advisory Council of the United States Global Leadership Coalition, the Ports Caucus Advisory Board for the United States Congress, The Citadel Baker School of Business Advisory Board, and board chair of the American Heart Association Charleston Board (2020-2021).
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and an MBA in global supply chain from the University of Tennessee Haslam School of Business.
President and CEO
Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council
As president and CEO of the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, Dominique Milton’s goal is to play the role of connector, creating wealth by certifying, developing, connecting, and advocating for ethnic minority-owned businesses and Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs).
The council serves minority business owners and corporate partners in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. As a regional affiliate of NMSDC.org – a 50-year-old, non-profit advocacy group – they are the largest certifying agency for MBEs in the nation.
Voted a Top 25 Supplier Diversity Professional, Dominique is a specialist in new business development. She is a graduate of Spelman College, holds an MBA in marketing from Penn State, and is working toward a doctorate in business administration.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Carrie Morey started making and selling biscuits in 2005, using her mother’s recipe. Nearly 18 years later, the business, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, has expanded to include retail sales, grab-and-go eateries, a food truck, and cookbooks.
Morey has also expanded her offerings to include pimento cheese, bacon, coffee, and more. She has been featured on QVC, the Food Network, and the Cooking Channel.
Her eateries were named to the Fortune 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Businesses list in 2019.
A graduate of University of South Carolina, Morey also was featured on the PBS series “How She Rolls” in 2021 and 2022. She serves as a mentor for USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.
Steve Mungo has worked with the company his family owns since 1981. Previously, the company had focused on land development, but Steve Mungo suggested focusing more heavily on home building.
Under his leadership, Mungo Homes has become one of the largest private builders in America. In 2018, Mungo successfully negotiated and closed the sale of Mungo Homes to Clayton Properties Group, Inc, a Berkshire Hathaway company. He remains as CEO.
Mungo is a general contractor and one of the first Certified Master Builders in South Carolina. He is past president of the South Carolina Home Builders Association as well as the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia.
He serves on the board of directors for the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, Synovus State Board, Wofford College Board of Trustees, and is Chairman of the Mungo Homes Foundation. He is the immediate past chair of the SC Governor’s Cup Advisory Board. In 2005, he became the youngest inductee into the South Carolina Housing Hall of Fame.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wofford College.
President and CEO
In 2021, Christina Oh was named president and CEO of Trident Health, joining the Charleston health care organization after working at Abrazo West in Phoenix.
Oh began her career in Hilton Head and has also worked at hospitals in Rock Hill and in Placentia, California.
Among Oh’s planned projects for Trident Health are a new medical facility on Johns Island and a $30 million behavioral health hospital in North Charleston.
Oh earned her Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Baylor University and her Master’s in Health Administration from Medical University of South Carolina.
Founder and CEO
The Montford Group
As founder and CEO of the Montford Group, Sunju Patel leads all investment opportunities and strategic planning with a focus on cultivating long-lasting relationships with leading hospitality brands and banks. He has over 20 years of experience in the real estate industry in investments, acquisitions and dispositions, and horizontal and vertical development.
Under his leadership The Montford Group's portfolio has grown, encompassing $775 million in existing and pipeline investments including hotels, residential units and 40,000 square feet of office and retail space. The company is looking forward to opening a Moxy Hotel, breaking ground on the Thompson Hotel, and kicking off The Montford Hotel pre-development in downtown Charleston in 2023. Patel is a member of the Board of Governors at the College of Charleston School of Business and serves on the Accommodation Tax Committee for the City of Charleston.
Chaun William Pflug
Pflug Law Firm LLC
Chaun William Pflug serves both large and small businesses, focusing on complex real estate, railroad, business, wireless communications, and environmental law. He serves as outside council to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Palmetto Railways, and municipal and county governments.
His recent successes include the real estate acquisition of 26 miles of land for a railroad line to the Volvo Manufacturing Plant. He has also served as environmental counsel for the City of Charleston on the WestEdge project, for the Charleston Low Line Project, and on an over $500 million dollar Intermodal Container Transfer Railroad Facility. He also handled the real estate counsel for the South Carolina Department of Commerce on a $1 billion Volvo manufacturing plant. He handled real estate and environmental matters in representing Palmetto Railways in a $49 million acquisition with the Boeing company of over 460 acres in North Charleston.
Pflug serves on boards for the College of Charleston, the YMCA of Greater Charleston, and the Mason Prep Foundation. He is the board chairman of Charleston County Board of Assessment Appeals, and he co-chairs the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction.
