To view full bios, click on the names below.
CHAIR - Julie Grimes
MIAMI, FL – Julie Grimes is the Managing Partner of the Hilton Bentley Hotel in Miami, FL overseeing the hotel’s strategic direction and operation; and Executive Director, Heafey-Bentley Management playing an extensive role in the company’s real estate and hotel development successes.
Grimes is an innovative, active and well-respected community leader in the City of Miami. In 2007, she co-founded the Hospitality Institute in Overtown connecting Miami inner city residents with opportunities in the local hospitality industry. Since this time, over 1,000 inner city residents have received hospitality training through the Institute with over 300 connecting directly to jobs. Through her leadership, Miami Dade College became a primary player, hosting the Institute and providing infrastructure need for sustainability.
After the devastating hurricanes in Haiti in 2008, City of Miami, Mayor Manuel Diaz appointed Grimes as Chairperson, Operation Hope for Haiti to spearhead a group of community leaders in providing a sustained response to the crisis through a partnership with World Vision. Since that time, Operation Hope for Haiti raised over $700K to support WVs holistic interventions in rural Haiti and over $500K in earthquake relief aid.
In 2008, Grimes co-founded the Center of Service Excellence at Miami Dade College aimed at fuelling the engine for improving customer service in South Florida. Since that time over 1500 people and a growing list of companies have received this targeted customer service training.Recognizing the great difficulties facing at risk students in Miami’s inner city, Grimes connected with Big Brothers & Big Sisters in 2010 to implement their School to Work program in the Doubletree Grand and Hilton Bentley Hotels. Sixteen struggling students from Booker T. Washington High School are being mentored by team members of these two hotels.
Through Miami Dade College and Take Stock in Children, Grimes established a college scholarship fund to further support these students.Grimes is Vice-Chair of the Miami Dade College Foundation and a Board Member of Camillus House. She continues to Chair Operation Hope for Haiti in partnership with World Vision and was recently appointed to World Vision’s National Leadership Council. In 2009, she was nominated for Tourism Profession of the Year by the Academy of Hospitality & Tourism; and in 2010 was awarded the James W. McLamore Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award by the Miami Dade Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
A native of Canada, Grimes began her career with Public Works Canada where she spent twelve years in senior positions. She left for the private sector in 1993 to head up marketing operations for a large property development company in Quebec. Grimes received a degree in Business Administration from Algonquin College. She moved to Miami in 1995 to launch the Doubletree Grand Hotel and became a US Citizen in 2004.
VICE CHAIR - Jorge Plasencia
Mr. Plasencia is the Chairman and CEO of República, a Miami-based marketing and communications agency. Prior to co-founding República, Mr. Plasencia was an executive at Univision Radio, the largest Spanish-language radio broadcaster in the United States. At Univision Radio, he served in various capacities including Corporate Vice President and Operating Manager of Univision Radio Networks and Vice President of Marketing, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. Mr. Plasencia currently serves as Vice Chair of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Chairman of CNC, and serves on the advisory board of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI). In South Florida, he is cofounder and chairman of Amigos For Kids, and serves on the boards of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and is a trustee of the United Way. In 2004, Mr. Plasencia was nominated by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the United States Senate, to serve on the Advisory Board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors' OCB. He graduated with honors from Barry University and has completed the Advanced Management Education Program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He was inducted into the MDC Foundation’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 2009.
TREASURER - Augusto Gil
For the past 20 years, Augusto J. Gil has served as President of Gil Development Inc. and Gil Homes. He became president of his family owned and operated company in 1989 after attending the School of Architecture at the University of Miami. It was at this time that the company partnered with several businesses that were building home developments throughout Miami-Dade County. The success of these ventures positioned Gil Development to obtain home sales which have exceeded their goals every year. Through Mr. Gil's leadership, the business reached its objective of becoming a fully independent run company in 2000.
Gil Development is currently building commercial and residential developments throughout Miami-Dade County in the cities of Miami, Coral Gables and Hialeah as well as in Tampa, FL.
