The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation welcomed four members to the Board of Trustees for 2019.

At its Annual Meeting Dec. 11, members approved the nomination of Sandra Gross, Tom Libonate, Ran Niehoff and Don Rice.

At the Board meeting Dec. 12, the 2019 officers were elected: Doug Ryckman as President; John Morse as Vice President; Tom Rathbone as Treasurer and Linda Uhler as Treasurer. Continuing their terms as Trustees are Susan Beittel, Claude Crawford, Chauncey Goss, Shelley Greggs, Robin Krivanek, Deborah La Gorce, John Morse, Diane Neitzel, Mary Ellen Pfeifer, Tom Rathbone, Paul Roth, Doug Ryckman, Ty Symroski, and Linda Uhler.

SCCF Bylaws call for a total of 15 Board members. The 2018 Board was comprised of 14 members, four of whom were scheduled to come off the Board for 2019. However, given the extraordinary circumstances of the CEO transition from Erick Lindblad to Ryan Orgera, and the fact that several of those whose terms would expire this year were instrumental in the search process, the Board passed a temporary by-law amendment. It extends the terms of those due to expire for one year, and allows the addition of up to four people for 2019. In 2020, the Board will revert to its 15-member cap.

Meet the incoming Trustees:

Sandra Gross

Sandy Gross has been visiting Sanibel for 40 years. She has many fond memories, looking for the elusive junonia with her mom and flying kites on the very same East End beach where she spends her vacations with her family.

Following her passions in Art and Education, Sandy founded Brazee Studios, an art facility which is home to 30 other artists, a glass school and six beehives in a reclaimed factory on a one-acre urban plot in the heart of Cincinnati. It is celebrating 10 years this year!

In recent years, she has taken her passion for Food and Bees and co-founded Sleepy Bee Café which has three locations and focuses on Community, Sustainable Local Food, and of course Art where she and her team create all of the interior pieces and glass light fixtures.

In her freetime, she loves to visit with all of the creatures in her gardens, make Art and spend as much time with her family as possible. Sandy is looking forward to returning to the SCCF Board and bringing her passions of Nature, Art and Education.

Thomas P. Libonate

Tom Libonate and his wife Merni are residents of Captiva. He has been a member of the Captiva Island Historical Society since 2015, and for the two years has served as President of its Board of Directors.

From his first exposure to Captiva in 1986, Tom was drawn to the island’s beauty, nature and history, “Yes, it was different then – yet it’s just as special and extraordinary today. I am fascinated by the history of our islands and passionate about their preservation. I feel I have one foot in the past and the other in the future – doing whatever I can to share our rich history, while personally dedicated to ensuring we keep our islands the way we have come to love them.”

Tom brings a long and impressive background in marketing and website design. Prior to his retirement in 2010, he was Vice Chairman of Ryan Partnership, which he cofounded in 1984; it was headquartered in Wilton, CT. The marketing agency specialized in promotional, direct and internet marketing; creative and website design; and retailer marketing.

In addition to his Board work with the Captiva Island Historical Society, Mr. Libonate has served as Chair of the Roselle Catholic High School Consultative Board (Roselle, NJ), served on the Educational and Faculty Affairs Committee of Monmouth University (West Long Branch, NJ) and the Westport Arts Center Board of Directors (Westport, CT). Mr. Libonate is most proud to be father to four children, and a grandfather to three wonderful grandkids. During the few months when not on Captiva, he and his wife Merni reside in Farmington, CT.

Ran Niehoff

Ran and his wife, Marilyn, moved to Sanibel in 1991 when he became Senior Minister of the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ and they both joined SCCF.

In the larger community Ran served two terms as one of Sanibel’s representatives on the Lee County Commissioner’s Community Development Committee and one term on the founding board of the Sanibel-Captiva Community Foundation. Retiring in 2008 after 41 years of parish ministry, he now teaches in the Winter Academy of BIG Arts and writes a column in the local magazine, Times of the Islands. Born and bred in the St. Louis, Missouri area, Ran and Marilyn have lived in West Seneca and Wellsville, New York and Marblehead, Massachusetts. Currently the Niehoffs divide their time between Sanibel and Captiva and the woodlands of Winsted, Connecticut. They have three children and four grandchildren.

Don Rice

Don Rice and his wife Joyce have owned property on Sanibel since 2001 and since 2004 have spent the majority of their time on the island. They summer on Lake George in upstate New York.

Don served as a senior vice president of the Ingersoll-Rand Company before his retirement from the firm in 2004. His career included assignments in human resources, leadership of the company’s Asia Pacific and Latin America operations, global business services and corporate communication and public affairs. Don began his business career at General Electric following service in the U.S. Army. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon where he received a BA in Economics and an MS in Industrial and Labor Relations.

Don is a past trustee and treasurer of SCCF and currently serves on the Endowment Committee. He is a member of the Captiva Island Yacht Club where he serves as fleet captain and chair of the human resources committee. Don is a past president of BIG ARTS. He is a member of Kiwanis. Up north, Don served as president and continues on the board of the FUND for Lake George, an environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of Lake George. He also serves on the board of the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum.

SCCF is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed through environmental education, land acquisition & stewardship, Native Landscapes & Garden Center, Marine Laboratory, natural resource policy, sea turtle and shorebird conservation, and wildlife & habitat management. Community support through membership dues and tax-deductible contributions, in addition to grants and staff-generated revenue, makes this work possible.