President and CEO
David Sewell joined WestRock from The Sherwin-Williams Company, a global leader in the manufacture, development, distribution, and sale of paint, coatings and related products, where he was president and chief operating officer responsible for global operating segments that generated $18.4 billion in sales and were supported by 60,000 team members.
Prior to joining Sherwin-Williams, Sewell spent 15 years at General Electric Company. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Southern California.
WestRock has more than 320 manufacturing facilities, design centers, research labs, and sales offices around the world.
Commenting on the appointment of Sewell as WestRock’s next CEO in 2021, John A. Luke, Jr., chairman of WestRock’s board of directors, said, “Our decision to elect David as CEO is the result of a robust succession planning process, and he is the right choice to lead our company into the future. David is a proven executive with a strong record of driving profitable growth, both organic and acquisitive, and building organizational capability that develops and nurtures excellent leadership and talent while driving a culture of equity and inclusion.”
Hilton Smith III
East Bay Company, Ltd.
Hilton Smith III has served on the board for the Charleston Animal Society, the Advisory Board for MUSC’s Children’s Hospital and served with the Historic Rotary Club of Charleston.
East Bay Company, Ltd. is a family-owned and operated business founded in 1965 by William E. Murray, who was born and raised in Charleston. He pursued a career as a tax attorney in New York, became a philanthropist who supported many organizations, and was instrumental in helping the Spoleto Festival in Charleston.
He formed East Bay Company, Ltd. upon purchasing several properties on East Bay Street composed of old warehouses that were renovated into restaurants, office space, and apartments by then-President Raymond Geiger. The properties, in addition to others, are presided over today by Murray’s son-in-law, Hilton Smith, Jr. and his grandson, Hilton Smith III.
CEO and Executive Director
Charleston County Aviation Authority
Elliot Summey joined Charleston County Aviation Authority (CCAA) as executive director and CEO in July 2020. His executive-level experience and leadership has informed CCAA in the development and implementation of its post-pandemic strategic plan, including the evaluation of revenue diversification opportunities. His goals for the upcoming year include increasing the number of air carriers serving the Charleston International Airport and accelerating the expansion of the airport terminal infrastructure.
Summey served multiple terms on CCAA’s Board of Directors and played a key role in the state's largest airport achieving a decade of record-setting growth in air service development, passenger volume, and financial performance.
He has served on various boards, including as chair of the Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments and of the Charleston Area Transportation Study Committee. A lifelong resident of the Lowcountry, he is a graduate of the College of Charleston.
Motley Rice LLC
Fred Thompson has decades of experience managing cases related to defective medical drugs and devices, personal injury, consumer fraud, environmental injury, and toxic exposure. He holds numerous leadership positions, including his current national role as liaison counsel for litigation, filed in the District of South Carolina, that alleges severe health complications and environmental harms associated with the use of firefighting aqueous film-forming foams. A Navy veteran, Thompson also represents service members, their families and civilians who were exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Outside of his legal work, Thompson produces short films, documentaries, commercial films, and legacy biographies through his family production company Yarn Legacy Films LLC. He writes plays, screenplays, and has self-published poetry. He supports numerous arts and community organizations in Charleston.
Thompson said one of his goals for 2023 is to take on new projects for people who have suffered real injuries that can be remedied by tangible and attainable outcomes.
Partner and Managing Broker
The Cassina Group
As Managing Broker of the Cassina Group, Owen Tyler focuses on creating a highly specialized consumer experience. Under his management, the firm consistently ranks as the No. 1 boutique firm in Charleston. It was also named to the Roaring 20s List, listed as one of the top 1000 Brokerages in the U.S., and was included on the Inc. 5000 list.
Prior to his current position, he had a successful career as a general real estate broker, and he is experienced in commercial and residential real estate.
Tyler is a lifelong resident of the Lowcountry. He has served on local, state, and national board of directors and leadership positions, including 2013 President of Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS, 2018 & 2019 Governance Chair for One80 Place, 2020 President of South Carolina REALTORS, and 2022 Chair of NAR’s RPAC Fundraising Trustees Committee.
Eddie and Mark Vannoy
Vannoy Construction got its start in the 1950s as a roofing company in Jefferson, North Carolina. It expanded over the years, and in the 1970s, brothers Eddie and Mark Vannoy joined the company founded by their father.
Over the past three decades, Vannoy Construction has continued to grow, and it now includes seven offices in North Carolina and South Carolina, and generates $600 million in annual revenue.