Gil Homes and Gil Development have both received numerous awards from the Latin Builders Association (LBA) and the Builders Association of South Florida (BASF) for their community developments and model designs. The company has been a member of both prestigious associations for the past two decades. Gil has had the honor of serving on the LBA board of directors since 1989. In 2002, Gil was elected president-elect of the LBA and in October of 2004 he became the association's president. He also holds a position with the BASF's Community Affairs Committee. Gil is dedicated to serving the Miami-Dade community. He has sat on the board of the Development Process Advisory Committee, which advises the Mayor and Miami-Dade County Commissioners on issues affecting the building industry. He also serves as a board member of the Beacon Council and Baptist Hospital Foundation Board. He has recently been appointed by Miami-Dade County Manager to sit on the Miami-Dade Community Affordable Housing Strategies Alliance Task Force, the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Customer Review Group and the Florida Hispanic Legislative Foundation. In April of 2007 he was inducted into the Miami Dade Collage Hall of Fame for Urban Development and today serves on the Miami Dade Collage Foundation Board.
SECRETARY - Beatrice Louissaint
Beatrice Louissaint is the President & CEO of the Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, one of 38 affiliates comprising the National Minority Supplier Development Council whose membership includes 60% of the Fortune 500 and 3,500 corporate members nationwide. Prior to her tenure at the SFMSDC, Ms. Louissaint served as the Executive Director of the Black Business Association for eight years.
Ms. Louissaint has helped shape state-wide policy for minority business advancement. She was chosen by former Governor Jeb Bush as Vice Chair of the One Florida Accountability Commission. In 1994, she was appointed to the Steering Committee for the first Summit of the Americas, which convened 34 heads of state from the Western Hemisphere. That year, she was named “Advocate of the Year” by the Minority Business Development Center. In 1997, she chaired the Miami-Dade Minority Business Advisory Board during the County’s transition from minority to small business construction program. She was recently inducted into the Miami Dade College Hall of Fame.
She is a member of the Orange Bowl Committee and the Miami Biscayne Bay Chapter of the Links, Incorporated and serves on the board of Little Haiti Optimist Club and the Miami Bayside Minority Foundation. Previously, Ms. Louissaint served as a board member of the Beacon Council, the National Black Business Council, chaired Dade County's Women and Minority Business Enterprise Advisory Board and is the founder of the Haitian American Women's Coalition.
Ms. Louissaint is a graduate of Barry University and is currently an MBA student at the Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University.
DIRECTOR - Helen Aguirre Ferré
Ms. Aguirre Ferré is chair of the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees, and is the Opinion Page Editor of Diario Las Americas, an independent Spanish-language newspaper founded in 1953 in Miami by her father, Horacio Aguirre. In television, she hosts Washington Watch in Washington, D.C. and moderates the monthly public affairs program Issues for the South Florida PBS station. She is a political analyst for the Telemundo channel in Miami and a frequent guest on the weekly Spanish-language program Actualidad for TV Martí, which airs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2007, she became the first community college trustee appointed to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. She was appointed to the Florida Energy Commission by Governor Jeb Bush, to the Florida Governor's Mansion Commission by Governor Lawton Chiles, and to the Beacon Council, among others. She has been recognized by Barry University as Outstanding Alumni of the Year 2000, Who's Who Among Hispanic Americans, Hispanic Media 100, the American Cancer Society, Goodwill Industries, the Cuban Rotary Club and the Cuban Women's Club. She has served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Inter-American Dialogue, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, on the board of the Nicaraguan American Foundation, and is a Dame of the Knights of Malta. Trustee Ferré holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Barry University and a Master of Arts in Inter-American Studies from the University of Miami.
DIRECTOR - Maria C. Alonso
Maria joined Bank of America in 1995 and currently serves as Corporate Social Responsibility Market Manager for Miami-Dade/Monroe Counties, working closely with the local leadership team and community organizations to implement the bank’s local charitable giving strategy, sponsorships and volunteerism, aimed at impacting brand strength and market share.
Maria is actively involved in a host of civic and business organizations most recently having completed her service as Chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, she is a Board member of the Executive Committee for the New World School of the Arts, the Miami Foundation, the Advisory Council for Teach for America, Board member of the March of Dimes and is a trustee of the United Way of Miami-Dade having completed her term as co-chair of its Financial Stability Impact Council in May, 2011. Internal to the bank, Maria chaired the Florida Diversity Council from 2006-2008.
Prior to assuming her current role, Maria was responsible for the implementation of the marketing strategy for the bank’s International Private Bank unit and played a fundamental role in customizing domestic programs and products to meet its clients’ unique needs. Other experience includes spearheading the bank’s Hispanic marketing strategy as the National Hispanic Marketing Manager, wherein she directed the bank’s positioning and brand initiatives aimed at reaching Hispanic consumers across lines of business.
