Distinguished Leadership Award

The GNL Distinguished Leadership Award, formerly known as the Parke Wright III Distinguished Leadership Award, is presented to a GNL member who outstandingly exemplifies the mission of our organization–to provide proven leaders with a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the issues and needs in Collier County and to encourage the use of their skills individually and collectively in bettering the community.

GNL is proud of the achievements of its award recipients over the years and the fact that many of these individuals played a key part in the creation and development of the Greater Naples Leadership program as we know it today.

Extraordinary People Making a Difference

Gary Personette, Class XVII, Receives 2019 GNL Distinguished Leadership Award

A graduate of Class XVII, Gary Personette received the Distinguished Leadership Award on Thursday, March 14, at a luncheon at the Naples Sailing & Yacht Club.

Gary’s legendary contributions to Collier County’s educational system began when he met GNL classmate Susan McManus of Champions for Learning.  Always passionate about mentoring young people, he was a natural to become a mentor for the Take Stock program and soon joined the Champions for Learning board.

In 2013, Gary met the creators of the Incubator EDU program at Barrington (Illinois) High School and was most impressed.  The Incubator EDU program offers students an authentic entrepreneurship experience.  In this program, students have the opportunity to create and develop their own entrepreneurial idea.  Real entrepreneurs and business experts serve as volunteer coaches and mentors, guiding students through the process of developing hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting and continually learning and improving.  This cycle of experimentation is combined with foundational business concepts such as marketing and finance.

Gary began promoting this program in Collier County, convincing Superintendent of Schools Kamela Patton to bring a team to Barrington to observe it firsthand. The Incubator Curriculum was implemented in eight of the nine Collier County high schools in 2015 and has been extremely successful. Gary continued his efforts by recruiting mentors for Golden Gate High School, Naples High School and Immokalee High School.  He has worked with Incubator teachers to ensure that they have enough mentors and specialists to teach different areas of the Incubator curriculum.

As a result of his efforts, in 2016 Gary was one of nine people recognized as a Champion for Education and Mentor of the Year by Champions for Learning.  Though no longer on their board, he continues to be involved with the organization and is an example to us all in fulfilling the GNL mission of using our personal skills to better our community.

Previous Award Recipients

2018 – Thomas D. McCann

(Naples, FL) – Greater Naples Leadership (GNL) has named Thomas D. McCann as the 2018 recipient of its annual Distinguished Leadership Award in honor of his outstanding commitment to both the Naples nonprofit and civic communities over the years. A graduate of GNL Class IX, Mr. McCann’s contributions to GNL include serving on its Board of Directors as well as Vice President for Membership and … Read More . . .

2017 – Jennifer Walker

The Board of Greater Naples Leadership is pleased to announce that Jennifer Walker, Class IX, received the 2017 Distinguished Leadership Award.  The award was presented at the Celebration Dinner on April 4, 2017. After a successful career in the demanding, high-pressure environment of international public relations, Jen Walker came to Naples in the mid-1990s and began applying her leadership, interpersonal and communications skills to benefit … Read More . . .

2016 – R. Wayne Mullican

In recognition of his outstanding volunteer commitment, passion and leadership in several local nonprofit organizations, R. Wayne Mullican (Class IX) received the 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award on April 8 at the 20th Anniversary Gala. Most prominent is the work he has done with saving the Senior Friendship Health Center in Naples, an organization that was on the verge of closing in 2006.  Staffed with volunteer … Read More . . .

2015 – Bob Morantz (1942-2016)

Robert Morantz, MD, is well recognized in the fields of neurosurgery, research and academia, but received the Award for his volunteer roles with numerous Collier County nonprofit organizations, including The Neighborhood Health Clinic, David Lawrence Center and the Take Stock in Children Program managed by Champions for Learning. According to Dottie Gerrity, a GNL alumna, “[He] is a model, hero and example of the goals … Read More . . .

2014 – Ann E. Berlam

Ann Berlam’s interest in the quality of GNL education is consistent with her lifelong commitment to addressing education issues.  Ann served in Washington DC as a legislative assistant to a NC congressman and as the first director of the Washington office for the NC Department of Education, representing the states needs before the US Congress.  In GNL, Ann (Class VI) served on the board of … Read More . . .