Eddie Vannoy is CEO of Vannoy Construction and is involved in the development of Jefferson Landing Golf Club and Resort. Mark Vannoy is company president and works to coordinate Vannoy Construction’s five offices.
Gen. Glenn Walters
Gen. Glenn M. Walters, USMC (Retired), Class of 1979, returned to his alma mater after serving 39 years as an officer in the Marines to become the 20th President of The Citadel in 2018. Prior to his arrival, he served as the 34th Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Corps’ second-highest ranking officer.
Walters’ leadership remains focused on The Citadel’s mission to educate and develop principled leaders for the military, private enterprise, and public institutions. His administration will oversee the largest capital improvement era of the college in decades and implement the next six-year strategic plan to continue the institution’s focus on academic excellence and leadership development.
As assistant commandant of the Marines, Walters oversaw approximately 184,000 active duty and 38,000 reserve Marines and a $42 billion budget. His duties included representing the Marine Corps at the Department of Defense and leading decisions about defense policy and resourcing in alignment with the National Defense Strategy.
Principal in Charge
It’s been nearly four decades since Stuart Whiteside and Kenny Seamon co-founded SeamonWhiteside and Associates in Mount Pleasant.
Since the mid-1980s, SeamonWhiteside has blended the disciplines of civil engineering and landscape architecture. The company mission is “to elevate the site design experience.”
These days, the company has offices in Greenville, Spartanburg, Summerville, and Charlotte, in addition to Mount Pleasant, and its projects include the Credit One Stadium, Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Morrison Yard, and the Orangeburg Recreation Complex.
Whiteside holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Clemson University, and his community involvement includes a stint as board chairman of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Chevalo and Monique Wilsondebriano
Charleston Gourmet Burger Company
Chevalo and Monique Wilsondebriano left high-stress careers – he was a New York City first responder and she worked in retail management – and settled in Charleston.
But it was during a backyard cookout – when their burger marinade captivated their guests – that they found a new career path.
They founded Charleston Gourmet Burger Company, which has expanded to the point that their products are sold around the country. The product line includes several flavors of burger marinades and sauces, as well as a line of T-shirts. They’ve also created a line of microwave burgers sold on QVC.
In addition, the couple created Recipe for Retail, which helps would-be foodie entrepreneurs build their businesses.
President and CEO
South Carolina Federal Credit Union
Scott Woods has been president & CEO of South Carolina Federal Credit Union (SCFCU), since 2004. Prior to that he served as chief financial Officer of SCFCU, chief financial officer of SRP Federal Credit Union, chief financial officer of S.C. Telco Federal Credit Union and as a senior financial institution auditor with KPMG, CPAs.
He received his bachelor of science degree from the College of Charleston and his MBA in finance from Auburn University. Woods serves as chairman of the board of Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and is also on the boards of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, PaymentsFirst Inc. and SCF Holdings. A member of the Management Association of Carolinas Credit Unions and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, he also serves on the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Carolinas Credit Union League.
State President, SC and Coastal Georgia
United Community Bank
Dixon Woodward has been serving as regional president since 2015, and his role expanded in 2017 to oversee United Community Bank in the state. Some of his previous banking experience included serving as executive vice president, market president for the South coast for Carolina First.
Woodward's board memberships have included College of Charleston and the South Carolina Aquarium; he is also involved in the community through the American Red Cross Clara Barton Society, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. and the South Carolina Young Bankers Association. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, South Carolina Bankers School and Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking.
Perry Woodside, Ph.D., has more than 30 years of university-level teaching and consulting experience in the areas of litigation support and business interest valuations. He has extensive experience in valuing companies and has served as an expert witness in a wide range of matters.
Perry currently is a Director, Forensics & Valuation Services, at FORVIS. Previously, he taught undergraduate and graduate classes and is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the College of Charleston, where he taught for 20 years and continues to serve on the Board of Governors. He is active in the community serving organizations ranging from business to the arts.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Furman University and his master’s and Ph.D. from University of South Carolina.
Womble Bond Dickinson
Stephanie Yarbrough is a corporate attorney who works with companies, many international coming into the United States for the first time, as they locate or expand in the U.S.
She negotiates incentive packages with the state and local community to support the company in real estate, corporate, immigration, tax, environmental and litigation matters.
A 2001 graduate of SMU Law School (where she was managing editor of the SMU Law Review), Yarbrough currently serves as the co-chair of the economic development team at Womble Bond Dickinson. She also serves on the firm's Global Board of Directors as well as the Spoleto Committee and is a Board Member of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, the Upstate Alliance and SCBIO.