Maria holds a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Miami. Maria resides in Coral Gables with her husband Alex Montague and furry members of their family, Buttercup and Baby.
DIRECTOR - Sheldon T. Anderson
Sheldon T. Anderson is President and CEO of the Southeast Region of Northern Trust, NA. In this position he has responsibility for managing the company's investment management, trust and estate planning, private and business banking and financial consulting business in Florida and Georgia.
Prior to his current role Sheldon served as President of Northern Trust, NA for Miami-Dade County Florida with responsibility for all banking, trust and investment activities. He has also served as Senior Vice President and Senior Banking Officer for Miami-Dade County with responsibility for Private Banking, International Banking, Commercial Lending and the Aventura, Coral Gables, Doral and Key Biscayne offices of Northern Trust.
Prior to joining Northern Trust in 1992, he was Senior Vice President at Southeast Bank.
A Miami native, Sheldon is a graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in International Studies.
Sheldon is active in many civic organizations. He is a board member of the Beacon Council; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); the New World Symphony, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; the UM Sylvester Board of Governors; Carrollton School of the Sacred Hemi, United Way of Miami Dade County; and the 200 Club of Greater Miami. Sheldon is a Trustee of the Cleveland Orchestra Musical Arts Association of Miami and also serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Miami School of Law Center for Ethics & Public Service. He is a member of the Council for Educational Change (Executive Pass Program) and the Orange Bowl Committee.
DIRECTOR - Miguel G. Farra
Miguel G. Farra is the principal-in-charge of the Tax and Accounting Department at MBAF. Miguel has over 34 years of experience in the areas of tax planning and compliance, consulting, mergers and acquisition, accounting and audit services for domestic and international businesses. His industry experience includes banking, manufacturers, distribution, automotive dealerships, aviation, electronic commerce, finance, healthcare, hospitality, real estate, and technology. Miguel has been involved in corporate reorganizations, international tax and corporate structures, tax planning for real estate developers, audits of healthcare organizations and income and estate planning for high net worth individuals. Miguel leads a team of international tax professionals dedicated to forensic accounting on voluntary disclosure cases, pre-immigration planning, inbound and outbound corporate structures to minimize worldwide taxation and international tax compliance.
He also specializes in tax compliance for banks and bank holding companies and the tax consequences of failed financial institutions receiving federal financial assistance from the FDIC pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 597. Miguel has forensic experience on numerous tax controversies and as an expert witness on divorce and commercial litigation cases. He is a qualified expert with the United States Tax Court, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, and the Broward County Circuit Court. Miguel has lectured at the University of Miami School of Law on Accounting for Lawyers. He has lectured at various professional associations, including at the 2010 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, at the 2010 Wells Fargo Conference on establishing operations overseas, at the 2007 FICPA Accounting Conference on International Tax, and in 2004 and 2005 at the CPAmerica Tax Conferences. He has also appeared on Comcast Newsmakers and Univision TV Networks as a special commentator on tax issues. Miguel has published articles in international tax journals such as “Guia basica del Regimen Fiscal Estadounidense para el Inversionista Venezolano” (“US Tax Guide for Venezuelan Investors”), Revista de Derecho Tributario de Venezuela, and “Lo que Todo Inversor Mexicano Debe Saber Sobre la Limited Liability Company (LLC)” (What every Mexican Investor should know about LLC's) for the Public Accounting Institute of Mexico.
DIRECTOR - Arthur J. Furia
Arthur J. Furia has practiced law since 1980. A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native born in 1953, he received his Bachelor degree in Business Administration in 1974 and his law degree in 1980 from Villanova University. Prior to his legal practice, he practiced for four years as a certified public accountant with the international public accounting firm of Ernst & Young in its Philadelphia office.
Mr. Furia is a partner in the law firm of Shutts & Bowen with offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee and Amsterdam. He serves as outside general counsel to a number of prominent Florida-based corporations. Mr. Furia’s areas of legal practice include corporate and business law; domestic and international business planning; mergers and acquisitions; partnership formation and joint ventures; venture and mezzanine equity raising and distribution and licensing and corporate governance for not-for-profit organizations.
Mr. Furia serves on the Board of Directors of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) based in Washington, D.C., is a member of its Executive Committee and General Counsel. He is the State of Florida representative for the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy (AMCHAM). Mr. Furia is also the Biblioteca Ambrosiana Foundation (Milan), founding Board member for US.
