United Way of Northeast Florida is thrilled to recognize some of our outstanding honorees for 2022’s Up Close and Personal, May 18.
Robin is an experienced CFO with demonstrated success in both for-profit and non-profit organizations across varying industries. Driven by her desire for excellence, she takes pride in understanding the organization to position finance as an integral strategic partner in achieving both financial and operational goals. Robin is a member of CFLOC, NABA, a Disruptive Leadership Advisory Board Member at Stetson University and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. While finance is her primary job function by day, Robin also enjoys movies, reading, music and spending time with her family and friends.
Dr. Vicky Basra is a passionate advocate for gender equality, and girls’ rights. She is a nationally recognized trainer, thought leader, trusted consultant, and architect of change. She contributes to a number of research studies analyzing the impact of trauma on girls and young women and is a frequent contributor to news media on issues related to commercial sexual exploitation, diversity and women’s leadership and the impact of trauma on girls and young women. She is a recognized and accomplished non-profit executive with more than 20 years of experience in the vast array of non-profit leadership roles.
As the President and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, Dr. Basra is accountable for ensuring mission focus, strategic partnerships and brand preservation while always making sure girls are at the center of the work. Her role includes implementing strategies for growth and improvement and working closely with the Board of Directors to implement the strategic direction of the organization. Her mission is to ensure that all “SEE THE GIRL,” especially those being pushed into the justice system. She joined in the Policy Center in March 2013 and led a team of ten direct reports and extended team of 30 staff members. Upon advancement to Senior Vice President, she managed the day-to-day operations and led the implementation of the agency’s strategic plan. While in this role, she played a major role in the development and implementation of the Open Doors Network, one of the many new and innovative programs created at the Policy Center to address the needs of victims of human trafficking. She is also responsible for the growth and widespread support of the Policy Center’s unique Continuity of Care Model.
Dr. Basra has extensive experience meeting needs of communities through the development of innovative programs and community engagement models. She previously served as the Director of Family Preservation at Family Support Services of Northeast Florida (FSS) and the Director of Project Safe at Vanderbilt University. While in this role, she developed multiple programs including the first advocacy program to provide services to victims/survivors of intimate violence, sexual assault and stalking on Vanderbilt University’s Campus.
She holds an MSW the from the University of Tennessee and a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Tennessee.
Amanda Crawford, a native of Jacksonville Florida, has over 17 years of leadership experience and recently transitioned from the financial industry sector to higher education at Jacksonville University. She serves as the Director of Events & Engagement for Undergraduate & Graduate Office of Admissions.
She currently serves as a volunteer on several boards and councils within Northeast Florida including the United Way’s Women United, where she was former Chair; Jax Chamber Downtown Council Board; The ARC Jacksonville Board; Brooks YMCA Board and is proud alumni of Leadership Jacksonville Class of 2020. Amanda combines her professional strengths with volunteer efforts to stay engaged in the Jacksonville community.
She is a proud wife of twenty-two years, with two children (Andie & Anson), many, many cats & a dog, she has plenty life experience to share!
Valerie Jenkins has over 35 years’ experience in the financial industry. She serves as Vice President and Senior Community Relations Consultant for the North Florida Region of Wells Fargo. As a member of the Public Affairs Social and Sustainability Team, Valerie is responsible for executing the company’s community relations strategic priorities in sixteen regional markets. Valerie has held many leadership positions throughout her career in the areas of compliance and risk management, community investment and small business lending, project management, mortgage lending and operations, and asset management services.
Valerie have served on many state and local boards and advisory committees with a focus on housing, commercial and economic development, and social and environmental justice. She also served as consultant on the North Florida Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Business Council. . Valerie has received numerous awards and recognitions to include: Strategy Partner Leadership Award, Celebration of Leadership Award Honoree, Times Union, “Working on the First Coast” Community Leadership Recognition and 2020 ONXY Magazine Woman on Move.
Valerie is an alumni of LJ Class of 2021. She has a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, from the University of Sarasota. Valerie is married to Harold and has three daughters.
Patty is Chief Learning Officer at Miller Electric Company in Jacksonville, FL. Her background includes leadership positions in sales, field and headquarters Marketing, and global Industry Management at a $6B business unit of GE. Patty also founded her own executive coaching firm, Keenan Insights, and coached CEOs and their senior executive teams for over 15 years, working primarily from home, while raising her three children.
She has a passion for human potential and focuses her energy on working with leaders who have a long-term view and recognize their part in building for future generations. She is inspired by Miller Electric Company’s strong set of company values, how they treat people and their innovative and futuristic perspective as stewards of the business for the next generation.
Patty serves on the board of trustees for Randolph-Macon Academy, a Jr. Air Force ROTC college-prep boarding school in Front Royal, VA, and was executive-in-residence and adjunct professor in Stetson University’s Executive MBA program in Celebration, FL. She also recently joined Flagler College’s Business Advisory Board as well as the Building Information Modeling Management Program Advisory Committee at Georgia Highlands College. Ms. Keenan is a committed philanthropist and a member of United Way of Northeast Florida’s Tocqueville Society and served on the Steering Committee and as a mentor for young business leaders in the Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Program
She holds a B.S. in Business Administration/Marketing from The University at Albany, New York. Patty and her husband Phil have been married for over 30 years, and enjoy traveling to see their young adult children based in New York City, Atlanta, and Dallas.
Jennifer Hammond Leach has over 20 years of healthcare administration and legal experience. She has a history of progressive management responsibilities with a proven record of fostering a culture of success and happiness.