2013 – J. Richard Munro

Dick Munro’s tireless service to the community and GNL is an inspiring model for all. He has an ever-ready willingness to say, “Yes; Count me in; I’ll help.” Dick (Class IX) does more than wade into volunteer activities; he dives. That is the case with the David Lawrence Foundation, the Community Foundation and WGCU Public Radio. He advocates for education, particularly early education, and its … Read More . . .

2012 – Joanne S. Wyss

GNL’s fifth (and first female) president, Joanne (Class III) has had extensive community involvement on a variety of nonprofit boards and is best recognized for her leadership as co-founder and current chair of First Book-Collier County. This nonprofit’s mission is to provide new books to Collier County children, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy–access to books.

2011 – John A. Henry

John (Class X) has been a key board member of The Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. His strong commitment to this cause has had a significant impact on the organization as well as on the students who are part of Take Stock.

2010 – Carl J. Kuehner

GNL’s fourth president, Carl (Class III) led the creation of Immokalee Non-Profit Housing Inc. (now Immokalee Housing and Family Services), which has built housing units and a community center for farm workers. He also aided in the creation of Naples’ Design Review Board, as well as serving on the city’s Planning Advisory Board and Collier County’s Affordable Housing Commission. … Read More . . .

2009 – Susan and Peter Manion

In the first and only time that a couple has received the Parke Wright award, Sue (Class IV) and Peter (Class III) were honored for their incredible work with Fun Time Early Childhood Academy. In 2006, when the nonprofit was on the brink of bankruptcy, they took over as co-chairs, recruited a new board and raised sufficient dollars to pay the outstanding bills and keep … Read More . . .

2008 – Dorothy A. Gerrity

A former chair of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Dottie (Class II) has served in significant roles on the boards of the Christ Child Society of Naples, First Book-Collier County, Fun Time Early Childhood Academy and the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. She also played a key role in organizing the Early Literacy and Learning (ELLM) model and continues to serve on the board … Read More . . .

2007 – Ned R. Sachs

GNL’s second president, Ned (Class III) has had extensive board involvement with many local nonprofits. He was a founding member of the highly successful Naples Children and Education Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars for children’s charities in our community through its sponsorship of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. He was instrumental in focusing the group’s efforts toward making grants that encourage and foster … Read More . . .

2006 – Thomas G. Schneider

In addition to being GNL’s third president, Tom (Class III) has had extensive board involvement with nonprofits in Collier County. His crowning achievement is the establishment of the local Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® program. He noted the severe need for better dental and overall health care for underserved children and amassed a team of volunteers who brought this wonderful asset to Collier County. He continues … Read More . . .

2005 – Patricia Barton

Since moving to Naples in 1965, Pat (Class I) has been involved in a broad array of civic and social service endeavors, having served on several local boards and chaired many political campaigns. She was a founding member of both Naples Informed Parents (the prototype for Parent Movement for Drug Free Youth) and the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth. … Read More . . .

2004 – Mary Ann Durso (1944-2008)

Mary Ann (Class V) was a driving force behind the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. As executive director, she devoted her life to Habitat along with her husband, Sam, making the Collier chapter one of the most industrious in the nation. She worked at Habitat as a full-time volunteer and, while there, provided shelter to 1,100 families and over 5,000 people in Collier County. … Read More . . .

2003 – James T. Rideoutte

Jim (Class II) has been extensively involved in the community, from AARP tax counseling for the elderly to past chair of several organizations, including Greater Naples Civic Association, Greater Naples Planning Advisory Board, the Shelter for Abused Women & Children, and the Collier County Select Committee on Smart Growth. He has served for many years as executive director of Naples Players. … Read More . . .

2002 – Edwin J. (Ned) Putzell III (1913-2003)

The first Parke Wright award winner, Ned (Class I) moved to Naples in 1979. In 1986 he entered politics . . . as mayor of Naples! Once he left the political arena, he served on many civic and nonprofit boards. Through his influence and counsel, Ned helped mold the geography of the city as well as the careers of future local leaders.