Mr. Furia was designated “Cavaliere Ufficiale” by the President of the Republic of Italy in June, 2008 and was also named “Renaissance Man of the Year” by the Renaissance Historical Society of Florida. Mr. Furia was invested into the Association of Master Knights of the Sovereign Order of Malta since 1992, a world-wide organization with long historical roots dedicated to serve the needs of the world’s sick and poor.
He serves as a member of the Executive Committee for the Miami Dade College Foundation. He serves on the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Furia has served on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross in South Florida, the Board of Directors of Villanova University’s General Alumni Association, Villanova University’s Marketing & Public Policy Advisory Board and its Executive Education in Italy Program and Advisory Board. He has also served on the Board of Trustees for St. Thomas University, and the Board of Directors of the Florida Center for Theological Studies.
DIRECTOR - Maria Johnston, RCDD
Maria Johnston is Regional Director at AT&T in the External Affairs department, covering Miami Dade County Government, Miami Dade Public Schools, Miami Beach, Doral, Hialeah and several municipalities in West Broward County.
Mrs. Johnston has held various other positions with the company including Sales and Marketing, Operations, and Customer Service. She started her career in 1981 with Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph, in Miami, FL. She holds the technical certification of Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) since January 1996. In addition, she has held numerous technical certifications from industry leaders such as Cisco, Nortel (AVAYA), Corning and others throughout her career.
Mrs. Johnston serves on numerous boards representing AT&T, including the Executive Board at the Beacon Council, Miami Dade County’s official economic development agency. She is a member of the United Way of Miami Dade County Women’s Leadership Council and the UW Public Policy Committee. In addition, she is a member of the Board of Governors at the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors at the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Chairs the Hispanic Women’s Society Council.
Mrs. Johnston has been awarded the Hispanic Leadership Award in Technology for 2013 by the SFL Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is a graduate of Leadership Broward. She received her formal education in Business Administration from Regis University.
Mrs. Johnston is married and has three children.
DIRECTOR - Eduardo J. Padrón, Ph.D.
An American by choice, Eduardo Padrón arrived in the United States as a refugee at the age of 15. Since 1995, he has served as President of Miami Dade College, the largest institution of higher education in America with more than 170,000 students. An economist by training, Dr. Padrón earned his Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida.
President Padrón is widely recognized as one of the top educational leaders in the world and he is often invited to participate in educational policy forums in the United States and abroad. During his career he has been selected to serve on posts of national prominence by five American presidents. In 1993, President Bill Clinton recognized him as one of America’s foremost educators. In 2008, President George W. Bush nominated him to the National Institute for Literacy Advisory Board. Most recently, President Barack Obama invited Dr. Padrón to represent the United States at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education. Dr. Padrón has also worked closely with the Obama administration, notably Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to recognize and elevate the importance of our nation’s community colleges
DIRECTOR - Al Salas
Al Salas' experience in the food service business starts at age 14, when Salas got a job working in a Burger King restaurant. His dedication and customer service caught the eye of Jim McLamore, founding father of Burger King, during one of his field visits. Mentored by Jim, Al became the youngest mini area manager for the chain at only 18 years of age. Salas continued his studies graduating from the School of Accounting at Florida International University and obtaining his Certified Public Accounting license. For several years he worked as a CPA doing Audits and SEC work for national clients.
In 1985, Salas was recruited back to Burger King and asked to join their National Audit Division. There he rose quickly from Senior Auditor to Senior Manager of Finance for the Marketing Department. He and his team were responsible for managing and controlling the company's largest annual budget of$30 million.
In 1990, Salas was recruited to join PepsiCo in Wichita, Kansas as the Director of Accounting and Finance for Pizza Hut. His success in Wichita earned him the recognition as a leader and results-oriented person. In 1992, he was asked by the Chief Operation Officer to join his Field Management team. He was asked to turn around the Washington D.C. market in two years. He did it in just one year. He was then asked to fix operations and financial results in the Puerto Rico market. Salas took the Puerto Rico market from losing $3 million a year to making $2 million in less than seven months while earning top awards for most improved market in operations. Following the successes in D.C. and Puerto Rico, Salas was promoted to Division Vice President of Florida, managing approximately 700 restaurants. Salas remained in that position for three years until he approached Pizza Hut to purchase the South Florida market. Today, Al Salas is the owner of the largest Hispanic Franchise for Pizza Hut.
DIRECTOR - Penny Shaffer, Ph.D.