Jennifer began her career as a healthcare administration intern in Lynchburg, Virginia. She held positions as an attorney and partner in health law firms in Orlando, Florida before transitioning to BayCare Health System’s Managed Care Department in 2008 where she progressed from a negotiator to manager. She briefly worked for Aetna to gain an understanding of the health plan perspective before joining Baptist Health in 2016 where she took on progressive responsibilities, ultimately becoming the Executive Director of Payer Strategy. She joined Inova Health in 2021 where she serves as the Assistant Vice President of Payer Strategy and Contracting.
Jennifer holds a BA in Economics from the University of Miami, a JD from the University of Houston and a MPH from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, Texas. She is licensed to practice law in Florida and Texas. She serves on the Board of Theatre Jacksonville, the Executive Committee of Women United and the Government Affairs Committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Jennifer has been married for over 20 years and has a teenage daughter. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and riding her Peloton bike.
Whitney Meyer is the Senior Vice President and Chief Community Impact Officer for the Jacksonville Jaguars. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the Jaguars community impact initiatives, including operations of the Jaguars Foundation, Inspire Change and Social Justice Initiatives, and community activities in connection with local development projects.
She previously worked as the inaugural Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of North Florida. In that role she advised University leadership on diversity, inclusion and racial equity pertaining to strategies and policies, learning and research, community relations and the recruitment, retention and admission of faculty, staff and students of color.
Currently, Whitney serves on the PS27 Foundation Board, JAX Chamber Hightower Fellowship Board, and the Generation USA Board. She also is a frequent volunteer for the Friends of Boone Park South.
A native of Jacksonville, Suzanne is a visual artist with a Bachelors of Fine Art and Communications from the University of North Florida. She is certified in housing counseling, management, financial capabilities and community real estate development from the University of South Florida. Suzanne is co-founder and Executive Director of Historic Eastside Community Development Corporation, co- founder of Jacksonville Cultural Development Corporation, The Art Center Cooperative and is the Director of Housing, Wealth Building and Community Development for the Jacksonville Urban League. . She has over 20 years of experience in arts and community development. Her time and talents are focused on providing opportunities for creatives and building and rebuilding underserved communities through arts and culture. She is devoted to advocating for fairness and equality in enterprise opportunities that are essential for development and sustainability of enhanced quality of life in our communities with a focus on East Jacksonville.
Lynn Sherman serves as Director of Community Engagement at Baptist Health, where she leads community benefit initiatives that are designed to identify and address the unmet health needs in the community, set priorities and develop strategies to improve the health and quality of life for families where they live work and play. It includes providing community outreach programs with local faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, elder advocacy organizations, community health literacy for health disparities. She has worked in healthcare at Baptist Health for 41 years and holds a Masters degree in Healthcare Administration.
Lynn is a strong community advocate. Under her leadership, the nationally recognized, Tipping the Scale Mentoring Adolescent Advocacy Mentoring Program has touched the lives of more than 1,900 teens and received national recognition. She coordinates the Annual Girls Empowerment Conference that serves more than 300 girls ages 9 – 18. She serves as board chair of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation’s 4th Circuit, the Friends of Dallas Graham Public Library, and a board member of 904ward, Inc. She serves as co-chair of the African American DEI Council and the DEI Community Transformation Team at Baptist Health. She is a former board member of the Jacksonville Urban League, Changing Homelessness of Northeast Florida, Northside Community Involvement, Inc., and Family Support Services of Northeast Florida. She is a recipient of the OneJax Humanitarian Award 2020, Community Connections Celebration of Leadership Award, and the Shirley Anderson’s Excellence in Mentoring Award. She was named one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes, a Leadership Jacksonville Alum 2011, and selected by the Jacksonville Business Journal as an elite African American Leader.
What keeps her awake at night is the plight of local African American children and teens, especially girls, the deterioration of our neighborhoods, and how racism, poverty, and inequities have negatively impacted the lives of families in Jacksonville.
Favorite Quote: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. ~ John Wesley
Susan B. Towler is executive director of the Florida Blue Foundation, established in 2001 as the philanthropic affiliate of Florida Blue. She is also executive director of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for Florida Blue and has responsibility for the company’s philanthropic strategy.
Prior to joining Florida Blue, Towler held previous public relations roles at Robin Shepherd Public Relations, Gulf Life Insurance Company, BancBoston Mortgage Corporation and was president of SEB Communications. She is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America.
Towler is actively involved in the philanthropic and social responsibility sector. Towler serves on the board of directors for several nonprofits including the Children’s Movement of Florida and Florida Humanities. She is the 2021-23 chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation. Towler is active with the Florida Philanthropic Network where she served as chair in 2016. She is also a graduate of Leadership Florida and served as its 2012-13 chair. Towler served as the 2013-14 chair of Volunteer Florida, the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and is past chair of the University of Florida Public Relations Advisory Council. She also served as vice-chair for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Towler is an honorary member of Leadership Jacksonville and Florida Blue Key.
Towler was named a “Woman of Heart” by Jacksonville Magazine and American Heart Association in 2021; “Woman with Heart” by Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville in 2017; and a “Woman of Influence” by the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2004. The Girl Scouts of Gateway Council honored her with the “Women of Distinction” award in 2006. Towler was an EVE Awards finalist in 2013. She was chosen in 2018 as a Miami Herald “Influencer.” Florida Trend recognized Towler in the Florida 500 list of the state’s most influential business leaders for the past three years.
Towler holds a Bachelor of Science in public relations from the University of Florida. She is married to Jim Towler and they have one daughter, Emma, and a French bulldog, Mr. Pickles.
Jacksonville philanthropists Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock commit $1.25 million to COVID-19 relief, challenge others to step up