Penny Shaffer is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida’s (BCBSF) market president, South Florida. In this role, Shaffer is responsible for BCBSF business operations in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, St Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.
Prior to joining BCBSF, Shaffer served as vice president of Global Services for the Americas region at AT&T. During her 26-year career at AT&T, Shaffer held various positions in sales, service, quality management and global operations. In addition to U.S. postings, she has lived and worked in Madrid, Spain, Dublin, Ireland and Mexico City, Mexico.
Throughout her career, Dr. Shaffer has been active in community and professional organizations. She is currently Vice Chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Executive Committee of the Beacon Council, Secretary of the Dade Community Foundation, on the Governor’s Council of Broward Alliance, Chair of the Board of the Miami-Dade College Foundation and Secretary of the Board for The Foundation for New Education Initiatives of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She is also a board member of The Commonwealth Institute, United Way of Miami-Dade and the American Red Cross. In addition, she’s a member of the University of Miami Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Business as well as the International Women’s Forum and the Orange Bowl Committee.
Dr. Shaffer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Frostburg University and an International Executive Master of Business Administration from Fordham University. She also holds a Doctor of Philosophy in International Business Administration from Kennedy-Western University.
DIRECTOR - José A. Vicente, Ed.D.
Dr. José A. Vicente is the President of Miami Dade College’s North Campus, the College’s first location that opened in 1960, and also oversees MDC West. Dr. Vicente has served MDC in various capacities since 1973, including as founding President of the InterAmerican Campus. He holds an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from Nova Southeastern University and he has engaged in post-doctoral studies at Harvard University and at the JFK School of Government.
DIRECTOR - Alexandra Villoch
Alexandra (Alex) Villoch is currently the Sr. Vice President of Advertising & Marketing for the Miami Herald Media Company. In this capacity she is responsible for leading and developing sales and advertising strategies across all product lines as well as spearheading the company’s marketing efforts. She is also responsible for heading HCP/Aboard, a custom publishing company owned by the Miami Herald Media Company, that produces 30 different books and publications with over 80 editions. She also develops and implements strategic initiatives to help grow revenue and develop new products. Prior to joining the Miami Herald, she was the General Manager for Miami International Airport & the Caribbean for United Airlines, with responsibility over all passenger and cargo operations, sales functions, as well as government relations. Ms. Villoch previously was the Vice President of Strategic & Financial Planning for Southeast Bank, and prior to that spent ten years with Eastern Airlines, in a variety of positions including Director of Financial Planning and Director / Controller of International Operations.
Ms. Villoch holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Miami.
She is immediate past- Chair of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Board of Miami Dade, is on the Executive Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and is the Chair of The Beacon Council, Miami Dade County’s economic development agency. She also serves on the Miami Dade College Foundation. She is currently the chair of NewspapersFirst, a national newspaper organization.
Ms. Villoch was awarded the Travel Professional of the Year Award in 2000 for her leadership role in creating the Aviation Industry’s Welfare to Work Coalition for Miami International Airport – helping create over 750 jobs targeted at welfare recipients re-entering the workforce.
As a breast cancer survivor, Ms. Villoch is a supporter of Friends of Sylvester, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, and the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
DIRECTOR - Louis Wolfson, III
Louis Wolfson III is a founding partner of Pinnacle Housing Group and PHG Builders, Incorporated. Pinnacle develops, builds, and owns 6,000 completed and occupied affordable multi-family apartment units throughout Florida and Mississippi. It has another 1,000 units under construction in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. These combined numbers total over $1 billion in luxury affordable rental developments. This track record ranks Pinnacle as one of the leading affordable housing experts, currently ranked #15 in the USA.
Mr. Wolfson serves on four endowment investment committees investing over $800 million for local Miami institutions. He is the Co-Founder/Co-Chairman of the United Jewish Federation’s Investment Institute, which brings together over $13 billion dollars worth of endowment monies from Jewish federations throughout North America.
Previously, Mr. Wolfson founded, brought public, controlled and sold “The Video Jukebox Network.” This 14 year old Miami-based company had over 50 million subscribers world-wide and was sold to MTV in 1998 as an interactive internet company.
Mr. Wolfson was trained in business by his grandfather, Col. Mitchell Wolfson who was the Founder, President and CEO of Wometco Enterprises. Wometco had over 8,000 employees and was a NYSE top 400 company when the family sold it to KKR in 1985. Mr. Wolfson is a 5th generation Floridian, thus his ancestors go back to Florida Alligators.